Priscilla Mulenga Campbell
Posted on July 31 2019
"Born in London, Priscilla and her family returned to Zambia when she was still young. There she was raised and surrounded by a large extended family alongside her 3 siblings. Adapting to her new settings was challenging. She developed a passion for poetry and could escape into her verses and live within her words. Habitually reluctant to share them, she would only show her older brother who encouraged her and gradually, she started writing her own poetry. After studying Chemical Engineering at The Copperbelt University in Zambia, she returned to England and went on to study at University of Hertfordshire and Ulster University. She is currently a Biomedical Scientist at Luton and Dunstable Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. She lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two children. Priscilla always had the feeling that one day she should share her poems with the world. The time is now."
Congratulations on the publication of your book!
Thank you very much and thank you for giving me the privilege to be a part of your inspiring women series. I've read your work and its truly inspirational.
Thank you very much. I am pleased that you have found the interviews inspirational. I am confident that yours will be equally inspirational!
So how did you start writing poetry?
I developed an interest in poetry at a very early age. I loved words and rhymes. When I was about twelve, I would ask my brother to write me a poem or two. By age fourteen I was reciting poems at school assemblies and quickly became one of the “ school poets”. At seventeen I was writing my own poems. And since then poems come in waves, I have a season where I can write a couple of poems a week and times when I just can't write at all, sometimes years of dry spells.
What do you do then? How do you maintain your creativity during a dry spell?
I don’t usually maintain creativity during dry spells. I think dry spells are necessary for seasons to end and begin in one's life. I think it’s nature’s way of saying you need a little break from it all...and so during dry spells I don’t even try. If I force it, the poems come out dry and don’t emote anything.
You are a biochemist by profession and a mother. Often women are told once they have children, they simply should not pursue their dreams. This is of course not true. How have you managed it all?
I agree motherhood does demand a lot out of a woman. You have the responsibility of raising a child into society. So I am indeed a mother first. But like everything if you really enjoy something or desire to achieve something, you will create time for it. You will find the time and the way to make it happen.
I go into work when the kids are at school so I use my days off to work on my poetry. When the kids are asleep, I work into the wee hours of the morning.
Biochemistry is a far cry from poetry. How do you keep both skills and balance them?
Poems come naturally to me. There’s no balancing act. They coexist. I’m a poet who happens to be a biochemist. Funny enough though, most of my poems, well… the ones I have written in the past year or so, I have written on the move whilst cooking for instance. It’s integrated into my everyday life.
I have read and enjoyed your poems. You do have an unconventional approach to poetry. What made you move away from the traditional forms of poetry?
I’ve never really known how to write in the conventional way. I guess I am a rebel at heart and innately I like to create different. Naturally I don’t really do general consensus very well. I've never fitted in so to speak, always felt like the odd one out and this comes out in my writing. I have not learnt any poetry at a higher institution, just me my thoughts, my imagination, a pen and a paper.
And that in itself is a strength...do you think that enables you to strip your work to an extent where the poem itself can be interpreted in many ways?
Perhaps. My poems meet people exactly where they are in their life. They take you as you are, and so you don’t have to be where I am at to understand or relate to them. One poem may mean one thing to one person and mean something completely different to another.
That creates an immense connection between the poem and the reader and in a way a connection with you as the author?
Yes. I feel that way we all connect, different people in different ways. And that’s amazing! That's how I feel love is. You don’t love two people the same way, you might love them with the same strength but its not in the same way. Like the love for a daughter is different to that towards a son or a son's love for their father. I love them all but its not the same kind of love.
Writing poetry is about loving people the way they are. I shouldn’t make my readers think about how I think, or believe in what I believe in. People need to be taken as they are. I feel this is the diversity of life, that’s the sweetness of life and that, I feel is the essence of life...the chocolate of life.
You don’t stop there, your poems have distinct titles, almost always with a double meaning, three dimensional perhaps. Is this intentional?
