By Uduma Kalu
Nkrumah and me
In Ghana, I have been invited to join Talk Party, which is a gathering of veryÂ active writers and poets of Ghana origin hosted by Nubuke Foundation. Dimples on the Sand was well received.
During the Nkrumah Centenary Celebration, I read from Dimples on the Sand. Already, the book is garnering some interesting reviews and copies are on display at the Nubuke Foundation.
MethinksÂ a thread of melancholic mood runs through the book. That is my reading. You will find a lot of poems on Ken Saro Wiwa because he wasÂ executed in 1995, when I was a student at the University of Calabar and fascinated about activism.
So, I was excited to have some of those stuffs published in For Ken For Nigeria edited by E.C Osondu. â€˜Okangaâ€™ as you may know, is a dirge. Itâ€™s only that I decided to include an epilogue in which I included â€˜Beyond Midlifeâ€™ in commemoration of Niyi Osundare during his 50thÂ birthday anniversary,Â first published in Post Express Literary Supplement (PELS). It is an attempt to lighten up the collection.
Although â€˜Blood on Matâ€™ almost marredÂ that attempt, yet thereâ€™s still â€˜Flanked with Lullabiesâ€™ dedicated to my daughter, and heralding a bright future. So I moved from: â€œThe past stared at me/long in the faceâ€ to â€œI knew I would raise you another mother/from the thick of bulrusesâ€.
Becoming a poet
In becoming a poet, I had very little to do with that choice. I grew up in my hometown, Ibusa, listening to my father play akpele to ogbu chants, Okanga dirge and so many other festival and ritual forms. I never received the akpele art, as hard as I could try.
Yet I was always impelled to think that a written word would make the repertoire a bit more receptive for the reader-audience. Therefore, I strongly feel the muse was thrust upon me. Itâ€™s from this background that I got what Niyi Osundare once called â€œ a sense of rhythmâ€.
Burden of a nation
Dimples on the Sand is all the burden of my past, the grief that I have lived with for those years. The book is published by Hybun Publications International and I am done with it.
Now I can move on .And I hope I can write beautifulÂ poems henceforthÂ devoid of images ofÂ death and grief, that indeed also our nation will encounter a similar change in social and political development so that writers wonâ€™t be compelled no more by demurring circumstances.
Nigeria and her poets
Your question presupposes that poetry has lost its meaning in modern times in Nigeria; that once-upon a time, poetry mattered but has now lost its place or meaning. Or are you questioning the importance of poetry in modern times?
Now, I really think that more than any other art form, poetry is suited to preserve some of ourÂ time-threatened traditions, our rituals, proverbs, chants. Some of these are endangered now with our oral performers. So, poetry is important, very important.
Most of my pieces on Anioma encoded the finest proverbs, folklore and invocations of that great region, Anioma.
Achievements as a poet
AlthoughÂ Dimples on the sand engages the archetypal themes of death and love, the anchorage of the collectionÂ is on theÂ question of justice and nationhood in my Anioma ethnicity minority in the Niger Delta.
I am fascinated by chivalry of my ancestors who fought the British and Royal Niger Company for over 12 years in the Ekumeku war.
I am fascinated by ourÂ rich cultural tradition. However, I am agitated by the injustice and marginalisation that we face in the Nigerian State.