by Isaiah Adepoju
Ojo Olumide Emmanuel is a writer, teacher and a spoken word artist. He volunteered as a Radio Presenter with Ultimate FM 103.9, Campus Radio, College of Education Minna on the Poetry/Spoken Word Show ‘Voices of the Pen’. He is a librarian/ Mentor/Workshop Facilitator at the Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation in Niger State.
His works have appeared and forthcoming at Writers Egg magazine, INNSAEL, Bollman bridge Review, Fetal, Quills, The Nigerian Review (TNR) LitVo, Pictorial Poetry Coffee Book (Expanding Horizons), Raindrop of Love, Writers’ Space Africa (WSA) and elsewhere.
He was longlisted for the Nigerian Student Poetry Prize (2020) and shortlisted for the Arojah Student Playwriting Prize (2020). He is a joint winner of Poets in Nigeria 10-Days Poetry Challenge (May,2019) and winner of Poet Choice Award of the Rotaract Club of Churchgate, India.
He is currently the curator of Wakaso Prize for poetry and Abubakar Gimba Prize for Short Fiction, and is an alumnus of SprinNG Writers Fellowship.
Adepoju Isaiah: Good Day Mr. Olumide, I welcome you to Tribesmen Magazine, where we seek to tell the African story the African way. Speaking of the African way, tell us some African words you have learned aside Hausa and Yoruba.
Olumide Ojo: Na ƙù penda (I love you) in Swahili and it's my pleasure chatting with you.
Adepoju Isaiah: It's a pleasure too. Tell us about yourself in few words and whether you're political or apolitical.
Olumide Ojo: I am OJO Olumide Emmanuel. I am a teacher by training. A published poet and art administrator. I fancy politics but love to watch from afar.
Adepoju Isaiah: Do you enjoy politicalness in poetry– i.e, concentricity of poetry on politics? Is ascetic Protestantism as a form of supplication to self and society similar to political activism?
Olumide Ojo: We cannot pretend to ignore the fact that politics affect our personal and corporate existence. We all have political leanings and we try to propagate our views in line with what we consider nascent as far as politics is concerned. Poetry concentrating on politics or protesting against certain political anomalies is not out of place. Writers have been arrested and jailed for writing certain things that did not sit well with the leaders, or morbidity, therein. How do you expect poetry with quiet supplication? The writer is a standby mirror, a witness of/to the society and his duties include corking his quills in protest when tyranny threatens the solidarity of the state. You have heard that the quietness of the good people is insulin in the blood of a tyrant? This supplication is both to self and to society. You cannot eject an artist from himself and his society.
You cannot detach humans from politics. Our various families are the lowest form of politics. We may pretend not to have political affiliations but we share minor sentiments with those in governance so we are all social and political animals, according to Aristotle.
Adepoju Isaiah: Are those political poems resplendent in your poetry collection, Supplication For Years in Sand?
Olumide Ojo: Very well. Poems like Blacklives (pg25), Father Is A Silent Talkative (pg 46) and #End Everything Wrong (pg47-48) explored the issues mentioned above.
Adepoju Isaiah: I read Elliot's Aronson's analysis of humans as social animals; how prone to sociopathy and 'unhuman' we can be without the perpetual commandeering of legal institutions, or common way of social relation that control those acts.
When I read the first poem, Bizarre, I became as grieved as the persona. I realize that all through the collection, you've given preference to the urchin. While I detest humanism as philosophy, I believe all social classes deserve attention. Have you given preference to the lower class? And, how do you choose whom to write for?
Olumide Ojo: I like to explain that poetry as a vortex between man's consciousness and his soul. Since the soul is the most intelligent part of man, the voice in the poem is perhaps not representing anybody; rather it is speaking for itself. That grief is another way we can understand our humanity, that we are all broken at some points and healings may not even come handy even we don't strive to let it out in words.
Life is about breaking and growing our boundaries. If we must renew our world, the artist must aggregate the thinking of the society into a model that works for everyone. The artist is a surgeon for every sickness of the universe
Adepoju Isaiah: Beautiful answer. One universal truth all humans and animals answer to is pain, then we grieve, then we reminisce, just as all these things are inevitable, it's also imperative for the creative artist to question the status quo and try to forge new perspectives on things.
Adepoju Isaiah: Are the poems in your collection inextricably linked?
In your poem, Hearing the Wind, the 21st poem in the collection is not a Supplication for Years in Sand; it's rather a Prophecy for Years in Sand. Ritualistic; as Okigbo's Elegy for Alto. In writing the collection and choosing the poetic title, did you intend to follow a specific pattern of supplicating or is it just an eponymous title for the collection?
Olumide Ojo: Supplication is an intimate kind of prayer. Its prayers are sediments to prophecy. The work may not follow similar order but they are interlinked by the common purpose of a willing to live, be heard. The poems are people with voice, sharing their personal experiences. I was following any pattern in the titles; they are just different poems calling each other within almost the same period.
Adepoju Isaiah: You are a volunteer at Ultimate FM (103.9), Minna, how's the program? What do you do?
Olumide Ojo: I no longer volunteer with them. Nevertheless, the program is a spoken word and poetry program where we bisect, dissect and analyze everything creative. We talk about literary works, we meet the authors to discuss their works, we promote their works on radio and above all we attend literary programs and inform our listeners on the latest happening in the literary world.
Adepoju Isaiah: How have those periods influenced Supplication for Years in Sand?
Olumide Ojo: Supplication For Years in Sands didn't really come from my work as a radio presenter even though my work then made me read more and get to meet brilliant minds out there. I'd say the work came during my writers’ fellowship at SprinNG. I was attached to a mentor who'd see that I complete my readings, write and ensure they are corrected. I communed more with silence, listened to my inner self and it was easy for the poem to drip as an overflow of my life experiences.
Adepoju Isaiah: I find your choice of words in the collection rather exquisite. Examples as: I sun, I moon; we may Noah again etc. The latter line made use of metonymy and biblical allusion. For the latter – "We may Noah again" – has the question of interpretation bothered you, considering that your book is published in the North?
Olumide Ojo: Firstly, I wasn't writing for the north. I was writing for humans. Even in Islam the character of Noah exists. Noah represents flood in the work and within the context of the poem, one can deduce that.
Adepoju Isaiah: Do you have a poem in the collection that you have predilection for?
Olumide Ojo: Yeah. I think Adun on page 42 and 43. It captured my longing for love and what names mean to me in the overall interpretation of love. The poem was like a coronation for a woman I haven't met as at the time of writing the work.
Adepoju Isaiah: May you always find love.
Olumide Ojo: Amen
Ren Koppel-Torres is a teenager on a mission. A fan of fantasy books since young and dissatisfied by the lacklustre female characters written by middle-grade authors hardly in touch with their target audience, she started her debut fantasy novel The Shadow in Her Pocket at nine and finished it at sixteen. Born into a Jewish-Mexican-American family, she currently lives with her family as well as pets (a dog, a rabbit, and a lovebird) in Austin, Texas. Check out more of her work at http://www.lorenalore.com/! In this interview, I talk with Ren about her new book, writing process and diversity in the publishing industry.
What first inspired you to write this novel about three very unique girls?
I started The Shadow in Her Pocket when I was nine years old because I was obsessed with fantasy books, but I had trouble finding a lot of books that I could really connect to. I read a lot of books aimed at different age ranges, and while I couldn’t relate as much to the ones that featured characters who were much older than me, I felt like a lot of Middle Grade books (aimed at middle-schoolers) missed the mark, too. The majority of published authors are adults, and often they don’t remember exactly what it’s like to be a kid, or they underestimate how smart their readers are. I figured, being a kid myself, I might be able to avoid some of the same pitfalls. Plus, I thought it was unfair that so many adventure stories delegated women to the sidelines. So, I decided to write a story composed of the interconnected storylines of three girls: Evelyn, Elodie, and Holly. All three of them come from very different backgrounds and are driven by distinct motivations, but they rely on each other throughout the book.
If you were to describe your novel in three words, which words would you use?
Secrets, magic, adventure.
Of the three main characters, who is your personal favorite: Elodie, Holly or Evelyn?
That’s a tough question, but my best answer would be that I love my characters in different ways and for different reasons. In terms of who I would most easily bond with in real life, I would definitely choose Holly, because she is the most amicable of the three. She’s open, optimistic, and very attuned to the emotions of the people around her—plus, she’s also a very artistic person, so we would have a lot to talk about. But, I had the most fun writing Evelyn’s perspective, because she’s bold, funny, and has strong opinions about everything happening around her, which makes her an interesting narrator. And, while none of my characters were based on myself, and my personality is very different from Elodie’s, I am able to relate most to Elodie’s character arc: she fears not reaching the expectations laid out for her, and she has to cope with the stress of hiding a part of who she is before learning to take pride in being different from the norm.
