‘Give yourself time to grow and learn’ – Interview with Samuel Ugbechie

This edition of Table Talk is an educative interview with award-winning poet, Samuel Ugbechie, who authored a compendium of poems that won the 2016 Fred Holland Poetry Collection Award.

Asides his artistic side that churns out myriads of amazing poems, he is also a software developer who never hides his love for basketball.

Join this interesting walk and learn from the story of an architect of beautiful literary pieces.

Who’s Samuel Ugbechie?
Samuel is a writer who works as a Software Developer.
Can you please share your childhood memories?
I grew up with computers around me. Then I did a lot of sports growing up. Then I fell in love with writing and started to shake off a couple of activities.
When did you start writing?
 Maybe age 13 or 14. 
What inspires you to write?
The beauty of language. Its shape. Its wide and wild literary possibilities, widened even more, sometimes, by how I feel withinjoy, loss, longing, etc.
Apart from poetry, is there any other genre you write?
Yea; essays and fiction.


Samuel Ugbechie

Photo accessed via Facebook

In the literary circle, who are your mentors /role models and favourite authors?
It’s a long list. Mark Tredinnick, Colum McCann, Virginia Woolf, Cormac McCarthy, Charles Wright, Barry Lopez, Wole Soyinka, Annie Dillard, etc.
What motivated you to start writing poetry, considering that poetry appears to be far apart from your academic pursuit as an engineer?
Love. I think love is a great motivator. I fell in love with language from listening to music as a young teen, particularly rap and country. And what stood out from those songs, I felt then, was how the singers said what they saidit was poetry, metaphors, similes, rhythm, etc. I knew then that I was hearing poetry. So I started trying to write what I was hearing. And I started to search for poems to readthe kind of poetry I felt I was hearing in the music I loved. So good music didn’t just send me to more music, it also sent me to searching for poems that were written on the page.
Many writers have, in the past, made remarks about how winning a prize has made them more conscious of their craft because of the high expectations that follow. Have you felt this way after winning the prestigious Fred Holland Poetry Collection Award?  
Yea, I may know that feeling. You win a prize or get into a long or shortlist and then there’s this hovering thought that you need to live up to some expectations. Well, I immediately dismiss thoughts like that. I do not allow a thought with that kind of content to motivate, inspire or put some form of pressure on me. I want to be driven more from within than without. Love, joy, loss, longing, etc. These things, from my experience, go well with the writing process than imagined peer pressure or anything like it.

Give yourself time to grow and learn, and the time you must give is lifelong. So when you read, then write. Accept all the rejections and acceptances in good faith. And keep going.

It’s a widespread opinion that Nigerian writers are not accorded the full honour they deserve. What’s your take on this?
I am not sure of that. I think Nigerian writing and writers seem to be doing commendably well. And I think the respect and honor are there.
Do you think our publishing industry is doing well in promoting the works of Nigerian writers? 
Yea, I think so. I know a bit of what it takes to run a business in Nigeria. What our publishing industry has achieved so far, considering where we were years ago, is commendable. However, we’re not there yet. It’s a long road. So there is always room for improvement.
What is the most attractive thing about poetry that makes you keep writing?
It’s how it leaves you after you’ve read it. How it rubs off on you. It’s the music and language. It’s the way, as Mark Tredinnick would say, it tells us our secrets while keeping its own. It’s how it says with the finest and fewest words, what many of us yearn to say or would have said if we knew how, if we had the right words. Its universality is beautiful. 
Could you give a description of your writing process or routine?
I love mornings for poetry. But the mornings don’t stay long or never come. Something else often takes them awaya pending software task, or some other pending stuff. So I try to write everyday whenever I’m freeit’s either I’m writing a new poem, completing a poem that wants to linger more before it reveals the other parts of itself, or adding to or editing an ongoing work of prose.

Samuel Ugbechie, winner of 2016 Fred Holland Poetry Collection.

Photograph accessed via Facebook

How has geographic travel played a role in your writing life?
I think life experience in total, of which traveling is part, adds something tangible to one’s writing life. It gives you names of birds, of places, of stones, of trees, the shape of different memories, and within, it gives you the compassion and nostalgia you may need for a writing piece someday.  
How would you describe your own work, your style, and your sensibilities?
I strive to be the student of the many beautiful writers out there. I try to be the product of the many tricks or techniques I find in their works, some of which I find I haven’t forgotten. So I go through different routes in my writing. Talking about subject matter, though, in poetry, I find myself influenced a lot by nature; by family, landscape, love, loss. In fiction, because I approach a part of it differently, my subjects could vary more. 
What is your advice to young writers?
Read on. Reading is a lifelong activity. Invest your time and money in the craft. Don’t just read poems and stories. Read about the craft alsohow the craft is done, how they said it should be done, the said rules and all. Know what techniques they say work and what they say don’t. Then disagree or agree with them, but know what they’re saying first. Give yourself time to grow and learn, and the time you must give is lifelong. So when you read, then write. Accept all the rejections and acceptances in good faith. And keep going.

Do you want a sneak peek into our latest issue?

Let’s send a copy to your mail right away!



Join our reading community

Join our reading community

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter and get free access to our library of poems, short stories and essays. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

It's worth sharing

Share this post with your friends!