Tuesday, July 31, 2018


 Yakeeb is a writer resident in Lagos, Nigeria. His work has appeared and is forthcoming in a number of literary journals including Ynaija, Arts & Africa and others, and he collaborates with other creatives on various projects across genres. He is currently looking to publish his completed chapbook manuscript. 
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 Q:        What was the process of writing your particular poem, Unholy Sermon Notes?
 A:        It is one of those poems that drops on you like bird poop, maybe in this case, it was a gift from God. The poem was written during a Sunday service that I felt very disconnected from.

Q:         What does poetry mean to you?
A:            Poetry for me is a portal to alternate universes, you can be in yours or get lost in someone else's. That encapsulates it all for me. To dig deeper is to examine the process and the emotions, I'll leave that to the academics.

Q:    What are your five year goals with your poetry?
 A:            Mastery of the art form, enough to teach it. A chapbook and a full-length collection that is special to nearly everyone who comes across them. Also, I intend to travel more so I'm able to write from a wider range of perspectives.

Q:         Which African poets are you keen on reading?
A:            I'm playing catch up at the moment in regards to poetry written by Africans, but I've spent some time reading Dami Ajayi & Efe Paul's poetry and I really like the themes they explore. I recently came across poems by Niyi Osundare, Gbenga Adesina, Bernard Binlin DadiĆ© and Jonathan Kariara. I intend to gradually delve deeper and I'm excited about what I'm yet to discover.

Q:    What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?
A:            As a reader, there are times when I wrestle with the patience of taking it all in. There's also the issue of insight, you want to be sure you're in tune with what was expressed by the writer of the poem. As a writer, sometimes, the words that come to mind while writing or attempting to write do not genuinely describe what I feel. Also, navigating the layers of vulnerability can be tedious.

Q:         Is there anything of importance you would like to share with literature teachers, who are reading this?
A:         From a general point of view, passion is enticing. I think you're very likely to bring the best out of students when you teach with love. I recommend watching Dead Poets Society, a 1989 movie directed by Peter Weir.

Q: Any parting remark?
A: I'm thankful to The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation for providing a platform that promotes literature in Africa. I'm honoured to be on this list alongside these wonderful poets.

You may read the shortlisted poems here:

The #Babishai2018 poetry festival details are here:

Monday, July 30, 2018


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 Stephen Ogunfoworin is a fourth year Law student in University of Ibadan. His poem, "The Women", won the 2017 Okigbo Inter-university Poetry Prize. When he is not reading or writing poetry, he does public speaking and journalism. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

Q:  What was the process of writing your particular poem, On Sons Who 
Hate Their Fathers?

Growing up, I had a bit of an apprehensive relationship with my father, who was the embodiment of the typical Yoruba father: strict, uncompromising, and hardly ever reluctant to use the cane. None of that mattered very much back then though, he was my hero. But in my senior years in secondary school, our relationship became a strained one, and I was hardly ever comfortable around him. During this same period, I found out from listening to some of my close friends in boarding school that I wasn't the only young man who didn't know how to act or what to say around his father. I wasn't the only one who could not stay ten minutes in a room with his father without inventing a reason to leave. About three years later, I was in my first year in university and my relationship with my father was completely in the doghouse. I was angry with him. I was very angry. So I barely talked to him, and saw him even less. Some of my anger with him seeped into a few of my other relationships, now that I think about it. And right in the middle of this phase, I started to notice some things that I did almost exactly the same way he did them. I began to catch myself doing some of the things I didn't like that he did. This bothered me a lot. I didn't want to imagine a world where I had a son who would one day be as angry with his father as I was with mine. So, "On Sons Who Hate Their Fathers" was written. It was a bit difficult to write, because I was trying to write a deeply personal poem while trying my hardest to use as little of my own story as possible. I should add that my father and I are now on very good terms.

    What does poetry mean to you?

