“Read a lot and be patient with your art” – Interview with Anthony Okpunor

“Read a lot and be patient with your art” – Interview with Anthony Okpunor

Anthony Okpunor

TABLE TALK

“Read a lot and be patient” – Interview with Anthony Okpunor

As we anticipate the fourth edition of our Annual Creative Writing Contest, we recently interviewed the winner of the third edition in the poetry category, Anthony Okpunor.

Anthony hails from the Southern part of Nigeria. In this interview, he discusses his passion for writing; including his early days as a writer as well as some of the challenges and inspirations behind his art.

Ready? Let’s go!

Kreative Diadem: Who is Anthony Okpunor? Tell us briefly about yourself.

Anthony: Anthony is a mix of quiet and trouble. Fun, with a flair for solitude. Also a good listener & conversationalist. These provide the space for me to be an artist. I write poetry as an aesthetic. I love music a lot, a whole lot that I find myself singing almost all the time. There is then this attraction to people, not just my own space. I enjoy the company of (the right) people, gathered anywhere having long laughs at the silliest of things, toasting to friendship. This hybrid longing makes me omniverted. Before all these I’m a Nigerian male, dark skinned, from an Ibo speaking tribe in the South. I’m also a Christian. I love God.

Anthony Okpunor

Anthony Okpunor

Winner of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Content (Poetry Category)

KD: When did you first discover your passion for writing and what inspired you?

Anthony: I’ll have to take you back to my secondary school days to give you an answer.

There was this tradition at the time where English teachers gave students compulsory essays with a title to write on. The tradition was in the title: “A Day I Will Never Forget”. I do not know if they still do it.

I remember I wrote a fiction. At the time I did not know it was called that. I did not mind, so long as the ideas kept pouring out of my head, I was happy. I remember I wrote about a robbery, what made me think of something like that; I will never know.

At the dawn of the following term when our exam papers were handed back to us, I turned out to have scored highest in that section. I still see the smile on my teacher’s face sometimes. I remember she made the entire class know I wrote the best story.

I got home and showed it to my sister who read it and said she loved the story. Ever since, I’ve grown one or two writing limbs.

KD: What are some of the challenges you face as a writer and what steps do you take to overcome them?

Anthony: I believe writers in Africa (Nigeria especially) have a challenge of getting access to good & contemporary books. In my country where there are not many libraries, & the ones available carry the weight of old thoughts, this is a huge challenge. There is hardly a place here where contemporary works are displayed for writers to have access to them. This is why literary festivals are such miracles.

Then there is the struggle to be “seen”. It is sad that writers are not really “writers” except they have been published in a foreign journal or have won a major awardwhich has to be foreign, else you were just lucky. Who made foreignness a test of true art? There’s no one to point a finger at anyway, because before now there was no platform to celebrate the younger generation of writers. But now there are literary bodies here and there, big and not-big. The Nigerian Students Poetry Prize at the moment is the highest platform for emerging writers that are undergraduates, and it is such a beauty because it gives every student a chance to express their art, & winners get recognition from home and abroad. Before now it wasn’t so.

I get my books online, some of which I have to pay for. Others I get from friends and colleagues. Being a writer anywhere is not easy, but I think here in Nigeria the volume is turned up a lot more. The good thing is, none of these hindrances have stopped us from telling the world we exist.

KD: What are some literary figures that inspire you and your work?

Anthony: I think Ilya Kaminsky inspires me a lot. I don’t know if it’s because I have read his jaw-dropping Deaf Republic countless times. I appreciate the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie too. I like her stories and the voice behind them. There is Chinua Achebe, who I believe to be the father of African literature. In that light, I still go back to the works of Wole Soyinka from time to time. Chris Abani. Kwame Dawes.

Coming down to a younger generation, there are a lot of them that have really dressed the Nigerian literary bed. They are poets like Saddiq Dzukogi, Romeo Oriogun, David Ishaya Osu, Okwudili Nebeolisa, Kechi Nomu, Chisom Okafor, JK Anowe, Theresa Lola, Logan February, Kolade Olanrewanju Freedom, Kukogho Iruesiri  Samson, Jide Badmus, Gbenga Adesina, Rasaq Malik, Gbenga Adeoba. They are beautiful poets like Michael Akuchie, Adedayo Agarau, O-Jeremiah Agbaakin, Ogwiji Ehi, Hussain Ahmed, Nome Patrick, Ernest Ogunyemi, Chukwuemeka Akachi (RIP),  Wale Ayinla, Hauwa Shafii Nuhu, Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto, Taiye Ojo, Ugochukwu Damian, Pamilerin Jacob. Some poet like Anthony Okpunor.

I also enjoy reading Safia Elhillo. I love how she uses language and metaphor to navigate identity. Also Aja Monet, Warsan Shire, Ladan Osman. There are many not mentioned here I would have loved to talk about. In general good art inspires me, not just poetry; songs too. Movies. Paintings. Drawings. Anything that has rhythm to it. And oh, I enjoy reading Shakespeare big time!

“It is sad that writers are not really “writers” except they have been published in a foreign journal or won a major award— which has to be foreign, else you were just lucky. Who made foreignness a test of true art?”

