Titilope Sonuga is a writer, poet, playwright and performer whose work grasps moments of tenderness and persistent joy at the intersection of blackness and womanhood.
She is the author of three award-winning collections of poetry, Down to Earth (2011), Abscess (2014), and This Is How We Disappear (2019) and has composed and released two spoken word albums, Mother Tongue (2011) and Swim (2019). Sonuga has written three plays, The Six; an intergenerational exploration of womanhood, Naked; a one-woman play and Ada The Country, a musical. She has scripted global advertising campaigns for brands including; The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, Intel Corporation, Guaranty Trust Bank and The MacArthur Foundation.
She was a writer and actor on the hit television series Gidi Up, which aired across Africa. Her writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovak. Sonuga is the 9th Poet Laureate of the City of Edmonton.
Craft & Writing
Let’s build a road. First, the intention to heal. To reclaim a moment in time that you wish had happened differently, to tell the story the way you wish it had happened. Next is the language, the story. There is a place you wish to return to. And now you can tell the story in a voice that is nothing like yours, too soft, get loud, too loud, soften. Maybe this moment is before language, tell it like a child, make up new words, make new worlds. Then for an acrostic a poem in which the first last or other letters in a line spell out a particular word or phrase. Make it plain to see like the first letter in every line or hidden, weaving somehow through the poem. And your phrase is, you can change the way it ends.
Consider the day of your birth. Travel back inside and begin with the body that held you reimagine and reinvent all of that blood memory. Then travel outside into the world as it was on that day, that month, that year. Go through the archives online or if you have the privilege of memory keeping, hold that in your hands, the photographs, the keepsakes, the knitted baby hats you wore on the way home. Engage all of the senses what was happening in the world on that day. What was newsworthy? What was quietly shifting somewhere on the globe? How did all of that impact the person you are? What threads of the world you came into stitched you together? If you know nothing, fill in the gaps with your own imaginings and wrangle the pain of that into hope for that little baby here on the page rewrite the history of you.
The work begins inside the body with an idea, a lyric, a story, a poem. We transcribe the idea in written form, and when it is done, we render it back into the body through performance. The practice then becomes not an act of memorization, but remembering what always was. Every hour spent in meditation with this work is a way to fuse it back to every cell, such that in the moment of performance, it is a living, breathing thing inside the body. Performance is the final edit. The poem comes into its full power, where it becomes potent enough to bend the air in the room. When the poem is done, or reaches the moment of abandonment. Stop writing. Read it out loud. Again, read it like a baby learning new words. Read it slowly. Five breaths in between each word. Read it fast, like the world is ending. Say the word staccato. See them slurred. Say this poem in every way the mouth moves, then say it again. Repeat, repeat, repeat until suddenly you find just the right pitch and pace, just the right mood and magic. You will know it when you hear it and the audience will know it to share.