What is your writing process for this book like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
For my first book, I was definitely a pantser! I didn’t outline at all beforehand. As soon as I decided to write a book, I was really excited, so I started drafting right away. Plus, even if I had wanted to be a plotter, since I was so young and I had never written a novel before, I didn’t understand all of the components I would have needed to flesh out the story. In the beginning, I had no idea what direction the plot would take or what the ending was going to be. I had three characters living in my head, and I just wanted to have fun writing their story! Needless to say, I wrote many, many drafts of my story, and there was a lot of revising and editing to do for the final draft. As I grew up writing it, I think I managed to flatter the heart of my original story while combining it with what I learned about the craft.
As a high school junior in a rock band, you must have an incredibly busy life. How do you find time on a typical day to write, and how do you strike a balance between school and writing?
My schedule is definitely pretty crammed. I don’t have a perfect system worked out, so take this with a grain of salt, but here’s what I do to manage my schedule: I work on immediate, necessary deadlines first. So, if I have a big project due for school the next day, I’m not going to spend a lot of time that night on an article for a magazine due in two weeks. But, I try not to let my personal goals fall behind. I try to write every single day that I have time. Since writing is such a creative, subjective kind of skill, it takes a lot of discipline for me to write on a schedule, but when I’m working on multiple projects at once, I’m better able to focus on them all because I enjoy the variety. Personally, I work better when I give myself deadlines. The perfect book is never written, so I have to remind myself to avoid letting perfectionism get in the way of me sharing my work and progressing as a writer.
What authors or books have the greatest influence on your writing? What are you currently reading right now?
Fantasy authors like Rick Riordan, Brandon Mull, and Madeleine L’engle were a major inspiration for me to start The Shadow in Her Pocket. I also loved Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society and Wendy Mass’ Every Soul a Star. Reading their work gave me so much joy that I was driven to create my own story, both because I wanted to experience the process of crafting imaginative fiction and because I hoped that my writing might have a positive impact on other readers. Since I drafted my story over the span of several years, my writing is also influenced by many authors who I didn’t discover until I was older, namely Philip Pullman and Ursula Le Guin. Two YA books that I recently read and LOVE are Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko and Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. Yesterday, I finished the book Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I love his mix of deep thinking, difficult topics, and the hilariously absurd.
Right now, the publishing industry has been welcoming many underrepresented and diverse voices of a variety of races, genders and disabilities. As a young Latinx writer, what do you think a publisher can do to promote such voices?
I agree. Especially recently, a lot of authors from marginalized backgrounds are emerging and receiving their due credit, which is awesome! My younger sister has more access to Middle Grade novels written by diverse writers than I did when I was her age. But the work’s not over yet. The truest push for mainstream books by diverse authors won’t happen until the industry leaders themselves are representative of the full population. If the majority of publishers and literary agents come from a single demographic, then a lot of underrepresented writers will be disadvantaged because the industry leaders don’t have the perspective to appreciate their work; readers, then, will be inundated with the same kinds of stories. But, while it is important for the mainstream industry to change, no one needs to rely on prejudiced corporations. There are many different ways to get your story out into the world! Go find independent publishers and bookstores who already value diverse perspectives. Self publishing is a great option, too. Everyone should be encouraged to pursue their goals to be an author, literary agent, or any other industry leader, regardless of their background.
What can readers expect from A Shadow In Her Pocket? No spoilers!
Holly, Elodie, and Evelyn don’t have a lot in common. Holly lives in a coastal village that’s heard only rumors of magic’s existence—until Holly accidentally curses the seasonal monsoon that sustains their crops and way of living. She remembers her father’s stories of the mysterious island of Galdur, whose inhabitants wield magic, and she embarks on a journey to find Galdur and learn how to control her magic. Elodie lives on Galdur, in a palace where nobles live and govern the island. She discovers a Councillor’s plan to frame a peaceful group of rebels called the Deserters and incite an unnecessary war, so she hurries to prove the Councillor’s involvement before the fight begins. Evelyn lives in a secret underground city illuminated by glowing birds, and she can remember nothing of her past above the surface. When she finds a clue that could lead her to missing memories and family, Evelyn sets out to uncover the truth. The three girls are soon swept into Galdur’s army, a militia of sorcerers, when clashes between the military and the Deserters awaken an ancient monster. Holly, Elodie, and Evelyn must pool their strengths, their magic, and the hidden clues of a prophecy to survive and save the others. Buy The Shadow in Her Pocket here!
What are you working on next?
I want to challenge myself to branch out from my first work, so I’m starting a picture book and a YA sci-fi novel. I’ve helped to host a lot of read-aloud events, and these rekindled my appreciation for picture books and their power to connect to so many people in a short period of time. I particularly love the ones that highlight interesting people in history, so I’m writing a picture book that celebrates Latino innovators. As for the science fiction book, I’m still in the early stages of drafting, so nothing is set in stone yet, but it’s heavily inspired by the works of writers like Ursula Le Guin, and it grapples with themes such as the nature in humanity in relation to artificial intelligence, the role of art in a society, and whether uniformity truly promotes unity. In the meantime, I’m also writing a lot of articles for different publications including Writer’s Digest. I have poetry forthcoming in a few literary magazines. And I’m an official team member of a new arts magazine called Pipeline Artists!
Finally, what advice do you have for aspiring young writers like you?
My primary piece of advice would be to know your worth. Your passions matter. Your words are important. Surround yourself with peers and mentors who support your goals, and don’t listen to those who discourage you. Remember that being younger than most published writers doesn’t make you any less legitimate. In fact, your perspective—whatever that may be—is the fingerprint of your writing. Your voice and your stories are unique and valuable, and you are the only one who can share them with the world. Work hard, persevere, and be good to yourself. Everyone is always improving, so be proud of where you are now even as you strive to better your craft.
(BONUS QUESTION!!!) If Harry Potter and Elsa from Frozen fight each other in a duel, who do you think will win?
Hmm… My bet is on Olaf the snowman.
Zakiyya Dzukogi, 16, was runner-up for Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors (Poetry) 2020, and winner of the prize in 2021. She's been published on several magazines and journals and she has three books to her name - My Book of Poems, CARVED and her unpublished manuscript Winters and Summers which won the 2021 prize.
Meeting Zakiyya at HIASFEST 2021 held in Niger State, Minna, Nigeria, and her eventually winning the Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors (poetry category), was one of the best moments with acquaintances with teen writers as I am, who are relentlessly breaking boundaries of literary and academic doggedness of the Nigeria state. The title of her book, CARVED, gripped me and led eventually to this interview. For a young female growing up, it becomes imperative to register her growth, voluntarily or otherwise, and perhaps using her previously published books, My Book of Poems and CARVED, as specimen of experimentation of the typical Nigerian girl. But unfortunately her works isn't atypical; queer I would say, or perhaps an attempt "to see God."
When I endorsed her for this interview she was more than receptive. From their monocle I was unavoidably drawn to a discuss with I, Mujahid, Maryam and the interviewee, for Book O'CLOCK Review, where Mujahid sparked the discussion on by asking why some people ask why writers write. In this case, I was even more elated that I want to ask why Zakiyya can't stop writing.
This is raw coming from a voice that has already CARVED a niche for herself in the North of Nigeria!
Adepoju Isaiah: Tell us something about you and your relationship with cats. And, do you have a pet or you wish to have one in future?
Zakiyya Dzukogi: Yes I do. I’ve grown up to see cats around me and so I cannot help but love them. Keeping cats earns a Muslim reward because it is sunnah (sunnah is the actions of Prophet Muhammad SAW), it has been a type of ritual in my home.
Adepoju Isaiah: Last year when you were second place in the Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors (Poetry category) which took place in Niger State, in an interview with Mujahid Lilo, you said CARVED is a compedium of poems that are "mostly positive because I love to have things I don’t have in my poems, I love to own happiness in poems." Reading it, and reading the foreword by Paul Laim, the head of Operations, Isu Media Abuja, where he made acute comparison between a young poet, even though empowered, but still laden with the simplicities of the adolescent - "hormonal imbalances akin to teenagers." How do you see CARVED even before you wrote it? Do you aim to own things you don't have in your poetry, by publicity or otherwise, or the process of poetry of CARVED is just to lessen the grief of not having?
Zakiyya Dzukogi: Poetry isn’t worth without therapy, either the therapy of not having or the therapy to any type of grief. It is a therapy that I’ve enjoyed as a poet.
