TBB Talks to … Saatchi Gallery poet in residence, LionHeart

LionHeart is a TEDx Speaker, BBC Radio London Presenter, Award Winning Poet and International SpokenWord Performer.

Author of debut poetry collection ‘The Mute’s Rebellion’, which excavates memories of social anxiety, selective mutism, upbringing, emotional vulnerability and more.

LionHeart is currently the first Poet in Residence at the prestigious Saatchi Gallery exploring and creating works in response to the artwork, pertaining to mental health.

Photo credit: http://aslamhusainphotography.com/

TBB Congratulations you’re the first poet in residence at the Saatchi Gallery – please explain for the uncouth what this actually means?

Firstly thank you so much! I’m still buzzing about the news. But yes, essentially this means that I’ll be creating poems in direct response to the art on display every day of my residency, in addition to this though, for my aspiring poets, I hope they see the expansive application of poetry (particularly spoken word artists) and how it can collaborate in order to address issues we’re concerned with. There’s a lot to it, and for it to be the first, I hope it inspires others to push their art in places it hasn’t been before.

How did you get to this point what’s the journey and was being a poet in residence at a fancy gallery on the life plan or are you shocked by your success?

That’s a short question for a long answer, but what I can say is that I watched a video with Jada Pinkett Smith many years ago, where she remarks something Will Smith said to her, ‘be relentless‘. It affected my journey and the pursuit of dreams for me quite deeply, not going to lie! I rewatched that to remind myself whenever the path became challenging.

So going back to basics, introduce yourself …

I’m a poet, author, TEDx speaker, architecture enthusiast and researcher, and a lover of anime and milkshakes (good milkshakes!)

Why poetry?

It was the one thing that compelled me to want to express what I was feeling fearlessly in a way it could be celebrated and positively influence others who share or resonate with me. Especially when I didn’t have a voice. It was my best friend.

Can you remember the first poem you ever wrote what was it about, can you share it with us?

I honestly can’t remember, and if I did, you wouldn’t want me to recite it [laughs], it was probably bad, really bad, and at the time I probably thought it could rival the pen of Jay-Z.

How does a poet develop their skills?

Through various ways, I think we all have our own unique way, if I was to recommend how I developed mine, I would refer to the previous quote ‘be relentless‘ in obsessing over the craft, enough to invest time and care into every aspect. Or there’s always workshops, workshops can be super insightful to the process of betterment.

Photo credit: http://aslamhusainphotography.com/

Poetry is dependent on the beholder, subject to interpretation, subject to emotional and mental reaction – and like when people say all babies are cute … which is not actually true… not all poems are good, but what defines a good or bad poem?

This is a question that gets asked a lot, and I often say there is good and bad poetry otherwise no one would edit their work. However, I think this rating system of good or bad can be toxic when it creates elitism in poetry and not support/mentorship and constructive criticism.

You’re published too? Does that mean you’re an author or a published poet?

Yes and yes and yes lol.

You’re also a presenter on BBC Radio London’s The Scene, where did that come from, did you always have a desire to get onto radio, how did you meet Salma and what’s the experience been like?

I always wanted to grow my voice, especially dealing with selective mutism and social anxiety as a teen, I was always hoping to be braver and more articulate on greater stages. The BBC opportunity came about through a recommendation of someone who commissioned me at the BBC 4 years or so ago who remembered me and respected my art and integrity. Me and Salma been homies since we met! That’s my G!

Three goals?

Be relentless enough to be enough for myself.

Be a reminder that poetry is a self sufficient career and not the cliche ‘no money in it‘ job that it often gets called.

Give the world enough of me to help them ‘push themselves to find themselves‘.

What have been the most, satisfying, surprising, and humbling experiences poetry has brought you?

My career til this day is all of those things wrapped in one, and I can’t wait to have more experiences of that and more.

Find out more about LionHeart here.


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