Sunday, October 25, 2015

Abel Iseyen Ancientman responds

Abel Iseyen Ancientman: I am an undergraduate of Business Administration in Lagos State Polytechnic. I am a native of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. I started writing poetry in 2013, influenced by Prof. Niyi Osundare, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, and Leopold Sedar Senghor. My major vision is to leave a good footprint on the sand of time.

DV: Let's start with two questions. I have featured quite a few Nigerian writers here. What do you think of the state of poetry in your country? And, along the same lines, how did you get started as a poet?

AIA: Well, poetry in Nigeria so far is growing very fast. We have many established poets leading the way while the upcoming ones obviously don't like being kept in the dark. These days we have new generational poets thrilling their readers with some well thought poetry. Reading these poems, one can see creativity in motion. You don't just wanna miss the next line while reading them. The coming of the social media like Facebook and Twitter really aids this massive growth. I must admit that I read good amount of quality poems every single day. It feels good to know that poetry has finally come to stay in Nigeria. As far as myself becoming a poet, that's a cherished memory. I grew up in a village so rich in traditions and other cultural values. Back then, we didn't joke with moonlight-play, which involved lots of story-telling. Back then I discovered my passion for  creative words. So it was fun listening to stories dripping from the lips of the sages. Telling us lots of folktales and reading traditional poetry to us. I also read poems by Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Niyi Osundare, Maya Angelou, Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda, etc. Their works really spurred me into writing poetry. Here is the first one I wrote, "Lost Heritage":

The advance generation, like a catfish nurtured with excessive pabulum
Seems too bright for their ancestral cultures
They seem to be keeping pace with the flying time
Oh, time has changed.
Even the air no longer smells of rich moisture
Time has grown wings!

But daughter, did you just serve me palmwine without genuflection?
This is the drink of the gods,
You should have done better than that.

This is not the same you I saw yesterday
That old you was a dark ebony,
Housed with all the attributes of Iseyen's tribe
You were the loamy soil that nourished the tribe's crops
You were the replica of Obio-aduang forest.
Friend, this can't be you.
This is a stranger -  bleached with hot palmoil
But your fierce eyes still bleed black blood.
So tell me friend, is this really you?
For lo, lions beget lions
Goats still forge ahead with their ancestral weaknesses
But the great Agbaka we know didn't travel this path.

You know I have nothing much to tell you;
The last time you visited home
Father didn't recognize you.
Even mother tip-toed to the adjacent hut -
Thinking the goddesses were after her.
But I was not too amazed because I recognized your eyeballs;
Though the staggering of your high-heels nearly put me also on my heels.
Your hair was as long as the mermaids'
Your nails were as long as the talons of a witch
Your lips were as red as a spoilt palmoil
Your face was decorated like a Calaber masquerade.
But sister, what philosophy have you read
That deprived you of your dignity and pride?

DV: I can certainly hear your cultural heritage there and traces of a Maya Angelou cadence. But if you had to pick just one constant influence on your poetry, who would it be? In what way?

AIA: That's a hard one. I have so many poets that I admire a lot. But I will pick Prof. Niyi Osundare anytime, any day. He is one of the contemporary poets that has done so much for poetry. His poetic style is so unique. So concise. So appealing. You know, while reading his poems, you're not being driven to a tight corner. No. He speaks to you like a friend. Like a teacher. Like a mentor. You listen to him speak through poetry and you get
up ready to face the world with lots of strength and optimism. I really love his work.

DV: Is there a process you go through when you write? Could you describe it, from inspiration to finished product? What's your attitude towards revision?

AIA: I get my inspirations from things happening around me. It ranges from that tranquil smile on the face of a child, the looks in lovers' eyes, the clutches of widowhood, to the benefits of determined dreams.I also gained lots of inspirations reading the works of others. On the area of revision, I spend lots of hours writing a poem. I discovered earlier that I don't possess the talent of writing ten to twenty poems a day. So all I always do is try as much as I can to invest lots of time and energy on my few outputs. One always feels better achieving something great at the end of the day.

DV: Have you ever had the painful experience of having a powerful inspiration that just will not complete itself, no matter how hard you work on it? And what do you do about writer's block?

AIA: Yeah. I currently have three poems patiently awaiting my attention. The attention is there, quite alright, but the creativity isn't sharp enough. Possibly, someday I will find the necessary depth required to complete them. Even if it takes me a journey to Athens, I won't mind. (laughing). Writer's block is an impediment to literary progress. It's a moment of blurred vision for writers. It's as bad as that. But I'm not scared of it because I have its antidote. I always undergo an intensive reading session whenever I encounter writer's block. Through these reading sessions I have been able to  regain my rhythm and creativity flair. Personally, there is no better panacea to writer's block than reading.

DV: Others suggest just forcing oneself to write -- anything, nonsense, the alphabet, anything -- until the creative juices start to flow. Still others suggest abandoning the writing project entirely for awhile and doing something else -- taking a walk or a nap, going shopping, watching TV -- and returning when the mind is fresh and new. Somehow, we have to trick our brains into working again. As to your first point, one of my friends wrote a
poem that seemed finished, but he was not satisfied with it; several years later he wrote another, and only then realized that it was the completion of the first. Before we finish this session, I have one further question: Other than the satisfaction you get as an artist, and the enjoyment you give your audience, what is the importance of poetry in today's world?

AIA: Poetry, to me is the way of life. Poetry is one of the most essential frameworks of every society. It's the pill for all emotions. Be it love, happiness, excitement, etc. Poetry just covers it all. Just imagine the strength one derives from reading the poem titled 'STILL I RISE' by the late Maya Angelou. You just feel your spirit strengthening. You feel triggered; ready to look the world in the face. That's what poetry does. You're never the same after reading a good poem. Poetry spurs. It educates. It's a tool for change. It teaches us to appreciate nature and adore our neighbours. It fills the heart with so much love. Poetry is the backbone of every society.

DV: That's a very inspiring answer. Thank you for your participation in this interview. We look forward to more of your poetry.

Abel Iseyen Ancientman

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