Home Up, Close and Personal Elizabeth Ayoola – Be yourself, be naked, be imperfect…

Elizabeth Ayoola – Be yourself, be naked, be imperfect…


Let’s meet you; Name, Nationality, Family background, Educational background etc.

My name is Elizabeth Adeola Ayoola, I’m Nigerian. I was born in London and raised in Miami (USA), where my family is based. In university I studied Social Policy for my undergrad and Environment, Politics and Globalization for my MA. I came to Nigeria for the first time in 2010 to do my NYSC and stayed the year. I left to do my masters and came back in 2013.

When did you first start performing poetry, and what made you feel the need to express yourself in this way?

I started performing when I moved from Miami to London at 17. I was miserable in London so writing poems became my opium and escapism frIMG_2243om this new grey, cold, dull place I had to now call home. I joined a church and that’s where I was encouraged to start performing at youth events.

Is Poetry the same thing as Spoken Word? If no, please explain.

I don’t believe they’re the same, although similar. I feel spoken word is a more understandable expression of poetry and one that more of the masses can relate with. I feel the emphasis is more on communicating your message through verbal rhythmic expression, whereas poetry is more mystique, sometimes complex, and not always presented in a way the masses can understand.

DSC_1007 DSC_1005How old were you when you wrote your first poem? How old were you when you first performed your poem?

I was 15 when I wrote my first love poem to my crush (Laughs). I performed my first poem about loneliness and God at 17.

You won second place in the Eko Poetry Slam in 2014, how was the experience?

It was my first poetry slam so was amazing! I enjoyed listening to other young poets work and all of the social issues that were addressed.

As the founder of the spoken word website, Oro.com.ng, what is the vision behind the site? And how is the acceptance of the site?

Initially the vision was to collate audio formats of poetry and spoken word and put them somewhere that people globally would be able to access. Many people want to listen to spoken word but can’t do so unless they attend a live show, so I wanted to bridge that gap. I also wanted to give spoken word an identity, show what poets are like, what they think, what they love etc. I wanted to create an online community or hub for poets and lovers of the art form to interact.

I wanted it to primarily focus in Nigerian Poets but the response as regards gathering audio content and general response was quite poor. This was either because people didn’t have recorded content or just weren’t so interested. I then decided to branch out and make it for all black / Africans and was able to get much more content.

So far, views on the site have steadily increased but as with everything, the more I put in, the better my views. Most of my views come from the US and then Nigeria second. It’s doing pretty well over all and the interaction from people is increasing.

You were abroad for a while, how is the acceptance level of Performance Poetry/ Spoken Word there as compared to Nigeria? How was the experience performing there as compared to Nigeria?

Spoken word is a growing industry globally but as we all know, more robust in the US. In the UK there are so many platforms as well as creative arts grants that you can use to get your work out there. People are receptive to spoken word although there is still a way to go. There’s even a degree in spoken word education now at Goldsmiths University which is pretty awesome.

In terms of the performance experience it’s great anywhere I perform and people listen. It is my chance to change my world in that very moment that the world stands still and listens. That happens abroad and in Nigeria.

What types of poems do you find yourself writing most? Do you have a recurring type?

I am a raw poet I think. I wear my heart on my sleeve when I write. A lot of my poems are based on personal experiences and personal pain or my observations of pain people experience on a daily basis. So they tend to be about social issues.

All poets have several words that come up over and over again, words or sentences that they just can’t help but use in their work. What are 3 of your absolute favorite words?

Hmm,…eradication, skies, sunrise

Do you have one poem that you almost did not perform due to it being so very personal? Did you perform it after all? If so, please tell us about it.

I have way too many poems I didn’t perform! I will perform all at some point but one in particular is called Daddy Syndrome. It addresses my personal issues with my dad that can resonate with many people who have similar experiences.

If you were given the opportunity to perform anywhere you wanted, what cities or countries would definitely be on your poetry tour? And wELizabethAyoolahy?

Great question…. Ghana, USA, South Africa. I would like to address rape, homosexuality, and class division in these countries through my work.

Do any of the artists/ poets you listen to inspire your poems? Do you sit down and think about writing, or do you just get sudden inspirations?

Yes Lauryn Hill inspires me the most…she is the ultimate poet if you listen to the lyrics of songs like ‘Just like the Water’ and ‘Selah’. I write when something hurts me or I feel someone else’s pain or suffering. I’m quite a sad writer and like to relate and then heal through my work but I try and create a light at the end of the tunnel. Music inspires me especially, mellow, and indie music.

Poets tend to have favorite poets they like to read or watch often, both locally and internationally, can you name yours and why you like them?

Shayne Koyczan. He is a melancholy poet and uses beautiful instrumentals that include keyboards and violins to accompany his poetry which I hope to do. I feel his work and it’s as if our souls are communicating. His honesty and rawness drags you into the experience.

What do you like about poetry? On the average, how long does it take you to write a poem? What part of poem writing do you like the most?

I can write a poem in a few hours. Poetry I have discovered is just who I am so I can’t tell you what I like about it. I have come to discover it is an expression of me…

Are you of the school of thought that poetry does not have to rhyme?

Yes I am but I rhyme quite a lot all the same.

Do you get nervous when you are about to perform your poem? What ritual/ habit do you engage in before you perform?

Yes I do…I just make the stage my home and the audience my family in that moment…

Where do you see yourself (as regards Poetry) in the next 5 years? Where do you see Spoken Word Poetry in Nigeria in the next 5 years? And personally, what are your plans?

Performing at schools, weddings, events and functions, writing books, advocating for social change and expanding Oro in terms of reach and visibility. In Nigeria spoken word will become the voice of the people with no voice.

What advice do you have for young people who want to be poets today? How would you encourage the youths of Nigeria to feel comfortable writing poetry as a form of creative expression? Can you give us some suggestions to increase students’ interest in reading and writing, as well as Poetry?

Know who you are and what you stand for and let every word you write resonate with this. What is your message to the world? Find your freedom then teach others how to find theirs.

Poetry is the one place you should be able to be yourself, be naked, be imperfect, and be honest.

Just as there are different genres of music there are also different kinds of poetry. Find what type you like and indulge you in it.

Is there any link, blog or site people can go to read your writings/ poems?

Www.oro.com.ng fit now. My personal wElizabeth_Profile picebsite is under construction.

Any other information you would want us to know about, maybe something personal? Thank you for your time.

I love bread, am obsessed with butterflies and metamorphosis, and I believe in freedom above all else. 

Thank you for your time.

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