To mark World Poetry Day, we commissioned leading London poet and writer Theresa Lola to create a piece of work that celebrates the heart of London As the 2019 Young People's Laureate for London, her poem Flagship of Buzz really captures the energy of our destinations, and her beautifully crafted words its enduringly youthful spirit.
You can read the poem here, but first, read on to hear about what inspires Theresa and why she feels so connected to the spirit of the city, alongside her memories of central London and advice for those starting their own journey into poetry.
What first inspired you to write?
I loved reading as a child, and eventually wanted to create my own world using words, and to tell my own stories too.
Where do you draw inspiration from today, other art forms, galleries or architecture for example?
I draw my inspiration from anything I consume. I try to be as open as possible; inspiration can come from a work of art I stumble across, a film, a place I visited. I always try to let my poems reflect my curiosity.
We loved The Flagship of Buzz. Were there certain elements of the area that particularly spoke to you? What type of feeling did it evoke?
What I remembered about my first time visiting central London, especially Regent Street, was being aware of the feeling of grandeur the place evoked. There were window fronts, street shapes, colours that remained in my mind, which is why there are lot of echoes in the poem I wrote, in terms of sounds being carried through more than one word. It was a way of mimicking the experience of walking through the streets and carrying over what you have felt.
What is your favourite memory of central London?
I remember one evening on my way to visit someone, the day felt dull and gloomy and I was just focused on reaching my destination. But I remember entering Regent Street and being immediately enamoured with how alive the street was, the curved shape of the street piqued my curiosity all over again, and rejuvenated an excitement for my surrounding.
You’ve previously been a joint winner of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, does poetry today feel diverse or is there more to be done?
I think things are changing and it’s great to see more programmes and initiatives being created to support a diverse range of writers. Particularly Ledbury Poetry Critics which supports the development of writers of colour critics. It’s difficult to measure when the work is done, but I hope poetry continues to move forward in a progressive direction.
You were also awarded the 2019 Young People's Laureate for London. Do you feel poetry is becoming more popular for young people across the globe?
Statistics show that the boom in poetry sales in 2019 was mostly down to buyers in their 30’s and under. So undeniably poetry has become more popular for young people. I think it’s down to having more opportunities and platforms to share their work, but also young people seeing ourselves being reflected in the work already shared, and seeing the possibilities of poetry to address a vast range of subjects.
What would you say to someone who might feel poetry is ‘too traditional’? How do we show its relevance and importance as an art form?
I would say that poetry is proving to be open to innovation, there are many poets who are pushing the boundaries of poetry, experimenting, combining it with different artforms, and also delivering their poems in new ways. I think traditional poetry will always exist, but tradition is important, as without it innovation wouldn’t necessarily exist.
For someone just beginning to read poetry, do you have any recommendations on where they should start?
My advice is to read, read, read poems, there are so many avenues online which is great because it means you can read widely, within that you can find your own voice. Also check out poetry organisations near where you live and take part in the programmes they have to offer. It’s a great way to improve your craft but also meet a community of fellow writers.
What are you most looking forward to doing once lockdown lifts? What are you hopes for central London as we begin to return to the city?
One of the things I enjoyed about central London was going out with friends and experiencing the vast offers of the city with them. I hope central London returns as a place of buzz, joy, art, and connections for people.
Across the neighbourhood of St James’s & Regent Street we’re getting ready to slowly reopen our doors and welcome visitors back to your neighbourhood, but in the meantime, we invite you to join Theresa in reminiscing about what makes the centre of London so special. Read her poem Flagship of Buzz here.