A PORTAL OF CRISIS by Chukwu Emmanuel

A PORTAL OF CRISIS by Chukwu Emmanuel

white paper on a vintage typewriter

A portal of crisis

by Chukwu Emmanuel

In the news, the incident of death rises geometrically.

I know because something is lost when you search for it.

I peep inside my father’s house & his sadness fills my body to the brim.

It is the incident that tightens the air in our bodies. This silence is porous

Enough to fold us into halves & while we watch our parents talk

About the wound in the world stretching into bodies, My sister and I

Move behind the wall to unravel the hymn in our mouths. I sit behind

My sister wondering what shape her body is turning into. We look ourselves

Over until the yellow bullets of chickenpox show themselves. In our room

With no blinds, we sit on the lip of our doctor’s instructions, we sit like

We are lost to the world. & this isolation is singular with what eats us beneath.

I keep our difference apart. I have seen death many times but never of a sister

Who stands before the mirror watching her body respond to stimuli.

& in the wake of light, when I watch mine too, it is never same as hers.

Some things rise after being silent & this was how everything became clearer

After her recovery. I am only infected with whatever sickness someone gives me.

Every day, my body sheds colors of these memories & I understand my father’s fear

As this whole rib of silence holding him. I understand the joy to give my parents

Enough children. But what manner of child breathes happiness as air in his bed of affliction?

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CHUKWU EMMANUEL is a Nigerian. He is a medical student with the spirit of writing in his blood. His works have been shortlisted for Kalahari Review Igby Prize for Nonfiction in 2019 and in 2018 for both Prose and poetry categories for Benue Literary Festival. His works has been published by or are forthcoming in Praxis’s magazine, Africanwriter magazine, Libretto magazine and numerous blogs. He’s currently working on a collection of a collection of stories documenting medical life. 

ENDING AS A CHAOS OF TRUE BEGINNING by Oyindamola Shoola

ENDING AS A CHAOS OF TRUE BEGINNING by Oyindamola Shoola

time

Ending As a Chaos of True Beginning

by Oyindamola Shoola

Times when my eyes tear into dawn; 

when I negotiate between being awake and being alive, 

or I moan gratitude, and it feels like 1000 pins pricking my tongue 

or another poorly written poem I am trying to patch here and there,

with purpose + God + hallelujahs. 

 

Where was life when I wanted to live,

and where was living when I needed to feel alive?

 

Life and living hiccup in my mind.

Every day has a bad habit of living in me without permission, 

and today beats my heart into an attempt of healing. Healing begins with 

a remembrance service, two lovers – day and night, 

kissing a shadow of insomnia and mourning the loss of time 

in me. Life continues, but existence doesn’t. 

 

And if you asked, I made some effort. I tried 

to show up for today, but I forgot myself at home. 

I am at home. I am home. Yet. I can’t remember myself enough.

I run through my thoughts but never start the

journey or arrive like drowning into something empty,

like I want to move forward, but time is standing still,

waiting for me to catch up.

 

I am trusting that this night will run out of darkness to offer my soul.

I am baptizing myself in the lack of muse, of life, in the emptiness

of desiring a renewal that words can’t birth.

 

I feel powerless, unable to tame time with words 

and touch the face of God with the language of my spirit.

 

I am undoing myself and re-doing each breath;

maybe everything will make sense that way and take me back to life,

or perhaps, what seems to be the end is just a chaos of a true beginning,

and God will say, Let there be light – and I will arrive, 

and you too will be delivered.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

OYINDAMOLA SHOOLA is a writer, author, and CEO of SprinNG – a non-profit dedicated to Nigerian writers. She is also a graduate of New York University. You can reach her via her blog: www.shoolaoyin.com.

