How to Write Poetry with Theresa Lola

We chatted with Theresa Lola, poet, facilitator and Young People's Laureate for London, about how to write poetry and make a career as a poet. It's part of the Artist Workshop with Voice series, funded by Arts Council England.

On July 16th 2020 we had an interview with poet, facilitator and Young People's Laureate for London, Theresa Lola, as part of our Arts Council England funded Artist Workshops with Voice series. 

Interview with Theresa Lola

We interviewed Theresa Lola live on Instagram before her workshop, she had a lot of great advice for young poets and some interesting stories about what inspired her to become a poet. 

Theresa Lola said she found her original inspiration to get into poetry was a school trip to a poetry festival. To get where she is now, Theresa got as much experience as she could submitting, helping to organise open mics and shadowing established poets. She also advised young poets to know the rules before they break them, so read and then find your own voice.

 When asked why she chose poetry as her form of expression, she said: "I love how much you can play with language (in poetry)."

Theresa has been running #Say Your Peace, a campaign encouraging young people to make poetry which speaks to them and their experiences in this anxiety-ridden time. She said it’s great for people to talk about what’s bringing them peace of mind at this time. 

Theresa said that “the industry needs to let Black poets write about what we want and actually publish them - especially Black British poets”.

You can watch the full interview with Theresa Lola here: 

Artist Workshop with Theresa Lola 

After the interview, Theresa ran a workshop on Zoom, about where to start when writing a poem and what details can help shape your piece. The following is Theresa’s suggestions on how to train the brain to write a poem: 

Writing Exercise: Using senses to build a poem 

Theresa invited the group to read How To Cry by Kayo Chingonyi

Step One: Read How to Cry by Kayo Chingonyi. Consider what your poem will be teaching someone ‘how to’ do. For example, it could be ‘How To Run’ or ‘How to Sing’.

Step Two: Begin by focusing on one sense (sight), moving from how we are seen by other people - (‘I’m going to fold)’ to what we see in the world around us (‘as an overloaded trestle folds/ in the middle of Romford Market’)

Step Three: Focus on another sense (e.g. touch) to create the second stanza of the poem, again moving from outward perception of what you’re doing physically (‘I’ll prostrate myself outside Argos’), to what you’re actually touching/feeling physically (‘blood rings in my fingertips’)

Step Four: Continue working through senses until you feel that you reach a natural conclusion.

Theresa Lola’s Poetry

Theresa Lola is a British-Nigerian poet, writer and facilitator based in London. She is currently the Young People’s Laureate for London and has won various awards including the 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize and the Hammer and Tongue National Slam 2017. Most recently she was featured as one of the ‘Voices of Tomorrow’ in an edition of the Sunday Times guest edited by Bernadine Evaristo. To find out more about Theresa Lola you can go to her website:

For National Poetry Day 2019, Theresa Lola wrote this poem about London as one of thirteen BBC Local Poets in 2019: 

She released her debut poetry collection ‘In Search of Equilibrium’ in February of 2019: 

More artist interviews and workshops

Thanks to Arts Council England, we're excited to be offering you a whole series of artist workshops. Join us as we interview creatives and then hand over to them to run a workshop! Perfect if you're doing Arts Award and need to find out about an artist's work and career.

From artists to actors, we've got an insightful series planned for you. First, join the artist on Instagram where they will do a LIVE demonstration or performance followed by an interview from one of our Voice Contributors. THEN, head over to ZOOM where the artists will run a LIVE 30 minute skills share workshop, showing you exactly how to become as amazing at their art form as they are. 

We have 12 artists workshops planned between now and November 2020, so keep checking back for the latest additions.

Header Image Credit: Hayley Madden for Spread the Word


Oluwatayo Adewole

Oluwatayo Adewole Contributor

Hey there! I'm a wordy-type who's into all kinds of stuff, but especially: film, comics, theatre and trying to make the world a better place

We need your help supporting young creatives

Recent posts by this author

View more posts by Oluwatayo Adewole


  • De-Mornae Clarke

    On 15 February 2021, 15:55 De-Mornae Clarke Kickstart Team commented:

    I would never think to really unpack the senses to create poetry. It's usually just an addition but this method really pushes it as a primary focus. got to love a new technique.

Post A Comment

You must be signed in to post a comment. Click here to sign in now

You might also like

Interview with multimedia comedian Ted Hill

Interview with multimedia comedian Ted Hill

by Tom Inniss

Read now