I started writing poetry in 2015, after my mother died. It was purely a coping mechanism for me, and almost everything I wrote back then was about grief. Now, I think I may have come some distance from that time. Poetry to me is the purest way for a person to share their emotions, exactly how those emotions are felt. With poetry, you can use your words to share your thoughts in the most accurate ways, and make your reader feel very close to what you're feeling. I don't think there could possibly be a more authentic mode of communication. It is also a vital tool in talking about important issues in the society, and I think every poet has a duty to use this function of poetry. If your work has an audience, you have to use it, at least a little bit, to talk about issues that some of your audience may not be paying enough attention to. It's good to write poetry about love, loss, grief, beauty, and pain. But it's also important to write about inequality, child abuse, drug abuse, and poverty. Lastly, poetry, other than making it easy to share your thoughts with others, makes it even easier to listen to theirs. I think good poets have to be attentive. I think I'm a lot more interested in people, their stories, their emotions, and their actions, because of my poetry.

Q: What are your five year goals with your poetry?

My five year goals. I want my poetry to keep getting recognition. I want to write more, and keep getting better. In five years, I intend to have gotten a postgraduate degree in Creative Writing, I intend have a full-length collection of poems, or two. I hope that in five years, I will have become something of a household name in African Poetry. Honestly, in five years, I just want to have several absolutely beautiful poems I can be proud of.

Q:  African poets are you keen on reading?

Ah. African poets. Definitely Warsan Shire. Sometimes, my friend Chinedu Arinze (who is also a brilliant poet) and I spend hours on the phone, talking about her poems. I think she's brilliant. I don't think there's anything written by Yrsa Daley-Ward that I'm not absolutely in love with. Ijeoma Umebinyuo's poetry is fierce and beautiful. I used Niyi Osundare's poetry collection for a course I took two years ago, and he's a genius. And I find Nayyirah Waheed's poetry soothing. Jane Dennis, my friend, writes beautiful poetry too. 

Q:    What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?

I'm not sure if this is the situation for other African poets, but where I come from, a lot of people still do not take poetry seriously. There are people who think a man has no business writing poetry, and there are people who think poetry is usually just a few fancy words strung together, with no real meaning. Someone I love once told me that they thought it was odd that I wrote poetry, which in their opinion, was a complete waste of my time. I struggled with my poetry for several months afterwards. Personally, I have two challenges with my own poetry: I never think anything I write is any good, ever. I am always editing my poems. And I don't spend as much time as I wish I could on my poetry. I'm working on the latter these days.

Q:     Is there anything of importance you would like to share with 

literature teachers, who are reading this?

I think that it is important for people, literature teachers and learners alike, to understand that literature is dynamic. I have had discussions with a few people who are thoroughly convinced that poetry must be in some exact form, to qualify as poetry. To these people, if your poetry does not follow some rules, then you are not really a poet. I disagree strongly with this line of thinking. My friend, Chimdinma Onwukwe, who has helped me improve my poetry over the years, once told me that the only thing a poem needs to be a poem is that the poet calls it a poem. I think it's okay to let many of the rules that guided poetry in the past change, to let the art form evolve. So, as far as poetry is concerned, I think all anyone should need is that the poet calls their work a poem. That's what makes it a poem. I want literature teachers to know this. 

Q: Any parting remark?
I am immensely grateful to the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation for this opportunity, and the judges for validating my poetry. I did not think that this poem would make the longlist, and I certainly did not think that it would make the shortlist, but I am elated that the judges deemed it worthy both times. I do not take this for granted. Thank you. And to the other poets on the shortlist, I have read your poems, I have even stalked some of you a little on social media, and I cannot stop gawking at the sheer talent in your work. I wish you all success in your journey through poetry, and I hope you never tire of writing the beautiful things that you write. 

The #Babishai2018 shortlisted poems can be read here:

Details about our #Babishai2018 poetry festival are here:

Sunday, July 29, 2018


Marial Awendit is a poet, satirist, fine artist and a songwriter, from South Sudan.

 His poems have been published in the Brittle Paper, Kalahari Review, African writer, Praxis Magazine Online, Best New African Poets 2016 Anthology and elsewhere. He won the 2016 South Sudan Talent Youth award for Best Poet. He writes from his hometown, Yerul, Eastern Lakes State, where he works with Caritas-D.o.R -a humanitarian aid organization.

