“It’s Universal law that whatever you focus on expands” – Interview with Chiwenite Onyekwelu

“It’s Universal law that whatever you focus on expands” – Interview with Chiwenite Onyekwelu

Chiwenite Onyekwelu

TABLE TALK

It’s Universal law that whatever you focus on expands” – Interview with Chiwenite Onyekwelu

In anticipation of the fifth edition of Kreative Diadem’s annual writing contest, we share this interview with Chiwenite Onyekwelu, last year’s poetry winner.

Chiwenite Onyekwelu is a poet. His works have appeared on Rough Cut Press, America Magazine, Cultural Weekly, Isele, etc. He was a finalist of the 2021 New York Encounter Poetry Contest, winner of the 2020 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize, runner up of the Foley Poetry Prize 2020, as well as the winner of both the 2020 Kreative Diadem Annual Writing Contest (Poetry Category) and the Christopher Okigbo Poetry Prize 2019. He studies Pharmacy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University where he also serves as Assistant Editor-in-Chief (Agulu Campus).

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

Chiwenite: I’m a poet, essayist, editor, poetry co-teacher at the Threposs Learn, and undergraduate of Pharmacy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.

Chiwenite Onyekwelu

Chiwenite Onyekwelu

Winner of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Content (Poetry Category)

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

Chiwenite: Discovering my passion for writing can be traced back to when I was small. I remember writing several clumsy stories when I was in primary five. But it was not until my last few months in secondary school, that I began to think that maybe I should actually be more deliberate and take writing a little seriously.

When I wrote my earliest stories as a kid, it wasn’t because I felt I could do it. At that time, I was suffering from anxiety because of my first pedophilia experience. And because I was so scared to verbally narrate what had happened to anyone, writing offered an escape route, however temporary. I began with keeping small notes that I never let anyone else find. Now, when I think about your question, I want to say that it might have been that first pedophilia experience that inspired my writing.

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

Chiwenite: My greatest challenge at the moment is the inadequacy of time. To think that I have a lot I want to write about, yet half the time, I have my head flattened under the weight of Pharmacy and all that comes with studying it. This is not to say that I don’t love what I’m doing here in Pharmacy School. But I’m just boxed up at a spot where one thing I love is struggling so hard to swallow up another thing I also love. To overcome this, however, I have given up most part of my leisure time. When I’m not busy with schoolwork, I’m almost always writing.

Another challenge, I must say, is in the area of improving my writing skill. As an emerging writer, there is still so much to learn. But then, the problem is ‘who’s willing to teach?’ The few available writing classes here cost quite a bulk, and we all know what that means. So the majority of us emerging writers have resorted to self-teaching, which is such an exerting, trial-and-error method of learning to write.

I know Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is doing great with the Purple Hibiscus Writing Workshop. The Tampered Writing Workshop and also the SprinNg Writing Fellowship have all been helpful to writers at the grassroots. But I feel this challenge exists especially because here we do not have more already-established writers doing stuffs like these.

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

Chiwenite: The term “literary figures” seems to elude me of its exact meaning. But if you meant the writers who have inspired my writing the most, then it would be arduous to name them all, particularly because at every point in time, I have a “new” writer whose work I feel drawn to. Recently, I have found inspiration in the works of Momtaza Mehri, Cathy Linh Che, Theresa Lola, I.S. Jones, Danez Smith, Alexis Rhone Fancher, Romeo Origun, Hala Alyan, Akwaeke Emezi, Bryan Byrdlong, Nneka Arimah and so many others.

It’s Universal law that whatever you focus on expands…Write, even if nothing seems to be improving or the rejections keep coming.”

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

Chiwenite: I felt very excited. Being in the 2019 Kreative Diadem shortlist (poetry) taught me to believe in my self. So, when I was announced first prize winner for 2020, I was like “oh-boy, we’re really really getting somewhere!”.

KD: What was the inspiration and meaning behind your winning poem: Hydrology?

Chiwenite: Hydrology was inspired by a personal experience. Before now, I lived as though I was underwater. Like I was drowning under the heft of my childhood, and however I tried to step unto the shores, there were always some memories that wouldn’t let me.

So for me, the poem was a kind of catharsis. It was my first big leap towards healing. The poem tells the story of a boy who was once fragile and untouched until something happened. I do not know how to go further from here, but that is all the meaning behind Hydrology.

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

Chiwenite: Some of my most recent poems can be found on Rough Cut Press, Cultural Weekly, and on America Magazine. And my most recent recognitions include emerging as a finalist in the 2021 New York Encounter Poetry Prize, winning first prize in the 2020 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize, and emerging as a runner-up for the Foley Poetry Prize 2020.

