The Bristol raised Poetic Phenom praised across many prestigious outlets has been making an outstanding contribution on the art world ad with her run as an established author and a powerful ambassador in the literature world with her amazing appearances on Ted Talk and being featured at venues like the Old Vic Theatre Bristol.
Muneera Pilgrim gifts a sweet, cheerful, cultural and touching tribute to her grandmother with her new 60-page poetry book 'The Day She Took Back her Chronicles' In this highly recommended collection The Jamaican born powerhouse highlights themes on family, gender, race, religion and childhood memories and more. After featuring in The Guardian, Huffington's Post, Black Ballad and Al Jazeera and currently working on her play with the Touring Theatre Group. The educator and huge voice stop by to share more on her debut book.
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1. Muneera, thank you for taking your time to chat with us about your debut poetry collection, it’s a powerful and fine read. How did you create such a collection?
Muneera: Thank you so much for having me on this platform. I have been performing since the early noughties, first as a DJ, then as part of a hip-hop and spoken word duo called Poetic Pilgrimage. As time moved on my poetry writing which was very private became more a part of the performance, particularly in Poetic Pilgrimage, we were known for hip hop and spoken word. I lived in Sudan for a year, and more or less that allowed me to have more space to explore narratives as a solo artist, both there and when I returned to the UK. That was back in 2013, so essentially I was performing intentionally as a solo artist since then.
I started to make a name for myself when I moved from London back to my hometown Bristol in 2018/19, which is when I was approached by Bridget from Burning Eye, to get a collection together. Initially, I was just going to compile some poems I already had and then poet and supporter of poets Jacob Sam-La Rose said to me well you could compile your poems together, or you could be intentional, and think about what it is you want to say with a collection, and the journey of sitting with myself, writing, and editing started from there.
2. Your literature work is incredible. As praised as you are in your career, would you say this is one of your favourites works so far and how does it feel to have a widely ranged work from you, how long did this take to build?
Muneera: This is one of two of my favourite works, maybe part of that is that I was working on both things at the same time, so in some ways, they fed into each other. The first is a project called The Joy Project which I did with an organisation called IBT, which started off as a series of workshops that would take place online in Bristol looking at how to create moments of joy during the lockdown. Over time it developed into a more in-depth project that was concerned with exploring the things that block us from feeling joy, addressing some of our own traumas, and using poetry as a methodology to reclaim and spread joy. But yes, That Day She’ll Proclaim her Chronicles is the other favourite work of mine.
As a poet, you can easily write a poem one day, maybe edit it the next day, and commit it to memory the next, and by the end of the week, you could be performing it. There is some instant gratification in that, and maybe it is because of the capitalist landscape that cultural artists are forced to exist in, but rarely have I been afforded the time to take time with my work. Thinking specifically about the collection I had to think what is the difference between one poem and a collection of poems.
Are there any differences between my poems when I write them in a day or when I write them over weeks, what happens when I come back to them months later without considering an audience and what they may think? There is something that was uncomfortable and challenging about that. What happens when I can’t rely on my performance to make this a good poem. This process and allowed me to know that actually, I’m at the beginning of my journey, and leaning into the unknown and that fear is a part of my job.
3. Now you’re a Bristol lady and that’s awesome. We really enjoyed the clips from your TEDx Talk and your regular appearance on BBC Radio with Zoe Ball on ‘Pause for thought’ with the recent ‘I now know that dark times won’t last forever with a beautiful performance on confidence, love, your faith, and how being different can inspire lots of people. How would you sum up such a fine spoken word piece?
Muneera: Thank you, you really have been digging in the crates, I am a regular contributor to pause for thought, both with Vanessa Feltz and Zoe Ball on BBC Radio 2. PFT isn’t really supposed to be a spoken word performance it's more of a short-form story rooted in my life and some form of spirituality, but as a poet, it is difficult not to be poetic in delivery.
That particular one was looking at me and my challenges with ADHD, I am neuro diverging, I have ADHD as well as dyslexic,, dyspraxia and I have some light sensitivity things going on. I was sharing my story about how I used to see these things as a disadvantage, but with more of an understanding of how my brain works and allowing myself adequate time to nourish myself and give myself what I need in order to achieve, these things that are seen as shortcomings are actually my superpowers.
4. Shifting back to your poetry book. You dedicate it to your Godmother and shine a light on many themes. What would be your hope for the reception of the book and what would you hope that readers learn from it?
Muneera: There are so many things that come up in the collection like there are so many things that come up in my life. I don't know if I want people to learn from it, but I do want people to connect with it and I think there is plenty of opportunity in the forms of poems to connect. Even though there are difficult things in the collection, overall this is a collection that contains light. I would love it to be seen as that, and if as a result, conversations about consent, body politics and other themes within the book were facilitated. I would be a very happy woman.
5. Within your book there are a lot of pieces that are so profound, many readers will be touched by them. If you could narrow the choices down what are your Top 3 pieces and why? Muneera: This is so hard and it changes on a day to day basis, but today my top pieces are:
1. Divine light - This is not even my most poetically savvy poem, there are parts of it that are clunky and don’t get to the root of what I am trying to say, but I think that is one of the reasons why I love it, when we live in a world where people are blind to injustice, there is no right way to be angry about it, and sometimes the anger is clunky and lacks clarity.
2. To skin a cat - Just because I love talking about migration stories and Jamaican elders.
3. To All The Men Who Use Why Are You Single As A Chat Up Line -This is a fun way to talk about women and spirituality.
6. Finally, what’s next for you in the new year, can people attend more spoken word live performances, maybe some more theatre appearances and talks?
Muneera: Like someone who is truly ADHD I am working on so much at the moment. The beauty of poetry collections is they tend to have a longer life than novels, so there is a lot more with this that I would like to do, for example, I would like to explore some of the music that influenced it, and experiment with performance and music. I would like to tour the collection regionally, nationally, and globally.
I am currently working on a play with English touring theatre, they have connected me with a wonderful dramaturge by the name of Myah Jeffers. At some point soon we will be workshopping.
I am working on a whole new iteration of the Joy project which also includes a publication but not in book form, videos, poster campaigns, and workshops are all involved, I will possibly be doing some work with the poetry archive too. I am also a mental health development worker with young people so more around that, especially spaces to explore the impact of racism, colonialism, and capitalism on mental health. There are a few more bits, but I am open to any other opportunities that come my way. To connect and sho Muneera some love foe her on Twitter, Instagram and via her website.