Q: What was the process of writing your particular poem, 38 Photographs of Depression?
A: I had fallen in deep grief after my brother was killed by a kinsman on 28th March, 2014 and the resultant death of my father on 4th November, 2014. I could not at all see anything worthwhile in a world that I will have to walk through for the rest of my life. My body had dimmed against my will. I was depressed, I was told. In 2015, I had this thought of wanting to purge myself of the night inside me, through poetry, but didn’t. I actualized that on 28th March of 2017, explaining what I feel while being honest to myself and the Universe, but it was then just 28 Photographs of Depression. I kept it intact in my case until I made it to 38 Photographs of Depression one good afternoon in September of 2017.
Q: What does poetry mean to you?
A: (Giggles). I am in deep gratitude for poetry. I am not sure now if what I breathe in is poetry or oxygen. Poetry is the boat that ferries this half-dead body housing a living soul through the world. My hammer for crafting and finding pleasure. I get resurrected in a poem when dead in the world.
Q: What are your five year goals with your poetry?
A: I am devotedly aiming at having 3 poetry collections and 2 chapbooks out before the end of 2021, Inshallah. All aimed at achieving complete beauty.

Q:        Which African poets are you keen on reading?
A: I believe Africa is blessed with beautiful poets. I find peace in reading J.K. Anowe (my favorite), Warsan Shire, Leila Chatti, Sahro Ali, Romeo Oriogun and Safia Elhillo.

Q: What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?
A: I lack a writing space and time. Where I live, I have to balance writing and a tight job. Sometimes in writing from my unique social context as mine, I feel alienated by the literary world, depicting poetry to me as unappreciative of certain contexts. I also have a very hard time keeping my works safe. On 17th May, 2016, I lost 150 poems to a close conspirator. Hitherto, I have either recovered or restructured only a hundred poems.
Q: Is there anything of importance you would share with the literature teachers, who are reading this?
A: Teachers of literature ought to identify a talent in writing and nurture that talent. Poetry taught should be a curative form of expression so it can be a tool for social change. I have experienced that effective. Look, the poem on this shortlist was intended to cure me. You can easily explain now how much I got cured making it to the Babishai Niwe Poetry Award shortlist with a poem that was meant to only heal me.
Q:        Any parting remarks?
A:        Gawd! The works on that shortlist are fireworks but I probably would not have seen them if the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation never thought of a poetry prize, just like I would have not been here. Poetry is creation, BNPA is creation! Thank you Babishai Niwe! Thank you Africa!

The #Babishai2018 shortlist can be read here:

Saturday, July 28, 2018


 Grace Athauye Sharra, 31, hails from Ntcheu District in Malawi. She holds a Diploma in Education and teaches languages at Mitundu Secondary School in Lilongwe, Malawi.

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She is a poet and short story writer. Her works have appeared in many local and international publications. Her poem, We Wear The Mask, features in a book titled Malawi a Place Apart by former Norwegian ambassador to Malawi Asbjorn Eidhammer published in 2017.

In The Familiar Stranger and Other Stories: An Anthology For Junior Secondary School, Grace has a poem titled Sacred Vows and a short story, The Anointed One published by CLAIM Mabuku Malawi in 2013 and is now the textbook for English Literature. Her short story Guilty appears in The Grafted Tree And Other Short stories edited by Sambalikagwa Mvona. It is also in Call It Fate and Other Stories edited by N. Mwangupili and T. Mgunda published by Bookland Malawi.

Tomorrow Will Come, features in War Drums Are Beating, by Alfred Msadala published by Acin. Other poems and a short story are in Poetry For Senior Secondary School and Mphamvu Ya Kondaine Ndi Nkhani Zina (nthano) by Chancellor College Publication in 2013.She has also published in local newspapers and magazines.

Q:     What was the process of writing your particular poem, My Letter To 
A:  It is a product of a lot of events that inspired me to write that verse. I put all my bewilderment, confusion, experiences and protests. Nothing is sacred anymore in our societies. We are no longer our brother's keeper and are ready to betray and sell our souls for almost nothing. 

Q:     What does poetry mean to you?
A: Poetry is sacred. It means everything. It is my first and truest love. It allows me to express myself in the most satisfying and therapeutical manner. You may say it sanctifies me.

Q:     What are your five year goals with your poetry?
A: To publish my book, perform at international events and reach out to as many people as I can with my work while inspiring the budding writers.

