On his facebook page, English born Ethiopian poet and playwright Lemn Sissay 46, says simply, “I write stuff, stuff that I like.”
Sissay likes to keep things really simple, no coatings, no colour, no extra paint; “if you want to write, write about the small details of your daily life. You don’t need to be a Prince or an adventurer to be a writer, he adds
Just write about the little things.
In this Ted talk, he talks about the time he spent as a fostered child of the state .
Born in 1967 to an Ethiopian mother Yemarshet sissay, he began writing at 21 and became a full time writer at 24’
You can read his full biography here.
Sissay was the official poet of last year’s London Olympics. He is best known for his work with the BBC some of which highlights the many years he spent as a foster child.
Though born in the UK, he considers himself a true son of Africa which is why he says the highlight of his career is when he performed at the 50th anniversary of the AU in Ethiopia in May this year.
He is now an Honorary Doctor of letters at Huddersfield University in the North of England. During yesterday’s July 22nd graduation ceremony in the University, Francis Ngwa caught up with him for a brief chat.
Q What made you decide to be a writer?
I couldn’t not write. It was an important switch from I don’t know where. My spirit let me to writing
Q What will you say it the best thing you have had because you are a writer
I don’t know but to pluck one thing out of the blue, I performed at the organization of African Unity African Union Conference in Addis Ababa in May this year at the Ethiopian National theatre. I think that was a very big moment for me.
Q What point do you want to get to in your writing career?
My ambition in writing is to write a book that changes a nation. That might never happen but that is my ambition.
Q You have written five poetry collections and plays. Will you say they have at least changed something about the land of your forefathers Ethiopia?
I don’t know. That is not for me to say.
Q Whar are the main messages that you carry in your writings?
I don’t know but I guess that my central message is that there is truth in the creative interpretation of life. If aliens were to come to earth to find out what people were like, it will be through literature and arts that they will get a truer picture than in politics or biology
Q What advice will you give to others who will like to be writers like you tomorrow?
My advice is that everything is material, everything is fuel for the engine of writing. Don’t think that you need to have great big moment , it’s the details, the small moments that matter.
Lemn Sissays’s poetry collections
1 Morning breaks on the elevator
2 Rebel without Applause
4The emperors watchmaker
5 dot the london landscape