Nigerian born, and Longford raised, spoken word artist Felispeaks is talented, exciting, opinionated, articulate and original. Her poems are beautiful, and she delivers them with such intention that you can’t help but sit up and listen.
For too long in Ireland we have just done what we always do. Our options in terms of how we express ourselves are limited, and if we’re honest, we don’t think outside the box. Felispeaks aims to change that, to be an ambassador for the spoken word scene, and to encourage all of us to use it as a medium to create communities, and to spark social change.
Well okay then!
Our own Eboni who is also outspoken, (she did ask Leo Varadkar for a selfie after all) sat down for a chat with Felicia, to find out more. But first, lets hear her in action…
Hi Felicia, its so nice to meet you! Tell me a little about about yourself and what you do?
My name is Felicia, for the record, but I go my the stage name Felispeaks. I’m a spoken word artist and a performer which I’ve been doing for just over a year. I started off in the SLAM competition scene during college and took a break during my final year. I’m Nigerian, Longford raised, and I was studying in Maynooth.
Tell me more about how you got into the spoken word scene?
Well I started a little by accident, I’ve always been a writer, and written in my diary but I didn’t realise that I was writing poetry until I was 16. There was a slam competition in Maynooth held by the literary society, that was my first one. I was really nervous at the start and I didn’t win, but I got a honourable mention. It was awesome I loved being on the stage Then the following year I won!
I saw that you also won the APNI excellence award. What an achievement! So what did you write when you were young?
I read a lot so the more I read the more I felt the need to express, and write in my diary and just let it all out.
Do you still keep a diary?
Yeah of course! If I’m not writing poetry I’m just writing so I always have a copies with me, copies for organising myself, copies for poetry, my diary. Just loads of copies!
Are you always buying notebooks like me?
Yes I always have a bunch at home.
Your poems are all about coming of age and feminism, what drives you to be so honest?
I couldn’t express an opinion or an experience or a thought in my life without being honest and without being raw, and I think it’s a huge part of my personality to be straight up and direct. I also find that this characteristic of mine helps other people. We have a lack of a genuinety in our culture where they don’t want to know, and you don’t want them to know you’re going through things. So I feel like when you write poetry, you can’t be pretentious or false. When capturing a moment in your life, a love lost, a challenge, it has to be real.
How do you incorporate feminism into your daily life?
As Chimanada says, everybody should be a feminist. To me, feminism simply means treating people with respect and like we are equal. We should encourage other women and support each other so in my personal life I just do whatever I want. I don’t let the societal ideal infringe on my freedom and I think that’s why I come across as strangely bold.
What can Ireland do to empower more women or young people in general?
I don’t know what we’re doing wrong, so I don’t really know how to fix it, but I think we’re trying and I think we’re doing well now in terms of feminism especially in colleges and universities. Every time I meet a young women she seems to have an aura of freedom which is ingrained into us millennials. That’s the thing about us, we think we can do whatever we want. But we still have work to do.
Does your poetry ever get criticised?
I don’t get much criticism. I don’t know, maybe people don’t have the courage to say it to my face but I haven’t gotten much negativity. My poems are about lots of different things over a broad spectrum and I wouldn’t call myself an activist so I don’t get picked on by negative people.
I try not to let peoples opinions affect my personality or change who I am. I don’t own your emotions or opinions so I can’t do anything for you if you don’t like me or my work but yeah, generally its very positive.
If you could give advice to your teenage self what would it be?
Get to know yourself first. Whatever you do, whatever decisions you make, whatever path you go down. Make sure its related to you that’s the first thing. Make sure you know who you are. I’m 22 and I’m constantly learning about myself. Be passionate and fiery about getting what you want.
Apart from your spoken word work, what keeps you going and makes you happy?
My art keeps me alive and I’m reading a book right now called ‘Women Who Run With The Wolves’. It talks about the need to keep your female side in the loop, finding your dark corners, your positive corners. And I know that my art can help me discover more about myself. Knowing that my art could help someone else keeps me alive. Its an extension of myself and I have to do it and that’s how I live, for my art.
Do you ever get moments where you doubt if you can do it, or if its for you anymore?
Of course, I get days where I’m like, I don’t wanna do this shit, I don’t wanna keep going but then I get excited in the second breath and I’m like ‘oh you don’t know what can come of this.’ There’s days where I really don’t want to go to a show but right in the middle of it, I feel great again and that feeling is vital to me.
Outside of your Felispeaks persona is there a different part of you?
Felispeaks is 100% me, you cannot separate the art from the artist or Felispeaks from Felicia because we come from the same shores. All of it is in one package but you might only get to know one part of me on stage. It’s like a diamond, every time you shine it you see different parts and angles.
Tell me about what else you enjoy outside of winning all of these accolades?
I’m a laugher. I’m constantly laughing at things, obsessed with comedy shows. I love to dance, at home, at parties, anywhere. Generally I’m really expressive so I always have to let out my energy. But there are also times where I have to be alone or I have to be at home, mentally. I read. I love doing silly activities, going to the zoo, to Tayto park, anything fun. I’m a 10 year old kid in a 22 year old body.
Do you think people are becoming more interested in poetry?
Well, poetry started off as just something you read on your own in your spare time. Right now the generation we’re in are obsessed with expressing what we feel and think. That’s why we have platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. We want to hear what people are saying. When you put that into an art form it’s building on whats already there and when you see a good performance you engage because its a relatable and real.
What do you think of The Shona Project?
I think it’s great as it give girls a platform where they can find role models and share their stories. I think it is necessary and anything that is positive is great!
What are your plans for 2018?
Well I’m excited, I don’t want to give too much away but I have a lot of plans. I want to diversify what I do on stage and I’ve always said I want to change the face of poetry in Dublin city. That is hard work because I feel that it takes a back seat compared to other art forms. I want it to have it on main stage and be recognised. I want people to see what we can do with it, what can be achieved with words.
I want to use it as a tool to generate discussion to ask important questions. Not just typical exchanges, lets have unusual and different conversations.
Thank you so much, its has been lovely chatting to you. Lets do a quickfire round…
Favorite word: Serendipity
Favorite poet: William Butler Yeats
Favourite place to write: My Bedroom
Favourite Book: Currently, The Women Who run with Wolves