Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

Five minutes with Lemn Sissay

Speaking from the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature, British poet Lemn Sissay says inspiration is a call to arms.

Last year you were tasked with writing a poem to mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech for the Manchester festival. How was that experience?

That was quite incredible. What I did was try to personalise the story. I asked myself how is such a revolutionary speech in me? Where do I belonged to and where have I looked in order to get back to. It was a really beautiful thing to do and enjoy.

How did that compare to being the first poet to write for the Olympics in London two years ago?

With that I focused on a group of women who were oppressed in the late 1800’s on the site where the Olympic site is. I wanted to speak about their rights. Both the Martin Luther King poem and the Olympics poem have an incredibly strong link in that way.

Does inspiration or agitation trigger your work?

That’s for you to find. I live my life as an artist and I create as I create. You will either find an agitation or inspiration or both. The idea is to inspire and inspiration could be an uncomfortable feeling as a comfortable feeling.

Do you feel that we tend to describe inspiration as a rather benign process?

Inspiration is what the Arab Spring is about. It’s what’s happening in Ukraine. Inspiration makes actions happen and what makes people clap at a festival. It gives you goose pimples. It’s a call to action and a call to arms.

For more details go to www.lemnsissay.com

Updated: March 8, 2014 04:00 AM