We first came across Rachel Nwokoro‘s poetry online, when we were entranced by her poem ‘The Pink Dress’. As a Roundhouse Resident Artist and member of the Roundhouse Poetry Collective, as well as UK Slam Champion 2016, Rachel’s poetry has been described as ‘uncompromising, fiery and unflinching’ (Joelle Taylor). It’s exactly these characteristics that made us want to talk to her about what she hopes to achieve through her work, and how her poetry deals with the subject of DESIRE, our theme throughout June.
Tell us a little about what you do.
My name is Rachel Nwokoro and I am a cross-disciplinary storyteller, which essentially means that I am devoted to the truthful exploration of underrepresented voices and narratives via numerous art forms. Hello.
Would you define yourself as ambitious in your career? Is there a goal that you’re aiming to achieve?
I would say so, yes. When I was 13 I went in search of my first acting agent and only asked my parents if I could say yes after I’d auditioned in my school uniform and been offered to sign a contract. I’m very lucky to have a supportive family but it is common for young people of colour to be expected to pursue a more academically routed career, and it is not easy to do that against the advice of most of the people closest to you. My acting coach and now dear friend, Daniel Hoffman-Gill, played a huge role in providing a space for me to build my resolve and belief in my abilities. He had always been one of my role models, so recently when he told me that I had become a person that he aspired to be – well, it meant a lot.
I suppose I’m living my aim now. I’m breathing, I’m surviving and I work towards thriving. Honestly, I never doubt what my work means to me so a large part of my battle is actually not career-based. I have to remind myself that I come first. That it is essential to nourish myself and that the cultivation of a love internally and externally is a non-negotiable pursuit.
I’m working on it.
How do you deal with the subject of desire or wanting in your poetry?
Any time we open our mouths, we want something. Our intention is to achieve a desire of some sort or we would not find the impulse to speak. I’m driven by my desire to understand the many shapes that we as humans can take and my frustrations with that journey are reflected in my writing. I am also intrigued with how much what we want as individuals can change and how resistant or receptive we are to that.
Do you have any advice for aspiring poets or performers looking to follow their desire to write?
My main piece of advice would be to read. Read read read. Go to free spoken word nights, watch performance poets online, watch or read plays. Expose yourself to stories and decide why you want to tell them. Why do you want to write? Why do you want to perform?
Jeanette Winterson says it better than I can right now:
‘A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers – a language powerful enough to say how it is.’
Language is yours to find. My advice would be simply to . . . go and look.
Listen to Rachel’s poem ‘Baby Blue’ below, and find out more about her work on her website.
Photo Credit: Stephen Russell