Carved sketched a lot out of me, I have learned to love and understand poetry intensely while writing Carved, giving my whole self to it. I’ve learned to reach God through poetry, I have learned to have things I want, as if God answers prayers faster in poems. I’ve learned to recognize happiness in my poetry, and so poetry has long been the source of my happiness.
These are poems that were meant to be written like the normal and childish process of writing poems, writing poems for the sake of writing them, picking themes to write about and ending up with pale poems, but the case changed while writing Carved, it was not only about me writing but about learning a lot of impossible things, becoming spiritually inclined, seeing God, talking to God.
Owning things in poetry is spiritual, and this has been the trick to lessen my grief of not having or any kind of grief.
Adepoju Isaiah: Beautiful. Few months ago on Twitter, I read a tweep wrote that: "Poets are God's favorite." Perhaps it's because poets are more imaginary than any other person, and imagination is the foundation of the Earth's solid illusion. The imagination is always running wild, ever free, even to where God sits, hopefully in a Kingdom of Gold and Myrrh. The sobriquet of the poetics aside, let's talk about paucity of the motivation to write either by personal family problems, academic impasses, socializing malady, etc. In times like these, how do you confront Writer's Block?
Zakiyya Dzukogi: I’m starting to disbelieve in writer’s block, sometimes it’s a way of covering up for one’s laziness.
I go months without giving birth to a poem maybe because I feel lazy, or I don’t have time or even because of any other reason. If this happens, I don’t write, I give myself break until the spirit is back in my body. This is so because I don’t want to force lines into becoming poems which turns out to look not-a-poem at the end of the day. It’s like forcing a child to do something, in the end, he does it wrongly because he never wanted to do it, same with poems. Writer’s block is what I don’t experience.
Adepoju Isaiah: The matter of essentiality creeps in; for rejuvenation to take place, I think dormancy is essential. Recuperation too is essential. Just as Soyinka in an interview after winning the Nobel Laureate said he's a lazy writer, and how much it took him to write even the award-winning play; Death and the King's Horseman. For me too, I think writing is a process wherein like coitus, there's foreplay, penetration and climax. In respect to this, how long does it take you to create a poem? Mention your unsuccessful poems that you spent so much time in creating.
Zakiyya Dzukogi: It takes me a while, sometimes at that instance, sometimes it takes me a week or even a month to complete a poem, sometimes I leave my poems incomplete and most times I keep lines and stanzas that are just there, not yet gathered. In all honesty, I spend a lot of time creating a single poem.
Poems like 'I Cannot Paint' published in the INNSAEI Journal took me a whole month. I started writing a poem in the ending of last year titled Other gods Of Corners, and completed it last week, I have a poem titled The Poetry Of God, that poem lasted for almost a week to be completed. And many others.
Adepoju Isaiah: Decades in retrospect, a poetry collection published by Northerners was titled: "Voices from the Desert", where the foreword says the publication of it is a way to invalidate the insubstantial claim that the North of Nigeria is a desert of literary activities; do you see your book CARVED as a verifier of that claim that the North isn't a desert after all?
Simply: recent books from the North of Nigeria is a bulwark against the claim that there's no literary movements in the North. Do you see your book CARVED as part of that movement of bastion against the North?
Zakiyya Dzukogi: My poetry is controlled by the curiosity to meet God, the anxiety to know what dying feels like, the fear of dying. I get my motivations mostly on these terms. I’ve fallen in love with death. I’ve died many times in my poetry going against nature, yet I feel unsatisfied.
Meeting God is what I’ve been wishing for and so poetry has allowed me to meet Him. I’ve explored in eschatology in my poetry, I don’t mind if the low depth and spiritualism of my type of poetry slowly pushes me into what I’ve given more focus on, death. With or without my consent, death shall drag me to where God stands along with her. I enjoy the idea. This type of poetry has led me closer to God.
As for the second question; the first early writers of Nigeria, the likes of Usman Danfodio Of Sokoto, his daughter, Nana Asma’u were northerners. This notion about Northern Nigerians not participating in the literary space is old. Nobody says that about the North anymore because books are now coming out from the North. For instance, take a look at how the Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation is producing teen authors. As a matter of fact, the North competes with any other region in Nigeria in terms of literary productions.
I’m a northerner, so my book, Carved is an automatic addition to that movement, not just in the North, but also in Nigeria too.
Adepoju Isaiah: What literary pilgrimage have you gone on? I mean quests, or periods of isolation where the academia doesn't as much amuse you except the ability to profuse your emotions, or the experiment of the aesthetics on paper? A perpetual longing that has become a ritual.
Zakiyya Dzukogi: I’ve always been moody for my lines to get along, perhaps my type of poetry needs that. Most of my poems go through a sense of direction by my mood to be completed. Maybe that’s why I consume a lot of time to make a single poem. It’s true that giving a poem life is not at all easy, it is either you are sleeping off in your imaginations trying to feed a poem plenty imageries and metaphors or it’s you doing it unconsciously. To get my poem together, I let myself in a special kind of state for me to somewhat appreciate that art, with the help of a serene environment and the dark night, my poems are helplessly completed. Writing late at nights is one of my rituals of writing poems, I feel the night gives so much comfort to the way my poetry sits. Many times when I write and I don’t feel the depth of the poem, if the poem is not in line with my current emotions and if I cannot help it, i keep the poem for another day.
Adepoju Isaiah: My Book of Poems; you talked about family. The poems portray how much you are connected with family, how much Saddiq Dzukogi, now acclaimed Poet, inspires you. In CARVED, I realized there's no poem that condescends on Family. Rather an exploration of a beyond that is closer to God. From the title Winters and Summers, should we expect something about differentiating aspects in nature?
Zakiyya Dzukogi: My dad got me a poetry teacher, Paul Liam at the age of 8, to strengthen the meaning of poetry on top of my soul and to help with the foundation. After that coach, I gathered 30 poems suitable for publication. My dad published the book when I was 10 years old. The Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation encourages teen authors, so at that age, I got full support of the members, my family, and even my school because I remember the college buying hundred copies of my book for its students.
I am happy to have written those books. The truth is, my first collection has always made me feel like I’ve insulted the holiness of poetry. Before now, I felt the poems could be a lot better than what they are, but it is better that they are what they are.
While Carved is a brief biography on the changes in me after meeting poetry again, I felt re-carved into a finer artist after my first collection. My latest chapbook, Winters and Summers which won 1st in this year’s (2021) Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors appear to have confirmed that feeling. This means with every collection, a poet should ascend higher to the poetic realm.
As a child, your mind is yet to be opened to different type of things, of ideas. Perhaps the innocent persona in my first collection noticed nothing then but the importance of family and the things she saw around her at that time. While in Carved, growth creeped in. With growth, mindset and ideologies changes. Maybe that’s why there is no family themed poems in the book or perhaps the relationship with God has somehow linked it to family.
Winters and Summers in my assumption is a deeper version of Carved, talking of God, heaven, death, hell, God, God and God.
Adepoju Isaiah: Good then, I would wait right on to devour the philosophical cartilage of the intrinsic existence of the physical and the metaphysical.
Zakiyya Dzukogi: Thank you.
Adepoju Isaiah: Let's deviate a little to what I would like to call: Literary Postmodernism, wherein laid down belief about literary theories are being objected. Then to some poets who label themselves, or wants to, as African Literary Postmodernist. Winters and Summers, your manuscript that won the 2021 Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors (Poetry) had been garnering brimming opposition on the instance that even the title, and prognosticatedly the contents of the manuscript were UnAfrican, or rather less African. Has the topic of Africanity bothered you in your choice for the title of the manuscript or in choice of imageries?
Zakiyya Dzukogi: Poetry is universal so it doesn’t bother me, it has never bothered me even while deciding the title. The poems are African.
We’re not neglecting the African culture because we use non-African symbols in our writings, it’s not even constant nor continuous, it’s incidental - to enjoy the fun inside writing. It is another thing to contribute to the growth and development of the African culture as African writers. Using non-African imageries to define your piece of art is not wrong nor is it a way of not contributing to the society as an African. There is no big deal if an African writer uses non-African terms to depict what he or she wants to convey, sometimes it’s just symbolism, sometimes style. Concerning this, I find no fault in African writers who enjoy using words like “winters” in their works even without any experience of it, to allow their imaginations soar, maybe that’s their own preference at that time. It is not wrong too for a non African to use African terms in writing poems and stories. There is total freedom in writing.
Adepoju Isaiah: Tell us about something you're working on presently.
Zakiyya Dzukogi: Right now, I’m not working on anything.
Adepoju Isaiah: Thanks Miss Zakiyya for your time.
