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NIGERIAN POETS’ PERSPECTIVES ON POETRY – A DISCUSSION

Poetry is a form of art enjoyed by many: for some it’s therapeutic; for others, it ought to be strictly formal and in conformity with universal standards. While a majority feel that poetry should just flow through natural courses as a river would; others are of the opinion that though the flow is natural, the course can be controlled.

In a discussion on the Words Rhymes & Rhythm WhatsApp Group – (join here), the subject of poetry as an art form was roundly discussed from different viewpoint. Below are some of the points made:

“At times, I feel there is a space for the simple and plain…nothing hidden, nothing inferred. Something, that speaks to all. We should be deliberate when making poetry…beautify the lines and adorn the verses and sometimes we just want our words to be naked in search of a tan.” Jide Badmus 

 “There is always space… But when it comes to poetry, we have to be a bit more deliberate lest we simply have broken lines of prose or mangled thoughts or worse-lines of patched imagery. I have sinned this way many times. Heck, I still do.” Sueddie Agema

“Some come tight, others come loose. Think about sugar and sugarcane. …I brew my tee, not tea for all. It’s not meant to be a localized brand, but global.” Tijjani Muhammed

“Compare a lady’s face when she just wakes and after she makes up…” Jide Badmus

“Exactly the point, behind each made up face is the reality. Ugliness or beauty; were we not told it depends on the beholder? Take it further down, what lies beneath the face made up? Now, that is another curious level the beholder should ponder upon.” Tijjani Muhammed

“If you ask me, every piece be it simple or complicated is painstakingly written. They’ve all applied make up like that woman you likened a poem to. What is key is what the man you’re trying to please favours. A masked face or otherwise.” Sam De Poet

“Your poetry is your poetry. Own it and develop on it. …natural faces are beautiful too but it takes a beautiful face to be truly beautiful. And why do beautiful people make up? It’s not every time you do the regular. Sometime, breaking away from our niche is what keeps us ever evolving.” Olodo Ibadan

 “The truth is, nobody really does the ‘regular’ everybody is unique in one way or the other, unless of course if you’ve programmed yourself to be somebody’s double. Simple or not, after a long period of consistently following a particular style, it becomes you, it defines you. Of that doesn’t stop you from going out of the box when necessary. I’ve read some lines from Shakespeare that are as clear as day, and that man wrote in the days when bards gloried in embellishment.”  Sam De Poet 

“My opinion: I don’t really enjoy those very complicated poems. They tend to confuse me the more. Can’t people enjoy poetry without having to interpret it with dictionaries and many lectures or considerations before they really grasp what the poet intended or tried to say?” Ewuola  Michael  

“What exactly made me adopt the plain ordinary approach to my poetry? Simplicity in complexity. I use everyday words to create a meaning most people, if not all can fathom exactly what I’m inferring. That way many people who are not poets or into poetry can relate to my poems, while poets still find it accommodating. For I’ve asked myself often, and we all should, please; what’s the essence of cooking a gourmet dish, only a few can eat, while a billion others are hungry? Writing is an extension of once self.” Tijjani  Muhammed  

“When you begin to search for audience in your works, you begin to lose your essence as a poet. Poetry is first personal, like religion, like salvation, like love.” Olodo  Ibadan  

“In writing whatever we write, be it prose or poetry. We all try as much to attend to the details in our possession, don’t we?” Sam De Poet 

“Nobody should cook to feed himself alone. Give to other it’s called generosity. We are encouraged to do that, because the original instinct is to feed yourself first. Once you’re fed, keep not the remaining locked up it will decompose, rot and its stench will be disturbing.” Tijjani  Muhammed 

“We can speak for us individually, and not we all. There are simple poems and we have seen a lot of them here. I love simple poems. Some of my best poets are simple people…But we must use language right and make every word count.” Sueddie  Agema  

“I get that poetry is personal, and that you enjoy yourself first, but if you keep making tasteless food because you don’t like spices and salt; what of the day you have visitors that wouldn’t tell you of their intention to visit at the least expected time?” Ewuola  Michael  

“…it is not in any writer’s interest to keep his writing to himself. Besides, why do we print books? Is it for us to consume our works written, leave a legacy for us to read after we are dead or to be read by others? Even God Has shown us the essence of that by His Divine revelations. It is not meant for Him to read, but for us. And why would you keep making “tasteless food”? Honor your guests. Don’t feed them your regular. Besides, some are so poor, food is not eaten for its taste but to feed their ravaged souls. When you hear someone complaining about the taste of a meal; he is either not appreciative of the cook, not hungry or a fussful, choice eater.” Tijjani  Muhammed 

 “That’s a perception I don’t fully agree with. We are created with taste. In food, dress, movies etc. We crave what we crave” Jide Badmus

