Titilope Sonuga is a poet and performer whose work grasps for moments of tenderness and persistent joy at the intersection of blackness and womanhood. She is the author of three award-winning collections of poetry: Down to Earth (2011), Abscess (2014), and This Is How We Disappear (2019). She has released two spoken word albums: Mother Tongue (2011) and Swim (2019).
Titilope has written three plays: The Six, an intergenerational exploration of womanhood; Naked, a one-woman play; and Ada the Country, a musical. She has scripted advertising campaigns for global brands and was an actor on the hit television series Gidi Up, which aired across Africa. She is the ninth Poet Laureate of the city of Edmonton.
Titilope’s accomplishments include:
author of three poetry collections, two spoken word albums and three plays
first poet to perform at a Nigerian presidential inauguration
founder of the Breath in Poetry Collective, Edmonton's premier performance poetry platform
Poet Laureate of the city of Edmonton
Only the trees know
what wayward wind buoyed the first one thousand
through river, creek, and muskeg,
feet a calloused bark we peel until the fleshy center.
We count the rings to tell us:
how many lifetimes is the measure
between a stolen land and a stolen people?
What is lost eternally in the currency of the sale?
How many paces is each generation
between limber pine and baobab,
between prairie grass and cotton?
If we ask the sky
whose hands raised in prayer
carried their people across the bridge
from one dream differed into another,
who nursed the children
on the promise of home, a place
of rest and refuge,
it will answer:
in Campsie and Breton,
in Clearview and Amber Valley,
Clyde and Rosetown,
knuckles bloody from begging
bush and meadow
into farmland, fruit,
into a harvest from the labour
of living and loving, of running
from that which will maim and unname,
from all the ways the black body is undone,
unwound from the spool of its history,
an unraveling for generations to gather.
It is the women,
arriving even now in Edmonton
in Calgary and Regina
who touch their hands to the prairie dust
and ask first of the land:
what may I offer?
Who ask first of the people:
where may I flourish?
Who pour the water of their gifts
until an unforgiving winter gives way to spring.
Women who teach the language of resistance
and tally our remembering.
Who birth and bury,
their hands beneath the braiding
and baking, the building, and bracing.
We cannot gather what was lost
beneath the ocean’s swell.
We will never know whose baby teeth
line the ocean floor, iridescent as seashells.
So, we honor what was before and after the boats,
before and after the hands
that spun the globe and scattered the seeds.
We honor what remains,
the wild push and pull that gathers us here,
our blackness blooming against
the backdrop of a staggering white.
We honor the song even the meadowlark knows,
a centuries-old melody that gurgles to the surface
to touch the land and call it home.
What we speak in our soukous and ska,
our soca, soul, and calypso,
our compas and afrobeat.
What the women sing into the ears of children
whose dreams take up their rightful place
in the night sky.
Children who say their mothers’ names
and close their eyes