It wasn't at first, however it’s now deliberate. The ambiguity of my poems is a style I’m developing as I get older. It's up to the reader to fill in the gaps and the poem will become what they want it to be, provoking personal thoughts and feelings.
Have you always thought this or felt this way?
No, I have not always felt this way. I’m just realising this as I continue on my own journey. The same poem will provoke different thoughts in different people. And that’s not something I can control and don’t want to... how people react.
I’m realising people respond to my poems and relate to them to their life now. And people are at different places.... The poems are about us, really as humans. Our relationships, how we treat each other how we love each other and that's the beauty of it. And this is what I advocate for, to be free, to accept yourself where you are with all the realities in your life. To be real enough to be truthful to yourself about who you really are. I feel my poems will meet you there, and say, hey it's OK to be different and that's alright.
What was the biggest challenge you faced on the road to getting Chocolate Verslets published?
Showing my poems to the publisher! For some reason I have always been embarrassed about my poems. The editing process was stressful and long winded.
What advice do you have for individuals interested in publishing?
Don’t stop till you get it done. The first time you hold your creation in your hands is totally surreal and worth the perseverance.
To be noticed, we often must think and work outside the box. Did you feel that because of your approach to poetry, you had to work harder to convince others, publishers perhaps?
Surprisingly people are open to different, especially when they don’t know you. I remember struggling through the reviewing process and finally the positive feedback started coming in from the publishers.
That's when I knew for sure that I had to stick to my style. Someone out there was intrigued by the difference in my approach.There is a raw innocence and pure feel to them which many people relate to...and that, I knew, would draw the right reader to a book, to my book.
You are succeeding in every aspect of your life. You must be incredibly organised! What organisational tools do you swear by?
Thanks for that but I could do with a house help!
My home is pretty chaotic. I tend to compartmentalise tasks. I don’t try to do it all and I surely don’t multitask. So if it's time for the day job, I focus on that. When we are all back it’s the kids. I won't be cleaning the house when it's time to give my children some quality time. And when it's time to clean, I do just that!
How does working in science affect your creativity?
Well apparently, there’s an unbridgeable gulf between science and poetry. Poets cannot be scientists ...I remember reading an article in the NewStatesman a couple of years back and thinking this me! Some researchers at the University of Exeter studied the MRI scans of people reading poetry and concluded that poetry is like music, connected to the “reading part of the brain” and as a scientist reading is a natural delight! Maybe it’s not a surprise I’m both a poet and a scientist.
However, there are many great scientists that are poets as well. Goethe was a scientist; the American poet William Carlos Williams was a practising physician. Actually found a publication on this! There is a dialogue between science and poetry.
Where do you go for daily inspiration/ creative inspiration when you are working?
I get my daily strength from God. That’s my source of strength and inspiration. The creativity and concepts that make the poems are from everyday life experiences; love, loss. Most of these poems have come to my soul first as I’m sat in church or whilst driving. This is when I am most at ease. This is when my heart and mind travel to places my body can only dream of.
Now onto beauty and fashion, do you follow fashion trends or go with your own style?
I usually have my own thing going on, usually I dress according to my mood and of course the weather! I do like the smart casual look and always, a good pair of shoes! They have to be the real deal which is why I love love your Nino stripe pumps! You can dress up or dress down in them, they go with anything! And of course, I must always have a good perfume to go with any outfit!
What's the beauty product you can't live without and why?
KIEHL’S nightly refining Micro- Peel Concentrate and KIEHL’S Pure Vitality Skin Renewing Cream. I love them mostly because they are made from Natural ingredients and they are just perfect for my skin. At the moment my skin is at its best ever because of these wonderful products!
It’s been such a pleasure talking with you.
Thank you, likewise.
So what do you have planned for us in the near future?
I have a few book promotion events coming up, more details will be available in due course. For now, I am focusing on the book launch which is on the 9th of August. Unfortunately we have already filled up the venue so I cannot share event details. However there will be more book promotion events in the future. More details will be available in due course on my website.
Interview by Arikana for MYSTYLIST LONDON follow Arikana @labbooksandstylefiles