Anthony Okpunor

Anthony Okpunor

Winner of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Content (Poetry Category)

KD: Last year, you won first prize in the flash fiction category of Kreative Diadem’s annual writing contest. What was your reaction like?

Anthony: The funny thing is I didn’t get to see it till an hour or two after the winners were announced. When I got the email, at first I wasn’t all jumpy. I wanted to be certain I knew what I was reading. It wasn’t until I began receiving accolades from friends that it started to dawn on me that I had won. It was a joy.

There is a kind of noise that comes with winning, that day that noise was all I could hear. And it’s great because before then I was seriously getting kicked by rejections. (I still get slapped around with rejections a whole lot). So there was no way of assuring success, but I won regardless. It came with both grace and light.

KD: What was the inspiration and meaning behind your winning poem: ODE TO OUR BODY ON FIRE?

Anthony: The poem on its own has no origin. It is a sequel to another poem I wrote in 2017, “When We Started Taking Notes”. I had told a friend that if she would take out time to write something, even if it wasn’t a poem, that I would write her a poem. A love poem somewhat about survival, for at the time I was reading Romeo Oriogun a lot. So my poems started to look like his. I believed I was scammed because she didn’t write anything that day, but I wrote mine. It’s sounding funny in my head. Anyway I posted the poem on Facebook before sending it out to African Writers.

That was where it all started from. So when I was to write for the competition, I went back to my old poems to find inspiration. As fate would have it, that poem was the first poem I read. I thought of creating another like it, and I did.

The winning poem carries the same thoughts with its antecedent; survival. The struggle to be anything at all. Not only the struggle to love, although it looks as if the poem takes just that one shape.

Now I write about love. But not the juvenility that parades the internet, I aim to heal. I believe there are many things that make up this ocean so I write about them too: things like grief, acceptance, peace, death, laughter, silence, thirst, lust, kindness, sacrifice, long-suffering, betrayal. There is no love without loss, so I write both black and white.

KD: Do you have any other published works aside from ODE TO OUR BODY ON FIRE, as well as any other achievements you’d like to share?

Anthony: I have works published on African Writers mostly. I’d be glad if readers took out time to read them. I have also had works on Rattle, the McNeese Review, Praxis Magazine. As for the achievements, I’m still working on those.

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

Anthony: My long-term goals are really long. I prefer not to say for now.

KD: Any forthcoming works or publications?

Anthony: Yes. I have works forthcoming on Palette Poetry, and Frontier.

KD: What advice would you give to young writers like yourself, especially in Nigeria?

Anthony: Read a lot, and be patient with your art. In time it will be kind to you. Rejection is a crucial part of the journey so do not take any comment on your work personal. Every comment is an opinion. Have yours (an informed opinion), and grow.

Then write. Tell your story. Tell your truth the way only you can. The prize is not what is gained when you win, remember. When you don’t win tell yourself nothing was promised.

Any final words for Kreative Diadem and its readers?

Yes: thank you.

Our second issue ever (published in 2019) Rebel is out. We had enthralling conversations with Frances Ogamba, Caleb Okereke, and Logan February. It is a bouquet of the best thought-provoking pieces you will find out there.

Do you love our published works?

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

“Find your voice and your style” – Interview with Nneoma Mbalewe

“Find your voice and your style” – Interview with Nneoma Mbalewe

TABLE TALK

“Find your voice and your style” – Interview with Nneoma Mbalewe

As we anticipate the fourth edition of Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest, we had a chat with Nneoma Mbalewe who won the flash fiction category of the third edition.

Nneoma is an award-winning writer who was shortlisted for the Creative Freelance Writerz (CFW) prize last June. She currently studies Law at the prestigious University of Ilorin, Nigeria. Nneoma discusses the inspiration behind her winning entry “Ayomide” and also shares some tips for young writers.

Enjoy the read!

Kreative Diadem: Who is Nneoma Mbalewe? Tell us briefly about yourself.

Nneoma: I’m an avid reader and zealous writer. Besides that, I’m a law student at the University of Ilorin.

Nneoma Mbalewe

Winner of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Content (Flash Fiction Category)

KD: When did you first discover your passion for storytelling and what inspired you?

Nneoma: I would say in primary school. I was a ferocious reader (still am) and with such reading, grew my desire to tell stories.

KD: What are some of the challenges you face as a writer and what steps do you take to overcome them?

Nneoma: I would say timidity and lack of confidence in myself. I read some stories/novels and they’re so good that I begin to question myself. Is writing for me? It pushes me to want to better my work and spend time trying to be a perfectionist instead of actually sitting down to write.

KD: Who are some literary figures that inspire you and your work?

Nneoma: I have a lot, actually. Internationally, I read a lot of James Patterson, Sidney Sheldon and Karen Rose. I also look up to Elnathan John, Chidera Okolie, to name a few. But I don’t limit myself and my favorite figures change very often.

“Find your voice and your style. Just because someone writes the way you like does not mean that style is for you.”

Nneoma Mbalewe

Winner of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Content (Flash Fiction Category)

KD: Last year, you won first prize in the flash fiction category of Kreative Diadem’s annual writing contest. What was your reaction like?

