Roundhouse Poetry Slam winner Rakaya Esime Fetuga discusses the interaction of faith, culture and expression in her work. A selection of Rakaya’s poetry will appear in the upcoming anthology A KALEIDOSCOPE OF STORIES – Muslim Voices in Contemporary Poetry, coming soon from Lote Tree Press.
What brought you to poetry?
I have always loved different forms of creative expression and was encouraged by my parents to engage with and play around with different art forms. I actually wrote stories and songs before I wrote poems, which became a middle space between the two. Then it was through school poetry competitions that I got my first opportunities to write and share poetry outside the home and the extra confidence boost kept me writing.
What role does poetry play in your life?
Poetry lets me detangle thoughts and highlight whatever I find interesting, important or troubling. Sometimes it helps me to record a moment, remembering how I felt at a specific time and removing that emotion from me. Even though I now write poems to commission – it is still, most importantly, what I do to entertain myself – using everyday words to show our everyday lives in a beautiful, thoughtful way.
What role does poetry play in expressing your identity and faith?
I love that poetry can be incredibly personal and find that the more specific I am to my own experiences, heritage, identity and faith, the more other people are able to connect to my words. Storytelling is embedded in West African culture and beautiful language is so important to Islam, so I feel very connected to my identity when writing poetry.
Do you have any advice for aspiring poets?
My advice is the advice I’ve been given by so many poets. Keep writing – fill your notebooks with words because practice is everything. And stay close to your inspirations: great poems and poets, but also the people, places and happenings all around you. The poems waiting to be written.
Why is poetry important?
Poetry is important as it invites people to listen, think deeper and have an emotional, human connection to a concept or an experience. It can be an archive of feeling, or a call to arms, or simply a work of art.
Rakaya Esime Fetuga is a poet from London of Ghanaian and Nigerian heritage. Her work joins conversations on overlapping identities, faith and culture as self-affirmation. Rakaya won the Spread the Word Poetry Prize in 2017 and the Roundhouse Poetry Slam in 2018. Rakaya has performed internationally and across the UK at venues including the British Museum, Royal Albert Hall, Trafalgar Square and The Ivy. Among others, Rakaya has been commissioned by Bloomberg Philanthropies with Vanity Fair, English Touring Theatre and Kyra TV. Rakaya is a member of ::nana:: Poetry Collective.
A KALEIDOSCOPE OF STORIES – Muslim Voices in Contemporary Poetry, coming soon from Lote Tree Press, is an anthology bringing together the myriad voices of over fifty Muslim poets from diverse backgrounds to powerfully articulate what it means to be Muslim in the modern world. It provides a platform for Muslim voices to be heard, speaking about their experiences in their own words, and offers an antidote to the stereotyped, one-dimensional portrayal of Muslims we see so often in the media.