A.R.T’S INTERVIEW WITH CATHERINE LABIRAN

So we threw some questions at Catherine Labiran and the always delightful poet, author and activist shared thoughts on her new book of poetry titled Ayisat and her life as an artist. Check out the interview below.

Give us an insight into the creative journey of Ayisat.
The poems in Ayisat were written across my teenager years, so each poem gives the reader an insight to my experiences and what I was going through at that particular time. I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit and this reflects in different cultural references documented in the book. When I put this book together, I told myself that I was going to be as free as I could possibly be. At first, I was nervous to talk about certain topics because of how I would be perceived. However, I then came to the conclusion that my story is more powerful than my fear of perception. I then progressed to write and collate poems with a free and unchained spirit.

In what ways did you grow upon completing the poetry collection? And did this change or expand when the book got published?
Completing the collection helped me grow up a lot because it propelled me to put myself out there. Sometimes I can be really reserved with my art. Sometimes, I fall into the trap of being a perfectionist, which is a loser’s game. Making Ayisat taught me that imperfections can be beautiful. I included poems that I wrote when I was 16 to demonstrate my journey, not what the perfect poem could be. When the book was published, I grew once again because I had to make myself vulnerable to criticism and open to love. Once a book is out there, there is no taking it back. This process freed me from the restraints I put on myself creatively.

What can poetry lovers who haven’t read Ayisat be excited about?
If you know me, prepare to learn something new about me. If you do not know me, then here I am. Even though all the poems are not directly about me, they all show my thinking process.

Ayisat is dedicated to your mother and all mothers. How does that maternal mind state impact or reflect in the book?
Ayisat is my baby. I birthed this book, I have seen it grow up and go across the world. When I hand over copies of the book to people it is as if I am giving my child away to get married. The book is a collection of poems I wrote when I was experiencing the upside-down-inside-out-crazy-normal-quiet-loudness of being a teenager. This book is my journey in text.

Are there any poems or themes you’d love to revisit when you become a mother?
Definitely, when I am a mother I want to revisit the topic and idea of love. I have experienced love but never the love that a mother has for a child. I can only imagine how intense such a love is. Also, depending on the state of the world when I give birth, I am sure I will have to revisit my poems on politics. It’s bad enough living a corrupt world, but it is even worse knowing that your offspring is suffering at the cost of greed and evil.

How does your written poetry differ from your spoken word pieces?
I do not really think there is much of a difference between both forms. The only difference I can immediately think of is structure. When I write poems for the page, I have to pay attention to the structure, where I want words and the punctuation. However, when I write a Spoken Word piece, I do not really structure the poem or add punctuation because I know my mind would do that naturally.

Is there a dominant approach to your creative process or is each piece developed uniquely?
I think I approach every piece in its own unique way. When I create poems in my mind, I flip reality on its head. My mind births the abstract, filters dreams into reality and makes the reader question if there is a difference between the two. The world is a mysterious place, beyond what you and I know, and my poetry wants to demonstrate that. Also, in order to write I like there to be silence and I like to be alone.

What life experiences thus far have shaped you as a poet?
The biggest experience that shaped me as a poet was moving from the U.K to the U.S to pursue my degree. My transition made me a fish out of water. At first, I spent weeks, months, even, trying to work out how to breathe. The awkwardness of not knowing anyone, having an ocean separate you and your loved ones, drove me to pick up my pen in a way I have never done before. I have gone through isolation in the past, but this time I was not afraid of it. I connected with all that was lonely inside of me, all the little torn up pieces. I introduced my fragments to each other and then they weren’t so lonely after all. My best work has been produced ever since.

Literature lovers can get their hands on Ayisat at Lulu.com. So if you don’t have a copy click the link to see how you can get one, and if you do have a copy go ahead and get another for a friend.

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Lagos Theatre Festival, 2013

Good things happening for African theatre! Follow this link:

http://www.britishcouncil.org.ng/british-councils-lagos-theatre-festival-holds-this-february

Keep in touch with the festival: @lagostheatre13