Nneoma: I was surprised, honestly. I hadn’t wanted to submit Ayomide because I felt it wasn’t ready but the deadline was approaching and I really wanted to submit something. Winning made me elated.

KD: What was the inspiration and meaning behind Ayomide?

 Nneoma: Ayomide was birthed by the question,” How do we prove our worth if we do not even get an opportunity?” If Ayomide was born elsewhere, at his age, he probably would have gotten a college degree being a prodigy. Besides that, no one else has noticed his genius, except his teacher. A lot of people we meet are talented yet have no way of letting the world know. That’s the story I wanted to tell.

KD: Do you have any other published works aside from Ayomide, as well as any other achievements you’d like to share?

Nneoma: I have very few published works. I was shortlisted for CFWriterz June 2019 prize and one of my stories was published in their magazine. Apart from flash fiction, I have won two essay competitions.

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

Nneoma: I still see myself writing years and decades from now. It’s something I really love and I can’t let it go just like that.

KD: Any forthcoming works or publications?

Nneoma: I have a few incomplete works that I would like to flesh up soon.

KD: What advice would you give to young writers like yourself, especially in Nigeria?

Nneoma: I’d say, find your voice and your style. Just because someone writes the way you like does not mean that style is for you.

Any final words for Kreative Diadem and its readers?

Nneoma: To Kreative Diadem, thank you very much for this opportunity. You guys are awesome. To the readers, don’t you ever dare quit reading.

Our second issue ever (published in 2019) Rebel is out. We had enthralling conversations with Frances Ogamba, Caleb Okereke, and Logan February. It is a bouquet of the best thought-provoking pieces you will find out there.

Do you love our published works?

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

“Read, read, ask good and silly questions” – Interview with Onyedikachi Chinedu

“Read, read, ask good and silly questions” – Interview with Onyedikachi Chinedu

TABLE TALK

” Read, read, ask good and silly questions ” – Interview with Onyedikachi Chinedu

This year marks the third edition of Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest and we are super pumped to have a one-on-one chat with the winner of the second edition in the poetry category, Onyedikachi Chinedu.
Onyedikachi is a queerish poet that writes from Port Harcourt in Nigeria.
In this engaging interview, Onyedikachi opens up on his passion for poetry, his reaction to winning the 2019 Kreative Diadem contest with his iconic poem, “My Father Hew out Himself on my Skin,” and his struggle with ignorance.
Enjoy.
Kreative Diadem: Who is CJ Onyedikachi? Let’s meet you! 
 
Onyedikachi: He is a young, queerish poet. He loves Ocean Vuong.

 

KD: When did you first discover your passion for poetry? What inspired you?
Onyedikachi: Three years ago. I first had my passion for poetry during my high school days (it wasn’t intense and quick), but I think it started, again, after Romeo Oriogun won the Brunel International Poetry Prize. Yes. They were more amazing poets doing amazing things with poetry. His just stuck to me. He made me a poet: his authenticity launched a great liking for poetry. Everything inspires me: a line from a poem does it for me. Likewise, an adult yawning. Everything inspires me.

Onyedikachi Chinedu

Winner of the 2018 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Content (Poetry Category)

KD: What are some of the challenges you face as a poet/writer? What steps do you take to overcome them?

Onyedikachi: One of the challenges is ignorance. The only way I deal with it is by reading and trying out what I see in books. 

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

Onyedikachi: I live for Ocean Vuong. The literary figures I look up to, past and present, are TS Elliott, Mahmoud Darwish, Louise Glück, Ocean Vuong, Illa Kaminsky, Yusef Komunyakaa, Justin Phillip Reed, etcetera.

Currently … I’m just reading and writing. But you-all should watch out for me.

KD: In 2018, you won first prize in the poetry category of Kreative Diadem’s annual writing contest. How did you feel about winning?

Onyedikachi: I’m still grateful for being the winner of the second edition of the KDAWC. I was gay throughout the Yuletide season. It lasted well and I’m thankful it did.

KD:  Let’s get down to your flash fiction. What was the inspiration behind “My Father Hew Out Himself on my Skin?” Was there a specific message you intended to pass along to your readers?

Onyedikachi: The inspiration behind “My Father Hew out Himself on My Skin” was fed by my father’s non-stop talk of expectation. It is a good thing for loved ones to expect so much from whom they care for, but there should be a moment, once in a while,  where they stop and say: “we know you’re trying enough and we want to say ‘we love you.'” Lol! There was no specific message. It was just me writing how I felt after listening to my dad’s rhapsody for the umpteenth time.

KD: Apart from winning first prize in the poetry contest in 2018, what are some of your other achievements? (Awards, nominations, published works, etc?)

Onyedikachi: So far, I have no great achievements. But I have a growing number of rejection in my inbox, if you decide to count that as an achievement.

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

Onyedikachi: Go to school. Write a book or two. Have a chapbook. Be in an MFA program. Get publish more. 

KD: Are you currently working on any poems/books now?

Onyedikachi: Currently… I’m just reading and writing. But you-all should watch out for me.

KD: What advice would you give to young writers like yourself, especially in Nigeria?

