Home Up, Close and Personal Titilope Sonuga: Beautiful, Confident and Poetic.

Titilope Sonuga: Beautiful, Confident and Poetic.

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Let’s know you.

My name is Titilope Sonuga and I am a poet and a civil engineer. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and lived there till I was 13 years old and then moved to Edmonton, Canada. IMG_2164
 
Please define poetry, and why do you consider yourself a poet? Any difference between poetry and Spoken Word? If yes, please educate us. They say poetry is when emotions find thoughts and thoughts find words. So, which emotion drives your poetry the most? and why? Basically, what inspires your poetry?
Poetry is what floods the heart and leaks from the mouth. A poets work is to articulate something as abstract as emotion and narrow it down to a point as fine as the tip of a pen. I believe that poetry is the tree and spoken word is just a branch of that tree, it is just a different medium.
 
I am inspired by love. 
Who are your favourite poets and why? What books do you read and what other activities do you engage in to improve your poetry performances?
As far as spoken word goes this is a very very long list. My favourite poets write poems that can feel like a punch in the chest and a kiss on the lips almost at the same time. Reading other people for me is how I grow as a poet and a human being. I love the spoken word but I’m a big reader and that is always my go to place for inspiration. Three female poets that own my heart right now are: Warsan Shire, Rachel Mckibbens, Aracelis Girmay. These are women that write so beautifully that it’ll make you want to eat the page. 
Titilope Sonuga 
You were in Canada for sometime where you performed Spoken Word Poetry on various stages and also organised Poetry events, what is the difference between Spoken Word Poetry in Canada and in Nigeria?
Spoken word poetry is still a fairly new art form in Nigeria, while we have a rich oral tradition, this style of storytelling is still growing and it is quite exciting to watch how it is spreading across the country. In many parts of Canada spoken word has been around for a very long time but it is also growing and transforming all the time. I think ultimately poetry is poetry, all people have a desire to be heard, so continents away the narrative about love, politics, sadness and joy are the same at the very core.
What is the biggest Spoken Word Poetry Platform you have ever performed? Which is the next biggest Spoken Word Platform you plan to perform on?
Performing at the Chinua Achebe Colloquium on Africa in 2011 will remain one of the highlights of my spoken word career. I have performed at venues with hundreds of people watching, but that remains one of the most important moments I’ve had as an artist. The possibilities are endless really, I’ve been working on some new projects this year trying to expand my reach as an artist. I was a part of a really amazing TV project that will launch next year across Africa and I’m really excited to be able to share that with everyone who has supported my work.

 

What is your take on Spoken Word Poetry as a form of mainstream entertainment?

I think it would be great for spoken word artists to be able to achieve the same level of commercial success as say musicians do. I think for that to happen, spoken word artists need to begin take themselves seriously and realize that their work is an art form that has value and they deserve more than to be the interlude to an event program and ultimately that they should be compensated fairly for their work.

 

Some poets are turning to social media—things like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to promote themselves and their work, while other poets feel such methods cheapen their craft. What’s your take?

Social media allows people to connect across continents in a split second. As an artist, if your goal is to touch people and to share your work then you’re probably already on one or all of the social media networks that exist. Some poets have achieved an astounding level of popularity and respect based on their internet presence alone. I understand that it is not for everyone. There are brilliant poets across the world who have no interest in being on twitter or facebook and there is room for that too. Because I am split between two continents, I really could not survive as an artist without being able to connect with people through social media.

 

How can someone support themselves and make a living as a poet? How do you get attention and following for your work?

You simply have to do the work. Be a student of your craft and always work at getting better. Put yourself out there. Seek out opportunities to share your work. Even a small coffee shop reading can open up the door to a bigger opportunity. Get online, like it or not it is the quickest an easiest way to create an audience and a following for your work. Collaborate with other artists! There’s this competitive spirit that sometimes prevents people from wanting to work with each other. There are blessings enough for all of us. Be humble…be open.

 

Do you plan to do poetry full time? If yes, how do family/friends/partner react when you tell them you’re pursuing a career as a full-time poet? Have people been supportive?

I’m currently living as an artist full time, but I have had to broaden my ideas about what it means to be a writer and a performer. If someone had told me a few months ago that I’d be acting, I probably would have laughed it off. But it was incredible to see how memorizing poetry over the years had prepared me for memorizing scripts or being able to convey emotions. Simply standing on a stage and speaking is not enough. Write a book, record a cd, try new things. Being an artist is a very broad spectrum and it’s important to try. My family and friends have always been really supportive of my work which has made life a whole lot easier.

 

What has been your worst moments as a Spoken Word Poet? What has been your best moments as a Spoken Word Poet? What is the measure of success for a poet? Do you considered yourself a successful poet? Any awards/ recognition so far?

Every moment I’ve had as an artist has contributed to my growth, even embarrassing moments when I’ve forgotten words on stage or lost a braid. The best moments are when someone comes up to you and tell you that something you said touched them or made them want to pick up a pen and tell their own stories. Success to me is being able to wake up everyday knowing that I have been able to move people with my work. My hope is to be able to do that for as long as possible. I won the Canadian Authors Association Emerging Author Award for my self published collection of poetry in 2010. I won the Recognizing Immigrant Success in Edmonton (RISE) Award in 2013. I also won a contest that allowed me to meet Maya Angelou which aside from meeting Chinua Achebe was such a big moment for me. Winning is getting to do what I love.

Where do you see Spoken Word Poetry in Nigeria within the next 5 years? What part do you plan to play within these 5 years?

If the trend continues, spoken word is going to be massive in Nigeria in the next 5 years. The level of performance and the platforms for artists can only continue to grow. It feels great to be a part of it in the early stages and I hope to be able to contribute from my experiences to push the scene forward.

 

Thank you for your time.

My pleasure. 

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