Q:     Which African poets are you keen on reading?
A: Denis Brutus, Frank Chipasula, Lindiwe Mabuza, Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva, Gcina Mhlophe and Jack Mapanje

Q:     What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?
        I.            The perception that people have based on what one writes. They always associate the persona in the poem with the author which can be frustrating to say the least.
      II.            It is hard to publish poems in Malawi.
    III     Many people do not appreciate poems, let alone poets

Q:    Any parting remark?
A: Poets are winged souls, they should never sell their voice. A poet who sells his or her voice is a sacrilegious being.
Poetry is a powerful tool that we can use to fight all evils in our society.
I am so excited for being shortlisted for the Babishai poetry competition. It has given me wings and I don't intend to fly an ordinary pitch.

The #Babishai2018 shortlisted poems may be read here:

Friday, July 27, 2018


Salawu Olajide currently lives in Ife. This is the second time he has been shortlisted for the Babishai Poetry Award. His poems have appeared in Transition,  Saraba, New Orleans Review, Soul-Lit,  Poetry City, Paragrammer and so on. 

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Q:     What was the process of writing your particular poem, The Music
Man Thinks about Dapchi?

A: The poem stayed in my head for a day after the Dapchi saga. History was repeating itself. You remember Chibok? Anyways, after a day I tried to capture the agony of mother losing their daughters in a country with a loose soul. 

Q:     What does poetry mean to you?
A: Poetry is a life wrapped up in the economy of words.  In its units of metaphors, imagery and linguistic aesthetics, human experiences are locked there in.  

Q:   What are your five year goals with your poetry?
A: All my goals are embedded in one. And that is humanity. And it is a religion we should all embrace which gives me the ability to impact my immediate society and other spaces where my feet have not reached through my writing. This, I seek every day.  And this I will continue to seek. 

Q:.    Which African poets are you keen on reading?
A: Dami Ajayi, Gbenga Adesina, Warsan Shire, Clifton, Ladan Osman,  Shittu Fowora, D. M. Aderibigbe, Adedayo Agarau, Rasaq Malik,  Sadiq Dzukogi... My God, the list is endless. Africa is blessed.

Q: What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?
A: When poems stay too long in my head, I hate it. 

Q:   Is there anything of importance you would like to share with

literature teachers, who are reading this?
A: There is a need to look outside the window and teach new poets who are doing great stuff.

The #Babishai2018 shortlisted poems can be found here:
We’ll be announcing the winner at the #Babishai2018 poetry festival on 5 August in Mbale.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


Rex Omonla is a Nigeria born Poet, Essayist and short story writer based in Lagos and high places as the moon, sun and Uranus.