Onyedikachi: The most useful piece of advice I will earnestly and truthfully give to young writers, like me, are: read, read, ask good and silly questions, read, write, read, submit; do not dare settle for mediocrity; there’s always a sunflower at the end, sooner or later.

KD: What do you think about Kreative Diadem?

Onyedikachi: KD is a nice haven for writers, poets, and readers.

KD: Any final words?

Onyedikachi: Do you think of starting a workshop for poets and writers, KD? We seriously need a space where we are mentored by great poets. Thank you.

Our second issue ever (published in 2019) Rebel is out. We had enthralling conversations with Frances Ogamba, Caleb Okereke, and Logan February. It is a bouquet of the best thought-provoking pieces you will find out there.

Do you love our published works?

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

Kreative Diadem

The right to think is the right to write

© 2015 - 2020 Kreative Diadem. Copyright. All Rights Reserved.

FOLLOW US

“Every good work inspires me” – Interview with Chizoma Emeka Joshua

“Every good work inspires me” – Interview with Chizoma Emeka Joshua

TABLE TALK

“Every good work inspires me” – Interview with Chizoma Emeka Joshua

This year marks the third edition of Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest and we are super pumped to have a one-on-one chat with the winner of the second edition in the flash fiction category, Chizoma Emeka Joshua.
In 2019, Chizoma was longlisted for the Syncity Anniversary Award, shortlisted for the Zi Prize and finished as the third runner-up in the Sevhage Literary Awards in the short story category. 
In this enthralling interview, Chizoma opens up on his love for storytelling, his reaction to winning the Kreative Diadem contest last year with his epic story, “The House Called Joy”, and his struggle with procrastination.
Enjoy.

Kreative Diadem: Who is Chizoma Emeka Joshua? Let’s meet you!

Chizoma: Hello, I am a fourth-year Law student at the University of Nigeria. I love reading and writing short stories. I am a believer.

Chizoma Emeka Joshua

Winner of the 2018 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Content (Flash Fiction Category)

KD: When did you first discover your passion for storytelling/writing? What inspired you?

Chizoma: I’m not sure there was an ‘it’ moment when I discovered I loved writing. It was just a necessary fallout (as I think it should be) of my love for reading. As long I can remember I have always loved to read. And I did read a lot growing up because that was my favorite past time. Reading helped me develop a vivid imagination and generated the longing to create something as beautiful as what I read. The desire to contribute to the body of work that currently exists in the world spurred the desire to write. I did actually finish my first short story in 2015.
 

KD: What are some of the challenges you face as a writer? What steps do you take to overcome them?

Chizoma: Procrastination. I put off writing so much sometimes that I lag behind eventually. Sometimes I have two or three stories on my laptop unfinished. There is also the problem of the lack of time. I am a student and with the amount of school work I have, I often do not have the time to devote to writing. It often happens that the times when I manage to overcome procrastination or have some free time I cannot write because the inspiration would be absent.
As a remedy, I try to schedule writing into my plans. I make conscious efforts to see that I write periodically, as often as I can. I sometimes set targets for myself. And of course, competitions also help because they give me a deadline to work towards. Sadly, it is often not enough.

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

Chizoma: I’d like to borrow loosely from what Ologunro said last year to the effect that I am a big fan of any splendidly written work as opposed to being a fan of specific writers. In that sense, I guess my respect goes to the work first, and only spills over to the writer. Every good work inspires me, and there are a lot of them out there. 

” To be less hard on themselves. To savor writing first for the sake of writing despite the awards and competitions because it is the only way to survive in this highly competitive sphere. To make friends with their peers first, and then seek mentors. “

Chizoma Emeka Joshua

Winner of the 2018 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Content (Flash Fiction Category)

KD: In 2018, you won first prize in the flash fiction category of Kreative Diadem’s annual writing contest. How did you feel about winning?

Chizoma: Consumed.
It did not seem real for a long time because it all happened so fast. There wasn’t a long list and the space between the shortlist and the announcement wasn’t very long so I didn’t even have the time to process the shortlisting before I got to know I won. Afterward, I felt a mixture of elation and immense pride. It was one of the highlights of my 2018.

KD: Let’s get down to your flash fiction. What was the inspiration behind The House Called Joy? Was there a specific message you intended to pass along to your readers?

Chizoma: I seldom write with the intention of passing any specific message. I just put the stories out there as they come. I grew up in Aba and I always heard of girls who fell pregnant and disappeared and then appeared months later without any babies. It was always hush hush of course. “The House Called Joy” is based on one such story. I remember that the first line to the story kept ringing in my head for weeks and I knew I had to write that story down. Most parts are fiction, but the others are true too.

KD: Apart from winning first prize in the flash fiction contest in 2018, what are some of your other achievements? (Awards, nominations, published works, etc?)

Chizoma: This year I’ve been published on Afreada. I was longlisted for the Syncity Anniversary award and shortlisted for the Zi prize. I also finished third runner up for the Sevhage Literary awards in the short story category.

