The intriguing Lady Rabia is one of Floetry’s most recognisable performers. The performance poetry event comes around again on Wednesday, 16 May and we caught up with the good lady herself to ask a few questions.
What inspires you as a poet?
My main inspiration comes from life experiences, especially extremely emotional experiences, acts of injustice, the plight of people, but I am equally driven to give hope, so I write about women’s empowerment a lot as well. My poetry is my voice about massively powerful issues that I have experienced, or witnessed, that many others have not. I am inspired by the ordeals of life and I try to take my readers there in my work.
You are a successful author. What drives your imagination? Any secrets to share?
Many things go into being a master storyteller, whether that is via a poem, a picture or a story. First, you have to be a great listener. Be sincerely interested in others because everyone has a story. While in Saudi, a close Caymanian friend called to tell me about her sudden divorce. I later wrote an amazing poem about her. Second, you have to be a great communicator and relay your material in an intriguing way. Third, retain a child-like curiosity and be extremely observant. Watch people with wonder. You never know where inspiration will arise from. You should also travel as much as possible. The greater your experience, the better you can relate to a variety of people, which allows for diversity in your work. Lastly, write and read. A lot! I grew up reading, but the habit of writing everyday is a discipline that must also be mastered.
Your video performance of the poem, Roar, is online at cayCompass.com, but what inspired it?
This poem is very personal. It was inspired by my fight to get my children back, who, at that time were being held in the Kingdom of Jordan by their father. This poem was one of my pre-battle speeches, highlighting the courage of my character and boldly stating my commitment to victory. It was a declaration of war that I would never surrender until I had my children safely with me.
Did you find your globetrotting experiences influenced your work?
Living aboard definitely enriched my work and made me more diverse. I have written about the plight of the Palestinian people and burial rituals in Saudi Arabia, but I have also written about my sisters’ experiences in Hurricane Ivan. I’m fortunate to have travelled and lived overseas because it also allows me to be culturally competent among a variety of people, which makes my work more marketable in other regions. Having multiple markets for your work is vital for having multiple streams of income.
How does Cayman feature in your work?
I have written a few poems about Cayman, but my greatest Caymanian work is featured in my new children’s series, Kaa Kaa & Tokyo, which is written completely in rhyme and in the Caymanian dialect. It’s quite challenging to write entire books in rhyme, but to also do so, intelligibly, in dialect while maintaining the pace and humour, is even more challenging. The results are wonderful and I am quite proud of the series.
But I am also proud of the social cause behind the books. I illustrated and wrote the books to teach my children about their heritage and oral traditions while they were growing up overseas. Now, these books will edu-tain children and adults alike, globally, educating them while preserving our oral traditions and heritage. This is done in such an entertaining way that kids want to read more and parents love reading the books out loud as well. So, the benefits of this series makes it my most valuable contribution of native (Caymanian) work.
What does Floetry mean to you and how did you get involved?
My sister told me about Floetry and I first attended in 2009. I enjoyed it immensely. I liked that we were given themes, which forced creativity in areas/subjects that we might never usually attempt. Also, each Floetry session is conducted in a very informal manner, which is vital to make people feel comfortable to perform their work. Sometimes we have young kids participating and they get to see that poetry is not a boring genre. Through my work, I hope that they will realise that poetry can be a powerful force for change.
Do you have any publications coming up?
I have many new books forthcoming: my memoir, The Promise; two humour books, Growing Up Carib and Diary of a Sister Mommy; a self-help book, The Power of a Promise and, of course, new releases in the Kaa Kaa & Tokyo series. I also have an amazing women’s empowerment seminar coming up. But we’ll leave it there for now.
Floetry is held at Books & Books, Camana Bay on Wednesday, 16 May at 7pm and is free to take part in or just to head along.