“Being a Rebel is About Rejecting Conformity”
– Logan February
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola: What approach do you take to the subject matter of your work? Do you specifically seek to write within a frame of pre-conceived themes or do you, as Ruth Stone puts it, “follow invisible patterns”?
Logan February: I think I’m naturally predisposed to working around themes and archetypes, because I often find myself besotted with ideas. And I don’t know what to do with them—most times I do need to find that invisible thread before any of it makes sense. Otherwise, I’m just talking to myself and not really going anywhere; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be quite good to talk to oneself. But I’ll hardly ever put out those confused works.
“Toni Morrison had this incredible practice of unapologetically centering her own realities in her writing. It’s kind of sad that that should be considered rebellious, but for a Black woman in her own zeitgeist, it was.” – Logan February
KO: You have a primary reputation for your astonishing poetry. But you have also written some non-fiction (I absolutely loved “The Mania of Queer Desire” by the way) and fiction too. Is there a distinct experience in navigating each of these genres?
LF: Thank you very much! That essay was a challenge—took me almost a year to write. It’s naked in a way that I’ve been keeping my poems from getting, lately. I guess poetry will always be home base for me, but I also like to leave my comfort zone from time to time. I’ve been reading a lot of Anne Carson—her writing is quite experimental, spanning across genres, styles and forms—and I love the way that she refers to most of her work as “texts”. I find that gets rid of many unnecessary pressures surrounding genres and their rules. I’d rather stick to the serious business of playing with language and having it play with my thoughts. That’s where the pleasure is.
KO: What’s your take on the definition of a rebel today? And I mean that in terms of social justice and the African literary community?
LF: Being a rebel is about rejecting conformity, isn’t it, when you realize it just doesn’t work for you? People should be free to live on their own terms, obviously. I think rebellion can really help people discover themselves; it did for me. And there’s this argument for conformity that conflates it with the civic currency of morality—I don’t buy that. Society is a disordered institution, regardless. What forced conformity does is create boredom and unhappiness, at least for me.
With regards to the African literary community: I’m not a very collective-minded person, but it’s always refreshing to see all the fierce and rebellious spirits on the scene. I think rebellion thrives in literature and among writers. I have to say, though: I sometimes am appalled by the transphobia within the community. I wouldn’t call it a general thing, but there does seem to be a popular intellectual commitment to missing the point, when it comes to transgender issues. For me, as a young non-binary writer, it was disheartening to see how many Nigerian writers reacted to Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater being shortlisted for the Women’s Prize earlier this year. I thought it was a good time to have useful, illuminating conversations about gender and identity. Instead, some writers chose to make spiteful comments or congratulate every Nigerian on the shortlist except for Emezi. It was a lot of vitriol; I didn’t like to see that. I want to see Africans supporting each other, not tearing each other down. Embracing possibility in radical ways that dissolve margins and normalize diversity.”
KO: Which three people represent the OG rebels for you? Can you tell me why?
LF: Toni Morrison had this incredible practice of unapologetically centering her own realities in her writing. It’s kind of sad that that should be considered rebellious, but for a Black woman in her own zeitgeist, it was. And that rebellion has led so many writers after her to feel permitted to represent themselves in literature.
In music, one of my favorite rebels is The Knife, a duo of Swedish siblings: Karin and Olof Dreijer (Karin also has a solo career as Fever Ray, who I wrote about in “The Mania of Queer Desire”). The Knife are independent electronic artists; their music is always ahead of its time, and they focus on making the process fun, which allows them to always make something new. Their last record was called Shaking the Habitual—an idea I’ve welcomed into my own life.
Lilith is one more rebel that inspires me; she is an OG in a way no one else is. To have been edited out of the Bible, simply for owning her desire, for refusing submission and self-negation—that’s so chaotic and impressive to me. I guess I just love a transgressive woman.
KO: With your career taking off at breakneck speed, where do you see yourself in five years?
LF: Hopefully I’ll have written more books, and still be writing and working with artists in other disciplines. I should have a master’s degree in something I’m interested in, too. Travel more. I’d like to be in a place where I can love and live and breathe without as many anxieties. But five years is a long time, man. I don’t really know. I just always try to do my work and go with the flow.
Source: From the Rebel Issue (October 2019)