‘Accept all the critique you can get and say thank you’ – Interview with Laura Kaminski

‘Accept all the critique you can get and say thank you’ – Interview with Laura Kaminski

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH LAURA KAMINSKI
In the bubbling ebullience that accompanies the serene arrival of every new month, we have decided to feature a lovely and exceptional poet in the “Celebrate a Legend” section of our blog.
In this interview, Laura talked pasionately about her illustrious journey in the world of poetry. This will surely inspire anyone interested in the art of writing especially a budding poet who is willing to learn.
Enjoy the interview.
Kreative Diadem: Who is Laura Kaminski?
Laura: Identity – that’s always a most difficult question. It’s tempting to fall back on a list of roles and labels, categories that are easy for other people to recognize, to say “daughter, wife, cook, mentor, friend,” perhaps go further and say “Hausa-speaker, observer, advocate, believer, skeptic.” I suspect identity-labels can be a dangerous thing – limiting and misleading, encouraging us to view and respond to people according to preconceptions about groups or categories rather than responding to them as individuals. What I can tell you for sure here (laughs) is that Laura Kaminski is someone who feels uncertain about having an interview appear under this “legend” heading – when I think of “legend” I think of people like Ibrahim Malumfashi, Dike Chukwumerije, BM Dzukogi – not someone like me.
Laura Kaminski

Laura Kaminski


KD: Can you please share your childhood memories?
Laura: My childhood was in Nigeria, mostly in Bambur in the Karim Lamido LGA, then later in Yola and Jos. I took most of my schooling in Jos. As far as specific memories, I often find myself with difficulties putting words to those memories except through poems – but they are slowly emerging in poetry.

KD: When did you start writing poems?

Laura: I wrote my first poem in an English class in Jos when I was maybe eight years old. It was drivel, but I recall being proud of it at the time. (A good reminder for poems I am too proud of now, yes? Who knows what I will think of them in time!) I wrote occasionally during my teen years, then stopped almost completely during my twenties and thirties.

 

I first began to apply myself to poetry with attention and discipline, to make a daily practice of poetry, during August 2012. At that time, I committed to studying other people’s poetry on a daily basis, and trying to sketch some lines myself, and to do so for four years (should I live that long), as if I was putting myself through “poetry university” – four years of study. I did so with a sense of “I will apply myself to this, and learn all I can, and we’ll see where it goes.”

19 Ghazal Street (forthcoming 2016)

19 Ghazal Street (full cover) — chapbook, forthcoming 2016

KD: What inspires your writing of poems?
Laura: Childhood memories. Poems I read by other poets that grab my heart and won’t let go.  Troubles and tragedies that leave me grieving and otherwise speechless. Some pieces of art. People I want to celebrate in some way. Really, when I feel at a loss for the right words to express myself, I turn to poetry. I still write mostly in Hausa first or a mix of Hausa and English, and then translate into English when I’m revising.

KD: What initiated your entry into the league of poets?
Laura: You should see my face now. Am I in the “league of poets”? I don’t even know. I’ve had an active practice of poetry for some 196 weeks now, with 12 weeks left on my original study commitment. I can say I am “in league WITH poets” – does that count? I enjoy writing response poetry, conversation and collaboration poetry.

KD: Do all your poems have a unifying theme or you just write on the matters of the moment or what inspires you? 
Laura: Most of my poems are responses – most frequently to other poets, but also to memories and events. If there’s any unifying theme at all, I’d like to think that most of my poems are in some way about compassion and finding common ground and celebrating what is beautiful in people. But then again, I have poems about spiders and rain and my companion dog. What leaves me in awe, what leaves me feeling short of words – those are the places where the poem begins.
Laura's latest book - Dance Here

Laura’s latest book – Dance Here (front cover) — full-length collection, 2016, Origami Books, Lagos


KD: Can you shed more light about your Pushcart award nominations? 
Laura: In 2013, Conclave: A Journal of Character nominated “My Grandfather’s Parka”. My grandfather was an Army  chaplain in World War II; the poem touches on what that responsibility might have been like, the number of people whose hands he must have held as they crossed from this world, people of different faiths, different nationalities. What evils he must have seen, what sadness he must have felt. It did not win a place in the 2015 Pushcart Prize anthology, although I was deeply honored by the nomination. What that poem really “won” was a way for me to begin engaging through poetry with my feelings about conflict, about war, about human frailty and dignity, common ground and compassion.
 

