Nigerian poet and literary frontier, Loba Ridwan opens up about poetry and ‘becoming poet’ in a new interview with Amaobi Uche of ACEworld Publishers.
How did you get introduced to poetry?
Ans. Poetry came by the way when I had strong urges and emotions running deep within me, at a point of emotional turbulence.
I experienced “acute” heartbreak while craving love. Unrequited love. And because I was already aware of my ability to express feelings and ideas in words, and my love for music and lyrics (because I would croon a lot of R&B music, but could not really find a melody to my own lyrics to make a song) brought about the need to be a poet.
And it felt like good timing because I had few books on literature I had kept since secondary school (2007 – 2010). The elementary knowledge of poetry (figures of speech and various poems explaining those figures of speech), styles and types of poems. All these came to manifest in 2013.
Does this mean that you do not consider poetry a spiritual gift? It fills a need, and that’s about it?
Ans. This question is peculiar. If you’re not conversant with or acknowledging the spirituality of things, you may not consider that part.
Personally, poetry has a spiritual undertone and motivation, but I came to terms with that notion along the way, not immediately. Poetry was just a psychological and esoteric expression for me when I began. I saw it as a keen way to prove my mental stamina through figurative words.
But as time went on, and with keen learning of other elements that could come into the creation of life through poetry, I knew I had to embrace the spiritual, capture it in lines and invoke. Then you would read and discern the depth in such kind of poetry.
But in most cases, I would hold the idea of godhood in one hand, while I deploy the entirely spiritual on the other hand. I use religion where I seem fit too, because religion has proven to be a channel, but not necessarily the only channel.
Alongside emotions, what else inspires your poetry?
Ans. I call the inspiration or muse “existence”. In my course of writing, after deliberately outgrowing the whole heartbreak phase (I love a wide variety of ideas, so I wouldn’t want to stick to one direction of the theme).
Anything could muse my poetry into being. People, places, travel, books, movies, animals, politics, darkness, war, humanity generally. Just anything. I only decide to give a thematic focus its due time, till I feel like I am done with it, then I move to another muse and theme entirely.
I’m exploring and experimenting. So I am not necessarily emotionally invested in the poem, even though there are times I lose myself into a poem to make it look so real.
I feel like it’s just a part of being an artist. Impressionism and assumption of perspectives. However, there are some poems that speak my truth. Just pay attention.
In your opinion, what makes a good poem?
Ans. I’d deem this phenomenon subjective. This reminds me of a discussion on Facebook about Quality poetry incited by Aremu Adams Adebisi.
A “good” poem, generically, must encompass a number of factors: It has to be figurative or rhetorical, without ignoring the grammatical fundamentals that your language must obey. A good poem must speak to essence – what I mean is, it must represent something, be it a story, an idea, a mindset, an emotion/feeling, an obligation (as in, didactic). And also, the poem must help you envisage. There should be a mental picture with which you’re introducing the mind of your readers to something concrete and genuine, that they can easily connect with, emotionally or just mentally.
Nonetheless, what a good poem is to you may not be as good as you think, to someone else. So it’s simply subjective. And we should note that paradigms also dictate what a good poem is within a timeline. So it still speaks to the same subjectivity. But at least, write well enough to the best usage of the language you’re employing.
In short, a good poem must ensure this connectedness between the poet and his or her audience. It must be “felt”.
What do you think should be more important to a poet. Or what should be the focus of a poet when writing a poem. Audience or self?
Ans. Both, of course. That’s where connectedness comes in. By self, your poem must be able to gratify you to an extent before giving you away to your audience in a manner of perception and readership. By gratification, your poem must be able to fulfil your core spirit, from which your muse is derived, with a mixture of your own outlook of your environment. See yourself as an element (of life), giving life to your poetry, that when someone else reads, they could easily connect with that same life you evoked.
Existence is the all-inclusive factor engendering and connecting a poet, his or her poems and their audience. You have to be able to give that existence a space, a vacuum for yourself, your poem and your audience to occupy in just one read. By that, even a regular person could afford to access your poems from their own idiosyncrasies, and fall in love with poetry, courtesy of the life your poem gives. The “life” in this context could be light or darkness.
Through your years of writing, what challenges would you say is common to poets and how have you been able to go around it?
Ans. This question would nudge me to speak for a mind that isn’t mine.
Different challenges at different times, but a common factor unifies these challenges over the times a poet like myself have been writing and coexisting with other poets in a community of art and literature. This common factor is “acceptance”.
With a deep look into how many poets have told their unique yet relatable stories usually revolving around the self, it stands that many poets have had to deal with a deep need for or lack of acceptance among humans, generally; perhaps, in their formative years, or even before eventually finding a community of like-minds with whom they could share their deepest layers of being through their muses and what comes out of them in writing.
And as it were, in most cases, most poets tend to be withdrawn, unless they find a reassuring ambience of acceptance or cordial relationship in this community, at least with few persons, they’d have a hard time subsisting in that same “college” of writers as a social being, which could, if care is not taken, affect their sense of self and belonging, then, in turn, affect their sight of the bigger picture in the literary world. This also speaks to the basic psyche and psychology of a poet who has had to deal with humans who don’t seem to see them as one to behold and embrace their seeming oddness, uniqueness and idiosyncrasies.
So the strife to validate their work of art through acceptances by their audience could be a typical struggle, for which reason, the onus is on the poet to keep building his or her craft while building their structure of audience and readership, and in return contribute their own readership of other poets’ works, as an embrace of others, which they also seek to feel like one among like-minds.
With this sense and reality of acceptance, a poet would definitely be assured that the journey has destinations to look forward to.
This idea of acceptance is all-encompassing, as it also stretches to the experiences of seeking the publication of literary journals, for which a poet would have worked hard enough to merit that experience; meeting standards and setting new standards.
But in all, acceptance of who they are as humans and as poets is crucial to their evolution, no matter how independent or detached a poet seems to be from the community. Readership and audience remain a major target, to which acceptance is not dissimilar.
Would you say that this community of writers can be considered a working system. And is it readily open to any writer that may be seeking ‘acceptance’?
Ans. That it is a “community” assumes or presupposes a working system. Let the community happen first, the system would be a consequence through a conscious effort to make it so, with regards to unique establishments of patterns of relationships.
What makes the system works is simply “relationships”. With a good relationship, no one would have a hard time seeking acceptance.
Personally, respect is also crucial. When you show respect and regard to others’ works while you keep your heap up, doing your homework and checking the right buttons peculiar to your writing career (putting in for contests, publishing your works in journals, reviewing works of other writers and so on), you will thrive in this community and be a useful unit to the system.
From your wealth of experience, would you share with us an encouragement. Anything that you think just might be beneficial to younger writers.
I would always implore fellow writers to just keep up what they’re best at doing – writing and everything that accompanies the experience.
Seek out relationships that could help facilitate your writing career, and be deliberate about it.
Take a leap of faith by attempting submissions and putting in for prizes/contests, consistently.
Look out for job opportunities available to your writing skills.
Enlarge your capacity to write. Explore other areas that accommodates you as a writer.
And so much more.