20 Questions: Inua Ellams
The poet, playwright and performer Inua Ellams gives 20 answers
What is your favourite time of year?
Definitely summer. I was born in a hot country, and when it gets hot I feel nicer.
When did you last pray?
Before I stepped on stage.
What did you pray for?
It’s a prayer that a poet friend of mine wrote: ‘Dear God, I’m too fly not to fly.’ It plays on the African American sense of ̒fly’ – I’m too good, I’ve studied too much, I’ve worked too hard not to make this thing work for me on stage. What I like about it is there’s a humility in acknowledging that you still are not in charge of everything, and the world can still spin you in ridiculous directions.
Pick three words to describe your life.
The three things I seem to write about are identity, displacement and destiny. Those three words I’d say describe my working life and my personal life.
What is your favourite hymn?
Probably ‘Amazing Grace’.
Do you dance?
Now and then.
Does God have a sense of humour?
Are things getting better or worse?
Things are becoming more extreme.
What is your karaoke choice?
The song I can’t get out of my head at the moment, it’s called ‘If you Ever Want to be in Love’ by James Bay. Beautiful song.
What makes you laugh?
New Girl, the sitcom on Channel 4. It’s charming and silly.
What makes you cry?
Love – attempts to find it, when it doesn’t work out, when you find someone you feel so much for and it isn’t reciprocated, and the emptiness when it’s gone.
Which Old Testament character would you most like to meet?
Who was your childhood hero?
What is your favourite bit of the Bible?
The Exodus – the journey which is so epic. I read it like a novel when I was a kid.
What is your least favourite bit of the Bible?
Revelations – I can’t get through it, I don’t even bother.
What is your favourite phrase from another language?
I have a favourite word: Hiraeth. It’s a Welsh word meaning a longing for home that might never have been. It’s really beautiful.
What would be your one question to God?
Where’s everyone else? Or, why aren’t we living alongside everyone else? And by that I mean other life forms.
Is there life after death?
I hope so. There has to be more than this.
Inua Ellams is a Nigerian-born poet, playwright and performer. He spoke to Reform at Greenbelt
This article was published in the November 2016 edition of Reform.