The Wick - Theresa Lola. Profiled in Sunday Times Style Magazine (2020) The Wick - Theresa Lola. Profiled in Sunday Times Style Magazine (2020)
Monday Muse

Interview Poet Theresa Lola

Interview
Theresa Lola
29 August 2022
Interview
Theresa Lola
29 August 2022
As the 2019-2020 Young People’s Laureate for London, British-Nigerian poet Theresa Lola has journeyed across the world, from London to Singapore and Nigeria, to spread the message of poetry. She has also led workshops and campaigns that highlight the power poetry can have as an approach to mental wellness.

Her extensive list of achievements includes a masters in creative writing from the University of Oxford. In 2018, she was also awarded the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, and commissioned by the Mayor of London’s office to write and read a poem at the unveiling of Millicent Fawcett’s statue at Parliament Square. Her debut poetry collection, In Search of Equilibrium, was also longlisted for the 2021 Michael Murphy Memorial Prize, and her poem ‘Equilibrium’ added to the 2022 GCSE English Literature syllabus.

After commissioning Lola to create a poem for a dinner in honour of our previous Monday Muses last year, we’ve now invited her to be a Muse herself.

THE WICK:   Talk us through your typical Monday.

Theresa Lola:   Rarely are two days the same, which I love. Typically, I read my daily devotion, continue a book I’m reading, to dive into another world, then return to mine. My day ranges from personal or brand projects, teaching commitments, meetings, and writing deadlines.

TW:   Who is your ultimate Monday Muse?

TL:   I have no singular Monday Muse. It changes through times and seasons. Currently, it’s Renee Gladman. I love the way she swims between the boundaries of creating, whether it’s poetry, prose, the novel, or visual art.

TW:   You were the poet for our Monday Muse dinner last year. What does being a Monday Muse mean to you?

TL:   To be a muse is to not only inspire but to provoke thought and creation. Given Monday is the start of the week, I hope my work is someone’s Monday Muse, positively disrupting their week.

TW:   What do you hope to achieve in London through poetry?

TL:   London is such a rich, eclectic, and complicated city. And I hope to offer poetry that encapsulates its brightness, dullness, and in-between. Whether through poems, collaborations with other artists, and discussions.

“To be a muse is to not only inspire but to provoke thought and creation.”

TW:   Poetry is often viewed as the art of the word. Do you agree?

TL:   There is an art to poetry’s arrangement of words, one intended to question the importance and dangers of manipulating language. Poetry plays with the space words take up on the page, the screen, the mouth, and in cultural and political landscapes.

TW:   You are of British-Nigerian descent. How does this influence your work?

TL:   After relocating from Nigeria to the UK, I find I’m intrigued not only by where one has landed, but also the story in between, how one comes to land into their self.

TW:   The way we experience art has changed so much, largely due to technological advances such as virtual reality and immersive experience. How is poetry changing with technology?

TL:   Technology heightens our experience of each other and our surroundings. Poetry also calls for this, asking us to tap into our imagination to enhance the experience. A bonding of the two allows for less legalistic ways of encountering poetry.

TW:   What are your top three tips for aspiring poets?

TL:   Expand your horizon, there is no thrill without adventure.
Read, absorb, analyse, in that order.
The poem you wish existed is the poem you should write.

TW:   What’s one poem you wish you had written?

TL:   ‘Lament’ by Mary Ruefle. The poem touches on the strangeness of navigating the unknown, both in living and in writing. Reading the poem soothes a part of my anxiety, reminding me of a poem’s ability to speak our truths.

TW:   You were commissioned by The National Gallery to write a poem to accompany a digital exhibition around Jan Gossaert’s 16th-century painting, ‘The Adoration of the Kings’. How are you seeing poetry and art come together more?

TL:   Poetry and art have always had a special relationship, leading and influencing each other through art movements, especially in the 20th century. I’m seeing more poets working with visual arts and using words to create a new extension of a piece.

TW:   You co-wrote the short film What Happened to Last Season’s Collection? for designer and artist Osman Yousefzada, which premiered at London Fashion Week SS22. Do you have any more plans to work in the fashion/lifestyle sectors?

TL:   I love fashion because outside poetry it was instrumental in carving out my shell and calling me towards the art of play and self-discovery. There are conversations about the internal relationship with our clothes I hope to explore.

TW:   Collaboration has created some of the greatest art works of all time. If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

TL :   Jenn Nkiru. She’s a remarkable British-Nigerian director. She’s a visionary who excels in bold surrealist interpretations of identity.

TW:   What’s your favourite artwork in your collection and how did you find it?

TL:   My favourite artwork is Togo Lake, which hangs in my dining room. It’s a print by Francois Guenet. It was gifted to me by Made.com after I did some poetry work for them. I love it because it’s a physical reminder of the wonderful ways poetry leads me to art.


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