William Wordsworth told us, “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility”.
That’s the exact emotional response that London-based spoken word artist Sophia Thakur evokes. She began releasing poems in her teenage years, expressing her experiences of angst, expectation, and the battle for self-confidence. Since then, her confidence, directness and word skill – not to mention her fearless approach to tackling subjects like prejudice towards those with disorders and domestic violence – has earned her a growing following, as well as invitations to host poetry workshops, conduct talks and perform at festivals.
Thakur tells Fringe Frequency about what compels her to perform, the freedom poetry gives her, its personal cost, and why she’s ready to “strangle you with your own heart strings” with her forthcoming 2018 projects.
How did you get started as a poet?
Honestly, I don’t remember. My family or older friends would probably answer this better. I know that a man named Mikel Ameen gave me a stage that changed my life back when I was 14 or 15. I must have always loved to write. I remember not being that interested in normal teenage girl stuff. I had my mates – I wasn’t a loner or anything – but my head was in the clouds 24/7. Poetry became where I felt most present on this earth. Beyond the stage, most of the time it feels like I’m floating around life, if I’m not practising creativity. I found feeling in describing things; poetry became perfect for the 15-year-old me. Still is.
How would you describe your writing? What themes do you enjoy writing about?
Right now I talk about love a lot. I also talk about dancing a lot. One is the strongest feeling I’ve felt, the other is my favourite way to not feel those same feelings. Both, however, are bodily and mentally intoxicating. I did say I loved to feel, right?
I try to illustrate feelings and individual moments these days. My writing has become far more delicate as I’ve gotten older. Poetry has become my way of painting a really detailed but recognisable picture. I haven’t released any of these poems just yet, but 2018 will see a whole new side to me as a woman and artist.
I’m coming to strangle you with your own heart strings, and leave you choked up and hyper-sensitive to your own skin and its tendencies.
What inspires your writing?
It used to be music. I used to hear a Nas or Tupac song and feel compelled to write straight away. I was inspired by how effortlessly they told stories, top to bottom in a few minutes. There is such power on taking a listener on a journey. For those few minutes, if done correctly, the listener is yours to guide through both your, and their, imagination. That’s banging to me. So, yeah, people’s stories inspire me so much.
And strong feelings, of course. Not too strong, but strong enough to feel around a feeling long enough to describe all of its facets.
What’s your favourite part of being a poet? What’s the worst?
I get to be raw. More raw than you get to be in most fields of life. I get to literally address my heart for breakfast, and talk about it into a microphone all night. Best paid excuse to be honest, all the time, even when I probably shouldn’t be.
Worst part? Probably that exact same thing really. When I’ve come off stage, a room full of strangers knows my business. An online world knows when I’m in love, when my heart’s breaking, when I’m angry, when I’m caught up. I hate over accessibility. Sometimes I wish I could just pull a Frank Ocean and release things from a cave somewhere and trust that it’ll be received well. I struggle with social media all the time. But it’s something that comes with the job in this day and age, so I swallow it every day. In fact, I need to get 10 times better at it. [Laughs]
To date, what’s been the highlight of your career?
After releasing a poem on domestic violence (‘Beatbox’), and cancer (‘Dear Cancer’), I had loads of messages from all around the world. Young girls telling me that the poem gave them the confidence to seek help or support. Other older women saying that that poem healed emotional scars they had from their past. I even heard from a few men who sought out redemption after listening to it. I was 16 or 17 at the time, and it was a lot to take in, but I’m grateful that people opened themselves up to be touched by something I wrote.
After releasing ‘Dear Cancer’, sufferers, survivors and family of sufferers said that they will adopt the mindset I took on in the poem, which was craaaazy because that poem was so, so, so personal to me. Maybe my most personal.
What advice do you have for aspiring poets?
Be honest and develop your own style. Feel yourself out. Feel what feels right and what doesn’t. Poetry is high emotion and the worst thing you can do is release something that doesn’t feel like you. Whilst you still have the creative space to experiment, do so. Be flexible, be malleable, be raw, and be bold.
What’s your favourite poem to perform?
An unreleased poem called ‘I Hope You Dance’. I wrote it for a friend, called Alex, that passed away this year, and performed it with an amazing five-piece band at the Lyrix Organix headline event. I felt like he was sitting in the audience, and the feeling it gave me on stage was so warm, so confident, and scarily real. I will never forget that moment.
If you can describe your poetry in one word what would it be?
Who are your favourite poets?
It’s been a while since I’ve had a big old binge of new poets so I’m going to stick with my golden oldies. Miss/Queen Alysia Harris is my all-time fav’ performance poet. Recently, I’ve been studying the charm within poetry for the page, and Shinji Moon has a spell on me. I’m hooked. Haven’t got a clue if they’re male or female, where they’re from or how avidly they pursue the art…but a friend gave me their poetry book to answer some of my life questions and I’m intoxicated by their writing.
Image: Nikki Marie