NOTES ON CRAFT: ON SECOND PERSON POINT OF VIEW by Olakunle Ologunro

NOTES ON CRAFT: ON SECOND PERSON POINT OF VIEW by Olakunle Ologunro

Notes on Craft: On Second Person Point of View

by Olakunle Ologunro

Dear Writer,

The second person point of view (POV) is a very tricky one to pull off. It’s not as though the other POVs are easy, but with the second person, there’s the additional damage of trying to tell the reader’s story and failing woefully at it. With the first person POV, you can help the reader feel through the character. That way, when the character says: “I pulled at one of the cornrows underneath my black church scarf to make sure I was not dreaming,” you are able to picture her doing just that. (1)

The same thing can be said for the third person POV where the writer allows the reader to see, almost like a movie being played, the characters and everything they get into or out of. And this is why, when a writer says: “Dr Lustucru’s wife was not particularly talkative. But he beheaded her anyway, thinking to himself that he could replace her head when he wished for her to speak,” your interest is piqued because you have been offered an exquisite slice of human interaction. (2)

But how does one make the reader settle into a story that is not theirs? How do you tell the reader, “After you won the American visa lottery, your uncles and aunts and cousins told you, in a month you will have a big car,” when the reader hasn’t even been to the airport?

I honestly wish I had the answers. You know, the ability to say this is what you should do to make it work. Write it this way, remove that. But I don’t. I can only talk about what should guide your stories: heart, empathy.

I have written some stories in the Second Person POV. In fact, I won my first fiction prize ever with a story told in the second person. This was in 2014/5, and I didn’t know then, some of the things I do now. 

Here’s another of those things: When writing a story in the second person, it might work better to not throw the reader abruptly into the action. For example, a story that opens with “You are eating rice in your dinner dress” can fail to achieve the desired effect. Instead, do what I call “laying the groundwork.” In other words, ease the reader gently into it. The opening paragraph of Chika Unigwe’s beautiful story “Borrowed Smile,” does this very well:

It is not possible to describe it if you have never been there. But you know it because you have lived there. It is what you will call a ghetto neighbourhood. Metal sheets nailed together in a row. The metal is rusty and dark. Like the lives lived in them. They look crass and rough, like the work-abused knuckles of Sunday. Continue reading.

 

writing

Or you can take a cue from Otosirieze Obi-Young’s thoroughly modern epic:

THE MANGOES HAVE BEGUN TURNING reddish and yellowish when the man starts coming to the cathedral field, and often you see him jogging in his green-and-white Super Eagles jersey and sparkling-red boots, or in the pitch lying and stretching himself on the dark-brown sand, or in the canteen buying snacks and drinks, or under the mango tree a stone’s throw from the pitch, sitting in his black Jeep. Continue reading.

This is not to say that a story that begins by putting you in the action is a bad one. No. One thing I have come to realize with writing is that there are different paths to a destination. What matters is that you arrive there, triumphant. In the eternal words of Binyavanga Wainaina, “You can do anything, just do it well.”

And this is why I love what Moje Ikpeme did with the opening of his piece in Lolwe, “Tell Me Something Happy”. Here’s an excerpt:

It is Obiageli who insists that you start therapy, and gives you her hours, as she is out of the country for the next month. It is also Obiageli who swallows the cost of transportation, effectively ending your last-ditch excuse, when Sanwo Olu suddenly bans okada and kekes in most of Lagos, leaving more than half the city stranded and throwing your already shitty life into more chaos. Continue reading.

***

“I haven’t failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” is a very famous quote by Thomas Edison. Let’s twist this a bit and apply it to using the second person POV. In my years of trial and error with that style, I have found many other ways to make it work. One way is to put yourself in the story and attempt to tell the reader their story. I, talking to you. “Conference” by Naja Marie Aidt is an example of this: 

It’s strange to meet you here, after so many years, and to still feel disturbed just being near your body. The way you’re settled in the chair like a large contented animal, like a large wild cat licking itself in the sun, or an elephant bathing in a river, like a person resting on top of another after pleasurable sex, it has an intimidating and shameless effect on me. My complete attention turns toward you and I’m unable to relax. It’s as if I am overflowing my own banks. Continue reading. (An aside: this is one of my favourite shorts of all time).

In this style, you are in a relationship with the reader. You are a teacher, a friend, a lover, a neighbour, and you both have a shared experience, or something that links you together, just like it links Hema and Kaushik in Lahiri’s spellbinding piece, “Once in a Lifetime”: 

I had seen you before, too many times to count, but a farewell that my family threw for yours, at our house in Inman Square, is when I begin to recall your presence in my life. Continue reading.

