Amy Lukau is the daughter of immigrants from Angola. She graduated from Arizona State University with a BS in Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology in addition to a BA in Religious Studies with minors in Islamic Studies and Religion & Conflict. She spent over four years in the non-profit sector, served on the American Board of Directors for the organization Zion’s Children of Haiti and has worked as a policy researcher & analyst for select organisations implementing novel ways to prevent and deal with mass atrocities internationally. Lukau has worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and was executive director of Girls Education International, a not for profit organisation based in Colorado that supports educational opportunities for underserved females in remote and underdeveloped regions of the world (girlsed.org). Lukau’s work appears in Fanzine and Feminist Wire. She has an MFA in Writing and Poetics.
Geosi Gyasi: First, what took you to the U.S?
Amy Lukau: I was born in the U.S. My parents immigrated here from what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola respectively. Both of my parents are ethnically Angolan.
I think it would be more appropriate for me to state what brought my parents here is hope of achieving and attaining a better life, which was not a possibility for them if they would have stayed.
Geosi Gyasi: Have you ever visited the countries of your parents birthplace?
Amy Lukau: Yes.
Geosi Gyasi: You have a BS in Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology as well as a BA in Religious Studies with minors in Islamic Studies and Religion & Conflict. My question is, at what stage in your life did you become a writer?
Amy Lukau: (Laughing). I believe that everyone is a writer. I’ve been writing since I learned how to. You outlined my degrees in your question and both require extensive writing, researching and analyzing. I started writing seriously in the genre of poetry in 2012. I’ve only been doing this for four years!
Everyone has something to say and we do it via many mediums. Writing for me (e.g. poetry) is the one of the only ways I can convey myself in an uncensored manner. It is an engagement with the world we all share. When I’m writing the ego doesn’t exist. I am humbled; this is a constant reminder of my humanity because I am writing for humanity.
Geosi Gyasi: What do you hope to achieve with your writing?
Amy Lukau: I hope to achieve a writing that conveys honesty about our world.
Geosi Gyasi: How did you hear about the Brunel University African Poetry Prize?
Amy Lukau: I first heard about it via Facebook.
“will survive America? neck benders
gender benders cinnamon cigars
puff for you.”
Could you comment on the above lines in your poem, “Elephant’s Lullaby”?
Amy Lukau: This poem was written in 2014. A lot was going on in America. The black body in America is not a stable entity. We are so varied and beautiful in our gender preference, sexuality and occupations. “who will survive America?” is a direct quote from one of my favorite poets, Amiri Baraka. This poem is an invocation.
Geosi Gyasi: Besides Amiri Baraka, is/are there any poets that inspires you to write?
Amy Lukau: There are poets besides Amiri Baraka that inspire me to write. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the Angolan poets that do so, they are: Viratio da Cruz, Antionio Jacinto, Alda Lara, Fernando Costa Andrade, and Mario Antonio Fernandes de Oliveira to name a few.
Without going into too much detail, I honestly do not know any Angolan writer past or present whose work does not convey some sort of ‘resistance.’ As I speak, 17 Angolans are in jail for reading Domingos da Cruz’s unpublished manuscript “Tools to Destroy a Dictatorship and Avoiding a New Dictatorship – Political Philosophy for the Liberation of Angola.” This is obscene and a direct affrontation to creative freedom and expression. Some of whom have been on hunger strikes as well. Despite this fact, Angolans continue to write and express themselves in creative ways despite fears of prosecution and intimidation. Angolan writing in my opinion has always conveyed a sensibility of the fight against injustice. This demands my ultimate respect.
I am going to use this platform to say that as an American-Angolan, I too stand with all people accused by the Angolan government in what has been known as the Luanda Book Club. I stand with justice.
To whomever is reading this and you would like to do something about the situation, I’ve listed the contact information below:
Appeals to: President of the Republic of Angola José Eduardo dos Santos Fax: +244 222 370366 Civil House: +244 222 693274 Spokesman: +244 222 693069 Salutation: A sua Excelencia
Ministry of Justice and Human Rights Rui Jorge Carneiro Mangueira Ministry of Justice and Human Rights Rua 17 Setembro, No. 32
CP 1986 Luanda Republic of Angola Fax: +244 222 339 914 or +244 222 330 327 Salutation: A sua Exce
Geosi Gyasi: Does writing come easily for you?
Amy Lukau: I don’t know how to respond to this question other than to say that I am inspired and therefore I write.
Geosi Gyasi: Could you say something about your style of writing? Do you lean towards a specific style?
Amy Lukau: (Laughing) I write how I feel; how that ends up on the page is something I don’t know even as I write. There’s an energy exchange; a kinetics of thought that dictate the form of all my poems which is something I will say without hesitation.
To be candid, I don’t know enough about specific styles of poetry to have a leaning.
Geosi Gyasi: How do you know when a poem is ready to be sent out for publication?
Amy Lukau: I know when a poem is ready for publication if I’ve let it sit for a while and then go back to it. When I am able to read it with ‘fresh eyes’ if it has retained that mode of thought that drove me to write it, then, I am confident in the work.
Saying this, I just recently started sending out poems. So even as I say this, I know my criteria will evolve.
Geosi Gyasi: What sort of preparation went into the selection of the ten poems you submitted for the 2016 Brunel University African Poetry Prize?
Amy Lukau: I’m working on a lot of creative work at the moment, which I am excited about. One night in November right before Thanksgiving, I was sitting on my couch and started reading poems I wrote. I wanted the ten poems that I chose to be a trajectory towards what has led me to write the manuscripts that I am currently working on. After going through my poems, I felt that the ten chosen poems were a good introduction into the new work.
Geosi Gyasi: What do you think about your chances of winning the 2016 Brunel University African Poetry Prize?
Amy Lukau: I did not even know I would be shortlisted for a second time. I am truly humbled and grateful by that. I leave the ultimate decision in the hands of the esteemed judges.
Visit the BUAPP website to read some of Amy Lukau’s poems.
Note: BUAPP stands for ‘Brunel University African Poetry Prize’
The winner of the 2016 BUAPP will be announced on May 11, 2016.