The second and third nominations were from poems published last year: “Sharing Salt” was nominated by Expound and “Conveying the Blessing” by The Lake. Both of those poems were written for friends: “Sharing Salt” was in response to “This is Home” – a powerful poem by Rasaq Malik Gbolahan; and “Conveying the Blessing” was a birthday gift for Saddiq M Dzukogi. As far as those two poems, I would, of course, be delighted if either of them were to be selected for the 2017 Pushcart Prize anthology, but I know they receive many nominations of exemplary poetry each year, so I’d be far more surprised to be selected than not. But in my mind, they have each already been part of something significant. To the best of my knowledge, 2015 is the first year any Nigeria-based literary journals submitted nominations for the Pushcart – to have a poem be one of the six nominated by Expound means something. That Expound exists, under Wale Owoade’s editorship, and submitted Pushcart nominations – that means something more significant.

“Conveying the Blessing” – how to cross the distance from where I live now to Zaria to wish Saddiq blessings on his birthday? That poem combines childhood memory with classical myth, geographic realities, longing. It is a celebration of the magical, the way poetry can surmount borders and barriers.

Considering Luminescence

Considering Luminescence (front cover) — full-length collection, 2015


KD: Asides poetry, which other genres of literature appeals to you?
Laura: Almost anything that’s well-written with thoughtful content. Science – fact and fiction both. Nature and environmental science. Astronomy. Physics. Creative nonfiction. Classical scripture from as many faith traditions as I am able to find translated into languages I can read. Philosophy. Hagiography. Legends and myths. Art history. Short stories and novels with a strong sense of place (geography, history, culture, socio-political and religious constructs), that also hold more universal lessons, meaning that transcends the immediate setting. Words in a row that go beyond borders and boundaries in any genre. 

KD: In the school of poetry, who are your mentors and role models?
 
Laura: It’s hard to even know where to begin answering this question. I’ve learned so much from so many poets and writers – and, with rare exceptions, have found them to be receptive, generous, willing to answer questions.  I look up to people who write from the heart, who wrap words around the difficulties of being human in a troubled world, who give back to the creative community and the world as a whole not only through their writing but through their lives – through being activists, educators, chroniclers, collaborators, mentors, facilitators, editors. So start with Hauwa Gwaram, and then just start naming poets, writers, editors, poetry-film makers…and don’t stop until you get all the way through that list to the poets and writers I mentor – I learn much from them as well. I admire the dedication, generosity, community-building and compassion and voices for justice that are willing to reach beyond geographic, ethnic, and cultural borders, willing to take risks, willing to try and fail. Willing to pick rocks from the road so the next person who passes is less likely to stumble.
A lot of people believe that poets and generally writers are not appreciated in Nigeria, what is your take on this?
As opposed to where? I don’t know of any other nation that has a national organization quite like the Association of Nigerian Authors, with state-chapters nationwide and an active, voting membership. And in all of the U.S., there are only a few organizations that even begin to come close to doing what the Hill-Top Arts Centre in Minna does. There may not be as many poetry publishers in Nigeria as there are in the US, for example, but I would be surprised, actually, if the average number of copies sold for poetry books published in Nigeria is not quite a bit higher than the average number of copies sold for ones published in the U.S., even though the U.S. population is higher.