I will stop here so I don’t bore you. Second POV is an endless discussion, really. Just like every other point of view in fiction.

But I am open to taking questions. Write me kologunro@kreativediadem.com. Send me your questions. I’ll try to answer them to the best of my knowledge.

Will you be here in the next two weeks? I promise I won’t be late this time.

Yours,

Kunle.

References:

(1) “Purple Hibiscus” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

(2) “Dr. Lustucru” from the collection Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Olakunle Ologunro is a Nigerian writer. His work has been published in Brittle Paper, Agbowo, the Queer Africa anthology, and the Gerald Kraak anthology for work that provokes thought on the topics of gender, social justice and sexuality. He is an alumnus of the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop and a finalist for the 2020 Adina Talve-Goodman Fellowship from One Story Magazine. He won the inaugural Kreative Diadem Prize for short fiction.

Photo Credits:

Photo by Arshad Sutar from Pexels

Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Pexels

“Write. Live and write some more” – Interview with Bura-Bari Vincent Nwilo

“Write. Live and write some more” – Interview with Bura-Bari Vincent Nwilo

Anthony Okpunor

TABLE TALK

“Write. Live and write some more” – Interview with Bura-Bari Vincent Nwilo

Bura-Bari Vincent Nwilo is a Nigerian writer and photographer who hails from Rivers State, Nigeria. He resides in Nsukka, Enugu State, where he currently pursues a postgraduate degree in African Literature at the University of Nigeria.

Nwilo has deep connections to his Ogoni roots, evident in his use of Ogoni names to represent his characters as well as the incorporation of the language in his works.

In this interview, Nwilo offers a glimpse into his writing regimen and the blend of both literature and photography in his art.

Enjoy the read!

KD: Let’s meet you. Can you tell us about yourself?

Bura-Bari: My name is Bura-Bari Nwilo. I am an Ogoni man from Rivers State. I live in Nsukka in Enugu State where I am on a postgraduate program in African Literature at the University of Nigeria. A lot of people know me as Vincent, but I prefer Bura-Bari since it is connected to my Ogoni root. I love food and literature. And when I am not taking random photos, I am writing or editing something. I am a first child to 3 siblings and a lot of non-biological siblings. I love to laugh and when I can, I drink beer. I love calm and all things beautiful. 

Anthony Okpunor

Bura-Bari Vincent Nwilo

Author of “The Colour of a Thing Believed.”

KD: When did you start writing professionally and can you tell us a bit about the early days?

Bura-Bari: Professionally would be when I started getting paid? I have been writing articles since secondary school. Well, I think payment first came from rendering such service as editing. Today, I ghostwrite and write screenplay to stay sane. Fiction has not sold quite well. And I write poetry only when prose cannot express what I feel and when I need to say less, especially in an esoteric manner.

The early days has not stopped for me since I am still trying to find that big story. Until the big story arrives, I am still within that formative stage.

KD: How would you describe your writing style?

Bura-Bari: I do not think I have a writing style currently. Maybe I did many years ago. I read Dambudzo and I wanted to sound like him. These days, I just write and the story with fewer words. I cannot tell you what my style is. Maybe if you curate my works and decide to pay attention, you may find similarities, but I cannot tell what makes it different. Maybe the names I use? I like to give my characters Ogoni names.

KD: Can you give a brief description of your writing process or routine? Do you have any helpful writing tips you’d like to share?

Bura-Bari: Depending on what I am writing. Reading other works spur me. A situation could do that for me too. Sometimes a good photo does the magic. Anything that has a story, surface or not, has the ability to inspire me. It could be a phrase; it could be the smile or an action.

When I am spurred, I draw up an outline and try to see where the story leads. This could kill the creative juice but it sometimes helps me. Sometimes I write and when editing, I connect the dots.

Screenwriting is a bit more technical since everything or word has to be necessary. But for prose, I can decide to be fanciful with language and just write until I am tired and then edit. But a lot of people say I am a minimalist. Well, I like to say what is necessary and move on to something else. Maybe this is why I have not written a novel yet.