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

Chiwenite: I have to start working on a poetry chapbook any time from now, then maybe on a Collection afterwards. It is also my dream to get an MFA in Poetry much later in the future, and more than anything, to give back as much as I have received.

KD: Any forthcoming works or publications?

Chiwenite: No, not yet. Still waiting for editors’ responses.

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

Chiwenite: I too need that advice. But let me say this quickly: there is no magic recipe for writing. However, some of the two most effective strategies in becoming better are reading and consistency in writing. It’s Universal law that whatever you focus on expands. So read widely, especially contemporary works, then try out new styles and avoid limiting yourself to a particular theme. Write, even if nothing seems to be improving or the rejections keep coming.

Any final words for Kreative Diadem and its readers?

Chiwenite: Thanks to Kreative Diadem for everything it’s doing to help writers. Her readers, no doubt, are in very good hands.

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.

“You’ve got this. You’re good enough”— Interview with Daniel Ogba

“You’ve got this. You’re good enough”— Interview with Daniel Ogba

Daniel Ogba

TABLE TALK

“You’ve got this. You’re good enough”— Interview with Daniel Ogba

As we anticipate the fifth edition of Kreative Diadem’s Annual Creative Writing Contest, we recently chatted with last year’s flash fiction winner—Daniel Ogba. Enjoy!

Daniel Ogba wants to move and watch and not stop, that is why he writes. He has writings featured in Ile Alo, the African Writers (now defunct), and the Muse Journal, No. 47. He is currently studying Dentistry at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

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

Daniel: I really don’t know how to answer this type of question. I haven’t figured out fully yet who I am or am not, I don’t think anyone ever fully figures, and I am still in that process of knowing. I can only tell you that I am a firm believer, and I dream a lot.

Daniel Ogba

Winner of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

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

Daniel: It was my grief that first introduced me to writing. I lost my father when I was six, and so I searched for a way to keep his memory alive. A longing that his pictures alone weren’t sufficient to provide.

So I started writing about him, started building fictional characters around him- how he walked, what he smelt like, the kind of things he liked that I started growing up to like. Little acts that I didn’t ever want to forget about him, most of which are a blur now. I think that particular loss has reshaped every aspect of me, my writing inclusive.

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

Daniel: I think the challenges I face in my writing are all in my head. Well, except the ton of school work occupying my schedule, and even that, too, is something I can overcome if I work hard enough to. I’m a very lazy person mentally. I’ll be unstoppable if I can be able to overcome my own self.

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

Daniel: There’s a plethora of them. There’s Chimamanda Adichie, obviously. I really love Akwaeke Emezi for the genius structuring and plotting in her stories. I admire the unafraid-ness in Eloghosa Osunde’s works, something I’m aspiring towards. I’d give anything to live in Pemi Aguda’s head. Ope Adedeji is astonishing. TJ Benson is another remarkable writer, and I’m really looking forward to reading his novel. Chukwuebuka Ibeh is incredibly talented and sweet. The list can go on and on. I am generally inspired by work that leaves me in complete awe, or breathless.

 

I’ll be unstoppable if I can be able to overcome my own self.”

KD: In 2020, you won first prize in the flash fiction category of Kreative Diadem’s annual writing contest. How did you feel about winning?

Daniel: I couldn’t contain my joy. The year had been terrible and so tough it had me already on my knees. When I saw the mail, I literally screamed and danced on the road, my friend thought I was losing my head. It was the news I needed that period after too many rejections.

KD: What was the inspiration and meaning behind Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst?

A Kendrick Lamar song. With Sing About Me I hoped to explore friendship, and the nature of families we create for ourselves outside of the family. Also, it had an underlying theme of depression; of the way people wrap themselves up in different layers and shades of fabric to mask the issues they’re inwardly dealing with, live up to society’s expectation that you appear fine, your struggles regardless.

KD: Do you have any other published works aside from Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst, as well as any other achievements you’d like to share?

Daniel: No.

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

Daniel: The goal is one thing: to become a really good writer.

KD: Any forthcoming works or publications?

Daniel: At the moment, none.

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

Daniel: I wouldn’t necessarily call it advice. It’s something I picked from one of Eloghosa Osunde’s interview on Brittle Paper sometime ago, and made mine. “Any voice that says my dreams are not translatable to reality is a lie. I’m good enough. The only thing separating me from where I want to be is consistent work and discipline, not incapability.” Basically, just write, put in work. You’ve got this. You’re good enough.

KD: Any final words for Kreative Diadem and her readers?

Daniel: The work your platform is doing is surely the Lord’s work. I pray it continues. And you guys should be really proud. You’ve offered a stepping-stone for several writers to go ahead and do amazing things, it’s lovely to see.

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.

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!           

 

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.

Kreative Diadem

The right to think is the right to write

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

FOLLOW US

Pin It on Pinterest