I describe myself as a poet. I just say I’m a poet. There are so many things I want to do with poetry. I don’t see poetry as a rigid box, I think it’s fluid. – Indigo Williams
On the run up to launching my first record ‘Talk in a bit’ I am sharing some bits of talking with poets I’ve been doing over the last few years for a new archive at the British Library ‘Black British Poets in Performance’. The archive is not yet launched (and might take a bit longer due to British Library website shenanigans). In the meantime I am going to post bits of the interviews….Alongside Keith Jarrett, Indigo Williams was on the ‘spoken word educators’ programme at Goldsmiths University:
What I’m learning currently is how important it is for my practice to feed into what I teach … I am interested in helping them to develop emotional intelligence.
She encourages students to write ‘their stories’ and find connections between each other, and develop ‘emotional literacy’. She observes that writing about personal experience enables them to find new ‘coping mechanisms’. She comments ‘we are so afraid of sadness…. it’s okay to be hurt’.
Williams explains that ‘her hunger to be a good writer’ has made her ‘slow down’ as a performer. She was a singer before being a poet, and her interest in art forms in general – sculpture and photography, and learning about these forms enables her to think about materialising words:
You don’t give poetry a form it gives itself a form and your job as a poet is to be sensitive enough to be able to hear it.
On breath on the page and in performance:
Everything is really breath, every comma, every stress, all you’re doing is playing with breath, and the breath you’re controlling is the breath of the reader. Whereas on stage it’s your breath, you remain in control of that. There’s no time for the audience to hear that…. But on the page it’s a lot more defined and prominent.
On the experience of performing poetry:
You transcend beyond performing the poem, to being the poem … you black out because it’s no longer you…art is ethereal, it’s almost, I think it’s spiritual…you create other worlds, you connect to other frequencies and energies, you have the ability to disappear, to lose the noise in your head… the best performances I don’t remember… it’s not about me.
On Black Britishness:
I would identify as Black British, I’ve lived here my entire life, I’ve never actually been to Nigeria. I understand the language but I can’t speak it so I’m constantly in this in-between space between both cultures. I like to say I feel ‘culturally mixed race’.
Williams describes becoming aware of racial prejudice when at university, and looking back at the institutional racism she experienced in school when she was told she wasn’t clever enough to be a writer:
I think we live in a system that is unfair, not just racially, all oppression is connected. Until we see each of our battles as connected, it’s all the same system and that needs to be dismantled. On an individual level the best thing I can do is be great at what I do.