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

Chizoma: I can’t see beyond the immediate future right now regarding my writing. And I guess that is sad, but that is a sadness I can live with, that I have chosen to live with. I do know I will be writing, definitely. This is because of how intimately writing is tied to my person but I doubt if I will ever go beyond that say like publish a book or a collection of short stories. I do have intentions of going into the professional world and I do know that writing (deserves) requires all the time you have. I do think it is possible to combine them both and be excellent at them, however, that is a burden I’m not sure I am willing to take. Of course, I will always be with my first love, reading.

KD: Are you currently working on any books now?

Chizoma: No, unfortunately 

KD: What advice would you give to young writers like yourself, especially in Nigeria?

Chizoma: To be less hard on themselves. To savor writing first for the sake of writing despite the awards and competitions because it is the only way to survive in this highly competitive sphere. To make friends with their peers first, and then seek mentors. To always measure their accomplishments commensurate to how much they know, how much they have experienced and the knowledge available to them. Chances are that if you are diligent then you are right where you are supposed to be. It may not feel like it but that is the truth.

KD: What do you think about Kreative Diadem?

Chizoma: I think you guys are doing a great job. The consistency is also heartwarming. This is one of the (few) spaces that provide incentives for young people to keep on writing.

KD: Any final words?

Chizoma: I’d like to say a very big thank you to Kreative Diadem. For being patient through this entire process and for having me. Cheers to greater strides!

Our second issue ever (published in 2019) Rebel is out. We had enthralling conversations with Frances Ogamba, Caleb Okereke, and Logan February. It is a bouquet of the best thought-provoking pieces you will find out there.

Do you love our published works?

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

Kreative Diadem

The right to think is the right to write

© 2015 - 2020 Kreative Diadem. Copyright. All Rights Reserved.

FOLLOW US

“Sweat and Patience Always Constitute the Writer’s Best Weapons” – Interview with Brigitte Poirson

“Sweat and Patience Always Constitute the Writer’s Best Weapons” – Interview with Brigitte Poirson

TABLE TALK

“Sweat and Patience Always Constitute the Writer’s Best Weapons” – Interview with Brigitte Poirson

Brigitte Poirson is a multiple award-winning poet, a former teacher, university lecturer and editor that inspires the literary world out of France. She has authored seven books ranging from poetry to theatre and fiction, both in English and French languages. She has contributed to several magazines and anthologies. 
 
Poirson is popular in literary circles as a staunch promoter of African literature and offers her selfless support in grooming the next generation of writers and poets by creating spaces for them at the pinnacle of excellence. WordsRhymes&Rhythm, one of Nigeria’s largest poetry platforms organizes an eponymous monthly poetry contest in honour of Brigitte Poirson. She is an editor for Expound Magazine and the WRR – Caprecon Green Author Prize. 
 
In this inspiring conversation with Poirson, she sheds light on her writing process, her love for poetry and the sacred list of her literary mentors. 
 
Enjoy! 

 

KD: Tell us a bit about your early days. Did you encounter any challenges at the beginning of your career?
 
Poirson: Thank you for offering me the honour to answer your questions. A few days ago, when interviewed about his career, a film maker answered that your next film is always the first. In that sense indeed, each book you produce proves a new challenge too. Each book is always the start of a new beginning, just as every child you give birth to is singular and launches a new adventure. Every time, the process has to be reinitiated, especially with poetry. The challenges of testing a new, specific theme, treating it under a new angle and possibly reaching another kind of readership are constant. I believe writers must be prepared to stand up to the many tests of steering their books to creation, distribution and promotion for all their lives…
 
That is why we, in France, create various associations of writers – authors from the same publishing house or from others – and organise literary “salons” together. We contact mayors liable to be interested in arranging a meeting in their townhalls and inviting people to browse about and get hand-written dedications if they buy the books. I am a member of such a group called “Les Plumes Comtoises”. We have a president and a banner, but mostly we are birds of a quill and real friends. The Paris book “salon”, for instance, is a well-known and crowded event where you can meet new and famous authors. Meeting your readership proves a fruitful experience on both sides of the book.
In any case, sweat and patience always constitute the writer’s best weapons.

Brigitte Poirson

Multiple award-winning poet and writer.

KD: You seem to be very interested and involved in African (particularly Nigerian) poetry. Where does this interest stem from?

 
Poirson: Actually, I was born to Africa practically from birth. Customs, languages, landscapes, issues, tales and first-hand stories were waved at me from family living in Benin. There has always been an African me completing my European self. I later visited some African countries, in particular, South Africa. These were emotional encounters. In 2014, it so happened I came into contact with Samson Iruesiri Kukogho, a contributor to a poetry anthology, via Grapevine, that I compiled and published in Bloemfontein. Ensued a long-lasting friendship that enabled me to better discover the scope of the Nigerian poetic genius. That was when we decided to create an online college of Poetry, then a contest to encourage young poets and reward them.

KD: Are there any literary figures/poets that inspire you?

Poirson: Who has inspired and keeps inspiring me? Every ‘person of the word’, if you allow me that expression. All writers have a specific outlook on life and /or a whole universe to share. They do it more or less artistically and deftly, but what high-brow critics sometimes label pedestrian poetry, just as much as what some revere as crazily innovative lines, only manifest each creator’s vision of poetry. Despising people is not my trade. Promoting them is my concern.
 
