AN INTERVIEW WITH GREENWICH BASED WRITER, MUSICIAN AND MULTIPLE ARTIST...
When Self Publishing Becomes the Best Alternative...
I have known Louisa for over a decade;one of those unique and self-motivated innovators; an unsung woman of the hour. She is out there in rain, mist or sun working... never waiting. She might stumble, fall or slip; and others might point fingers and say she is not doing it right; but she always gets up, keeps things going; always with others, rarely alone, in the community, never selfish...
Louisa works regularly in schools...
As I write this I am thinking of some of the many talented and original artists like T.S. Elliot and Charlie Chaplinwho had to run their own things before being widely recognised. I have just finished reading "Whispers in the Mists of Time" by this Greenwich based lady who has the kindest heart and most creative mind. My conclusion? If you are looking for a simple but dear Christmas present (of quality) in these dire times, order a copy of this remarkable book.
Details at the end of this interview...
Q.It is impossible to pin down a multi-talented person like you. How would you describe your abilities in a brief conversation?
I always say I am an artist, I suppose a multi-media artist might explain it. You know yourself (you’re the same); you just find different ways of expressing the spark of art that drives you. But my core, my essence I feel is the poetry, (although I love performing) when I write there is no one else, I feel connected to something greater than myself its very powerful, very exhilarating.
Louisa blowing her way in a story telling performance at the National History Museum, London, 2006. The piece takes you across different cultures.
A multi-skilled friend of mine says when he is doing one of his activities he just concentrates on the given task. Next time they see him doing something else he loves seeing the surprise on their faces. Do you identify with that?
Not really if anyone asks me what I am doing I will tell them, but I suppose there are always lots of other creative things floating around, on the back burner so to speak, which I dip into and suddenly will surface. I also have a business persona that I adopt to take care of the business side of things; she would probably fit well in the poem Debating with Myself, but it helps to put on a business hat to become a different character as I also love to act as well as sing.
(A line from “Debating with Myself” :
“THE PSYCHOANALYSTS HAVE ANALYSED AND THE PSYCHIATRISTS HAVE LEFT
SO NOW TO KEEP A BALANCE I GROW OAK TREES AND LISTEN TO THE
SOUND OF MY BREATHING…”)
I understand “Whispers in the Mists of Time” might be your first collection but you have loads of other unpublished poems?
Yes I have been writing poems all my life and now have hundreds which come when and where they choose, sometimes I am prolific sometimes nothing for ages, but I don’t try, they come when they are ready. I started to keep them in the early 1980’s, after one of my many close encounters with death. I was run over by a motorbike and landed on my head, unconscious, blood from the ears, brain trauma and lost a lot of the use in one arm and the opposite leg for several months. My poems became a refuge, that and the meditation. So instead of just discarding them I kept them, mostly for myself, it was a long time after that when I showed them reluctantly to other people that I realised people liked them; that they had something from them.
Why did you decide to self publish?
I decided to publish through our organisation, Global Fusion Music and Arts because lots of people who had read the poems kept asking when they could buy a book of my poetry especially after I did an exhibition of my work in 2001. The publication of the book coincided with the tour of the new album Jazzmoss which itself comes from my poetry. It is a financial risk and creative risk, but as I know only too well, life is too short, if I had waited for someone else to publish them it might never have happened.
Greenwich, 2004. Louisa flanked by the Fusion Factory Band the core and heart of Global Music Fusion and Arts. From left Kaz Kasozi, Louisa, Gill Swan and the late Indian percussionist and kit-drummer, Sukh Saini, who died in 2006.
Q. Many of your poems go in batches or groups with similar themes said in different, interesting ways. One of these is Birthdays written at least 5 times. The last, “Your Birthday” says: “…never forget your own birthday, the one day a year,
Mark it well.”
You were born in the West Country then moved to London. Do you ever go back to your place of birth?
Yes that is true there are certain themes that seem to re-occur. The reason for that in the case of birthdays for instance, is that I do really value birthdays much more than say, Christmas and each time I wrote the birthday poems was a different birthday with a different experience attached, so that was the voice that spoke in at that time. Who knows there may be more because I don’t write to order it in the lap of the Gods.
Yes I do go back to the West country because I have three sisters and one brother who still lives there. I visit them at Christmas and important birthdays and we speak on the phone. I may go back there to live one day but I love London and would really miss the energetic, multi-cultural nature of London. I feel blessed to have met and become friends with some wonderful people from all over the world and still have so much to learn from other people and other cultures.
It has never been easy for poets to get published. Most of the great poets from the past have self published or set up their own small publishing house to begin with, its only when a poet’s popularity has increased that the larger publishers picked them up, not that I have any delusions of grandeur about my own poetry, but I am glad that people like and feel something from them.
Louisa working in a school. She is not just a performer in education, but a loving mother and a grandmother of her own children and grand children.
Q. Why do you write?
This is a very good question, I think I write because it is part of who I am.
Some where deep inside myself there is a need to express myself through words, it has a cleansing effect on me, it lifts my spirit and sometimes makes me laugh. Sometimes the poems are deep and touch some very raw nerve and these would bring up some trapped emotions and release them; it can be quite painful, but a very beneficial experience.
Like your art, talents and life your writing reflects multiple colours and layers. You have serious poems, questioning life and mortality (“Look” and “Questions”); introspective ones ( “An identity of spirit”, “Soul Cleanser”, “Stepping Near the truth”) but some say serious things in a humorous, funny way.(“The Cannabis Man”, “Crick Crack” , “The Plumber from Plumstead Common.”)
