AUTHORPEDIA CHAT: "Literary prizes do not define a writer’s worth” — AYOOLA GOODNESS OLANREWAJU

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Goodness Olanrewaju Ayoola hails from Osun State, Nigeria. His poetry has appeared in numerous poetry journals. He has won several poetry awards, including  second place in the World Poetry Prize for Peace, place in the Patriot for Change Creativity Contest, 2015, second place in the Brigitte Poirson Poetry Contest (May Edition, 2015),  third place in the 6th Korea-Nigeria Poetry Feast, 2016, shortlist of the Poets in Nigeria 10 days Poetry Challenge, 2016.

Goodness Olanrewaju Ayoola, author of MEDITATIONS (poems)

He has a Nigerian Certificate in Education in English and Yoruba Languages from the Federal College of Education, Osiele, Abeokuta, and a B.A (ed) in English from the University of Ilorin, Ilorin.

Goodness is presently a teacher of English.

Writers often find their backgrounds and experiences reflected in the subject-matter of their works. What level of influence does yours have on your creative works, especially your new book?

(Smiles) Often times, I tell people that it is not a mistake to say that a poet‘s life is known through his/her poetry due to these two observable factors.

A poet’s weaves dangle between the balances of both factors. He or she is first the poetry in the poetry.

I must confess that all of my works, most especially the ones in my new book ‘Meditations’, are birthed through my every day experiences (individual or collective) and of course my background (my parents are ministers of God) input cannot also be denied not to have influenced my poetry, it is always a recurring decimal. If I must place a percentage on the level of these in my works, I will say 80%.

Your poetry has been described as a crossover between the traditional and liberal poetry. How true is this?

Yes, this is very true. I think I would rather describe it as ‘experimentation’ in the words of Sir Phunso Oris, whose mentorship has been of an immense value to my poetry in every respect. I always learn to appreciate more of traditional poetry from Madam Brigitte Poirson whose constant encouragement is also an indelible impact. My interest in liberal poetry fueled more when I became friends with Adewale Oreshade on Facebook.

Interestingly, with these experiences, I have come to know that poetry can be experimented through various forms or styles and of course balancing my art in both.

Goodness Olanrewaju Ayoola, author of MEDITATIONS (poems)

Aside poetry, what other genres of literature do you write?

I write either poetic prose or poetic drama…. *smiles*

Do you have any poets or writers that you looked up to as a writer, people that influenced your craft?

Yes, I have poets that have influenced my craft, talk of Prof Niyi Osundare. Phunso Oris, Brigitte Poirson, Abani Buragohain, Kukogho Iruesiri Samson, Adewale Oreshade, Eriata Orhibabor, Nana Arhin Tsiwah, Aremu Adebisi and a whole lots of other wonderful poets on my friends list.

Literary prizes are often seen as a measure of a writer’s worth, especially in Nigeria. What is your take on this? Have you won any in the course of your long writing career?

As much as this sounds as a necessary portfolio any writer would want to kind of achieve, it will be parochial to think that literary prizes are the ultimate in defining a writer’s worth.

I personally consider that participating in literary competitions is not about winning or losing (as the case may be). I see it as an avenue to share one’s thoughts with a new audience, get one’s art challenged, most importantly, for the purpose of growth. I am often disappointed when I see writers who lose out in literary contests slump into arms of discouragement, which is not to be so. As for literary prizes, I will say I have been privileged to win some.

When did you start writing creatively? And what gave you the conviction to keep at it, leading to publishing a book?

I started writing creatively when I was in my JSS3. My first poem was written for an NGO, African Children Voices, (I can’t really remember what I wrote), my coordinator then, Kola Obadimu Jnr, saw it and commended me. He was the first to call me a poet and I can say that was the beginning of my conviction.

I launched into writing since then and I kept myself assured that someday I would get published. I have been privileged to participate in both local and international poetry platforms online and have also got to meet people (online and offline) who read my works and give feedbacks which have contributed immensely to my growth. The literary journals and publication houses that found my works considered to be published have been a great pool of convictions for me to get published. It is hard to forget Madam Brigitte Poirson’s constant and motherly encouragement to get my works published plus some few other persons I may not be privileged to mention here. Sir Phunso Oris is a great mentor; he topped this very conviction in me and wheeled it into a reality.

Your poetry collection it titled, ‘Meditations’, suggesting that it is a work built on critical thinking. Now, where do you stand on the school of thought that poetry is consciously created as against those who argue that poetry is spontaneous?

I wouldn’t dispute the fact that poetry is spontaneous as much as I agree with the thought that poetry is consciously created. William Wordsworth considers poetry as the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings and emotions recollected in tranquility, a close look at this thought; one will sure observe a balanced thought on what poetry is, based on both the spontaneous and consciously created perspectives. In my own view, I will say poetry is both; working hand in hand.

What makes poetry poetry is first being spontaneous (when it is forced, it is not poetry) and thereafter comes in the conscious creation which I consider to be the peaceful recollection in William Wordsworth opinion through which various dimensions of styles or forms can be experimented. ‘Meditations’ is, therefore, the melding of both.

‘Meditations’ was much anticipated. Now that it has been published, how will you describe its reception?

The reception has been encouraging so far. That is all I can say for now…

Words Rhymes & Rhythm Limited published your debut poetry collection. How will you rate the standard of publishing in Nigeria, especially in terms of development of writers, quality of writers’ outputs, as well promotion and readership same published books? What can be done to improve it?

You see….Words Rhymes and Rhythm Limited publishing platform is a commendable one and I am proud to say that it is one of the publishing platforms that is bringing observable improvement to the face of publishing in Nigeria.

I am aware that there are many hungry publishers as well as many hungry authors out there who are in one way or the other bringing a constant fall in standard in the Nigerian publishing platforms. But then, I will still want to say that the standard of publishing in Nigeria is relatively improving in every respect.

I am familiar with WRR Green Authors Publishing Initiative sponsored by Kukugho Iruesiri Samson and also that of SFEV Publishing Contract sponsored by Eriata Orhibabor from which writers with outstanding works have benefited; I am quite sure that there are many others too. What to improve on, I think, are the quality of works published and increased professionals in the industry.

If you had the opportunity, what would say to young, unpublished writers, especially in Nigeria?

Walk lanes….get patience…get winds….light the elders…get madness.

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