Zakiyya Dzukogi: My pleasure
Calling all young writers! Do you want to find avid readers, improve your craft, and change the world? There’s one way to accomplish all that: by starting a blog. Virginia Woolf was a renowned writer in the 20th century, but she is perhaps best known for her quote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. That can be said to be the same for a blog for the modern writers of the 21st century. As you may know, a blog is a web log on the internet that a blogger or a group of bloggers update frequently with entertaining posts for their followers. Successful bloggers have tons of followers, earn millions of dollars and even have gotten book deals due to their blogging.
There are several reasons why you should start a blog. The first reason is that blogging is a regular commitment to writing. Many of us find pleasure in procrastination, and crawling to our desks to write is a struggle. With blogging, you can’t slack off and you must make a frequent effort to produce hundred-word posts every week or so. The second reason is that blogging provides you with a platform to use your voice and express your opinions. It gives you the freedom to be creative and attract like-minded friends in the process. The third reason is that with blogging, you have the ability to make a difference. Whether writing a humorous story to make someone laugh or an article advocating for civil rights, you can contribute meaningfully to the community.
The first step in starting a blog is to find out what your blog is about. Blogs are often created to solve a problem you encounter in your life. Maybe you are an experienced pet owner who comes across many new dog owners needing help with taking care of their pooches. Maybe you are a budding writer who is frustrated at the lack of diverse female characters in fiction and decides to write some of your own stories. Maybe you are an activist who sees problematic views in society and want to inform people on issues such as disability rights and climate justice. When you find your blog’s mission, you can come up with a fitting name and design that aligns with your goals.
The second step is to choose a platform for your blog. Free blogging software such as Wordpress.com and Blogger are simple enough for beginners. You can also create free websites with website builders such as Wix, Weebly and Google Sites. However, these platforms can be problematic because you don’t hold the rights to your content; often, the companies that allow you to build your free blog do, and they can take the content down anytime. Besides that, you often are left with a domain containing the name of the blog service (such as cuddlykitties.wordpress.com). Wordpress.org is the top platform among professional bloggers who can afford to spend money. It allows bloggers to control all the rights to their blog, use their own domain name (cuddlykitties.com) and customize their site to their liking.
The third step is to start planning your first blog posts. It is very important to create a schedule for your blog. How often will you be posting? Every day? Every week? Every month? Look at your calendar and consider your commitments, such as school, work and other hobbies. Be careful not to overload yourself. It is also important to come up with article ideas to keep writer’s block (or blogger’s block) at bay. List down any ideas you have in a notebook and set a time to write them.
The fourth step is to write! Draw up a rough outline for your post and research your topic online. Make sure to use a lot of headings, subheadings and lists. Break up long passages into tinier, bite-sized paragraphs. If you want to attach photographs, please note that you can’t take a random picture off from the internet! Abide by copyright rules and source for photos only from royalty-free websites such as Unsplash and Pixabay. These websites do not require any permission from the creators to use their photos. However, it is basic courtesy to credit the creator in the caption of the photo.
Finally, find readers, of course! Share your work with your family, friends and other fellow writers. Just because you’re a blogger yourself, doesn’t mean you can’t support other bloggers too! Search for blogs run by writers you admire and are similar to yours and read the posts, commenting on your thoughts and feelings below. You can give them a leg up and build new connections in the process. Also, make sure your blog is accessible for everyone. Fill in the alt text of photos, provide downloadable PDF versions of blog posts and ensure your articles can be easily translated into other languages.
Sometimes, you may feel discouraged by your lack of progress. Nobody but your mum is reading your blog, and it feels that your effort is wasted. You look at the blogs of popular bloggers and you can’t understand why they can do that, but you can’t.
All bloggers know that feeling very well. When you start out, you have a steep learning curve that seems like an insurmountable mountain. But, don’t give up. Learn from successful bloggers and pick up tips from blogs about blogging. Experiment with your blog and share your posts with the people around you. You can do it!
Mollie Sambrook is a young writer from Margate, England. She has a degree in English Literature from University of East Anglia and a Creative Writing masters from Manchester Metropolitan University. She has recently self-published a collection of poetry: ‘A Brief History of the oVERSEsensitive’.
When did you start writing and what got you into it?
I’m not 100% sure when I first started writing, but my mum has a few of my old notebooks from when I was little that are filled with stories about fairies and teddies and a main character called Mollie that are all about mundane things that capture a child’s attention such as having a bath or going to the beach. She likes to embarrass me with those when I bring my friends to visit. I’ve loved reading since I was a kid and got told off frequently for devouring Jaqueline Wilson books under my covers until the early hours of the morning but I think what properly got me into writing was reading the Twilight saga. In year 8 we were asked to write a 50 word flash fiction for an anthology of stories from kinds in all the schools in the area and of course mine was about a vampire. It wasn’t until the end of Sixth Form that I realised that writing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and if I could make a career out of that, I’d be able to have a profession that I enjoyed and was passionate about.
You recently self-published a collection of poetry. How did you find taking on the roles of poet, editor, and publisher?
The whole self-publishing ordeal was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. There are many websites that help authors to self-publish so it was more about choosing the right website for me. Once I found which site would help me produce the collection the way I wanted to it ran pretty smoothly from then. The editing was a little laborious but I’m a perfectionist so I enjoyed doing it myself as I was able to make sure the font, spacing, ad the way the illustrations looked on the pages was exactly how I wanted. Being the poet comes naturally to me but now that I’ve seen how easy self-publishing can be, my fears and nerves over publishing have been squashed.
Was there anything you wish you had known when you first decided to self-publish your work?
I wish someone had told me that it was easier than I thought it was and the hardest part is actually letting go of your own writing. It’s daunting having it out there in the world, in other people’s hands. I, also, wish someone had told me how rewarding it feels to hold a book that is solely your own creation. I think I would have produced it years ago if I’d realised.
How did you decide which poems to put into your collection?
I’ve been posting my poetry online for six years now so it was a process of deciding which ones were my favourite and which ones seemed to get good feedback from other poets and readers. I wanted to create something full of poems that those following me had enjoyed but that I was also proud of and thought deserved a physical space. I spent a long time putting the poems next to each other to see what fit where and what kind of story they were telling in which order. In the end, I could see that certain poems in a specific order felt as if they were growing up alongside of how I was myself. So, I wanted to keep that feeling of coming of age in the collection.
You often write poems in second person, directing them at ‘you’. Do you find it easier to write a poem when you have a specific person in your mind that it is for?
Being a poet means that you’re consistently opening up and revealing something that you wouldn’t necessarily share out loud- it’s a vulnerable art. So, I think using second person is a way to distance myself from it a little… even though it simultaneously makes it more personal as it is directed intensely at a specific “you”. Coming to terms with my sexuality has also meant that the pronouns in my work were becoming interchangeable, therefore by using a “you” it can be anyone’s “you”. Although nine times out of ten I have a specific person that I am writing about or to, this way it can resonate with so many other people as anyone reading it will also have a specific “you” in mind. Second person should definitely be used more in writing!
Is there anything you hope your readers gain from your poetry?
When I read a piece of poetry that speaks to me, it’s really like someone has cracked me open and said “here you are” so I guess that is what I want from my own writing. For someone to read some of my poetry and see themselves in it or to relate to it deeply.
This is a bit cliché, but I have to ask who or what inspires you?
I’m always inspired by other internet poets as the quality of writing and talent that some of these writers have, despite not being published, is amazing. I’m inspired by specific but also random things. Anything from jewellery left by the bath or a snip it of a conversation can inspire me. I’m most interested in intense and intimate conversations that can happen between friends/lovers/family that aren’t necessarily obvious to others but I’m interested in what isn’t being said and what a simple sentence can really mean if you look deeper. The way other people’s minds work fascinate me so I like to try and imagine what is going on in another person’s head and use this to write poetry. But if you want the cliché answer, then other poets that are inspiring me at the moment are Richard Sicken whose poetry never fails to make me cry and Emily Dickinson whose recovered scraps of poetry have caught my eye recently just purely because of how much of it is missing and what this does to the poetry that is left.
What advice would you give to poets who are just starting out?
I think I would just say keep writing and don’t stop. We writers are our own worse critic and the only way we can better ourselves or evolve our writing is to write as much as possible. (A feat which I am finding increasingly harder and harder at the moment.) Other people’s opinions are just that and if you’re writing something true from your heart then you are making art and the world needs more of it.
Do you have any plans for future writing?
I would love to collate another book of poetry, as well as feature in zines and fiction magazines. Mostly, I am working towards finishing the draft of my novel in progress- When Life Meets Death.
