"A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it is to be God" ~Sidney Sheldon
One month on, after several people expressed their support for the idea my vision for it changed. I realized that there were many young, directionless, unheard and obscure poets on Facebook, many better than I was. They needed a voice, a platform and I sacrificed my ‘fan page’ to have a ‘family’. I have not regretted it one bit. We are closing in on 4000 members and I cannot count the number of poets and non poets that have improved greatly after coming into the group since then. The idea was to help young poets grow, find the passion, develop the talent, help them find a direction, fight social ills and inspire change with poetry. This we have been doing for 11 months now. Getting heard and being complimented for one's work is quite encouraging, and WRRPoetry's success has proven this. Our first collective anthology “Our Mothers, Sisters and Daughters’ is our own contribution to the worldwide outcry against Rape, Domestic Violence and other forms of Abuse against Women. We are hoping to get support for this.
|Image Credit: Kukogho Iruesiri Samson|
Hello, my name is Ebenezar, welcome to the stroll. The challenge of every young writer out there is finding a platform; that stage where they can stand up and make their voices heard, and for over the years no one has really been willing to build that stage.
My guest on the stroll today hasn't just thrilled readers with the works of his pen, but has also touched the lives of young writers around Nigeria. Using the rising popularity of social media as his primary tool, sir KIS (as he is popularly known on social media) has built a large literary family online—Words, Rhymes, and Rhythm—armed with their quill and ink J to combat any social vice that raises its ugly head.
Kukogho is a Nigerian writer, blogger, multimedia journalist, and social media expert. I admire him greatly, and I strongly believe in his dream of re-writing the world, one verse at a time. I really had fun strolling with him as we talked about writing, writers, and the future of African Literature. Well, here is our discussion;
Ebenezar: Thank you so much for your time KIS. It's really a pleasure talking with you, and happy writers day.
Kukogho: Thank you very much. It’s nice talking to you
Ebenezar: Most people often see writing as a craft reserved for introverted people who had a horrible childhood, and can't seem to socialize with others; so they lock themselves up in a room and write all day . . . J people assume a lot you know... Is this assumption true for you? I mean, How was your childhood?
Kukogho: Well, I’d first of all like to debunk that assertion that writing is for ‘introvert’s or people with a ‘sad’ childhood. It’s not entirely so, though a bitter childhood, and other experiences often times creates a fertile ground for the growth of a prolific writer.
I personally had a childhood that is closer to bitter than good, but I was happy. My few friends know I'm an 'overt extrovert'. Yes.
I grew up just like a man thirsty while standing in the river, not because I did not know that there is water at my feet. I was simply banned from lapping.However, you will see that my writings are mostly addressing social issues, not self appraisal or mere reproductions of scribbles on the slate of my abused mind. I make myself the reader when inspiration comes to me. As such, I like to make them me, and make me them. That is why I try
to ensure that the beauty of my poems resides in my wordplay, the familiar nature of the words to the reader, the musicality and the ease of access.
Perhaps it could be argued that the vicissitudes of life help formed me, but I like to think not totally.
Ebenezar: From the little research I did, I got to know that your family moved around a lot during your formative years and it gave you a taste of the diverse cultures in Nigeria. Do you think that has influenced the way you view people, the world and religion?
Kukogho: Ah, my family moved a lot and it made and ruined me at the same time.
Because of the constant movement that saw us traverse about 7 states in about a decade, I had to make new friends almost every year, in a time when emailing and mobile telephoning were near myths. I lost friends as much as I made them.
But moving helped build the Nigerian that I am today. I speak Hausa and Yoruba more than my own mother tongue (embarrassing). I have found myself fighting Yoruba bigots on behalf of my Hausa brothers or arguing with Igbo ‘ethicists’ about perceived stereotypes about the Yoruba, just as I have sprung to the defense of the Igbos also. This is because I have lived among all of them, felt their pulse and drank their milk.
Religion wise, it really transformed me. I, unlike many folks who have been unfortunate to know only what happens in their community, having never explored, believe in the metaphysical. This part of me developed in my early childhood among the Yorubas in Ile-Ife, where I was born. I have an open mind towards it, enough to know that it is not more about good than evil.
My time amongst the Muslims also adjusted my Christian rigidity. I began to wonder if a kind hearted Hausa Muslim (as many proved to be) would go to Hell, simply because he is a Muslim, while pastors are looting churchgoers in broad daylight.
My worldview also was impacted. Sometimes, I like to call myself a world citizen, I like them all and fear them all. It might be a shocker for some people to hear me say all peoples, races and religions are good...it is the bad ones in them that are the problem.
However, I remain one of those who believe the black race will rise again, after so many years slaved, first by colonial master, and now by our own sons.
Ebenezar: WRR is really causing a Poetry renaissance in Nigeria and even Africa at large. It's creating a forum for young writers to communicate and ''rewrite the world, one verse at a time'' . . .what inspired you to start this? And what has kept you on it for this long?