 A blogger. Computer coach. Singer, songwriter. Volleyball and Basketball analyst and a footballer with incredible speed and pace. A Haiku coach and an idealist. Under the name ‘ Obaji-Nwali  Segun he made the 2017 Babishaiku finalist and was longlisted for the annulled 2016 Etisalat flash fiction contest with the story titled ‘Recovering my heart from pleats’. In 2017 his Queer short story ‘Woman is a Beautiful Thing’ was shortlisted  for the Quramo Writers’ Prize Adult Category  but  was withdrawn from the contest a day to the award-giving ceremony for an unknown reason. Under the name Celestine Chimumunefenwaunaya, his poems and short stories  have been published in Tuck Magazine. Under the name Obaji Godwin, his poems and a short story titled ‘How I Decayed, have appeared in Kalahari Review.      
Q: What was the process  of writing your particular poem LIKE TORN KITES IN A HURRICANE?
A:  The birthing of LIKE TORN KITES IN A HURICANE was through cesarean operation. It’s a pithy poem that reeled my irises to crimson fluids. Unlike the multitude of poems I’ve been able to write, it parted the nub of hellhole and wedged me in sharp-tipped prickles. Its formation would have been smooth and unrelieved but the fist of things were twisted to barbed wire on the ground that when I decided on writing the poem I’ve got a larger-than-life dream. The dream that had made me to nomenclate my own self a crass, inconsequential and unbelievable hog. When I picked my pen for this elfin but longwinded poem, the aspiration I carried in the lid of my heart was to dump a poetic oeuvre overtly cranky, unusual, lyrical and phenomenal. I was up for a poem that would prevaricate existing cultures and designs. I mean the poetic wisp that’s gonna be a cupid in the valley of egrets.    I needed a poetic arrangement sharp enough to carve for itself a singular niche that’s gonna be mimicked and scuttled after all over Africa (lol!). Drafting it was a burden because all I would be unraveling in the verses was oozing from a real-life experience happening under my very nose. The process was soul-slurping because I was getting inspired by the emaciated body of an octogenarian who abruptly lost his wife in a ghastly car accident at the half of his age and continued to mourn, to count backwards, inwards and upwards repudiating fresh affection and novel camaraderie. For the first time I wasn’t going to write a poem because in my rucksack of words nestled a glut of highfalutin and excessively aesthetic vocabularies. I would be writing because my eyes were cherry rivulets, my heart a bustling grenade.  
LIKE TORN KITES IN A HURRICANE failed to fall merely; on the reason that at the time of its composition I was a poet torn between two pyramidal dreams: molding a masterpiece with an approach so novel and all alone, then capturing the life-situation of love, romance, death and grave in the way that kept me singing, crying, grunting, raising and falling. In the way my reader would be panting and juddering like the blubber of a running pregnant pooch. I needed a poem that would vibrate the mind as it winds on. I needed  a poem that would feed my readers thunders and earthquakes. I needed a poem that would broach boundaries and part the eyes to medetarean sea.
The dream of etching lines that broke out of traditions didn’t just  hop in and latch unto the wall of my spirit. I was only tired of following suite. I was loathing gravely that a large number of African poets are wannabes, suddenly switching into and writing  in the manner of the poets winning awards in the continent. The thick kaleidoscopicsm  was for me, irking and disgusting. I was tired of dumping my voice because a particular  poetic voice is trending and it’s a universal vogue. And I was tired  of writing poems that ended up sounding  flat and passionless_
Sorry for my twirling, your question put hoe in an inflated balloon.
For instance, when Romeo Oriogun appeared in Praxis Magazine with Burnt men, showed in Brittle paper and won the Brunel Prize I fancied the craft of the LGBTQ advocant. I really fell in love with his fiddly and tricky metaphors. The metaphors cracking laws and orders. The metaphor sharper than the teeth of the leviathan. These metaphors that barely cared if the reader grunts or frowns. The metaphor that lingers after it was gone through. I fancied him. But his writing  was magnifying queer bodies, bodies lost in labyrinth of paths. Then check it out, I, who wasn’t  queer  began to glorify queer bodies. Something I wasn’t. I hadn’t tasted. Something I barely fancied all because I thought coupled  with  his singular  style he’s trending  because  he’s writing on queer  subject. What was the corollary of my arts? standing on the cranky plinth that wasn’t mine ,what  form of poems was I busy spilling? I was only penning down lies, lopsided and boring poems. Because I wasn’t sincere. Because I was rallying after someone’s voice and never bothered to cogitate over the expediency of detecting my own voice in the spectrum of poetry. Standing on someone else voice got me writing  a short story on lesbianism which made, but got withdrawn from the mega Nigerian 2017 Quramo Writer’s Prize shortlist because……sorry, your time……I won’t be talking about this now.               
I got out of everyone, the trill of awards and wrote LIKE TORN KITES IN A HURRICANE and many other poems in the way I can relate to and defend if eventually I was called upon, in the way that unraveled my innermost feelings.
So, summarily, the process of writing LIKE TORN KITES IN A HURRICANE was compartmentalizing, onerous and different because quoting Gbenga Adesina there is a need for a flux in African Poetry and its literature.

Q: What does poetry mean to you?

A: For me, poetry is a longwinded voyage of sugary vistas. I fancy that it unfurls me and fills me to the brim with infinite exhilarations. For the fact it clefts for me a space in the spectrum where am always able to round too many things in a jiffy, emotionally, kaleidoscopically and constructively poetry for me, is a feathery paradise. A  bulldozing arsenal of war. Poetry is a treasured island I wind into when I get hunted by the vicissitudes and abnormalities of life. It’s my cross and my crown. It puts tears in my eyes and it feed me with laughter. It annoys me and consoles me. It is the assizes with which  I dissect  the world roaming like a tramp and spread my inward thoughts of corrections, reformations, enlightenment and reconciliation. Lastly, poetry for me, is a war zone attended only by mean made men.
Q: What are your five year goals with your poetry?

