Poet; performer; playwright; Nigerian-born, Longford-based spoken word poet Felicia Olusanya (a.k.a. Felispeaks) has spent years carefully honing her craft. Here she shares more about her work, mentors and why having her poem on the Leaving Cert curriculum is the greatest of honours.
Did you always want to be a poet/creative?
I think I was born a creative but I wasn’t always sure or convinced I was going to be a poet or that I was going to use it in a professional sense.
In college, I studied… english and sociology at Maynooth University and for my postgrad diploma, I studied public relations and communication studies at the European Institute of Communications in Dublin City.
My most formative work experience was… that’s a difficult question. I had many work experiences that added and formed the person I am today and that led me to where I am now, but if I had to pick just one I think it would be my first “official” work experience. One of my first proper jobs was working in a bank and it was definitely a formative experience because I wrote some of my best poems while working there. That led me to where I am today. I wrote For Our Mothers while at work there and it’s now one of the poems on the Leaving Cert curriculum.
My first real job was… I worked in a bank for a year in Dublin City.
The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… that I am more than capable, people are willing to invest in me and they value what I have and bring to the table.
A common misconception about what I do is… that I just kind of lounge around until a job becomes available, but that is so far from the truth. I’m constantly busy because my mind is constantly creating whether there is a job in view or not.
My main responsibility in work is to…create art that touches people and, most importantly, art that tells the truth – that’s important in order for my work to achieve that. Creating art that touches people and that takes them on a journey, to a place of healing and thought and provocation is the goal. I try to live by the idea that art comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.
Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from? Yeah, there are a few career mentors/people that I would seek advice from; David Francis Moore from Visual Carlow, Niamh Donnelly from the Irish Theatre Institute and Dael Orlandersmith who’s become a recent mentor from New York. I am lucky to have a few different mentors and I appreciate them endlessly.
The biggest risk I have taken in my career so far is…believing in myself. That’s the hardest one, believing in myself.
I wake at… it varies depending on the day and the workload but I wake whenever I need to.
The first thing I do every morning is… I thank my Ori, I thank my Chi, I thank the gods within and the gods without, I thank the gods that led me here. I thank myself, I thank the being that houses me.
My morning routine is… I say a gratitude prayer and if I have time I meditate, make a cup of tea and give my dog a hug.
I can’t go to work without… my earbuds because usually if I’m going somewhere on a journey or sitting at my desk to write, I generally need something in my ears.
I travel to work by… bus or car pretty much, or depending on the county, sometimes by train.
On an average workday I… there is never an average workday with my job, there just isn’t. I do something different almost every other day.
I start my workday at… it varies – it could be 6am or it could be noon.
The first thing I do at work is… if I am working with other people, I greet them and check in with them first.
The most useful business tool I use every day is… Evernote, the Note app or a pen and a good old paper notebook (that’s my favourite business tool).
I rarely get through my working day without… my goddamn iron pills!
I save time by… cutting out time wasters, really and truly.
The best part of my day is… either being on stage or getting to hang out with my dog, my border collie.
The most challenging part of my day is… masking.
I know it’s been a good day if… I’m quite bouncy or energetic at the end of the day despite it being a long, fulfilling day.
I usually end my day at… this varies depending on the day and the job at hand.
Before I go to bed, I… usually decompress with a ridiculous reality show, to be honest! Something that’s so far from my current life and is just so ridiculous that it’s entertaining.
I often prepare for tomorrow by… studying my calendar to see what I have coming up.
After a long work week, I destress by… having a really good girl-chat with my friends.
The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… I don’t know if I can necessarily say that I “accomplished” it, but it’s been an incredible honour to be added to the Leaving Cert curriculum. It’s historical, it’s life-long, it’s legend status! I was given the honour because I was presumed deserving and that is amazing and I’m incredibly proud of that.
If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is… always to create, create, create! Write, write, write! And don’t wait for opportunities, be innovative enough to create them. Be daring and bold enough to act as if you deserve to be here in that space.
I’ve just finished working on… a music poetry project that I am trying to film a music video for and get out there as soon as possible. That’s coming out soon. I’m currently working on a few different gigs and school workshops coming up in October and I am hoping to have November to create something new from my own brain space. I am also currently working on the Transatlantic Commission script.
Photography by Davey Sexton