Obviously, famous poets and novelists have steered me along my journey into literature. I have admired and studied mentors such as Victor Hugo, Louis Aragon, Shakespeare, Wordsworth or Auden, and so many more!  African literature has always attracted me for its imagination and wisdom. I read African stories from my early childhood, so later on Mandela, Achebe and a range of others have taught me to follow the difficult tracks of African challenges and the spirit behind its brilliance. Lots of novelists have inspired me, but of all of them, the one whose way to absorb human experiences and translate them into words has best spurred me into action remains Virginia Wolf. In this world more dedicated to science-fiction, suspense and violent actions, the stream of consciousness has lost some of its lustre, but not so to me.
 
Ultimately, the deep interest of meeting all these writers lies in the delectation of ingesting their creations, and by so doing, in learning to develop one’s own style under their protective eyes.

KD: What do you think about the state of poetry in Nigeria and Africa as a whole? Are there enough opportunities and recognition for aspiring poets in Nigeria/Africa?

Poirson: With the development of social networks in recent years, we have all become aware that the possibilities of reading, writing, and publishing books have increased exponentially. In that sense, Zuckerworld offers authors new opportunities to leverage their chances to be acknowledged and get a sense of belonging. The dreadful problem of location and isolation thus seems solved. This accounts for the innumerable blogs and sites devoted to literature. The oral traditions of spinning tales and poetic stories in Africa have also found a channel to expand the realm of the word. Nigeria and Africa, in general, are blooming into creativity, to my experience. But in the new, connected world, many aspiring streams may get lost and suffer from drought along their rush to the sea. Traditional publishers, more than ever, remain reluctant to invest in new talents. It is imperative to offer more opportunities for the poets and prose writers to shine. That is why I offer my services to WordsRhymes&Rhythm Publishers today and sponsor my eponymous contest with them, and many others too, plus editing. Naturally, initiatives such as Kreative Diadem must be encouraged.  Talents do not necessarily need to be acknowledged in the UK or elsewhere. Recognition at home is worth any other award…                                                    

 

“In consistence with what I mentioned before, allow me to state that we reinvent ourselves with every word we write.” – Brigitte Poirson 

Brigitte Poirson (center) 

In a recent gathering of a literary salon, Les Plumes Comtoises, held in France

KD: What is your writing routine like? Do your poems have a unifying theme or do you write based on matters of the moment?

Poirson: I have no specific writing routine. I write…when I find the time for it. I used to sit and scribble pages all day long when I was able to because a lot of concentration and documentation is needed to create collections of poems and novels.
But I am more involved in counseling, editing, scoring and rewarding a younger generation these days.
 
When I do compose pieces, I try to unite originality and depth, freedom of inspiration and respect for the language. The spirit of a poem or a longer form of literature is what matters most to me, coupled with a clear style.

 

KD: You host or promote many different poetry contests for Nigerian/African poets regularly. What is the overall vision with that?

Poirson: Hundreds of budding authors have been chatting me in the wake of the contests (and originally from posting my poems). As I have already hinted at, there comes a time when legacy becomes an obvious priority. And lending a friendly shoulder to young talents falls into line with my commitment to the various teaching activities I have been involved in. Lots of deserving, but isolated people feel lost when confronted with the harsh realities a writer must face in his activities. And they need counseling and editing. And encouragements. And recognition. They also need to test their capacities in a welcoming environment. Hence the contests. Mostly the BPPC, aimed at lifting their spirits.

 

KD: Any forthcoming books at this time?

Poirson: I have a forthcoming novel in store. It has been longing to be published for ages. It just needs a bit of editing after all this time. I just hope to be able to find a few moments to do it! I have a publisher for it. So, I look forward to adding that nice gloss it is lacking today. It is a French novel, by the way. I also have a few English short stories waiting to be published.

KD: Any advice for aspiring poets in Nigeria?

Poirson: Aspiring poets know they must strive to find their own style. They know they are expected to stand out among the writing crowd, if they are to be noticed. But it is my belief that finding one’s style cannot be a forced process. It must come from reading others and sweating over one’s own work, and naturally from delving into one’s deepest experience. Aspiring authors, during this quest to the Graal, sometimes tend to align big, learned words. Fine. But accuracy in the choice of words and economy of words and simplicity also work very well when your point is forceful. They also tend to have recourse to tricks supposed to be inventive, like making endless sentences in which they and we may get lost, deleting punctuation, which may be very misleading for the reader, or creating jarring images, all in the name of poetic licence. Poetic licence cannot be invoked to justify [your work if] you don’t master the language. It is my conviction that authors must know where they lead their readers, even in poetry. Letting the readers find a meaning to your texts sounds to me like a justification for not really knowing what you mean. Forgetting to systematically self-edit texts is also a common weakness. But these are only beginners’ issues. Most of the poets I happen to read master the language with incredible creativity and pleasant inventiveness.

KD: What do you think about Kreative Diadem?