If you want to read Mollie’s poetry, you can buy her collection at https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/868010346/a-brief-history-of-the-oversensitive?ref=shop_home_active_1&frs=1&crt=1
You can also find her work on Instagram and tumblr: @ColdFeetOnTheKitchenFloor
This morning at work, I became real clueless about what to write about Poetry. Whether an objective 'overflow' of words and emotions, which is subjective, can be explained objectively. I foresaw futility. The best way to begin is to speak about MY poetry, the poems I write. And what I need to work towards, against, and teeny-weeny information to include.
There are two types of Poetry:
1). Written and
In Stone age, when nobody could write, Oral poetry is the palm oil to which the yam of words are conveyed. In ceremonies, they incant. At lesser gatherings, poetry is recited. Meanwhile, in those days, they simply did not see it as poetry. It had different names under the invisible umbrella of poetry. In Yoruba Culture, poetry is recited at almost every ceremony. African cultures are deep-rooted in abstract words, and not so abstract ones, which is classified as Poetry. Hunters, after their expedition into the forest, if a deer or wild animal had been killed, they recite the Poetry of Song. When a hunter dies, the concerned embark on the Poetry of Song, simply Elegy, which in Yoruba is called: "Iremoje Ere Isipa Ode." Which loosely translates to: Iremoje, game of a Hunter's transition. Poetry is typically every thing Yoruba, and many African cultures breathe in.
But as everything grew - Soja come, Soja no wan go - written poetry began. Oral poetry then was trans-conversational, a hierarchical passage. However, the belief that it was the Advent of Europeans, or Portuguese missionaries, that established written poetry is not entirely factful. Before modern writing, semiotism and the carving of effigies was used as means of communication. Carvers carved images of the gods they had deitified, or the message of the poem they recite during ceremonies, or even great men who had gone before, these was later to be recognized by colonialists as the Values of Africa: Poetry.
Two things happened with poetry. Because later-generations had been influenced by usurpers, the knowledge of poetry began to wane. African imageries became halved, because of incomplete informations about certain traditions, customs, and principles, and even the philosophy of existence that began with the skulduggery of Obatala and Oduduwa. These incomplete imageries became abstract images, and those who used them became versifiers; "people who depend on nonsensical imageries than actual messages."
In the 1960s, and 70s, some poets what embarked and risked becoming versifiers were challenged by other poets as copycats (Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo, etc), proverbists (Niyi Osundare etc.), Poetrovert (Wole Soyinka, etc). The gap between them widened as we emancipated, or think. Conversational poems were encouraged; th profusion of the creator's emotion rather than the exploration of things schizophrenic to the poet.
However, the above dichotomies are quasi dependent; the conversational can depend on the unintelligible, wherein critics have named the 'unintelligible' in this case as showcasing the poet as the braggadocio. These unintelligibleness provide an avenue for plethora of varying interpretations, and interpellation.
The second is the Unintelligible. The unintelligible are those who care to talk about existence, about myths, about demons of their culture, about the emancipation of practises that modernists did consider as evil and unpracticable. This requires perpetual sacrifice of self to society. However this sacrifice is not compulsory, so some poets at the end of their lines try to find a happenstance where their self is compared to the unintelligible (as in Soyinka's poem, Night).
It is imperative to ask:
1). Now what do you identify with?
2). Or, do you hate being labeled.
1). What do you identify with? With the conversational or the unintelligible? These are objective positions. And none out of the two can be classified in terms of good or bad or even the consequentialistic. It requires patriotism to self or society or quasi-patriotism to both.
I'd give you examples of my poems which I used as specimen of experiment when I had trouble with magazines rejecting my work:
Falling frames.High angels high on.
Grey chuckles tumbling into wood-doors;
Mother, heaven is at war…
Ask that little girl
Eaten by the road;
Falling frames. Closed doors. Falling doors.
Angel on-guard, turn down the boards –
EARTH IS HABITABLE
BUT THE OLD DWARF IS THE ENEMY
A footfall & all the angels have flown
O you dreamer, hearken to whispers of the horizon.
Mid-heaven, priest of tress, carve on me the processions of immortal beasts,
So the moth –er could run,
So the fireflies can switch off their lanterns,
So waning suncrusts could hide in their greens
And listen to the susurration of screams…
The poem above is one of my poems of abstract imageries. I had dreamed and I want the dream to live on its own. An influx of imageries interrupted my art about last two months when I read a Ben Okri and I imagined all of us, our hope of peace in heaven, being a charade. And to be candid, a heaven is a charade. A facade. It's utopic. But, even if I write out the inspiration behind the poem, the reader would be tasked to understand things for themselves. I can't help my reader - I would never. Even though it makes the poems I write somewhat unintelligible, but even I do not even understand my subconscious. I'm still learning how unintelligible my subconscious can be to my conscious self.
& my mother's milk is bitterer
the abyss lulls my feet closer
emerging from a winter & my hair have faded with persimmon...
& my mother's milk in the teeth of my forbears turn sour
my name brings together astray trees,
soles of the road without rain,
an origin of names, sacrament of bodies, making harmony with queer bodies
& the breastfed names have come to fore.
the loveliest names of infants that pleased God -
bodies prayers detest -
where oceans have met,
where waded legs have danced,
where the soil is fertile with lust, our bodies,
names I can't fully remember, with my mother's prayers of breastmilk separating
our longing shadows from
moans that touch God's big nose...
As in the case above, the poem is conversational. I wrote it three days ago when something like queerness began to creep up in me. I indulged it and wrote about it. This gives me the opportunity to question my dual personalities; my queer self and my 'unqueer' self. It is obvious that the poem is about a persona whose roots, represented metaphorically as 'mother's milk' is loosing to the bitterness of tradition by being a queer person. However that assertation is only predominant in the second stanza.
This, being a conversational poet, a poet of audience or of self to audience, has advantages and disadvantages:
A). Conversational poems make it easier the burden of emotion on the poet. Because those who read it easily understands the poet's anxiety or joy, empathy is inevitable, either through admonition and acceptance, or through reviews.
B). Conversational poets easily see the next person as the mirror to which his (the poet's) self should be revealed to enhance communal didactic to Foster growth.
C). Poets who are conversational have greater opportunity of being extroverts. The interesting thing about extroverts is that they want to take action, even though their actions may seem too cliched - they cannot lead a group of introverts.
A). Because they need an audience, however modicum, mostly they may mistake writing out their emotions in a language the audience understands.
B). Their works may most time turn out to be merely an outburst of emotion rather than the aesthetics through the poetics.
C). Being a rebel to society becomes somewhat difficult, because the bulwark against their emotion may counteract the needs for them to become rebels.
2). Or, do you hate being labeled, as a conversational or unintelligible poet? Ah - Yes! The rebels! Avoiding to be labeled in any way whatsoever is an act of rebellion to society, self, and the communal consciousness of other persons. Being labeled, whether as cat-person or dog-person by the elements society, can affect the psychology of the poet to act in a specific way. Such that the poet wouldn't trespass the peripheries of his label - and that is a real poetic prison, an act of cowardice. Every poet must find a voice and establish on that, without minding the concept of right or wrong, since even right and wrong are subjects of public decency and acceptance...
I cannot yet see the disadvantages of refusing to be labeled except the risk of tredding a path never trodden. But what Robert Frost failed to say in his poem, The Path Not Taken, is that some leads to death. I explained this in my discussion recently that to solidify.a.specific belief or practise, death is necessary. Death is an act of concealment. It can also be the highest point of poetry.
Every poet (must) pass through a particular route:
Foreplay ----- Decision of Self ------ Climax ----- Death
"Let the moth -er pray for her child when the road waits, famished" (Amen).
The next section is where we try and create poems that are Unintelligible. I believe that we are all mad. Madness not as mental misappropriation to things or interpretations, or the ability to indulge the wildest of imaginations. In lunacy, I believe, our true self can be found, then we can be labeled by society.
For me, if I want to write a poem, I think about a certain subject I want to write about, then I forget it. I begin to write. I merge varying imageries. After I've constructed nonsensical lines, I iron them out, trim irrelevant ambiguities then I let others read it. What they make of it is what it is. Since poetry is the profusion of the subconscious, then why would my conscious self try and understand things surpassing my abilities? That is rather arduos and futile.
Try and indulge the ability to write nonsensical lines, mixing imageries, letting yourself float. Write nonsense today. I tell you, no poem would ever make sense.
Thanks for your time.
If multiple national disability organisations, thousands of Twitter users and a whole community of disabled people condemn a film as ableist, how can it still notch two Golden Globe nominations? That’s what people are asking about Music by Australian singer-songwriter Sia.
