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Interview with Nosakhare Collins

He is a poet, editor, documentary photographer, and founder of Libretto Publishers and Magazine. His chapbook, A Pilgrim of Songs (published by Sevhage Publishers), was released in 2018, and his most recent, A Song of Endless Flames co-authored with Usman Karofi, was unveiled in January 2021. His poetry has appeared in Libero America Poetry, Rejection Letter Journal, Ebedi Review, Least Bittern Books, Poetry Festival, Litpoint Africa Magazine, Indian Periodical Journal, Writers Space Africa, Antarctica Journal, Sevhage Review, Youth Shade Magazine, Best “New” African Poets Anthology 2018 & 2019, 84 Delicious Bottle of Wine for Wole Soyinka Anthology, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Alabama’s Best Emerging Poet Anthology 2019, OPA Anthology 2020, InnerChild Press Anthology 2020, and several others. 

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
A lot of people don’t know I am a graduate of Accounting. When I tell people, there are often shocked because most assume that being a poet and a literary publisher, I must have studied Literature or English at the University. But even while I was at the university. I was drawn to books and literature in a way that studying accounting couldn’t really compare.

Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?
Presently, I am working on my full-length poetry collection forthcoming this year through Libretto Publishers.

Q.3 When did you decide to write A Song of Endless Flames? What sparked your initial love of poetry?
The preparation of the book started last year, June precisely. I decided to work with someone who believes poetry should be for everyone rather than a restricted audience. Before then, I reached out to a few people to work with me in collaboration; they all refused and gave different excuses. I reached out to Usman Karofi and stated my reasons; he agreed, and we started working on the collection together. Since the book came out, the reception has been awesome.

Q.4 How do your poems develop? Please guide us through the stages of a poem.
Firstly, you don’t need to stress yourself when the inspiration to write comes to you, but instead, you keep building the idea while reading to broaden your imagination and perspective. Secondly, you need to develop a concept and structure. Be confident in your abilities to present the poem in the best way possible, and be clear on the emotions and thoughts you intend to convey. When you’ve got all that sorted, you just have to write. Write as freely as you can and as well as you can; let it all out, and don’t overthink it. After a few days, weeks, or months, go back to the poem and start editing. Read the poem aloud and be open to altering its shape, tone, and style until the poem feels refined and precise.

Q.5 What is the state of contemporary poetry in Nigeria?
Well, at the moment, it’s not bad at all. I don’t think there has ever been a time when so many Nigerian poets are as internationally acclaimed as we have now. In the past, we probably had one or two outstanding poets within a generation, but right now, the number of young Nigerian poets winning major international poetry prizes and getting published in international journals is quite massive. It bodes well for the future of poetry in Nigeria because these poets are opening a vibrant pathway for younger poets to follow.

Q.6 What do you see as the role of a poet in modern-day society?
Good poetry strives to engage, express, and inspire. Often it achieves this through the relationship of language as intertwined with emotions and ideas. I believe a poet should be a bastion of hope, a student of history, a voice of reason, and a person of culture. A poet should embody the soul of their society, should be in tune with the reality of their people while possessing the unique ability to tell powerful stories devoid of sentiment and prejudice.

Q.7 How does one even begin to judge poetry? Are there some yardsticks that help you define a “good” poem from a not-so-great one?
Yes, certainly. There are good poems and not-so-great poems. But what makes good poetry is the authenticity of the poet and how this enhances the readers’ experience of their poetry. I like when a poet can pour out their emotions with stunning metaphors, imagery, and clarity. No matter the style it was written, a poem should speak to the heart and evoke some form of emotion.

Q.8 Do you have any particular audience in mind when you write an ideal reader?
Not exactly. I majorly focus on what my readers can relate to and understand. Some of my poems take a day, some take weeks, and some take months to properly understand what I want to write and more rigorous editing before I decide to publish. But at the heart of it is a desire to either communicate an idea or honor a memory. Sometimes, I write about my own experiences and desires, often attempting to gain a deeper perspective into them.

