Songs of My Soul launch

After six weeks of planning and a life time of cosmic ordering (remember that?) the date for Songs Of My Soul book launch arrived. I was delighted with the venue, the gorgeous OSO Arts Centre in Barnes. I was nervous, of course, that no-one would show up, but I also felt that it wasn’t about numbers, it was about the VIBE. And the vibe was amazing; relaxed yet professional, joyous, yet as poignant as the verses demanded. Here are a few pictures which I hope capture the mood, as for occasions like these, words can sometimes be superfluous.



‘I give you words like I give you gold’

A writerly mind, and putting it down on paper..When the words in your head simply become to loud to ignore, you need to write them down. That is the theory behind journalling. That is also my theory behind being a writer – the deep desire to get the words out of your head and written down. I get lots of ideas just at the point of dropping off to sleep, so I keep my phone near my bed which has a good recording app, so I can use it even if I’m half asleep! I have a collection of notebooks – emblazoned with stripes, pastels, gallery covers, liberty prints – you get the picture.

I know EXACTLY what is in each of them, which helps me to make sense of my disparate creative thoughts. I truly hope you enjoy ‘Songs’ – I have used the experiences of my life, which are common experiences and distilled the thoughts and feelings into words and finally poems. I would love to know which of the poems most closely resonates with an experience of yours.

ZONG 1781 a poem for Black History Month

I first read Zong 1781 at my Songs of My Soul poetry book launch on October 25. I’m beginning to love history! Not just black history – all history. The entanglement of people as they migrate across the planet – their wars, their stories, their monuments, statements of wealth, places of worship. I’m endlessly fascinated in the what, why and where of the places I visit. It’s endlessly stimulating for my poetic mind.

I have just finished reading David Olusoga’s Black & British which can only be described as astounding. It races through history, TARDIS-like from the early tudors and stuarts, extends a visit to the Victorians and Edwardians, landing in the current day. He blows a hole in the Windrush myth, i.e. that the black presence in Britain began when the ship of the same name docked at Tilbury. He provides colourful and detailed evidence about the role that black people played on the world stage through times of slavery, colonialism the commonwealth and both world wars through considerable difficulties and many triumphs.

My personal quest for knowledge is like a deep-rooted tree seeking both sunlight and water. I have started to read multiple books simultaneously – the more I read, the more I write!

What do you think of the poem? Do you love history too, especially if like me, you used to dislike it at school!

Suzy Rowland

Writing a book when you have a day job

Long before Songs of My Soul was conceived, I remember the living room floor at my mother’s house strewn with handwritten manuscripts, paperclips, highlighter pens, squiggles on note paper and lots of colour photos. It looked like a crazy unsolvable jigsaw   – it was to become my mother, Cas Walker’s, first edition of Focus on the Caribbean, published in 1988. Her book was one of a series of books aimed to assist the primary classroom teacher, to help kids in their increasingly multicultural schools, to learn and understand more about the cultures of some of their classmates.

It seemed hideously complicated to me, writing a book; I was glad it was my mother who was battling with research and deadlines and not me, as I slunk up to bed at about 11pm. She often worked well into the night, ‘burning the midnight oil’ she called it and was up early the next morning for her job as schools’ curriculum adviser at Birmingham City Council.

She was tired but she also exhilarated at being commissioned to write this book; born and brought up in Jamaica, my mother was proud of her country of origin and keen to share the rich culture of it in a simple and digestible way to help promote greater understanding. One of the remarkable things about my mother was her beautiful speaking voice – she sounded like a BBC Radio presenter – precise, yet warm and clipped, with a dash of Birmingham and the merest hint of the Caribbean! She spoke highly of the English schooling she received in Jamaica and was often shocked about how kids with Caribbean parents who were born in the UK, seemed to lack the basics in terms of English diction and grammar. Perhaps it was a Brummie thing and wanting to fit in?

Mum’s signature in a copy of Focus on the Caribbean and a photo of her holding a copy of the book in the back garden.

The work continued and the book was finished – it was beautiful and I treasure the copies I have with photos of her in them and her signature.  Even though it was hard work, there is always a sweet spot in writing – when you are immersed to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. Bound up in the words, characters, history, stories within stories – everything is suspended in the thick gloop of everyday soup, but you fly in the cloudless sky of your imagination. For me, this is where bliss resides. I’m sure mum would have had a more pragmatic approach – just get your head down and keep going until it’s finished! She was a no-nonsense lady in many respects.

Colours that bind us – holding a copy of my book, Songs of my Soul, 29 years after mum’s book was published.

Who was to know that years later, I would write a book of my own, with a bright yellow cover? Our books define our differences, hers: factual and educational, mine: fanciful and spiritual – but both bound in the yellow glow of a hopeful future.

You can download a copy of Songs Of My Soul here 

I’m hoping to work with a publisher to update Focus on the Caribbean.

T-h-e C-o-m-m-u-t-e

The stench of frustration hangs in the air

The look of exhaustion abundantly clear

The taste of coffee on everyone’s lips

The buttery croissants clinging to hips

The touch of a stranger’s bag or case

The jolt of an armpit right in your face

The crinkle of newspapers rustling ‘round

The clicking of keyboards oppressively loud

The nasal announcements drone overhead

The tasks of the day polluting your head

The stress of the day is clenching your jaw

The pressurised headache makes tired eyes sore

The scramble to find something healthy to eat

The urge to drink vodka shots chased or neat

The need to do anything to keep you from screaming

The realization you’re awake and not dreaming

The shock that you’re forty-one, no, forty-two

The life you envisaged, escaping from view

The need to do something ‘real’ with your life

The desire for something that means you’re alive

The dreams and ambitions you had as a child

The confidence possessed now seems quite wild

The vision and focus you manage for others

The goals for yourself are what really matters

The time is right now as we don’t live forever

The saying goes; it’s either now or not ever

The need is so real to break out of the rut”

The station is approaching: I’ve reached my stop!”

© Suzy Rowland Rigg

download your copy of  Songs of My Soul 

Conway Hall – a lively Poetry Book Fair

A short video in between me rushing around the stalls at the Poetry Book the link below…

Half-time at Conway Hall

What a better way than to spend a Saturday afternoon in the centre of London on a bright, chilly Autumn day, in the company of poets and more books than you can read on a wet afternoon in November. Welcome to ‘Free Verse’ the Poetry Book Fair. I hadn’t visited this event before and found it very well run and stimulating. I particularly enjoyed the live mash-up session with Michael Horovitz, Vanessa Vie and crew. I left feeling energised, and buzzing with ideas about how to improve my own performance and written poetry!