In the new spring issue of IMAGE magazine Tony Clayton-Lea meets up with Nigerian-born, Longford-based spoken word artist Felicia Olusanya, aka Felispeaks. Here, she shares insights into her creative process with us, along with a moving performance of ‘Still’ – a piece she wrote inspired by our evolving lives in a Covid-19 world.
I think I’ve always written in poetry. I don’t think there’s a point in time where I realised I wrote my first poem. I think my way of expressing myself was always in poetry first – I only learned how to do the rest after. I don’t think there was any particular thing that inspired me or acted as a trigger, it was just the way thoughts formed in my head. I used to call my diaries my ‘Book of Thoughts’; I didn’t classify my writing as poetry until I was about 16.
I found a community online before I found a community in person. When I was in my late teens I was drawn to other people I discovered online who seemed to think like me, and who created a whole world of art around something that I felt very comfortable with. Once I realised I was writing poetry I started purposefully investigating other people who did similar.
I didn’t think about the scene as something I needed to break into. I think because I was so unaware of how big the world I was trying to break into was, what I didn’t know didn’t affect me, I didn’t feel intimidated. I saw the arts scene as something to journey into and explore, as a writer, as a performer, as anything I wanted to be.
There are so many other female writers and poets in Ireland that I really admire. There are so many great writers in Ireland, but I don’t know of a lot of spoken-word artists here. My first introduction to spoken-word poetry came from America’s Slam Circuit, big inspirations for me would be; Jasmine Mans, Jackie Hill Perry, Sarah Kay and Andrea Gibson. Watching the Biden inauguration, along with the rest of the world, I felt so excited to see a talented, beautiful black woman able to share her gift with the world, in that special moment. I’m glad that there is an Amanda Gorman among us, and I am glad that there are many more coming.
My parents and family are very supportive of my career. There wasn’t a specific moment where I declared, “I am going to be a spoken word artist” as it wasn’t a cemented role that I could ask or demand to be a part of yet. So I think how they reacted in general to my exploration of poetry was that it was cool as long as I could take care of myself. I think where I am now, as a professional artist, I think my parents are really proud because I’ve managed to create a niche for myself, and create a spot for myself in this artform enough for me to adequately take care of myself. And that’s what any parent wants, so they are happy that I am able to do that.
Pick up a copy of the new spring issue of IMAGE magazine, in shops now.