“Write. Live and write some more. Do not stay away from knowledge that sounds like taboo. Explore. Ask questions. Help people. Travel. Love and become kind. These are places where stories come from. That’s what any writer should do. And keep an open ear for opportunities.”

KD: What are some of the challenges you face as a writer and photographer? What steps do you take to overcome them? Where do they both connect?

Bura-Bari: Aside platforms to publish these things, I do not think I have so much constraints. They are both great ways of documenting the world around me. And well, I just click at whatever inspires me. As for writing, I have to be sure it is worth it.

Sometimes I have a story in my head for a long time and I do not have the will to pursue it. The story that would make my novel has been in my head for a long time. I keep editing it in my head and I hope I get to tell it someday. I have shared it with a couple of friends and they are fascinated by it. 

KD: What was it like completing and publishing your first book?

Bura-Bari: My first book was self-published. Completing it was a task I gave myself and I am glad I took that step. I was freshly out of the university and I needed something that would make people refer to me as a storyteller. Some of the stories in the collection are still dear to me. Others were just works that I experimented with.

KD: Does the education system influence or bring out the best in writers?

Bura-Bari: To raise quality in writing, you have to depend less on the educational system. It will not do you any good. Educating yourself, studying and reading, and experiencing and keeping an open mind may do more than any institution would offer.

KD: Who are some literary figures that inspire you/you look up to?

Bura-Bari: I love all of them. Writers have one or two things they spur in me. I could love Soyinka for his amazing knowledge of the English language and its usage. I could love an Achebe for his simplicity. I could love Adichie for her narrative pattern and carefulness with sharing her thoughts. Most times, you will catch me listening to Frost or W.H. Auden. Any of these people have something they quicken in me. I do not have any one figure I worship. I admire hard work and great art.

KD: Do your short stories have a unifying theme or you simply write on matters of the moment, or what inspires you?

Bura-Bari: I write on variety of issues. The unifying thing would be their humanity and they are of common and everyday people.

KD: What are some of your long-term goals as a writer?

Bura-Bari: I wish to survive. I wish to teach in and outside Nigeria. I wish to open a centre for writers and memories in Ogoniland and inspire young writers to create and become more than just humans who live and die. I have a model for the project but it is expensive. I wish to write some more stories and speak to people from across the world on whatever it is that I eventually think of as a topic. I wish to get married and raise some children, three or four. I wish to own a farm, a school, some real estate businesses and retire to a penthouse in Luubara.

KD: Are you currently working on any book(s) now?

Bura-Bari: I am working on a collection of verses in the Ogoni language called Khana. I think it is necessary to have creative works in our indigenous languages. It is a pioneer work that I hope would inspire a lot of other fine geniuses. Maybe I will write a novel after my postgraduate program.

KD: Do you think there are enough opportunities for emerging writers in Nigeria?

Bura-Bari: No. But we are hopeful and as we progress, we shall create and enable the environment for such.

KD: What advice would you give to emerging writers, especially in Nigeria?

Bura-Bari: Write. Live and write some more. Do not stay away from knowledge that sounds like taboo. Explore. Ask questions. Help people. Travel. Love and become kind. These are places where stories come from. That’s what any writer should do. And keep an open ear for opportunities.

KD: Any final words?

Bura-Bari: Stay out of trouble except it is actually necessary to engage trouble. While giving opinion about the society, think of solutions too. And do not watch from afar. Try and engage and share your knowledge and experiences with the system so there can be growth.

Isolation

Our third issue ever, "Isolation" is out. We had thought-provoking conversations with Alexis Teyie and Tobi Nifesi. It's a collection of works from some of the finest minds out there -- poetry, short stories, interviews, and creative essays.

Do you love our published works?

You can add your literary work to an endless list of poems, short stories, flash fiction, and essays.