A: Although, I’ve been repeatedly published in online magazines as Tuck and Kalahari Review but appearing in the long and short list of this esteemed contest revered all over Africa stuck me in succulent cantata, milky sonata and boasted my peripatetic ego (lol!) and now am feeling its possible I’d have become a renowned writer of expository and soporific poetry chapbooks and collections in the next five years. I hoped strongly that in the next five years I’d would have pleated a pattern of poetry particular to Rex Omonla. Am a strong mind and a very difficult tongue so I believe. Lastly, in the next five years I would have been lost in the wind, touring the whole of Africa like Gbenga Adesina, Safia Elhilo, Kwesi Brew and others lecturing the growing Africa poets the way to  read and appreciate Africa poetry and the expediency of experimentation in  the continent’s poetry. Sorry, this final lastly, in the next five years I would have caligraphed in the Orions poems that are feudal, boundary-broaching and tradition-defiling.       

Q: Which African Poets are you keen on reading?

A: I fancy poets who write because they’ve got things  to say and when  they write  they spill fire and  break codes and tenets; poets  who devour landmarks and milestones and slur the rule of grammar because they know we’ve got poetic license and still deserve in the range of trophies golden alchemy. They poets am referring and which I’ve always be caught reading are in no particular order: Gbenga Adesina, Romeo Oriogun, Warsan Shire, Nayyirah Waheed, Safia Elhilo, Kwesi Brew, Ben Okiri, Syl Cheney-Coker, Wole Soyinka and any poem published by Brittle Paper (lol!)   

Q: What some of the challenges you face with poetry?

A: The route into its body is jagged and always bedazzling. A lively poem must be simple yet carry in its foyer labyrinth of paths. But things  started getting smooth when I started taking stock of things  and realized I’d only  have to read as many first-rate poems as possible  and dump the I idea of trying to write and sound like a particular poet.        

Q: Words for literature teachers

A: Poetry teachers must understand that indisputably poetry is a bar of prickles but despite its unsettling jaggedness it’s like any other vocation that  could be  learnt  and mastered. I expect them to whisper this into the head of their students. They should feed their audience with the  fact that there isn’t any magical way one can be a poet writing great poems if not by reading and just reading poems by poets who sucked their mothers breasts well. They should  teach  the students never  to hop across a poem because of its boringness and rigidity, the more they read it the fog will part for the king. Lastly, poetry teachers should curtail the rate at which we feed our young folks poetry that ended with a particular era. It’s not as if it shouldn’t be taught at all. I once became angry that all the time my mentor would be talking about poems glorifying colonialism and long-fought wars again and again as if the world is moving backward. One day I told him teach me poems that talk about the problems of today, the feeling of the moment, the trending things. I know the white men  came and exploit and push us into slavery, am tired of the old sagas. Teach them how poetry can change their lives, how it can put meal on their tables and how it can nurture them into positive monsters. When you teach them, let your eyes be particles of passion.

Q: Parting remark?

A:  I’m m happy the Babishainiwe Poetry Foundation had broken the hedge and created a wide window into my multihued world. To the judges I say large kudos for having more than two eyes. To the poets who submitted  and didn’t make the longlist, to the poets dropped to make things smaller hear this; from the inception  of Babishainiwe Poetry contest, except when it was meant for Ugandan Women alone, I’ve been submitting poems for the prize but I’ve never smelled the longlist. But I never gave up…..guys I say to you guys don’t give up. Am talking to you, you will get there. Just read more and write more. 

The shortlisted poems may be read here:

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


 “When he was 4, a lady kissed him & that was the very beginning.”

Adedayo Agarau is a Nigerian documentary photographer and poet. He explores the concept of godhood, boyhood, distance, and absence. His poems have been featured or forthcoming on Kalahari, Brittle Paper, Gaze Mag, Allegro, Obra Artifact, Praxis Magazine, African Writer, Click 042, One Jarcar Press, Expound Magazine, Geometry, 8poems and elsewhere.

