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New Young People's Laureate is inspired by her faith

It's the latest recognition for Theresa Lola, a 24-year-old British-Nigerian writer who won the Brunel International African Poetry Prize for her debut collection of poems 'In Search of Equilibrium'.

Other honours include being invited to read her work at the unveiling of the statue of leading suffragette Millicent Fawcett at Parliament Square - alongside London's Mayor Sadiq Khan and the Prime Minister Theresa May.

She told Premier that news of her appointment as Young People's Poet Laureate was an equally exciting moment.

"I was incredibly shocked but really delighted. I got the call and I couldn't stop screaming.

"I couldn't believe that it was real. It was something that I'd prayed for and I felt certain that I should apply for it."

Theresa's mother is a church pastor but the writer says her own faith has shaped her poetry.

"My Christian faith informs my work in many ways. That's the perspective from which I view life. and it's the lens through which I write.

"It also sometimes informs the form in which I write because the Bible is poetic. So I try to take a lot of Biblical forms as well."

As Youth Poet Laureate, Theresa will work with young people in poetry workshops in schools and performances for youth groups. She'll also be commissioned to write poems for key events.

"The main aim of the role is to amplify and elevate the voices of young people in London. I have to talk about those issues through poetry, celebrate (young people) and tell the stories that they always wanted to.

"The main issue I'll be focussing on is wellbeing and mental health because I feel that there is a crisis at the moment. I have to talk about those issues through poetry."

Theresa find audiences respond well to events where she performs her poetry, regardless of their faith background.

"I have people who might not necessarily be Christian or might not be religious but they have also had the same experiences. It's interesting to see how my life and my faith intersects with other people.

"Sometimes young Christian poets come up to me and are just excited to see someone who is writing boldly through the lens of faith."

Theresa Lola's debut book of poems has been praised by critics.

Established poet Pascale Petit said the writing is direct, frank and tender: "'In Search of Equilibrium' is a powerful and rigorous interrogation of a loved one's death and its effect on faith. Theresa Lola has composed a glorious hymn to being alive and wounded, in a dazzling array of images, psalms, anti-prayers, Hip Hop, strange algorithms, and wiki entries. These are brutally tender poems, carved straight from the heart."

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