Poirson: Online platforms like Kreative Diadem, that create communities of poets, are obviously initiatives to be admired, encouraged and celebrated. The aim consisting in providing an audience with opportunities to share their creations and be published…and read! must be lauded indeed. “To inform, educate, entertain and inspire” young minds through literature is what fights ignorance and violence best in this crazy world. Just never stop!!!!

 

KD: Any Final words?

Poirson: In consistence with what I mentioned before, allow me to state that we reinvent ourselves with every word we write. We keep experimenting literature and the world inside and outside ourselves, and the next word is always the first. So, I’ll let you mull over this line that concluded a French poem I wrote years ago as an epitaph and which could translate into this:
      “My very last word was: it is only my first.”                                                                               
Keep shining, and thanks for the opportunity!           

 

Our second issue ever (published in 2019) Rebel is out. We had enthralling conversations with Frances Ogamba, Caleb Okereke, and Logan February. It is a bouquet of the best thought-provoking pieces you will find out there.

Do you love our published works?

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

Kreative Diadem

The right to think is the right to write

© 2015 - 2020 Kreative Diadem. Copyright. All Rights Reserved.

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“Writing is my calling” – Interview with Su’eddie Vershima

“Writing is my calling” – Interview with Su’eddie Vershima

TABLE TALK

“Writing is my calling” – Interview with Su’eddie Vershima

Su’eddie Vershima is an African poet, development worker, and president of African Writers at the University of Sussex, where he currently pursues an MA in International Education and Development as a Chevening Scholar. Vershima is the author of Home Equals Holes: Tale of an Exile, The Bottom of Another Tale, and Bring our Casket Home: Tales one shouldn’t tell.


He was Joint Winner—Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Prize for Poetry 2014, Winner, Mandela Day Short Story Prize 2016, listed on The Nigerian Writers Award 100 Most Influential Nigerian Writers Under 40 (2017 & 2018), among other notable achievements.
In this insightful conversation with Kreative Diadem, Vershima talked about his early days in writing, what inspires his writings and his forthcoming works amongst many other things. Enjoy.

 

KD: Let’s meet you, can you tell us about yourself?
 
Vershima: I am a husband and father, friend and writer. I am also a development worker, emerging education expert, and a believer in the human project. I am a Chevening scholar, currently studying for an MA in International Education and Development at the University of Sussex where I am also the President of African Writers.

Su’eddie Vershima

Chevening Scholar & President of African Writers at the University of Sussex

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

 
Vershima: I am not sure I am a professional writer because the sense of professional writing, particularly as seen in the West is different from what we have in Nigeria. In our country, we are just passionate people who let the ink of our thoughts keep flowing in diverse ways. It is something we find ourselves doing, those of us who do it, and try to keep getting better each day. Having said that, I will just note that I was fortunate to be born into a creative family. I grew up with my elder brothers, Gabriel Agema, Taver, and Sever Ayede, doing magic with comics and making toy men. My sister, Theodora used to draw Captain Love too and tell her tales. These annoying siblings of mine would not end any comic so I eventually decided to do mine. So, in a way, I owe my writing foundations to these ones and to my mother, who bought me a lot of the Heinemann books. My dad told me stories he had read or heard.
So, I was creating consciously and writing various forms of stuff.  My younger siblings, Ngohide and Terhide inspired me to keep on, even as my other brother Ver was a motivation. In secondary school, I would draw comics with my friend, Tardoo Ayua, who drew far cooler stuff. There was also Obinna Okeke, who wouldn’t do as much. He was good too, but not as cool as us. (Laughs). I would write stories too and show my teacher, Mr. Emmanuel Mbatsavde. My creative process took a turn when I got into the university, and was tutored by writers like Dr. Andrew Aba, Dr. Maria Ajima and Professor Moses Tsenongu. I had great support in those early days from my friend, Sam Ogabidu, who encouraged my efforts. He was the ANA Chairman in Benue and I was the financial secretary, administrator and e-officer. I also got support from my colleagues in the university, Andrew Bula and Joshua Agbo, to mention two. But the biggest change to my writing came when I encountered the writings of Professor Hyginus Ekwuazi. He was a revolution to my writing and thinking. He is a remarkable man who remains one of my favourite persons till date. In a roundabout way, that is a summary of most of my writing history. It could be longer but let me not bore you.

KD: How would you describe your writing style?

Vershima: My writing style is evolving. I used to have a lot of my cultural roots in my work. Prof. Ekwuazi used to taunt me and say he understands that it is the typical way of everyone trying to ensure that their corner of the backyard was preserved. In essence, we are all fighting to preserve what we can in a globalising world eating away at all we once were. A world where our diversity is being swallowed as we become homogenous in a global village. My writing, these days, are becoming more conscious of my immediate surroundings. I am describing far more than I used to. I used to believe that my writing should be somewhat like some parts of the New Testament tales, particularly in its description of key characters where you are left to imagine what they looked like. All that is changing and I own it. It is life’s constant, change. Other than that, I can say my writing is deliberate. I think and think hard before I write. A simple poem or tale takes more months and months, some times, years. So, it is a deliberate and often, tiring process. But who knows, even that too might change at some point.

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?