Music is a musical drama film directed and written by Sia, starring Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr and Maddie Ziegler. It tells the story of Zu (Hudson), a newly sober woman who becomes the guardian of her non-speaking autistic half-sister (Ziegler) literally called, well, Music. Said to explore the theme of “family”, the movie has been criticised by countless cinema-goers. How badly? Since its release in February 2021, Music has been given a rating of 3.1 on IMDb and a Rotten Tomatoes critic rating of 8%, even worse than Cats. Among other things, top movie critics from The Financial Times, The Times and The Independent have slammed Music for being a “doomed fiasco”, “baffling inspirational drama” and “completely misguided mess”.
You may be shocked at how enormous the backlash is, but the autistic community has been voicing out its anger for months, ever since last November.
On November 19 2020, Sia released a teaser trailer of MUSIC on Twitter and many users were quick to express their shock. In the trailer, white neurotypical (non-autistic) Ziegler is shown as a girl always wearing headphones and with a silly, exaggerated grin that verges on mockery. She uses an Alternative and Augmented Communication method to express her thoughts with her tablet, but unlike almost all real-life AACs, her tablet can only communicate the simple sentences of “I’m happy” or “I’m sad”. The portrayal of autism in the film is childish and whimsical, far from what many autism rights activists and autistic people experience in their daily lives.
Many Twitter users were distraught and expressed their opinions on social media. Sia, however, was quick to hound everyone with opposing viewpoints by cursing, swearing and illogical reasoning. When one stage professional expressed her displeasure at an autistic actress not being cast, Sia replied that she did try working with an autistic actress but felt that casting someone at the character’s “level of functioning” was “cruel, not kind”. When an autistic actress stated she actually went to one of Sia’s casting calls and that no effort had been made to find an autistic lead, Sia said, “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.” And when Sia was tired of talking to the one marginalised community she was trying to represent, she exploded vulgarly:
“Grrrrrrrrrr. F*ckity f*ck why don’t you watch my film before you judge it? FURY.”
(I fully quoted every one of Sia’s responses. Also, “f*ckity” is not an actual word in the dictionary.)
Why is Music so offensive and discriminatory to the autistic and disabled community?
It’s vitally important that any character that is disabled should be played by a disabled actor. Disabled people are the largest minority group in society, but only 2.5% of speaking roles in Hollywood are disabled, and 80% of them are played by non-disabled actors. Disabled actors are in abundance but are disadvantaged when finding roles, only because of their disabilities. Also, people who live with disabilities are much better at giving authentic portrayals of disabled people on screen — simply because they are disabled people themselves! When non-disabled Ziegler prepared for the role of Music, she learned how to “act autistic” by watching YouTube videos of autistic children facing meltdowns recorded and uploaded by their parents without their consent. You can see the quality of her preparation in her stereotypical and insensitive portrayal of Music as a one-dimensional, innocent saint whose only purpose is to move the plot forward.
Autistic children and adults face real dangers in their daily lives. Physical restraint is a harmful and outdated method used in schools, hospitals and many other places to control disabled people when they face meltdowns. Countless disabled people have sustained injuries or even died because of these methods. Imagine the horror of cinemagoers when Music featured at least two scenes showing physical restraint. In one scene, Ebo (Odom) hurls himself on top of Music to calm her down. “I’m going to crush you now and make you feel safe,” he says. “You’re not hurting her?” says Zu. “No, I am crushing her with my love!” The fact that global superstars (and many others behind the scenes) find this event acceptable is unsettling. Not only that, the inclusion of restraint will undoubtedly bring trauma to previous victims. The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, CommunicationFIRST and the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint released a joint press statement condemning the film.
Of course, Sia tried to explain that she did include the autistic community while making the movie… except that the one group of people that she turned for help was none other than Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is a hostile organisation that claims to look out for autistic people’s welfare but has been slammed as a “hate” group by activists and the community at large. Even its first autistic board member left after being frustrated by its ignorance of autistic voices. Sia did seek feedback from CommunicationFIRST, a disability-led nonprofit that aims to empower non-speaking people, but after its team of non-speaking autistic people gave negative feedback on the film in January 2021, they were not contacted again. That speaks volumes about Sia’s actual commitment to accurate disability representation in her work.
Considering that it’s a film focusing on an autistic girl, Music is vastly inaccessible to the autistic community. The various peppy beats that are littered throughout the film feature strobing lights, colours, loud sounds and quick camera movements. These are often harmful to hypersensitive people. One in four autistic people also have epilepsy, so the movie may trigger seizures. Even if you don’t have epilepsy, the sensations may be overwhelming.
Discrimination isn’t just found in the form of ableism. Racism is also apparent. For example, Ebo is portrayed as a Black supporting character who helps the white main characters while spouting “African wisdom”. There was also the stereotyping of Asians with scenes featuring rickshaws and characters making facial expressions to squint their eyes.
Last but not least, Sia’s conduct was far from honourable throughout the controversy. While it was understandable that she felt defensive of her debut, her personal attacks of many in the very community she was trying to represent showed that her commitment to diversity was only lip service.
How can you lend your support as an ally of the autistic community? Even though the Golden Globes may be over, it is important to send a strong message that ableism in the entertainment industry should never be tolerated:
After all the insensitivity and discrimination, it’s time for Sia to face the music.
To dissect African poetry from its Unafrican counterpart is delicate, and even until the moment of writing this article, I would have thought it was impossible. So to attempt this, these discourse, it is a matter of common sense to tackle it from the retrospective scope; the time I believe there really are notable differences between them. The first poem to review then is Eye Of The Earth by Niyi Osundare, the joint-winner of Common Wealth Poetry Prize 1986 and winner of the 1986 Association Of Nigeria Authors’ poetry prize.
And I really was impressed by its African vitality and infectious enjoyment with words. Now, the main subject of this discourse is not to devalue the so called ‘modern African’ poetry but simply to state unequivocally the derailment, or impending derailments, of what makes African poetry ‘African’.
To get the scopes of what I refer to African poetry, I must quote its metaphorical philosophy: “It [Negritude] aims amongst other things to reassert and revive, through literature, the cultural values, identity and authenticity of Africans, and to extol the ancestral glories and the beauty of Africa, partly through a RENUNCIATION of WHAT IS WESTERN and PARTLY through a RE-ORDERING of IMAGERY”1.
The main aim of Negritude is to insert, or reassert, the efficacy of Africa and its values in the world. It is a form of resistance sparked by the zeal to sustain one’s dignity and pride in the face of overwhelming numbers of opposition – the fame of westernization for example, and other foreign philosophies which are unrelated with, or to, African. But that is not the bleak story; the bleak story is the neglect, or rather preferably, in aspect of dictum, relegation or the classification of the ‘old’ poets from Africa as archaic, which makes their subject theme irrelevant, lackadaisical to the now prevalent themes in this ‘modern’ Africa. And it is sad that this is the conclusion I’ve come to, not by my own volition but by the evidence of the literary works, especially poetry, I see around me, in the intellectual domain, which to state in litotes are the LGTBQIA, feminists, misogynists, and etcetera.
What the ‘old’ poets of the past fought against was colonialism, and the further perpetration of the African values by the colonialists’ culture. But, according to a reply I got on Facebook, why should we stop preaching Africanism when the once physical colonialists’ ideals and way of life had metamorphose into mental captivity? A celebrated captivity. A proud chains even.
And that is the basis of my admiration of Soyinkaism on religion; religion has classified some of our African culture and custom as bad in a primitive way. Like the misrepresentation of Esu as Satan, the Jewish evil god. And several other gods in Yoruba myths as devilish, thereby making them unpracticable. detrimental to humanity.
This is just a mere deviation, a mere elucidation of one of the several values which leads to the neglect of African values, of neglecting the African poetry with its theme, subject, mood and language.
The reasons for this subtle neglect – even though have taken their non-conform to a peak, to making it conspicuous, to say Ohh… the environment I’m in dictates to me Westernization than Africanization. Or it’s because I read more of Fantasies – but, thank God, Nnedi Okorafor has been labeled a writer of African fantasies; are, the relegations of African morals and customs.
Now, speaking of African morals and customs, the question of health-for humanity arises, whether the sacrifices, both humans and animals, in each African tribe is healthy. No! It is not. It is not healthy, but as we strive for the growth of this ‘modern’ society, isn’t that how we should strive to blow the chaff from the wheat and not dispose of the wheat and the chaff, raising our famished lips to a wanderer-bird with strips of bread.
Below, I’ve put forward two short poems. While the general reader might think the point of this discourse is singularly identifying native words as the symbol of native works, poetry, these examples will definitely prove him wrong, because writing African poetry is not a leisurely activity, it is the experiment of deep-rooted knowledge into lines. Our knowledge inevitably is subtly noticed by the general reader, while conspicuously outlined by the critical reader – which is why understanding Africa and what it entails is a compulsory obligation for the common African man.