Which is your favourite style and theme?
I don’t have a favourite style or theme, because I don’t set out to write in any particular style or follow any particular theme, they unfold in their own way, its as though they have a life of their own. I don’t edit them once they are written because that’s how they manifested themselves to me. It is nice to make people laugh, but equally its good for people to be reflective, to see life in a different way. But to answer your question I think that the spiritual ones are the most important to me.
The Saxophone is one of her many music instruments...
As a musician you are aware of sex, drugs and rock and roll. What inspired “The Cannabis Man”?
I don’t really know, but yes in my younger days I did watch people letting days go by as they were stoned and I have had my fair share of bad drug experiences. But ‘The Cannabis Man’ is not just about drugs it is about letting our lives drift, we may have great ideas and principles but we have to make the effort. I forget who said it but its true, art is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.
What is “Crick Crack” about?
‘Crick Crack’ is about getting influenza but it’s also about the pain I suffer from in my neck and shoulders which keeps me company 24-7 they stiffen up so they makes a crick crack noise when I move them. It is in fact extremely painful but I have learned to live with it and to rise above the pain, one of the spin offs from the close encounter I mentioned earlier. The poem is also about letting people into our lives who we think we can trust, then they abuse us until we realise what is happening and remove them from our lives.
Q. The poem “I watch a Nightingale” expresses a curious observation ….is that connected to your personal fondness for pets and animals?
I love nature; it reflects the creator, creation and our own need to commune with it. I have had dogs and cats in the past, the dogs were very good for me because they love unconditionally and it was so nice to go outside into nature morning and night to walk them. No matter what the weather is you really see the seasons changing and notice small details.
Some of your poems reflect a musical ear (“Sound”, “Song of Universe”). Is it natural for your other art forms like photography and music to blend into your writing?
Yes I feel very graced because there is a natural interplay between the many art forms I am involved with and I’ve learned to draw on all of these skills and creativity in what ever I am doing, its very exciting.
Your titles are very interesting. Some give hints to the theme (“Soul Cleanser”, “Sleep”, “The Burdened Traveller”), some don’t (“Last Doorway” which is about death) others are from famous works like Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” How do you compose your titles?
Many of the titles from a line in the poems or to I try somehow to show the essence, or meaning within the poem.
Certain poems are difficult to read because they have a lot of word play. However they have very powerful themes. I am talking of “Tick Tock” and “A Psychopath and a Policeman.”
I have always been interested in words and wordplay it’s the child in me, if you listen to children they are very playful with words and naturally find rhythm.
One of my favourite pieces is the one about the hypocrisy of the extremist religious (“Born Again”). Are you religious?
I don’t consider myself religious that implies some sort of dogma, but I am spiritual, I meditate and have done so since 1974. I try to be aware of and respect others beliefs and religions. I am very interested in world religions and have read many of the main scriptures as well as some little known works, it is a constant search. I was very influenced by my paternal grandmother who lived in India for most of her life. She tried to live in the UK but soon returned to India, giving up all of her worldly possessions to become a Yogi in the Himalayas. From there she wrote to me the most beautiful and inspiring letters about her spiritual path and so from an early age I have been drown to the East for my spiritual sustenance. “Born Again” was based on a first hand experience, as are most of my poems really.
(Some lines from “Born Again”
YOU TELL ME YOU HAVE BEEN BORN AGAIN
YOU HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT AND WALK AWAY FROM DARKNESS
YET IF OTHERS WALK ON SEPARATE PATHS, THEN YOU CURSE THEM AS THE DEVIL
THE SUNDAY CHRISTIAN RITUAL, WILL CLEANSE YOU OF YOUR SINS AND TAKE AWAY YOUR GUILT
BUT TO GIVE YOUR LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY, IS NOT WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT)
With Louisa at the start of the Jazzmoss tour Autumn 2007.
Q. While being critical of the colonial history of Britain (“The Bloodstained Inheritance of the Empire” ) you are equally proud of her goodness (“To be English”) and internationalist (“Rhythms of Africa”). Are you a political person?
I don’t consider myself a political artist more a spiritual artist. But I am political, I suppose somewhat left wing, and believe in a fairer society. I feel that reparation should be made for the slave trade and for the great injustices of the imperialist days. The poem ‘To Be English’ is a satirical look at what some people think it is to be English and most of what is said in the poem is not pride, more showing the speakers to have an ignorance of the outside world and how much this country is a fusion of cultures. ‘Rhythms of Africa’ on the other hand describes is my experience of falling in love with Africa its people, culture, music, food and its beauty. I hope that one day Africa will be the Giant she deserves to be. I hope that in some small way I have helped to promote Africa because I truly believe in her.
How long did it take you to write these 120 plus poems?
The poems in this book cover thirty years, but are just a small portion of the poems I have written and will continue to write Insh’Allah.
Are you planning another book and will it be the same style?
Well I would like publish another book, I have enough material, it just depends on how well this one goes. As for the style I did not agonise about which poems would go into this book it was as they came up, some had already been typed, some just came out of the box I keep them in. I do like the alphabetical order though, I might do that again it seems to have worked quite well this time, somehow they fell together some as I had written them that way. Any way I am very grateful to have published this one and the response has been so warm and encouraging. But the real work begins now marketing it.
To Contact Louisa for a copy.
Sunday, 7 December 2008
AN INTERVIEW WITH GREENWICH BASED WRITER, MUSICIAN AND MULTIPLE ARTIST...