Kukogho: Ah! Words Rhymes and Rhythm was birthed by an ego inspired drive. Believe that! In 2012, I began to get a lot of encouragement from people about my poetry and I decided to start a fan page for my selfish self.
Now, to the question of what kept me. I was raised by a ‘go getter’, ‘never quit’ father. I’ve been kept going by the desire not to fail the members of the family. The appreciation and growth of the family also encourages me.
It has not being easy. Editing a minimum of 21 poems a week and managing the blog and page singlehandedly, in a country where the internet is crazy and power is self provided. It has meant many sleepless nights as well as financial sacrifices. But it has been worthwhile.
|Image Credit: WRR|
Ebenezar: Yeah. . .it sure has. Well, Prof Wole Soyinka, Late Prof. Achebe, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, just to name a few have done a lot to raise the standard of African Literature... Do you think the next generation of African writers can keep that standard? And if possible raise the bar?
Kukogho: Personally, I do not want to compare the current crop of Nigerian writers to Prof. Soyinka and his contemporaries for two reasons.
First, the social situation in which they grew inspired different stories. While they were faced by racism, colonialism and the first wave of culture shock. We on the other hand are faced with sexual issues, political and religious upheavals, technology and corruption. Our stories are different.
Secondly, the educational challenge of this generation is too bad, beyond bad. Most of those literary giants had the best education and were exposed to the best of materials without the distraction that the social media have proven to be for many young ones these days. We are a social media generation, lost in so much information that we take none of it to heart.
That said, I think the current crop of writers will rise out of the ashes to make new names with new stories. If you look at the WRRPoetry vision, and many others like it, you’d see that African poetry is getting back to its feet. The talents are morphing to suit the challenges of the times.
Watch out for my generation.
Ebenezar: Okay I'm going to put you on the spot right now, who is your favourite author? And what is your favourite poem of all time?? (hahaha)
Kukogho: My favorite author of all time is Thomas Hardy, because I have never read a book of his without throwing it against the wall at the end. My copy of ‘Mayor of Caster bridge and Tess of d’Ubervilles’ suffered that fate more than once. I wanted to murder the already dead Hardy. In Africa, it would be Ngugi Wa Thiongo (The River Between) and in Nigeria it would be Isidiore Okpehwo (The Last Duty).
My favorite poem of all time is not by my favorite poet of all time. It is ‘To An Athlete Dying Young’ by A. E Housman. My best poet is the great William Shakespeare.
|Image Credit: Verse Up|
Ebenezar: Let's talk about #VerseUp a bit, because it's growing in popularity on social media right now, What do you intend to achieve with #verseup?
Kukogho: ‘#VerseUp Against Women Abuse’ was an idea I molded from the ashes of a fire that burnt on Facebook when I wrote an article about how women were not being very committed to the cause of liberating other women. I asserted that they were more concerned about fighting perceived male chauvinists and looking out for themselves instead of helping the cause of shackled women. As was expected, everyone had a different opinion.
At the end of it all, I concluded that awareness about the many issues of violence against women was not enough. So I sought a chink that I—with poets like me—could work on in order to contribute our quota towards the fight against the enemy of all; Women Abuse.
The idea is to write poems and articles exploring all aspects of Abuse against Women with the aim of inspiring change in society. It will grow into something bigger in the future. We’ll have slam events, rallies and seminars. There is a blog and a Facebook page for it already, with the membership base growing daily.
The #VerseUp initiative is part of the #WRRPoetry movement and will jointly work on the planned anthology against Women Abuse. Even if its one family that our writings change, it will be worth it.
|Image Credit: Kukogho Iruesiri Samson|
Ebenezar: Finally, you won the maiden ‘Orange crush prize for Poetry’ last year (2012). Congratulations again about that, Are you looking forward to any awards/prizes in the future? Maybe like the Nobel or Caine Prize? :)
Kukogho: I am a writer. My dream is to win any and every available award. I am Oliver, I always ask for more.
Ebenezar: it was really fun strolling with you KIS, Thank you so much
for your time. I wish you success in all your projects.
Kukogho: You are welcome and thank you too.
A wise man once said, "for you to be remembered well beyond your stay on earth, write a book or do something worth writing about." My life has really been influenced by words on pages, and these words have contributed a great deal to who I am today.
I send a big shout out to all writers and readers all around the world; to my dad, my handwriting mentor--Prince B. Wikina--who I still think has the best handwriting in the world :), to my uncle and role model; Mr. Blecyn Wikina, the ex-acting press secretary to the Rivers State government, to late prof. Donald Murray who has been teaching me the writing process since 2009 through his book 'Write to Learn' (the 8th edition).
There are also some people out there who have contributed in making my writing what it is today; Toyin Odutola, Nimi Princewill, Nancy Ekpo, Milliscent Maduagwu,. . .I love you guys loads :)
Till my next stroll. . .Be good, Read a book before the end of this month, Jesus loves you (to find out more about this love, click here)
By: Ebenezar Wikina (@poeticjazz)
THE STROLL. JULY 2013
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