FeliSpeaks on the Leaving Cert: ‘We’d go to the park and sun ourselves. It felt rebellious!’

My Leaving: Poet reflects on exams as one of her own poems is added to English curriculum

FeliSpeaks, a Nigerian-Irish poet, spoken word performance artist and playwright. Photograph: Alan Betson

FeliSpeaks, a Nigerian-Irish poet, spoken word performance artist and playwright. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

FeliSpeaks - or Felicia Olusanya - is a Nigerian-Irish poet, spoken word performance artist and playwright. She sat the Leaving Cert in Meán Scoil Mhuire in Longford town in 2013. Her poem For Our Mothers is on the Leaving Cert English curriculum for 2023.

Your most vivid exam memory?

It was constantly sunny throughout the Leaving Cert month and after each exam, we’d go to the park near the county library and sun ourselves on the lawn. We were so determined to take those 30 minutes and just lie there, before going back into study. It felt rebellious!

Strongest subject?

English and biology were my two favourites. The Armadillo by Elizabeth Bishop was my favourite poem. I liked Sylvia Plath a lot – how dark she was, and the complexity of her life. Her poem Morning Song, which is about motherhood, was so vivid. With two younger siblings, I understood it more than I should have as a teenager.

Weakest subject?

Maths. I was bad at maths and accounting. Chemistry, I found a challenge. I enjoyed it as a subject, but the struggle was in retaining it and replicating it.

Most inspiring teacher?

Miss Fitzmaurice in fifth class at St Joseph’s Primary School in Longford – best teacher in the whole world! She lived in Longford town as well, not far from me, and she took me to my first poetry competition. She was so inspiring.

How many points did you get?

400

Is the exam fair?

I don’t think so. It doesn’t accommodate all kinds of mindsets, and different ways of learning.

What advice would you give to your Leaving Cert self?

Don’t panic! When I was really young, I’d always said I was going to be a doctor when I grew up. I think in fifth and sixth year I was coming to terms with the fact that wouldn’t be happening. I would tell myself not to panic, because you have so many talents.