Hopeful’s Interview: Lockdown Listening
During lockdown, many hopefuls have utilised their time to learn new skills and work on passion projects. This issue, we speak with Priyanka Moorjani, who has recently self-published her poetry audiobook From AM to PM, poems to help you through the day, and finished her poetry series, ‘Agora-Poetry’.
Priyanka explains that ‘Agora-Poetry’ provided her with a sense of purpose in lockdown, as she conquered her fear of going outside and fulfilled her dream of self-publishing her poetry. During the first wave of COVID-19, her therapist thought she might have generalised anxiety disorder as well as agoraphobia. “I wasn’t diagnosed, but I still wanted to do something about it and try to face my fears by forcing myself to go outside. One day, I went for a walk and my mind was wandering. Suddenly, I had this idea, so I filmed a video announcing this series, posted it on my Instagram, and went from there!”
Choosing the audiobook format is quite a unique decision that is perfect for bringing Priyanka’s poetry to life. She notes that, “Audiobooks have helped break down barriers in getting more people to read.” Priyanka is “really passionate about accessibility, particularly with poetry, because it’s often seen as a genre that you need to ‘understand’ or ‘figure out’ to enjoy.” She hoped her audiobook would “have that effect, and maybe get people to see that poetry can be enjoyable […] even if it was only a small part of that effort.” Priyanka explains that her audiobook is split “into three sections and is designed to take people through the different moods of the day.” The “‘Morning’ poems are slower and more reflective, the ‘Afternoon’ poems are energetic and funny to get you through that afternoon dip, and the ‘Evening’ poems are calming to help you wind down at the end of the day.”
Priyanka first discovered poetry in 2017, but wasn’t a huge fan until she discovered Phil Kaye’s poem ‘Beginning, Middle and End’ on Button Poetry’s YouTube channel. She was later able to perform this poem at her school’s spoken word competition after rehearsing daily. “I ended up winning, and then found out my local café was hosting an open mic night. I wrote my own poem, which everyone really liked, and I just kept going to more open mics after that! However, my poetry ‘career’ started in 2018/19 when I came 3rd in the UK National Slams.”
Priyanka feels she has benefitted from poetry, saying she can “capture moments and ideas that swirl around in my head in a really unique way”, as “spoken word unlocked a part of myself I never knew existed. The spoken word community is very supportive and welcoming – it’s given me a massive confidence boost!”
This was her first time recording and self-publishing an audiobook, and Priyanka admits she faced a few challenges in getting to grips with it. “None of the rooms in my house are soundproof, so often I’d have to re-record because you could hear my neighbours, my parents or even birds in the background! Repeatedly performing the poems was also quite tiring, and I considered giving up, but I’m really glad I didn’t.” Priyanka also faced challenges during the creation of her blog, poetpri, where she shares her poetry series, ‘Agora-Poetry’. “I’ve gone through many different versions, layouts and platforms to finally land on the blog I have today! It can be discouraging if the numbers aren’t as high as you’d like, but my advice is to remember your passions and why you started creating in the first place.”
When asked whether she would self-publish more audiobooks, she explains that she is concentrating her efforts on other things right now, such as book blogging. However, Priyanka does reassure us that her audiobook “has been received really well”, with “purchases being made all the way from America!” Priyanka recognises that “it’s important to be realistic about self-publishing” and admits she is “just happy that my poetry is helping people and giving them something to listen to in these difficult times.”
Priyanka also shared her writing inspirations and outlines how “Button Poetry continually inspires my poetry – Phil Kaye will always be a poetry god in my eyes”, and recommends “Book/writing blogs like A Writer Bee and Read To Ramble” and “a lot of wonderful presses like small leaf press, small magazines like perhappened, and larger magazines like PopShot Quarterly”, which are useful inspirations for her blog.
Regarding COVID-19, Priyanka explains, “I really miss performing in front of a live audience” and “seeing people at open mics”, as “It’s hard to perform when you can’t see an audience’s reaction.” Priyanka also admits that her mental health has been impacted, but she is “fortunate enough that the pandemic has not impacted my ability to work” and that her ideal job in publishing “would be something in Publicity – I love communicating with people and coming up with event ideas to help promote things.”
As a message to our fellow hopefuls, Priyanka says, “My DMs are always open. If you’re a small creator, try to keep creating – I believe in you, and you’ve got this.”