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An Interview with Paula Obé


Paula Obé has been a performance poet for the past 35 years. She blends words, music and silence to create a unique sound. With her trademark guitar, she has performed in Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Guyana, Venezuela, The Dominican Republic and Canada.

In her work she explores religion and some of the many facets that stem from it, like hypocrisy, control, sexual abuse. Then on the flip side, Obé also examines spirituality, spirits, ancestors, spirit guides, orishas and magic. Some other themes present in her work are sex and sexual orientation, self-love, Caribbean identity, women, feminism and personal issues.

Obé has written 5 books – Passages (poetry); Walking a Thin Line (poetry); She Comes (poetry); Wide Angles from a Tiny Window (photo-journal); and in 2021, Remembering her brown Head-Tie (poetry). She also co-edited an anthology of Caribbean women poets and storytellers entitled She Sex. Paula recorded two poetry CDs – Afterbirth and Not so Soft. She also co-produced a CD anthology of women poets and sing-songwriters entitled 10 Sisters, a running show of the same name, with performances throughout Trinidad & Tobago.

From 2013-2017, Paula tutored poetry and short-story writing under the Mas-Communication classes at SBCS. In 2013 Obé began a small publishing house called Bamboo Talk Press.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

From a young age, I was mentored by the late Anson Gonzales, who encourage me to write, write, writer. Poetry for me was largely therapy, then it became my voice, my paintbrush, my lens, my sword. Later I was inspired by Dionne Brand, Audre Lorde, Ntozake Shange and Jean Binta Breeze.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I am a performance poet, photographer, artist and sometimes musician. I have also spent 15 years in advertising, where I worked as a copywriter.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The title Remembering her Brown Head-Tie is based on my actual grandmother, who always wore a brown head-tie. So finding the name for the title was but a memory for me.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

Ohh my, that was pure pride and nostalgia.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

It will definitely be African drumming.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

The importance of celebrating our ancestors, remembering and learning from them, and above all keeping their memories alive. My grandmother was such a strong woman, this was my way of paying her tribute.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

During the book launch, so many people identified with the poems and their meaning. This was the high point in publishing this book.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

Currently working on a new collection entitled Onion tears falling on deaf ears… Peeling 2024.

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