The R.A.P Party (Rhythm And Poetry) – Theresa Lola interview

Curated by Inua Ellams, The R.A.P Party to Brighton Dome on Fri 24 Nov. This special event sees poets read poems inspired by any aspect of hip hop culture, and DJs playing some of their songs. Expect a nostalgic, no clutter, no-fuss, straight-up evening of five elements-inspired poems and old school bangers

It intends to be more like a house party than a poetry gig, but features some of the scenes leading lights – including Jemima Foxtrot, Keith Jarrett, Kat’s Head, Michael James Parker, Bridget Minamore, Spliff Richard, Sea Sharp, Tommy Sissons, and Inua Ellams and 2017’s Hammer & Tongue National Slam Champion – Theresa Lola, along with DJ Sid Mercutio.

BN1 Magazine caught up with Theresa Lola (pictured) to find out more about the event and the enduring power of wordplay.

What initially inspired you to start writing and what inspires you now?

I grew up reading books, I loved reading, my mother made reading everyday compulsory, eventually I wanted to create my own stories. Once I reached my teens, writing became more of a therapeutic output. As an awkward isolated teenager poems became another being I was speaking to. I have carried that with me and now what inspires me to write is the awareness of the importance of not staying silent. One of my inspirations now is the need to document the world, whether my experiences, family, friends, culture or politics, poetry is my tool in ensuring history is not erased.

Why is poetry so compelling? Is it because there’s almost no barrier to participation?

Poetry is compelling because it takes everyday words and gives it a whole new dimension. Unlike some other art forms, the tools needed to participate in poetry is simpler, go to an open mic and see the long list of names down and you’ll agree that there are as many poets as there are as many people with something to say.

What will make The R.A.P Party in Brighton stand apart from normal poetry shows?

Rap Party is the perfect house party for poetry lovers and Brighton is the ultimate host town. Brighton is known for being a colourful and vibrant city, the audience themselves will be a stand out and that will reflect on the DJ’s song choices. Half if the poets on the line up are Brighton based poets, the audience will get to see familiar faces and get to know poets from outside Brighton too.

Apart from their use of the spoken word, what else connects Rap and Poetry as art forms?

Poetry and Rap are two art forms that balance beautifully between the political and the personal narratives. From NWA’s song F the Police to Langston Hughes’ Ask Your Mama, both Poetry and Rap are known to voice the political climate. Poetry and Rap are connected in their search for self and love, what’s interesting is the different routes they take. Whether it’s 2-Pac, or Lauryn Hill, or if it’s 50 Cent’s 21 Questions read out as a poem or Mos Def’s Boogie Man read out as a poem, Rap and Poetry are siblings protective of one another.

It almost seems like the world has too much pain, misunderstanding and fear to express it all concisely. How do you keep your work simple enough to digest whilst still dealing with complex concepts?

I write poetry with the intention to document and seek answers to pain, without putting pressure in myself to come to a resolution. The pain the world is going through is composed enough, and poetry need not make it even more complex, poetry is able to create another world where the pain is shown in a new light and words act as vivid imaginative photographs.

There seems to be a huge sense of community in the spoken word scene now, how much strength does this give you?

The spoken scene though has different faces to it is truly a massive family. You see smilies faces at most events and that creates a sense of safety especially to new poets. In the spoken word community there is a support system that encourages everyone to be their own version of themselves and that is reflected in the versatility of performers, that alone gives strength to new poets finding their voices.

Most of the really accomplished poets, at least I the UK, are women. Is there less of a gender gap in spoken word?

This is a discussion I have had many times with peers. The spoken word scene is generally more male dominated but not to the point of over powering. Some of the most famous writers of today are women, and some of the most famous performers are men. I am not sure of the reasons for the gender tip in both fields, but I think poetry in general is in a good place gender wise.

You started this year as the Hammer & Tongue national slam champion, what will next year bring?

Being the Hammer and Tongue National Slam Champion has been a blessing, I won the title had a time when I was doubting my ability to overcome by performance anxieties. I am currently writing my first full length collection, next year should bring on the next stages of that project.

The R.A.P Party, with Theresa Lola and Inua Ellams, comes to Brighton Dome on Fri 24 Nov 2017.

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