As we draw closer to the #Babishai2018 poetry festival, we will feature our #Babishai2018 shortlisted poets. Here below is Nigerian poet, Boluwatife Afolabi.
Boluwatife Afolabi is the author of 'The Cartographer of Memory' an electronic poetry chapbook published by the Sankofa Initiative in September2017.
His works have appeared on Adda, Saraba Magazine, Arts and Africa, Expound Magazine, African Writers etc.
In June 2017, he was listed on nantygreens.com as one of the top 10 emerging Nigerian poets to be read.
He is also the poetry editor at agbowo.org. He lives and writes from Ibadan, Nigeria.
Q: What was the process of writing 'Because Everything Was Being Swallowed By Memory'
A: I have not been an alien to grief, neither have I been a kin to it but in 2017, I came close to understanding the true nature of loss and grief. My uncle's wife died. I called her Aunty Ebun. I thought I already knew what kindness was but she made kindness into something that could be seen and touched and felt. And it stayed with me.
When I heard that she died, my mind went white and my throat became dry. I wanted to cry but the tears didn't come running either. I did not know how to perform grief that was heavy inside my heart.
So, I mourned and attempted to remember her, the only way I have learned to remember things, by writing them down.
I waited for the poem. It was one of those poems that come in trickles but I was patient and the poem came.
It was my way of immortalizing her because I was afraid that time in its ruthlessness will soon turn my memory of her into a blur and I didn't want time and forgetfulness to take that memory away from me.
Q: What does poetry mean to you?
A: While writing the introduction to my electronic chapbook, I spent days pondering on the true nature of my poetry, 'Why do I write?' and I came up with this-
'My poetry bears witness to the evolution of the human consciousness. To record, to heal, to serve as triggers of memory. Sometimes, it doesn't heal, and rereading words break me. But I'd rather become a sea of memory than to have existed without having written. The delight in the recognition of our shared humanity (in loss, in suffering, in love) is what spurs me. The desire to become a lens through which a shred of emotion can be viewed in full detail, absorbed, felt. There is nothing more glorious.'
Q: What are your five-year goals with poetry?
A: In the next five years, I hope to publish a full-length collection of poems. I want to explore the world more, have more soul-baring conversations with people from various cultures, write about them and treasure them in my poems.
Q: Which African poets are you keen on reading?
A: I started writing poetry in senior secondary school and my early influences were the great poets from the old generation like- Dennis Brutus, JP Clark, Niyi Osundare, Kofi Awoonor, and LS Senghor.
In recent years, I now favour contemporary African poets such as- Orimoloye Moyosore, Romeo Oriogun, Gbenga Adesina, Warsan Shire, Dami Ajayi, Logan February and Safia Elhillo.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?
A: Writing in every form is very tasking and demands discipline and time. Sometimes I get carried away with my other reality and I am not able to write as much as I will like to.
Also, there are times when I am unable to connect with the image of the poem I want to write inside my head. At times like that, I like to think that the poem is not ready for me so I wait and let the poem come instead.
The most important lesson my poetry has been teaching me is patience. That I must not rush the process.
Q: Is there anything of importance you would like to share with Literature teachers, who are reading this?
A: I will like to tell Literature teachers to approach teaching Literature from a more soulful perspective. What I mean is that the students of Literature should be made to understand all the various emotions that a poet has put into the poem.
They should ensure that they are not mechanical with the teaching of the subject. When students cannot connect with the soul of the poem they are reading, it makes learning Literature more cumbersome for them.
I am very grateful to the Babishai Poetry Foundation for the opportunity they are giving emerging African poets to showcase their poems.
I will also like to say congratulations to all the other shortlisted poets and wish them good luck.
Thank you very much.