New poetry collection, How to wear a skin, explores race, belonging and identity in the rural south west

I’m Louisa Adjoa Parker and I set up this blog and associated podcast. I wanted to share that I recently had my third collection of poetry, How to wear a skin, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing. The collection, with its beautiful cover illustration by Jennifer Ho, is relevant to the stories on this blog as it’s an exploration of a black/mixed rural identity, with many of the poems set or written in Devon and Dorset. Themes include race, place and landscape, gender and motherhood, home, love, and grief.

I’m a British writer of English and Ghanaian heritage, who has lived in various parts of the south west for most of my life, including South Devon, West Dorset and now South Somerset. I write poetry, fiction, and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) history. I’m self-taught, and began writing poetry during my time as a Sociology undergraduate at Exeter University.

photo credit: Anna Burn

I was inspired to write about my experiences of racism whilst studying a racism and migration module. My degree helped me to understand racism and learn about black British history. I felt empowered by this knowledge and wanted others to understand how it felt to be black or brown and live in the rural south west. I began by telling my own story, and soon wanted to support others to tell their stories too.

I originally moved to South Devon in 1985 and experienced racism from local kids. Devon was a totally white area at the time; I didn’t see another brown face, apart from my siblings’, for years. The south west seemed behind other parts of the UK when it came to diversity. Growing up, I wasn’t able to express what my life had been like, as most of my friends have been white. I think it’s important for marginalised people from the south west to tell our stories. The beautiful rural idyll hides a lot of discrimination and deprivation. As well as this, stories of black and brown people from rural parts of the UK can add to a wider conversation around identity and ‘race.’

My first, largely autobiographical collection, Salt-sweat and Tears was published by Cinnamon Press in 2007 and was critically acclaimed by the likes of Selima Hill. Cinnamon also published my pamphlet, Blinking in the Light, about a traumatic year in Lyme Regis.

My poetry and prose has been published in numerous publications including Envoi; Wasafiri; Out of Bounds: British Black and Asian poets; Closure: Contemporary Black British Short Stories; Magma; New Daughters of Africa; Bare Fiction; and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

My first collection of short stories, which are mostly set in the south west and explore different kinds of love stories, is due to be published by Colenso Books in 2020. Little Toller Books recently commissioned me to write a memoir based on my life by the sea. I am also hoping to finish my first novel soon! I have twice had my poetry shortlisted by the Bridport Prize (most recently this year), and my poem, Rag Doll, about a night out in Lyme Regis, was Highly Commended by the Forward Prize.

As well as creative writing, I’ve written exhibitions and books exploring local multicultural history in collaboration with Development Education in Dorset, including Dorset’s Hidden Histories and 1944 We Were Here: African American GIs in Dorset. I’ve written for publications including gal-dem; Media Diversified; Black Ballad; and Resurgence & Ecologist Magazine.

I have performed my work widely. Most recently I performed and was in conversation with Tjawangwa Dema at Exeter University. I’ve supported the legendary dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson on a couple of occasions, and have delivered writing workshops in schools, colleges, libraries, universities and prisons. I have also held several writing residencies, and recently was the first ever writer-in-residence at Exeter’s Customs House.

How to wear a skin can be ordered from any bookshop using the ISBN number: 978-1-910834-98-5

To read samples from the new collection or to buy a copy online, visit: https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/louisa-adjoa-parker/4594728255

The official collection launch will take place at the Customs House, Exeter, on 22nd January 2020. To book a place, visit: https://literatureworks.org.uk/event/louisa-adjoa-parker-book-launch-how-to-wear-a-skin/

If you would like find out more about my work, buy a signed copy of the collection, or book me for a poetry reading or talk please get in touch via this blog or visit: www.louisaadjoaparker.com

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