Returning to Awe cover

Returning to Awe (front cover) — chapbook, 2014, Balkan Press

KD: What is your advice to young poets?
Laura: Read. Accept all the critique you can get and say thank you, regardless of whether or not you find it useful. In every criticism, look carefully to see if there is anything at all you might be able to use. If there is, use it. Discard anything that is not useful, but do so later, in private, while you are revising. Read. Take advantage of all the online poetry journals you can, particularly if you don’t have ready access to a bookstore or library with poetry books. Read. Don’t expect to like all the poems you read. Don’t expect everyone who reads your poems to like them – this includes editors. Don’t expect ANYONE, even your most loyal readers, to like ALL of what you write.
Laura's advice to young poets

Laura’s advice to young poets


Read. Try to understand what it is you like about the poets you most enjoy reading, what it is in their poems that appeals to you. Try to understand what makes those poems work. Read poems – ones you like and also ones you don’t. What is it you don’t like in the ones you don’t? Look for those same characteristics in your own poems and revise to remove them. Don’t be afraid to revise a poem fifteen times… you can always go back to an earlier version if the revision doesn’t work out, but it’s sometimes helpful to produce several versions of a poem and keep the parts from each version that work the best.
Read. Recognition for your writing…through awards or journal publications…may be part of your dreams, but if that’s the only reason you are writing, I’m afraid you may find yourself disappointed. But if you write a poem for one person, or to commemorate one event, or to call attention to one injustice – and you have one reader who finds that poem meaningful, you will have written something worth writing. Whatever it is you get out of reading poetry yourself, each time you set out to write a poem, tries to give that same gift to one of your readers.

KD: What do you think about KREATIVE Diadem?
Laura: I appreciate the forum. I’ve discovered powerful poems at KREATIVE Diadem from writers whose work I have not encountered previously, and that is always to be treasured. My current favorites are “Stillbirth: The Curse of a Mother” by Seyi Awojulugbe, and also “Freedom Fighter” by Théodore René (Ray) Ndebi.
 

You can follow these links to view the latest book published by Laura Kaminski.

Dance Here is available from AMAB Books in Nigeria and Magunga in Kenya.
All the others are available from Amazon.
Let us know your sincere and lucid thoughts about this eye-opening conversation.
 
THE SUN WILL SMILE by Chuks Obi

THE SUN WILL SMILE by Chuks Obi

THE SUN WILL SMILE

The days have raged like an angry storm
Young men have taken to beer and rum
The feet of the old are pale and numb
Dreams washed away in the fiery tide
Like life has taken us on a ride
Through hardship, loss and trying times
There’s no strength left to stage a fight
All that’s left are falling rhymes
It’s not too late to start again
The sun will smile at us someday

Source: www.thephotoargus.com

Source: www.thephotoargus.com


Remember those days when the land was young
We taught our children right from wrong
Those precious times did not last long
Now all the land is filled with dung
On the altar of filth, our values hung
They insulted us and refused our songs
We saw it coming but could not run
He who has a home should not have to roam
Even though the skies appear so gray
The sun will smile at us someday


Let us put away the thoughts of doom
This land of gloom will one day bloom
In the heat and cold, we daily toiled
Our last days shall be greased with oil
Through the rumbling cracks I hear your voice
Our struggles for them will not be void
This long journey should end in joy
We might not live to watch the bud
Let’s hope that they remember us
When the sun smiles on the land again


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chuks Obi is a law student at the University of Ibadan. He writes poems and articles which have been published in different magazines and online publishing sites. He strongly believes in the power of the pen as a tool to make the world a better place.

THE RULERS OF RULERS by ‘Kunle Adebajo

THE RULERS OF RULERS by ‘Kunle Adebajo

THE RULERS OF RULERS
Many years ago, from the days of yore
We learnt fine tales from fair folklore

Of men who got bored of poultry-farming
And thus made for some thrilling enslaving

They ruled and ruined, they even became gods
Other lads’ sweats were their daily cuds

They lied, saying we are the electorate
When really we have no mandate to elect our fate

They said the people possess the sovereign power
Perhaps what they intended was suffering power
Source: www.bcssgilliescivcs.blogspot.com Photo Credit: Mana Neyastani

Source: www.bcssgilliescivcs.blogspot.com
Photo Credit: Mana Neyastani


They promised us seventh heaven on earth
Only to later appease with ‘life after death’

They oppressed, suppressed and often repressed
Buttons of tyranny they endlessly pressed

