Saturday, 29 September 2007

This Weekend's Profile: Meet WRITER URSULA TROCHE

CONVERSATION with Ursula; Cheerful Poet/Writer of Consciousness

When Ursula Troche was only six years old growing in Löhne, a small German town she used to be upset by the way fellow school mates mistreated a young Turkish girl. They teased, bullied, called her names and did horrific things to her, but at that time Ursula did not understand what racial discrimination was. “I just felt emotional about it…” That crucial experience was the beginning Journey of Discovery and Human Awareness for this London based exuberant writer, photographer and singer who starts her PhD degree this season.

As I photograph her at north London’s beautiful Clissold Park, she is constantly referring to her Trinity philosophy. She always sees people in connection with each other. In her recent self published poems (“Embraceable”) she has a picture taken in Slovakia where the railway station designs reminds her of African painting. Being of Polish, Puerto Rican and German origins, she always sees things in that cultural tripod mix. As she talks and recites her new poem on Nelson Mandela's visit to unveil his statue in London, I realise that the world needs more individuals like this. Ursula is one of the most cheerful, carefree, optimistic ladies I have ever known, who no matter what, rarely moans about the weather, or goes into a self-pitiful trips and insists that “she prefers dealing with the good rather than the pain in us…”
Here follows our chat.
FM- I am going to start with a very taboo question. Many Germans I have met abroad are ashamed of the country’s horrible Nazi past, subtly embarrassed to reveal their origins….
Ursula- Perhaps I should write about a poem about that. I used to have a friend from Ghana who used to say many Africans are constantly trying to get rid of their accents here in Europe. It is not just Africans and Germans. In the days the Irish used to be called dogs here in England their accent was teased. Everyone has hang-ups. This is one of humanity’s major problems.
FM-Your writing is very honest and straightforward. No gimmicks…
Ursula – Writing honestly and straight to the point is almost a kind of survival technique. The system we live in is often so suffocating that the only real and lasting liberation one – or at least I – can find is by discussing all the subjects that the system neglects or distorts. I want to make space for and give opportunity for liberation.
FM-“Embraceable” has no ISBN number. Are you rebelling? It is such beautiful work
Ursula – I wish ‘Embraceable’ had an ISBN number. When I put it together, I found it too much hassle to get one. I should really do it, get it reprinted or, ideally, find a publisher for it.
FM-Most poets and authors start writing early. You seem to have begun late; after living in London for seven years.
Ursula- I had only really started in 1998 because in the previous year, I had finished my degree in Politics and African Studies. It was a conservative experience actually and while writing my essays I had to resist that. Then when the degree was over, I sort of continued my resistance with poetry. A motto then and now for me was ‘I write what I like’ (Steve Biko).

FM-There are 23 poems with certain re-occurring themes.
Dance, People, Race and Culture, Being female, Freedom and Responsibility.
Are these your major concepts?
You don't dwell on the usual predictable topics of young active women : personal love, feminist politics, etc. Are you above that?

Ursula- Yes, the themes in my booklet are definitely my typical themes because these are the themes that move me, upset me, inspire me: these are the themes I live with. If these are not the usual topics one would expect of a woman like me it’s because I don’t want to repeat what’s already been said or written about. Further I am looking for more depth and engagement when discussing what happens in society. So I have this urge to speak out in the way I do because sometimes it feels like nobody else does. I’ve been involved in debates around identity and all the things you’ve mentioned because it just sort of happens to me that way because these are my experiences.
My main concerns in life are to do my contribution to re-establish an equilibrium (i.e. equality) in society that has been missing for so many centuries. And many of us are suffering from the absence of this equilibrium. Here I want to show in particular how everybody can and should get active, how I as a white person and a foreigner relate to and engage with issues to do with race relations and why understanding, dialogue and some kind of Afro-centricity is necessary for untainted life.
FM-Are you a writer by choice or by accident?
Ursula- I am definitely a writer by choice. I may have started off ‘accidentally’ but I feel that, as I approach deeper levels of liberation and more urgent longings for a revolution, I will continue. Also I think that doing this sort of thing is the way I can contribute to the overall struggle for liberation, for humanity and harmony. This is my contribution and ever since I have enjoyed the discussions and friends I have made as a result of practising my approach.
FM-You have created and raised crucial historical issues in the “Overstayer-Without a Viza” poem.
“I sometimes think that of all the African peoples
To reach Europe
It must have been the Yorubas who arrived first
Because the words Yoruba and Europe sound so alike …”
You claim the word Europe comes from the Nigerian tribe word “Yoruba…” Where did you get this argument?

Ursula- Europe =Yoruba: whether it comes from my head or creativity? When I write I seem to be really inspired, so thoughts definitely come from a place beyond me but I pick them up and put them to paper. I am fully aware that these are unusual and unexpected issues, especially coming from somebody like me, but this is just why I find it so important: 1. to get people together, 2. to get them thinking along different lines, 3. to dismantle the hegemony of distorted thinking that is the cause of divisions and inequality.
FM-You say in your blurb that you do research on what you write. Which of the poems was researched in this collection?
Ursula-The poems weren’t researched as such. But my research is on the same topics. Beyond engaging with and initiating innovative debates, I also deal with the issues academically because I don’t want to miss opportunities to dismantle that hegemony of distorted thinking, as I had put it.
But before any research, all the issues I discuss just ‘come out of me’, simply because they are so important.

FM-You also sing, paint and do photography. Which is more important?
Ursula – I haven’t painted for long although I like it a lot and will come back to it when I have more time. Singing is something I’d like to do more. I do sing my poetry, so I have a partial outlet there. Photography is probably what I mostly do these days apart from poetry, because I like to catch the beauty of nature, the rhythms and harmonies of natural life.
FM-How many copies did you publish and how can readers get hold of this book?
Ursula– For a start I have only had 500 copies printed. I should start putting them into shops, because at the moment I am just distributing them myself. So I could be contacted. But let’s talk about it, I could leave some at Centre prise Bookshop in good old Dalston (East London) for example. Further poetry-collections are also planned.
Contact Ursula for readings or speaking engagements :
And if you are more curious about Ursula's writing please read here.

Read another recent Profile.

1 comment:

beatrice De said...

Je retrouve le mail de Richard Gigson. An old friend of mine. He gave me a clic to go to your blog. But it is a bit to long to read in english. I am sure it is interesting.

Hello from Lausanne, Switzerland.