Note: these poems, I will tag them ‘Poem A’ and ‘Poem B’, while ‘Poem A’ is an example of the European, and ‘Poem B’ is an example of the African.
Here, dead chrysanthemums grow backwards
Into Mother’s scars – names of places she’s lived;
Infants she had quietly tucked to bed,
Where their mothers hold their breath.
Nibbled camwood in adieu, regal with staid steps
Water skittering barkwards into scraggy sockets –
Faithful old-age bearers;
Headless infants, in indigo-colored dust, in hollow sarcophagus.
I am going to give a review of these poems, POEM A and POEM B, and to the reader, I would give the freewill to dissect the Africanness and Unafricanness in them.
Chrysanthemums sometimes called mums or chrysanths are flowering plants of the genus Chrysanthemum in the family Asteraceae. They are native to East Asia and Northeastern Europe. As an avid reader, for me to understand how effective chrysanthemums are, or how they look, react to deadness, would take some certain time of fruitlessness. It would have been better if a poet from China or any of the countries in East Asia or North eastern Europe to write about the dead chrysanthemum and if done masterfully, I would have felt the same way the poet had felt about the flower, how much it represents different thing entirely to his/her mind. But an African who’s never seen such flower writing about it is a sham, mostly leading to misrepresentation in his poem or craft. The same with the style in POEM A; I class styles as that as foreign, Unafrican at least. Before being called a sectionalist, I would highlight how African poetry or what seems to be recognized and revered by it sprouted up; it was through ballads. Oral songs. Night tales. Hunting escapade. Myths… etc. and even though British Imperialist system might have eliminated the better parts of it, the way out would be to follow the steps of our forebears whose work was to ‘re-order their imaginations’.
And that was part of the exceptional quality of Nigeria, et African, frontiers of poetry composition, Christopher Okigbo, a poet presumed to be so complex that “Africa cannot afford too many Okigbos… cannot afford too many verisifiers whose poems are untranslatable and whose genius lies in imagery and music rather than conversational meaning”2
Even though Dan Izeubaye has well tackled it in a journal3 yet for clarity on the generalized perspective on complexity as a major tool in the composition of Africa’s poetry (even though Joseph Kariuku and others proved otherwise); complexity is not a ‘major’ tool, it rather is the force behind Africa’s poetry – kindly take note the difference between complex dictum and poetry complexity which is Abstract Verse3
In the then South Africa, when her cultural pride was subdued and her arts and its preachers were sent on exile, the book which rejuvenated her cultural values, through the arts, was the book, Black Poets In South Africa which was formerly titled ‘To Whom It May Concern’ published in 1973. In the introductory part, Page 7, this is what the editor, Robert Royston, had to say about the poets in the anthology:
“[Their] jauntily colloquial and aggressive [rigid] use of language alone reveals a self that feels confidant to order its world and its experience as it thinks best”4
As already discussed, one of the features which separates POEM A from being classified as African is its lack of rhythm and its mention of chrysanthemum, an untypical plant which is modern, strange, to Africa.
Having settled the point of complexity and the analyzing of the first poem, POEM A, it is now safer to move to the analyzing of the second poem, POEM B. Analyzing the second poem requires understanding, of the poet, of what he seeks to achieve, of his relationship with his craft. To understand, I have to take out words which I believe are notable, related to African.
CAMWOOD: An African hardwood tree, baphia nitida, which is a form of sandalwood
INDIGO: A blue dye obtained from certain plants (the indigo plant woad), or a similar synthetic dye
The terms are related to the African culture, or perspective. And this similarity in its Africanness will process the mood into the reader. And reading cannot be fully understood if you are hesitating to garner knowledge about the Yoruba culture, African, in whose infallible spirit the muse for the poem had sprang up. Poetry, if done well, will not only invite the reader to the reality to which the poet dines, it would also tell him to wash in the cool spring and set to the bounty of the game. What I have done is write about a rite of passage for the infants, on promenade ground, but mere reading, and even understanding, I’ve given the reader the choice to relate the poem to whatever events he would, but not until he begins to intertwine with my African beliefs, he would always be one-step farther from understanding my reaction to the theme of the poem.
The first line signifies a rite of passage, a procession, which as the poet, I’ve intentionally concealed to be the promenade grounds, but which a Yoruba indigene could easily relate with that ritual such as tossing infants back to the other realm has to be on the shore of the ocean.
The second line is my imagery of the widows of these infants, weeping, standing aside.
I unveiled as mothers in the third line, which afterwards I will explain how the grammatical meaning collides with understanding the Yoruba custom; the African custom.
The third line unveils the infants as victims of brutal circumstances, ‘headless’, clasped in hollow sarcophagus. More like coffins built for infants that look like pods of groundnuts.
Indigo is related to most African rituals, and in the last line, I’d ‘re-imagined’ it to be a souvenir for the rite of passage. Almost as dwellers trapped in the gulf of transition.
Camwood symbolizes the spirits of these dead infants, in stealth procession of the rite of passage. In Yorubaland, and even some African culture, it is believed that every dead person will dance to meet his ancestors5.
While Old-Age bearers signify two things: Palm trees and mothers. In Yoruba antics, it is believed that palm trees were once mothers and still are, witches, which in Yoruba are appraised Iya mi Aje, Aro’gbaso mo bale, and they are seen as the pillars of the world. But in this poem, POEM B, I’ve used them as mothers.
Now, how do you feel? How would a non-african feel about analyzing an African poem? After this elucidation, won’t the general reader feel drawn to the African root? Won’t the reader smell Africa, the rich fervor clasped in her soil? This poem is produced by the author of this article, ADEPOJU Isaiah Gbenga, which means that this specimen is not the best there could be; it may not even level up to the top hundreds. But imagining reading something better than POEM B is even a blessing, an African blessing.
The deal is to peak the Unafrican to search for knowledge in the shallow grounds, and hills, of Africa. And to remind to the core the African reader the authenticity in Africa and her poetry. Snow does not fall in Africa; the Africans’ imagination shouldn’t let it, lest it brings to naught the pride of Africa.
I will close this article with TS Eliot’s words:
The African struggles against HERESIES is “to concentrate, not to dissipate; to renew our association with traditional wisdom; to re-establish a vital connection between the individual and the race”6
1). – A Selection of African Poetry – introduced and annotated by K.E Senanu & T. Vincent. Page 23 ©Longman Group Ltd. 1976 ISBN – 0 582 60141
2). Professor Mazrui Ali A. “Meaning Versus Imagery In African Poetry”, Présence Africaine, No 66, 2nd Quarterly 1968. Ibid P. 57
3). –– Critical Evaluation Of African Literature – From Reality To The Dream: Christopher Okigbo [Dan Izeubaye] Page 123 © 1973 Edited By Edgar Wright Defines Abstract Verse As Verse which Is Unintelligible Because It Is Imagistic Rather Than ‘Coversational’.
4). Black Poets In South Africa; Introduction by Robert Royston: Page 7 © 1973
5). Foreword, Death And The Kings’ Horseman, By Wole Soyinka, For My Father Who Lately Danced And Joined The Ancestors.
6). Ts Eliot, After Strange Gods: A Primer Of Modern Heresies (Faber, London, 1934) P. 48
It’s a Sin, the new drama from Russell T. Davis, has already took the U.K. by storm and I’m sure it’s arrival in the U.S. will make the same waves. It is a dark, honest, loving, brutal, sporadically funny, take on three young men growing up in 1980’s London with the shadow of the AIDS epidemic encroaching on their lives. It begins in 1981 and runs through the crisis to 1991. The decade exploration covers the spread of the virus, the misinformation, and the tragic effects that AIDS had on the LGBTQ+ community.
Russell T. Davis, the writer of Doctor Who and Queer as Folk, has once again created a masterpiece. Despite Queer as Folk being set in the 90s, it never explicitly mentions the AIDS crisis once. There were whispers to characters dying but nothing is said in the show about AIDS explicitly. Whereas Davis is now bravely placing AIDS at the centre of his new drama and It’s a Sin is being heralded as the first U.K. drama to directly follow the crisis as it spread over the country. Davis has already come forward and said writing so in-depth about this subject was something he has always wanted to do and, only now, he felt like an experienced enough writer to tackle it and do the people and situation justice. The viewer sees his abilities in his writing and he even offers his long-term fans a Doctor Who call back in the series which put a smile on my face.
The backdrop of England in the 1980s is a common setting for dramas and has offered great cult classics such as This is England, Billy Elliot, and Pride. It offers a plethora of wild fashion and brilliant music. It’s a Sin is no exception and takes full advantage of it. The characters are believably donned in mohair jumpers and bold print shirts. The crew worked hard to create an authentic setting to the show and builds the realistic nature of the story. The aesthetic is vibrant and immersive. Some of the locations were filmed around Manchester, Stockport, and Liverpool and despite having lived here for most of my life, it was only when re-watching was I able to begin to recognise the buildings.
