Updated: Jul 15
I spoke to Tina Tamsho-Thomas about her debut poetry collection Someone Is Missing Me, which was published by Fly on the Wall Press in March 2021. The collection explores themes such as love, grief and loss, often expressed with her unique tongue-in-cheek humour. Tina is an accomplished writer, poet, spoken word artist and human rights activist.
The epigraph of Someone Is Missing Me is a quote by Harriet Tubman about ‘every great dream begins with a dreamer’. Which dream did you have for this collection?
My vision was to represent the life-long spiritual relationship with my late Nigerian father, Baba Tunde Andrew Thomas, whom I never met. In his Yoruba language, Baba Tunde translates as Father has Returned, a poignant meaning for me. Also, to honour him and acknowledge the terrible racial injustice he and many other Africans experienced in post-war, British society.
In your acknowledgements, you thank Maya Angelou for her inspiration. In what ways has she inspired you and your work? Are there other writers, artists or works of writing that have inspired you, particularly with regards to Someone Is Missing Me?
I've read most of Maya's books and am blessed to have seen her live performances several times. Her major influence on me is my confidence with live audiences, drawing on that energy and owning the stage the way she did. Also, her massive talent, humility and sense of fun, exploring the most painful subject matter, often combined with disarming charm. I'm inspired by many African American women writers, such as Alice Walker, Terry McMillan, Nikki Giovanni and Toni Morrison - particularly for shedding light on African American/Black history. I founded Blackscribe (UK) the only Black women's performance company of its kind. Black women writers both inspired us and played a significant part in the group's writing and performance development, including the dynamic Jean Binta Breeze for her energy as a Jamaican dub poet and spoken word artist.
You have been writing for many years. Do you see a shift in opportunities being given to Black writers and the way that their voices are heard or not heard?
When I completed my arts degree during the 80's, there were no resources specifically for Black writers in Manchester. My key Black Writing Development role helped to establish Cultureword, which continues to support Black & Asian writers, almost 40 years on. Whilst there appears to be improvement in publishing opportunities for diverse writers, submission processes can be rigorous and such support crucial.
What is your writing process? Do you have a set schedule or day? Do you listen to music?
I started writing when I was 3, so writing is a natural process, integral to my experience as a Black woman. Both my western name, Tina, and Yoruba name, Otito, mean truth, so apt for a writer. I write when anything inspires me. A wordy writer, I enjoy often lengthy editing - a satisfying learning process. I'm a BBC trained radio drama producer and listen to voice radio when writing. I often draft work by hand in the evening to retain that skill, listen to inspirational music and select my Desert Island Discs choices! You’re not only a poet, but also a playwright and writer. Do you feel you can highlight certain themes and/or feelings better with a certain medium, or is there no difference for you?
Poetry and memoir writing empowers me to express personal, universal themes including: Identity and Belonging. Writing for and directing theatre allows me to explore the impact of wider, human rights themes such as Racial Injustice/Equality issues.
As expressed in the collection, you never really knew your father and were raised by a white single mother. How were you able to access your Nigerian and broader African heritage?
The life-long spiritual relationship with my father is enduring and reflects how his guardianship has been a key element in my survival. I accessed my Nigerian/broader African heritage spiritually through my father; learned about Nigerian (Yoruba) culture by joining a local Yoruba group, visited several African countries, worked for two years at The University of Malawi; taught on a Black Access into Higher Education Course; attended Education of the African Black Child conferences held in Manchester.
What is next for you?
I'm currently seeking a publisher for Haunted By The Truth, my distinct memoir. [The Literary Consultancy describes it as: "Such a page turner...the child's voice is at its absolute best, innocent and comical. Race issues handled beautifully"]. I aim to publish in 2022.
You can order Tina's poetry collection on our website here.
Tina will take part in the Fly on the Wall showcase at Blackwell's Manchester (their first in-store event in sixteen months!) on the 20th of August from 18:30 BST onwards. Tickets are free and are available via Eventbrite.
For more information about and opportunities with Cultureworld, check out their website.