They got drunk from the calabash of power
And sunk into shame, high as the Eiffel tower

Seeing as few men molest his virgin land
The Good Lord blessed some men with ken and pen

These arose to battle, they arose to fight
With the pen, they placed next to the tunnel some light

With words, they fed the hungry
And with words, they freed the sundry

They are the tapes of reason, the rulers of rulers
They are the keen ‘Benjamins’ and incubi of ‘Squealers’

They are the daring vanguards of journalism
Wielding placards against the dons of Nazism

Their pens have again lined the clouds with silver
Their quills have caused ‘the gods’ to quit and quiver

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
‘Kunle Adebajo is a potential colossus at law, honing his skills at the shores of Nigeria’s premier university, University of Ibadan. Sadly the waves of poetry, oratory, writing and generally not minding his business have diverted his attention from the Isle to the endless majesty of the sea. In his trance, he has discovered that there are a thousand roads which lead to the doorstep of justice. He however hopes to retrace his footsteps to the law books soon enough. When he is not writing or preparing for a speech, he fantasises about life as a married man.
MUSINGS OF A SINGLE LADY by ‘Bukola Ibirogba

MUSINGS OF A SINGLE LADY by ‘Bukola Ibirogba

MUSINGS OF A SINGLE LADY

In a corner, all alone
In pairs, people pass me by.
Hand in hand, smile to smile.
I am invisible, faded into the background.


I sit and ponder.
Is it my fault? I wonder.
Maybe I’ve been too hasty to dismiss,
Eager young men asking for a kiss,
Time weighs heavily on my mind,
Age seems to no longer be on my side.


Maybe, it’s time I threw in the towel,
Maybe, it’s time to give up, or grovel,
I sit here, all alone.
Left with my hopes and dreams, all alone,
Single, not broken, yet full of hope


musing of a lady

And so I sit once again,
Full of hope, also full of pain,
Pain so raw that it grips my very soul,
Hope so great that my heart’s bells toll,
It’s easy for them, it’s hardest for me.


The geese, the goats, even the insects,
Have followed nature’s course with great effect,
In twos, they move, each with a mate,
I smile, pretend, saying there’s a lot on my plate.
Only I know the tears I cry behind closed doors.


My laughter has become mirthless
My careful looks have become careless.
I ask myself if anyone pays attention,
To the fact that my face is now tight with tension
Day after day, I feel my hope fade away.


Single was I born into this world,
But will I leave single?
The fire of hope burns less brightly now.
I have accepted that not everyone is destined,
To spend their lives with another.


I sit again,
Without hope, I am numb.
Pain increases so greatly, my heart is dumb,
Never again will I sing the song of hope.
I wait single, broken now, waiting to be healed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

‘Bukola Ibirogba is a student of the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan. She draws inspiration for her poetry from her love for God and everyday issues.

HUNGEROLOGY by Chuks Obi

HUNGEROLOGY by Chuks Obi

HUNGEROLOGY

I remember those days
When hunger knew my name
My stomach was in flames
It sang a noisy song
With every scent of food
Discordant melody replayed
One cannot blame the cook
Preparing meals he would not eat
Of what gain is the aroma
That is spread in generosity
When the essential delicacy
Is denied to watering tongues?


I remember those nights
When I studied without light
The philosophy of famishment
And ideology of inner torment
The blindness of the government
To the anatomy of starving children
No professor would impart
Knowledge that no words can tell
Of what gain is propaganda
Sugarcoated manifestos
To the long acquired culture
Of feeding the poor to vultures?

Photo Credit: www.speakupforchange.ca

Photo Credit: www.speakupforchange.ca


I remember those midnights
When it was best to sleep tight
But for wailing in the tenement
For the souls that waved each moment
Those bones still build a monument
In the study of hungerology
In furtherance of Biology
A crucial path of our food web
Relished by decomposers
What else should I remember
Before these hands get weary
The smell of rotten bodies?


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chuks Obi is a law student at the University of Ibadan. He writes poems and articles which have been published in different magazines and online publishing sites. He strongly believes in the power of the pen as a tool to make the world a better place.

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