with Elizabeth Uwalaka:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
I consciously began writing poems when I was six years old, influenced by my older sister who was studying ‘I, Claudius’ by Robert Graves. She recited,
'Claudius hid behind a curtain, Gratus twitched the thing away, Be our leader, said bold Gratus, all your orders we'll obey'...etc.
which I soaked up like a sponge and remember in its entirety to this day! She would also read from The Oxford Book of Children’s Verse to my younger brother and I at bedtime, and I was drawn to the poetry and nonsense poems of Edward Lear. The first ever poem I wrote was titled ‘The Bear and the Honey’.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Elizabeth: I can say that there are sources of inspiration daily, with bedrock influences from Kahlil Gibran and Maya Angelou among others, which fuel my writing. On social media, Dean Wilson’s gentle disposition is apparent in his poetry, and like a welk, I have clung to his Pebble of the Day throughout lockdown and written an inspired poem every day based on the picture he posts. He sent me one of his amazing finds in the mail and I am chuffed to bits to have a piece of his art and influence in my possession!
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Elizabeth: Definitely when I was about seven years old and my younger brother and I began to make our own poetry book and again in 2017 when a family friend suggested that she and I should collate our poems and those of the local parish priest and parishioners into a book. That particular project hasn’t happened yet, but it takes time to grow, so we’ll wait and see.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
Elizabeth: The biggest help so far has been the encouragement from my sister and the support of my song writing partner.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?
Elizabeth: Growing up in West London in a large house in Notting Hill, then being moved onto a housing estate, there was plenty of bittersweet influence on my teenage mindset, plus constantly having my father’s strict input based on his experiences and a reminder of his expectations to end up in medical school and become a doctor as many of the family are doctors and medical professionals. Living away from home in my years at university in France and Spain after studying French Literature gave me room to grow, and to explore and appreciate songs and poetry in those languages.
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Elizabeth: The social anthem ‘Raise Our Voices’, a song which I co-wrote (as RU Music with my song writing partner Michael Reeman, is something which I am really proud of as a meaningful creative work. I am an advocate for social justice and I know when something is good because I get feeling of goose bumps and it touches me to the core. The process of bringing that song to life was so involving and it was a pleasure to have seen it used as a resource for community faith groups and by the CBCEW for Racial Justice Sunday in January 2021, and to have had an article published in the 21st July edition of The Tablet this year too http://www.thetablet.co.uk/
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
Elizabeth: I am a decorative cake maker and amateur gardener – I love both activities as they both have an extended satisfying creative outcome. Cycling is also something I enjoy doing to relax and to stay active.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a writing of yours or others?
Elizabeth: A favourite stanza of mine is from the poem ‘Wartime Deserter, Peacetime Lover’ which I wrote for Remembrance Day in 2018:
‘If a useful youthful youth was had
And passed in counting a daily dream,
Perhaps the lies fell sweet upon the ear:
Kitchener’s call true as it could seem.’
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Elizabeth: Ideally, I would love to have a collection of my own poetry pieces published someday and there was a suggestion made of a collaboration between Dean Wilson and I titled, ‘Songs of Stone and Word’.
From a song writing perspective, the Christmas song ‘Home in your Heart’ is being promoted for Christmas 2021 as is the digital EP ‘Forever and a Day’: https://rumusic5.bandcamp.com/album/forever-and-a-day and the EPK is: