Creative Insight: Sophia Thakur

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.

Sophia Thakur can be found on Twit­ter, YouTube and Sound­Cloud.

Image: Nik­ki Marie