Vershima: My writing process is usually not healthy. I am usually the editor and creator at the same time. And this is not right or helpful many times. We had this workshop in Oxford early this year and Nick Makoha who facilitated kept mentioning that these are two different people. The creator comes into conflict with the editor as they are different. As such, we have to let the creator do his/her work, then let the editor work much later. I wrote on this and put it up on my blog. You can search for it online and share that link. Might be useful for someone somewhere, especially as Makoha says there is no such thing as writer’s block!

 

Writing is a calling for me. Something that is a part of me which I cannot discard. We will do what we can to move on.

Su’eddie Vershima

Chevening Scholar & President of African Writers at the University of Sussex

KD: What are some of the challenges you face as a writer and poet? What steps do you take to overcome them?

Vershima: Life conflicts with writing. You have to earn and you have to be all the other things you are. At the moment, I am also a scholar so I have to face work, studies, life, and family while also trying to do my writing bit. I am also almost always working towards the promotion of writing and writers, which can be distracting itself. We are currently working towards a literary festival in Benue in June 2019. A few months away. That is work and distracting, as you cannot near imagine. The death of Pius Adesanmi on Sunday (March 10, 2019) also reminded me of the part of the writer as a social crusader. Especially in our clime. Having to do that too, is something that will challenge my creative process. But in the end, it is what it is. Writing is a calling for me. Something that is a part of me which I cannot discard. We will do what we can to move on.

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

Vershima: It was awesome. I published my first collection in 2012. I would have published earlier as I had – or thought I had – the right material. My foster father, Mr. Charles Ayede, told me to hold on a bit. He wanted me to get my work through a few critics and things like that. He would also tell me that Literature would not put food on my table. By some strange coincidence, his death gave birth to new poems in his honour. They are what came to be the chunk of Bring our casket home: Tales one shouldn’t tell, my first collection. Hyginus Ekwuazi, who wrote the Foreword to the book, helped me with part of the title and also inspired the poem, ‘Tales one shouldn’t tell.’ The book also helped birth SEVHAGE Publishers. The second book we did was my cousin, Faeren Adzege’s book, A Teen for God. So, in a way, completing and publishing that first book set in motion several things that keep unraveling themselves each day.

KD: In 2016, you won the Mandela Day Short Story Prize. What was the inspiration behind your winning entry?

Vershima: The winning entry was ‘Washing the Earth.’ It was inspired by a sunny afternoon in Makurdi. I can’t remember the details but I know that my head kept spinning. It is one of those stories that tasked my imagination.

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

Vershima: There are a lot of them, if I would be honest. The two top people on that list would my wife, Agatha and Hyginus Ekwuazi. Closely following is my near twin, Servio Gbadamosi. I am inspired by my friends and I am fortunate to have them around me and with me. I am inspired not just by their writings but also the work they are doing in the literary world and other spheres. I can easily mention the writers Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Sam Ogabidu, Debbie Iorliam, Aondosoo Labe, Innocence Silas, Otene Ogwuche, Daisy Odey, Kukogho Iruesiri Samson, Dike Chukwumerije, Romeo Oriogun, and Dike Chukwumerije.

It might be weird or ironical but there are also some people who keep me on my toes and inspire me greatly. The names that would easily pop up here include my sister, Jennifer Aduro, Oko Owi Ocho (Afrika), Deborah Oluniran, and Torkwase Igbana. These people are lights that really help me on many dark days. Following would be Justin Ebuka Muodebelu and Nana Hauwa Sule, who I believe in so much. There are other names I can call but let’s keep it short for now.

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

Vershima: I am inspired by several things. Life. Events. Some times, even dreams. Other times, the inspiration just comes from within. I guess I should say, Aondo – God – does His magic, right?

 

KD: What are some of your long term goals as a writer?
Vershima: Well, it is to give myself out as much as possible. I don’t want to go back to Aondo with anything inside. To be able to be relevant to my country and to my generation in every ramification. To rise above ordinary creative fiction and verse to be a voice where words are meant to be spoken. I also hope to create platforms where more voices can be heard, collaborating with as many people as possible to make our land better even as we help those we can to be better.

KD: Are you currently working on any book(s) at the moment?

Vershima: Yes, a children’s book which had a limited publication last year but which would be out by June 2019. The title is Once Upon a Village Tale. I am also working on a short story collection and another poetry collection.

 

KD: Do you think there are enough opportunities for aspiring writers/poets in Nigeria?

Vershima: For aspiring writers and poets, a lot needs to be done. For writers, a lot has been done, a lot is being done and will be done. More opportunities are opening and the landscape is getting more beautiful. Things can only get better.

 

KD: What advice would you give to aspiring writers like yourself, especially in Nigeria?

Vershima: I am not an aspiring writer. I am a writer. To all those who are aspiring, leave your aspirations and get into the business of writing.

 

Our second issue ever (published in 2019) Rebel is out. We had enthralling conversations with Frances Ogamba, Caleb Okereke, and Logan February. It is a bouquet of the best thought-provoking pieces you will find out there.

Do you love our published works?

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

Kreative Diadem

The right to think is the right to write

© 2015 - 2020 Kreative Diadem. Copyright. All Rights Reserved.

FOLLOW US

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