Sue Lobo, my guest this month, is a poet. She has lived in Botswana, the UK and Spain, but it is Africa more than any other place that is at the heart of her writing. She has published five collections of poetry. Africa my Africa (Feb 1, 1998, Minerva Press) reflects life under the apartheid era in South Africa. Lollipops & Dust Memories of an African childhood (May 1, 2011, Woodfield Publishing) her autobiography, is set in colonial Africa (1955 -1966 Botswana) and speaks of what the old Africa offered. The Last Dance (April 13, 2015 CTU) is about death and life. Wild Whisperings (Oct 22, 2015, CTU) is about endangered species. All royalties from the book go to The International Save the Rhino Fund. I am Woman is her most recent work (Mar 31, 2016, CTU). Her work is widely anthologized and she has also won competitions in Gibraltar and Spain, where she now resides.
SR: You moved to Botswana when you were 2 returned to the UK when you were 13 and have been residing in Spain since your marriage. Yet reading your poems, one feels you have never left Africa. What was it that made Africa such a huge influence in your life?
SL: I think at the age I lived in Botswana & later in South Africa, is when a person is so in touch with everything around one & when is still learning so much in life, so it sticks.
SR: Africa as a place and as an idea plays a major role in your poems. It is like a dominant character. Is place important in writing poetry and how can people who haven’t had the same experiences relate to place? Also does the UK and Spain figure as prominently in your poems or is the influence not as strong?
SL: I was bought up in a wild Africa long before tourists & the mod cons, in close contact with wild life & the local people, so yes it is part of who I am today. I feel very closely to Wales too being a Celt on my mother´s side & when I went over to Wales a few years ago it inspired me tremendously in a very spiritual way. I have lived in a few places in Africa, England, New Zealand & all over Spain. Spain does not inspire me at all in my writing I´m afraid.
SR: Why did you choose poetry over prose? Was there a reason, or did it choose you?
SL: No reason at all, it chose me as you so rightly put it. I am a story teller I think, but love the challenge of trying to tell a story that rhymes & having to search for those words. I often dream my poems & I like to think it is with the help of my Grandfather who also wrote. He used to live in Sri Lanka when it was still Ceylon & wrote for the local paper there. I still have the original copies of some of his work written in the 1930´s.
SR: Your poems are always accompanied by images. Do you select the images to go with your poems or are your poems influenced by the images you see?
SL: It can work both ways. Sometimes I see an image that moves me to write & at other times it is the other way round.
SR: You saw an Africa most of us have only read about. What was it really like growing up in Botswana? Was it hard leaving to return to the UK? And have you ever gone back?
SL: It was a magical wild place back then & I lived a life that was a dream, playing with the Bushmen children in some places where we were the only family there. It could have been lonely but nature gave me all I needed. My first school was in the trunk of a big baobab tree & I soon lost my English for the local lingo which my parents were not too happy about. When we returned to England it was hard because I had to leave behind the bush for the swinging 60´s of a very different world. I have not been back to Botswana & I still want to one day.
SR: What in your opinion are the benefits and loopholes of the various methods of publishing – traditional, vanity and self publishing?
SL: I have done it all & have also been let down by publishers who have closed down & not having paid out my royalties. I have also been plagiarized in the past. I cannot praise CTU enough, for being extremely professional & supportive.
SR: What makes a good poem?
SL: Feeling is all for me, regardless of style.
SR: Some writers write for themselves. Some have a particular audience in mind. Who is your audience and what motivates you to write?
SL: I hated poetry at school as there were too many rules. When I reached a certain age I made a huge decision to write poetry only for me, with what I feel, & the more rules I could break the better, but if folk enjoyed it then I didn´t mind that along the way, so yes, I am a very selfish writer I´m afraid & not a very ambitious one at all.
The moon slipped behind the curtains & into the bedroom,
She glided to the bed & bent over the sleeping form,
She told the soul it was time to leave now, soon.
The soul slipped off the mantel of life,
Shedding the ageing, the tired pain of life´s uniform,
She gently kissed the still brow & whispered “thank you,
Thank you for carrying me on this journey of learning.”
The soul took the moon´s hand, & into the night they danced,
Drifting into reality without a backwards glance.
(The Passing is from The Last Dance)
Go to CTU publishing for more about her work.