Q:    What was the process of writing your particular poem, Stones?

A:  I have always cherished memories because they have directed my course through the years. Isn’t it beautiful that our body records events, even in our unconsciousness? Memory is like yellow tulips growing everywhere. No! not weeds, yellow tulips. Memories may come raging and turbulent, but when properly cared for, they are bliss. I was 9 when the Ikeja Cantonment bomb blast happened in 2002, with no hope of writing about it years to come. I wouldn’t even believe I would be a poet. I remember watching NTA NewsLine with my family, and there were pictures of a city full of dead people, covered with the white cloths, and some with the colours of the Nigerian flag, being mass buried.

Writing “Stones” was as heavy as the title. It just won’t let go. The poem was an old rag that needed to be rewashed. When the event happened in 2002, I was only 9 and clueless, never been anywhere near a fire. I am however glad I was able to revisit old memory and tuck it away.

Q:  What does poetry mean to you?

A: Poetry. WOW. Sincerely, some questions will never entirely get the answers they deserve. I started writing in 2013 because I had developed an interest in the beauty of rhymes. At that time, there
were revolutionary Facebook rap battles, and I wanted to take the shine on one of those days. But I found something higher than the vain brawl of words, which was being a commuter of memory. Gbenga Adesina, also a shortlisted poet of Babishai, in 2015, told me that this is the generation of writers that turns inward. Always trapped in memory, body, dream, self. I am trapped somewhere,
still. And each time I emerge, I come with testimonies of that victory or ruin. And these testimonies carefully display how dear and personal poetry is to me; the goings and comings, the asylum chapel, thoroughly documented by poetry.

Q:    What are your five year goals with your poetry?

A:   A lot would have gone under the shades by then, and at the same time, 
a lot would have emerged. By then, I believe I would be done with my first full-length collection of poems. While that is still in the works, I have it tucked in my breast pocket to study poetry. Most importantly, the urge to get better would carry me through these 5 years and beyond. So yes! In 5 years, I want to be strong, formidable and remain relentless.

Q: Which African poets are you keen on reading?

A: I was particularly waiting for this question. Yay! Hi Gbenga Adesina & DM Aderibigbe! Hello Safia Elhillo! I saturate my self with these people. Their writing has dramatically influenced my works. The glorious works of Romeo Oriogun, Rasaq Malik Gbolahan and Gbenga
Adeoba remain colourful in mind. Logan February's deep in line narratives keep me sleepless. I am very grateful for the gift of writing and the ability to read. Well, I have a blockchain of poets  that check and balance me in return, Mesioye John, Hauwa Nuhu, Nome Patrick, Wale Ayinla, Jide Badmus and Salawu Olajide (who is also on the shortlist), whose works have been my light for a long time now. I think reading poetry from other people helps us to understand their
core, and in return helps us to further understand our own cores too.

Q:  What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?

A: As much as I like to say that poetry is a profoundly personal engagement for me, I love to see how it influences my public space. I have experimented with my facebook page, and I realized that it seems we are living our readers behind as regards the revolution of African
Poetry. But I am grateful to the beautiful works paddling itself out throughout the continent. Soon! Soon! The light will find us all.

Q:  Is there anything of importance you would like to share with literature teachers, who are reading this?

A: Ah! Yes! Going by what Gbenga told me –“this is the generation

that turns inward.”

I think the body / self / the soul/ is a beautiful place. Full of chaos, fireflies crackling in fire; the body is a field with blessed of butterflies too. Writing curriculums should be drawn to address or
affect immediate environments. We, students, want to talk about our father, about our home, about how grandpa’s love has reshaped the family and a lot more. And we deserve to start writing about these things from now. In addition, the earth wants to hear our respective distinctive stories, and our skills should be crafted in that regard.

Q:    Any parting remark?

A: Poetry will someday rule the world, Babishai. We are the process.
Thank you Babishai!


Read the other shortlisted poets here:

Our poetry festival is scheduled for 3-6 August at Sipi Falls in Kapchorwa, followed by Mbale. Join us, won't you? Call +256 751 703226