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 Fair..click 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!

 

You, the rose

Songs of my Soul – Suzy Rigg

Excited heart and mind racing
full of ideas, vigour, drive
realising something brilliant
takes you into another realm of discovery
the postcard in a shop window speaks to you
a conversation overheard pulls you in
you interrupt knowing it’s rude,
but can’t stop yourself!
Events are overtaking you
doors of opportunity fly open
you’re moving through life with confidence,
not knowing how this happened
but it’s happening anyway
say hello to YOU, in your fullest bloom.

The Yummy Life

Songs of My Soul
The Yummy Life, Songs of My Soul

What is life all about? Joy! Yes Joy life is as fragile as a butterfly wing, easily crumbled, beautiful, simply
dove blue, striking red admiral bold! Be quick, oh, you missed it, it's gone!

I came when you called me
but too late, blown away with the clouds,
smashed into millions of pieces
like star's dust..
beautiful fragile life,
smile at it, smile with it,
In-joy!
Enjoy life, like the tastiest food imaginable...
Share rich indulgent thoughts, pungent ideas and tasty heart experiences for
this is your life, "I eat for nutrition, not for taste, she said!"
At 92, with a spirit, strong as a diamond
she knew how to live and how to love,
she wasn't thinking about endings,
she raced towards beginnings of things,
the egg-timer of life struggled to keep up.
If you like this poem, download a copy of Songs of My Soul,

Kind words that keep a writer writing

I had the delight to read the following words on Instagram recently by a warm and talented entrepreneur, and Founder of My Ebony Box Jenaitre Farquharson:

'We believe very strongly in supporting phenomenal women and the work that they do, we have chosen to support and acknowledge the work of poetess and writer, Suzy Rigg. After meeting the wonderful Suzy, early this year, we were charmed by her warm spirit and striking energy. We were really excited to hear about the release of her brand new book, Songs of My Soul. The beautiful poetess and writer sent us a copy of her brand new book to review and we really enjoyed taking a moment out to appreciate the exciting and raw work by Suzy, we felt a deep connection while reading Songs of My Soul and what we loved about reading this book was that we felt her poetry took us on a journey of life, we felt her passion while she kept stimulating our minds, page after page. She covers many diverse areas of the shared human experiences from falling in love, womanhood, motherhood, ageing and heartache. Our favourite poem in the book is called Maya, and inspired by our phenomenal woman Maya Angelou.

I'm still stunned, it feels like reading about another person. I am truly humbled to have created deep feeling in another human being - all I can hope for is that everyone who reads Songs of My Soul, closes the book feeling hopeful, positive and connected. The winding road of life is something we all tread together.