What It’s a Sin does so masterfully is offer the viewer well-rounded, individual characters. We are introduced to Ritchie, Colin, and Roscoe at the beginning of their adulthood. The viewer is shown all they want to achieve with their potential. They acquire themselves a chosen family and the actors marvellously portray the bonds, inside jokes, and nuances that real friends hold. Interviews with Davis has informed us that there are biographical elements which adds all the more to the visceral portrayal of the characters. It is a show about the LGBTQ+ community with a big focus on ‘community’. We see our beloved characters build themselves, their family, their home- their very own Pink Palace.
The director, Peter Hoar, also exercises his mastery over creating the episodes. It is filmed, in the most part, like a standard drama. However, there are certain standout scenes where he plays around with the form, having scenes that break the fourth wall or cutting from trauma to joy with a blink of an eye. In one crushing scene, he keeps the viewer unable to look away for a second, following one character moving throughout the scene. We aren’t offered any respite from the character’s emotions, but he keeps us closely with her as she falls through many different reactions in a matter of minutes. It cleverly mirrors the unescapable grasps AIDS had (and still has) on an individual.
While the show offers such loveable, funny characters, the devastation of AIDS is kept at the forefront of the show. It offers the viewer the shocking truth of how AIDS patients were treated by society. The 80s were an abominable time for the LGBTQ+ community where people could be sacked for being gay, let alone being public about their HIV/AIDS status.
The beginning of the show mention AIDS in whispers and tiny articles in a newspaper as the government tries to brush it away. Of course, they are unable to ignore AIDS as it continues to spread, but what is even more damaging is the lack of help they offer. No information, no helpful medical assistance. People left scared and vulnerable. This is the driving force of the show. The vulnerability and shame take centre stage and we see the character’s banding together to try and process what is happening.
People were stripped of basic human rights and the dignity they were denied is not shied away from in this show. Patients were left locked in hospital wards by staff leaving the viewer screaming at the screen for the injustice of it all. It, also, addresses how undertakers and crematoriums wouldn’t even take the bodies of people who had died of AIDS complications. Whether that was because of prejudice or because of ignorance. Because knowledge of how AIDS was transmitted had been hidden for so long, people were both ignorant and prejudiced. It was commonly believed that individuals were able to catch it from the body and it left people without proper funerals. It’s a Sin doesn’t shy from the trauma people endured throughout that time and addresses it with a truth and tact that I think will make it a timeless watch.
Shocking scenes illustrate the desperation people felt surrounding the AIDS epidemic. You watch as some of your favourite characters try random and dangerous ‘cures’ with the hope they are preventing AIDS developing. They ranged from drinking raw eggs to drinking battery acid. It showed how the lack of information and help offered to them by the negligent government only led to more damage.
The timely nature of It’s a Sin being released now allows the viewer to draw links between then and now with the dangers of misinformation. Fake news seemingly didn’t start from an old, orange man shouting it through a screen. In fact, this show tells us how it has always been a prevalent and dangerous issue. Moreover, the current pandemic, like the AIDS epidemic, is still having the most damning effects on marginalised groups. Old, rich, white people are being protected first and foremost with those less fortunate being cruelly left behind. History seems to be repeating its darkest moments.
Covid-19 is spoken about as a once in a lifetime historical event, and while that is true for the younger generation, it is actually the second devastating virus in some peoples’ lives. What we mustn’t forget is the massive impact AIDS had on a whole community.
2020 was a miraculous year in HIV/AIDS history with the first person being cured of HIV. Moreover, the stigma and lies surrounding the virus are being quelled every day. Celebrities like Jonathan Van Ness are doing their part and coming forward as HIV positive to raise awareness and destigmatise this virus. However, Russell T. Davis is worried that because HIV is becoming more manageable, people are becoming complacent about the dangers of the virus. It’s a Sin hits the viewer over the head with the devastating history that the LGBTQ+ community had to face alone, without help from the government- perhaps to encourage a much more serious and mature attitude to the HIV and AIDS.
I believe this show should be a must on everyone’s watchlist. It is informative, beautiful, funny, and tragic. It shows not only the importance of a chosen family but has key characters working hard at being allies to the community. It can be a hard watch at times, but I believe it has left me with a greater knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community to which I belong. That moment in history was so important to a whole generation and I think it is integral we learn from them.
The amazing artwork was provided by Charlotte Pole.
She can be found on Instagram: @gimmethatprint
Her prints are available to purchase on https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Gimmethatprint
by Morgan Flodman
Kat Winters (she/her) is a 19-year-old author from southern California who is currently residing in Missouri. She writes Young Adult and New Adult fiction and is self-publishing her debut novel, Free Me, in the spring of 2021. Winters has agreed to tell Augment about her novel as well as her ethic as a writer.
What is your history in writing?
I’ve been writing for about 10 years and I’ve always written with the hope of giving people an escape where they can feel free and seen and validated.
Are there any authors who have influenced your style?
There are a few. I’m definitely inspired by other self-published authors such as Trinity Lemm, Anna D Stoddard, and Catherine Downen who showed me this was even possible. But growing up, I was definitely inspired a lot by writers like Rick Riordan, Susan Colasanti, Veronica Roth, and Lisa McMann. As far as style, I find that authors like Colasanti and McMann definitely pushed me into the contemporary style, but they’ve all influenced me.
Out of the characters you have created for this book, which one is your favorite? Are there qualities of yourself or someone you know that you put into them?
I definitely favor Zayne and Arriana (Josh’s sister). I find a lot of myself in them. I feel I resonate with Arriana in the way she always tries to stand by those she loves regardless of what people think of her and how she always just wants to see everyone smiling and being themselves; everyone needs an Arriana in their life. Zayne I feel is, sadly, a very relatable character. He struggles with his mental health and self-esteem and struggles to ask for help and I myself have gone through some of the things he has. I hope seeing a character like him, seeing his story unfold with Josh, will help others feel less alone.
What do you want readers to get out of your novel?
Love and acceptance is key. You don’t have to agree with how someone lives their life, but you do have to respect them and treat them with kindness. You never know what they’re going through or how your words can affect them. Choose kindness and acceptance and love yourself. Be unapologetically you, be kind and true.
Why do you write for young adults?
I try to write for young adults because they still have so much to learn. Arguably, each generation faces new struggles and this generation of young adults is facing so much. Human rights, police brutality, the exchange of power in the government, increasing mental health struggles—it all falls on them and they have to learn from it and grow with it. I write to show them it’s okay, and they can tackle anything that can come and they are stronger than they know. They can change the world, they can overcome anything, they can create an escape and fight for a better world and a better life for themselves and others.
What role does LGBTQ+ literature play in today’s arts? Do you think significant representation has increased over the years or is there still room for improvement?
I definitely think representation for all minorities has improved, but we can always be better. Everyone should be able to pick up a book and see themselves in it. That’s why we read, right? To escape the world and put ourselves in an adventure. LGBTQ+ literature has definitely been on the rise and is becoming more popular and it’s incredible because that means we’re making progress; people aren’t as scared to talk about it anymore. With any hope, someday there will be LGBTQ+ books in English classes along with other minorities as we keep raising these voices higher and helping these voices be heard. By making these books popular, we validate and raise up hundreds of thousands of people who identify with these groups, pulling them out of the shadows that keep them trapped and scared.
Are you working on any other projects? What plans do you have for the future?
I’m currently working on quite a bit. I’m in the middle of making my website to sell signed copies and merch (all made with the wonderful help of small businesses) and hosting a giveaway and a charity event (every June, all Free Me profits go to the Trevor Project to help at risk LGBTQ+ youth). I’m already editing my next book to be published; I’m working on two new books. I’m hoping in the next three years I will have released a second book, donated at least $200 to the Trevor Project, and have an audiobook of Free Me available so everyone can enjoy it.
What is your advice for young writers? LGBTQ+ writers?
Don’t be afraid. Write what you want, write what you would want to read. There is an audience for everything and there will always be someone to support you. Do not hold back, do not hide yourself. Embrace who you are and own it, flaunt it to the world and show them just what you are made of. Never let anyone tell you what to write or who to be.
Readers can keep up with Winters and updates about Free Me via Instagram (@kittkat4818) and Twitter (@KatWinters18 and @FreeMeBook2021). Her other books can be found on WattPad, Inkitt, GoodNovel, and other publishing sites under the username Kitty4818. Her official website will be launched by February 18th (KatWintersBooks.com).