 “Yes I agree and that’s why we complain about wives that can’t cook, even if she’s beautiful or put on makeup ” Tijjani  Muhammed

 “It is not about whether a few can eat or billions are hungry for it. It is that 21st Century Nigerian poets don’t have a literary movement that has a defined objective. In fact, the international community is defining our identity through their various poetry contests…What we stand for in terms of language, style, and themes.” Bada Yusuf 

 “Let us always remember, friends, that we have 3 genres of literature. What is the difference between prose and poetry? Do we think it is simply breaking string of words into lines? If we must go the way of poetry, let’s go there. If prose, by all means.” Sueddie  Agema 

 On the issue of for who, how and why a writer/poet writes: I posed a question to Ibrahim Abubakar, writer of Season of Crimson Blossom, during the book reading @coalng here in Jos. As writers, I want to believe our works reflect our ideals, our philosophies…He said, he try as much as possible to not give his own ideals to his characters, which I disagreed with. …I believe that writers are free to express themselves through their writing style, but as a poet, we are old fashioned-Scouts! Whether as an adherent, or a rule-breaker, poetry still has to be poetry. Otherwise, it becomes prose written in verses.” Opeyemi  Oso

 “I think a poet writes firstly to explore himself. And find like minds…then try to preach his ‘gospel’.” Jide Badmus 

 “What’s the difference between a beautiful woman fully dressed and when she’s sexily adorned to arouse passion?” Tijjani  Muhammed 

 “Regarding poetry and its uniqueness from prose, many people think it is only breaking the sentences into stanzas that separate them. This is far from it” KIS

 “I believe also that there are many rooms in the mansion of poetry that poets can dwell comfortably, however, a quick look at the first few lines should be able to clearly show that a piece belongs to poetry and not the others.” Ewuola  Michael 

 “Now, don’t get it twisted, poetry doesn’t have to be in its verbosity, nay! Simple words of few lines can make a great rendition of poetry. But when you read it over and over again, how beautifully new and ravishing does it look to: the writer, first, and then other readers” Opeyemi  Oso 

 “Which is which? All these take us back to what we talked about earlier – style” Jide Badmus

 “When a poem is written in prose form, that is the occurrence of ‘Style shifting’, whereby the poet infuses the characteristics of the prose genre into poetry.” Mide 

 “It’s hard for people to adjust to forms especially already laid down forms, but if poets must remain poets and attain the purest form of poetry; we must prioritize learning our art and honing our skills. Nobody starts as a genius, people become genius by constant evolvement.” Ewuola  Michael

 “We tell stories with our poems too. They could be abstract and they could yet be tales” Jide  Badmus 

 “Exactly, but when a poem tells a story, it should not be just the sentences breakage (form) that tells us this is a poem. The interesting thing about poetry is that you don’t have to adapt to forms. You can create your forms. What is uncompromisable is to ignore the language of poetry, metaphors and (relatable) inner meaning that borrow life from the language of expression” KIS

 “Hmm, I think writers must know the difference between writing Prose and writing a Prose Poem” Opeyemi  Oso

 “At first, I thought metrics where what made up poetry….But then I realized there’s more to it than forms, though forms are important but imagination, intrigue, suspense and creativity surpass form” OluGlory Ore-Ofe Adeniran 

“We just need to follow the rudiments and not stray from the core. You know one thing I have noticed :We have a lot of spontaneous writers who don’t go back to review and edit their works. It is due to the platforms offered by social media and the desire to put works ‘out there’.” Jide Badmus  

“Spontaneity in itself isnt bad but when you leave most of your draft as finished products…that’s the wahala.” Sueddie Agema  

“We all start with freestyle. It is however important, if we want to grow as poets, to then progress into studying the basics/rudiments, not to become a different kind of poet or to copy the forms that have been, but to master the rules and know how to break them creatively. There is a lecture note on the college for this…” KIS  

“Yes sir. You can’t break the rules you don’t know. Most times we read a lot of poetry but we don’t read about poetry (except those who are in school to study literature)” Jide Badmus 

 “Personally, I think every poem (with the exception of spontaneous spoken word) needs to be retouched after it is originally penned because: Every poem, to become art, must be deliberately penned, with sifted words. Most times, what this means is that, after the inspiration, the true writer must tampers with the so-called inspiration, just the way a painter retouches the canvass and the sculptor chisels his block of wood. [Excerpted from EVEN INSPIRED POEMS NEED EDITING]   KIS

 In conclusion, there’s a language unique to poetry; a universal form of speech that cuts across languages and writing forms. It is this unique choice and style of words that distinguishes poetry from prose or drama. As much as poets would want to wander far in their adventure with words, styles and forms; the core— the rudiments, should never be neglected in the art of poetry.


What is your opinion? Drop a comment below.

Author: Ewuola Damilola Michael

Author, poet, lover of arts and thought provoking words.

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