Monday, February 15, 2010

When poets gather, the muse reigns

When poets gather, the muse reigns

By Abimbola Adelakun, Published: Tuesday, 5 Jan 2010 

The city of Ibadan played host to the literary community when poets gathered there for the Open House Poetry Day. The event which held at the University of Ibadan was organised by the Nigerian Pen Centre. Featured were five published poets and several aspiring ones who read their works and interacted with other guests. 

The five poets who sat on the high table were a graduate of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, University of Ibadan, Ibukun Babarinde; poet and copywriter, Jumoke Verissimo; psychiatrist, Niran Okewole; publicist, Perpetual Eziefule and lawyer and literary critic, Tade Ipadeola. 

The reading session was moderated by Ropo Ewenla while the convener, Dr. Remi Raji, who read the poets’ profiles, said the purpose of the gathering was to bring poets down to earth and know how their minds work. “We want to know why they write and how they write,” he said. 

The five read from their works. Babarinde read Kpansia, a poem about a market in Bayelsa State that was relocated when President Umaru Yar‘Adua was to visit the state. The poem is one of the many he has written as a result of his experiences as a youth corps member in the state. With nothing much to do, Babarinde found solace in poetry and came back with a collection. Describing the market, he said it was located on the only road that led to the city. 

”When I visited the market, I saw what the people were doing to themselves. To me, I saw them being squeezed and oil dripping as droplets of blood.” 

In the poem, Babarinde says, ”Market was bad today/ A pint of blood now drops a dollar/ I must take heart myself/ The market is never for the highest bidder.” 

Verissimo didn‘t just read her poem, Wanderer, she performed it and got a resounding applause . 

Okewole, who was earlier described as a bridge between science and art, said his journey into poetry began in his younger days when he went into fits of depression. His poetry then was all about rhymes. He doesn‘t know why he writes but claims he writes to speak to the human spirit. He is a Marxist because it is an ideological position he finds congenial. He read The Hate Artist. 

Eziefule had her service year in Ibadan. She also did her masters’ degree in Ibadan. She thinks the city made her a poet. She not only reads her poems, she also accompanies them with songs. That way, she says, she is able to eliminate the monotony often associated with reading poetry. She read Our House and sang Feso jaiye to it intermittently. 

Ipadeola, the lawyer, attributes his love for words to his grand mother, somebody he describes as one with a phenomenal command of language. 

”She sent proverbs on errand. She had aesthetics of speech and was always called to settle quarrels because of her word power. She lived to be very old and till she died, she was still settling quarrels. One of her favourite expressions was Eni go ku isinmi, eni gbon ku aapon which means, ”If you are a fool, you will have a peaceable existence, but if you are smart, you will always have issues, challenges.” 

Ipadeola said that he started writing because his law profession taught him that judgement does not end with a proclamation. The “confrontation potential” of words made him take to writing. One of his grandmother‘s words, Adie ba lokun, inspired him to write, Songbird, which won him an award in Korea recently. 

When asked whether they find it easier to write on paper or type their thoughts straight into the computer, Ipadeola said he never can bring himself to write on a computer. 

”Ideas can strike you anywhere and if you don‘t write it down immediately, it will leave you forever. So, I keep a paper and a pen on me all the time,” Eziefule said. Babarinde prefers typing directly into the computer and cannot bring himself to write on paper anymore. 

Verissimo said that she had to learn to be flexible enough to keep her day job and still write good poetry. Okewole says since his poetry does not feed him, he has no choice than to hold to his medical profession. 

While responding to the issue of objectivity and the poet, the Marxist, Okewole, said the environment determines consciousness. A poet cannot divorce his emotions from his writing. 

”You cannot have a mind like Einstein and Gates, without the environment. People criticise American poets for being frivolous, flippant. It is the Marxist approach. People think writers are starry eyed romantics. A poet has his brain wired differently. In fact, a good poet distances himself from the theme. Don‘t write tear jerker instead of a good work. It is a given that a poet is engrossed with the subject matter.” 

Eziefule posits that there is no way a writer will not be subjective. She said the poet cannot help but be involved, but what matters is the degree of involvement and how it affects the work. 

Other young and upcoming poets were also given a chance to read their poems at the occasion. Olarewaju Adewusi read his poems in Yoruba and got an applause.

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