NOTES ON CRAFT: WRITING HABITS by Olakunle Ologunro

NOTES ON CRAFT: WRITING HABITS by Olakunle Ologunro

Notes on Craft: Writing Habits

by Olakunle Ologunro

Dear Writer,
 

So, I am here again. This time though, feel free to whip me because what I am writing about, Writing Habits, is a principle I don’t even follow myself. Okay, maybe I used to follow it, but life got in the way. But then, should life get in the way of something you love?

From what I know of them, habits are a routine of behaviour that has become a part of you such that it occurs subconsciously. Here’s a story from my childhood. A woman in my area had a child who was fond of sucking her thumb. It was supposed to be a temporary behaviour, the way children pick up things and then discard them. But this child continued. On and on until she made a habit of the thumb sucking. She would sit alone and the next thing, she’d pop the thumb in her mouth. On her way to school, she had the thumb in her mouth. Sometimes, she fell asleep with the thumb in her mouth. Thumb-sucking became a habit for her.

You’re probably thinking, thumb-sucking and writing, what’s the connection? Well, the connection is in the habit, the constant repetition of it until it becomes something you cannot break.

A lot of people who are writers have writing habits. My friend, M, for instance, wakes up at dawn to write. I’m not sure if I can do that. I sleep too often and too much to wake up and be reasonable enough to write something readable.

For you as a writer, I don’t know what habits you have. But a common one often touted is that a writer must write everyday. Well, I found something interesting in the form of a Facebook comment which I’ll paraphrase: You don’t have to write everyday. I don’t know about you, but I find that my life as it is does not give me room to write as much as I want to. Besides, I procrastinate a lot which is quite shameful, but let’s give God the glory. Anyway, the comment continues: The idea that one can write for hours a day does not apply if you’re not a rich American novelist with a wife making your sandwiches. Thinking about your work is writing time. Reading is writing time.

I hope this comforts you. At least for a while.

I said at the beginning that I used to have writing habits. I’ll tell you about them now.

writing
  1. Journaling: You know, keeping a diary and writing in it things that I found interesting. Or scenes from life and other things.
  2. Recording people: I used to own a small book with a brown leather cover. In it, I would write sentences I thought interesting, either something I thought up or one I encountered in a book. I would observe people too: how they spoke, what they wore, their carriage, their mannerisms, etc and record these things. For example, the sister in my church who punctuated her sentences with ‘like’ (I’m like no need because, like, children anniversary will soon come and you know, like, the children they em, like); the woman whose earrings were shaped like semicolons; the man who, when he spoke, always had a reason to run a hand across his head. I recorded bits of conversation too. Like that time when an announcement came up on the radio from a man who said he needed a God-fearing wife and my uncle said, “Person wey no fear God dey find God-fearing wife.” And sometimes, I recorded my environment too. The colour of the sky, the shape of a particular tree, the sound a particular thing made. If carried into the world of fiction, these things make your work true to life, honest. Here’s something from Teju Cole: It might be hard to believe that these things are interesting, but that is what your writing talent consists of: to make the ordinary interesting. In a field of unexceptional events, zoom in on the pungent detail.  
  3. Reading: There is no shortcut around this thing. You cannot be a writer without first being a reader. Read fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc. Read good books and bad books, because only then can you decide what you like and the things you don’t. And please, read interviews too. Interviews are very important, and I honestly find it sad that I don’t read enough of them. In interviews, one is exposed to the author: their opinion about certain things, but more importantly, the principles that guide them and their craft.

Many years ago, I was at JazzHole with M when this man came in. The details are foggy now, but when this man found out about our love for writing, he went out of his way to suggest things for us to make a habit of. I remember he said to read at least one short story per day, at least an article from a reputable magazine, an interview, and to write down things that we’d learned.

I will stop this letter here.

Do you have any writing habits? Do share them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Olakunle Ologunro is a Nigerian writer. His work has been published in Brittle Paper, Agbowo, the Queer Africa anthology, and the Gerald Kraak anthology for work that provokes thought on the topics of gender, social justice and sexuality. He is an alumnus of the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop and a finalist for the 2020 Adina Talve-Goodman Fellowship from One Story Magazine. He won the inaugural Kreative Diadem Prize for short fiction.

Photo Credit:  Oladimeji Ajegbile from Pexels

Pin It on Pinterest