Q.9 What is your stand on translating poetry? Can a translated work truly do justice to the original poem?
Both are the same, though! There are certain lit magazines or journals that request both, and I don’t think it’s bad. So long the translated poem is approved by the original author and doesn't deviate from its intent, I have no issues.

Q.10 In what important ways does poetry differ from fiction?
Poetry and fiction differ in many ways, even though there are also similarities between them. Poetry is a rhythmical type of literary composition that usually serves to stir emotions. Either written down or performed orally. Poetry is characterized by an imaginative and attractive expression of one’s thoughts. On the other hand, fiction, which is prose, is quite direct, and that is why it is regarded by many as the most typical language form. I think the biggest difference between both art forms is that while fiction reveals, the poetry reflects.

Q.11 What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
Always be yourself, and don’t compromise.

Q.12 What role should a title play for a poem? For beginning writers, what’s important to consider when titling a poem?
As a poet, you need to consider what you want to say through your writing, and you need to find the most succinct summary of what your poem expresses or deals with. Be as imaginative and as intriguing as possible, perhaps think of the title as a poem in itself, and ensure the title captures and validates the poem's essence. It also helps to have a memorable and unique title, which is why you may need to choose a shorter line or even a verse from the poem.

Q.13 Has your idea of what poetry been changed since you began writing poems?
Not at all! I have always preferred to write about what is happening in society. I try to use my poems to speak to people.

Q.14 Can you work anywhere, or is there a certain space and quietude required to write?
Yes, as a writer, I can work anywhere and write anytime, but I actually write when I am less busy, and my writing can take a duration of a few hours or months to complete.

Q.15 How does your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
Well, they have always understood me, and I think they like it.

Q.16 What is your writing schedule while you’re working?
Well, I don’t have a specific time when I want to write, but I actually write when I have free time from work, and my work takes almost all day. I still find time to jot something down, though I read more than I write these days.

Q.17 Can you give any advice to someone wanting to write and publish poetry?
Well, they should keep reading and writing. Travel around places to discover new things especially profound and peculiar experiences that could inspire their imaginations. And they shouldn’t be in a hurry to publish or to be heard. They should take time to grow their craft.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
A. Billy Collins
, because his work is exceptional.

Q.19 What books/poets have most influenced your life?
Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo, Niyi Osundare, Tanure Ojaide, Odia Ofeimun, Tade Ipadeola, Okey Ndibe, John Pepper Clark, Uche Nduka, Maya Angelou, Louise Gluck, E.E. Cummings, Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda, Remi Raji, Kofi Awoonor, Kwame Dawes, Okot p’Bitek, Rupi Kaur, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Ben Okr, Ikeogu Oke, Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, Servio Gbadamosi, Su’eddie Vershima Agema, Dami Ajayi, Obari Gomba, Amu Nnadi, Efe Paul Azino, Dike-Ogu Chukwumerije, Jumoke Verissimo, Harry Garuba, Ogaga Ifowodo, Uche Peter Umez, Laura M. Kaminski, Bash S. Amumeni, Chris Abani, Saddiq Dzukogi, Sodiq Alabi, Uzo Nwamara, Jide Badmus, Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, and more.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
Well, I began writing in High School, which I stopped for some personal reasons. I later started writing more seriously as an undergraduate at Ambrose Alli University in my second year. I started getting disillusioned and lost confidence to write when many rejections were gaining space in my mail. I felt the pains but chose not to give up. I have learned through hardship never to lose focus and never to allow certain negative situations to determine my decisions or be an excuse for me to fail.

Besides writing, I have an interest in photography. I merged both together through documentary photography and teaching, which later inspired more of my writing. I am glad I chose to become a writer. Writing has been my source of survival, happiness, confidence, comfort, and healing. I am grateful for all I have been able to achieve through writing.

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1 comment:

  1. Obiageli A. IloakasiaMay 19, 2021 at 10:57 PM

    Totally loved reading Nosa’s interview. Most importantly, I love his take on the role of Poets in modern-day societies.