QUESTIONER: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your educational background?
BOB EKAT: I hail from Cross River state,”The Peoples’s Paradise”. I was born in the barracks around when Gen. Ibrahim Babangida staged his coup against Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (same men who wish to rule us today several decades after). Thinking back, I remember that pidgin English was the language for ‘Barracks Boys’, and I literally had to rehearse before speaking whenever I was forced to speak proper English; a daunting task, but a helpful one nonetheless because it made me meticulous with words. Honestly, I never really knew what I wanted to be while growing up. Or perhaps, I should say I wanted to be many things… I wanted to be a star basketballer; I was madly in love with volleyball; I craved the intensity of the court room; I imagined I would be a gallant soldier; there was even an exuberant part of my mind that thought being a medical doctor would be a great idea. I became none of these. Instead, I went for “Peace Studies” in the University. There, I found peace! I’ve got four professional certificates in the Social Sciences and a Masters in Public Administration (in view).
QUESTIONER: What brought you to poetry and when did you realize you wanted to be a poet?
BOB EKAT: Poetry was a lifestyle I emulated from my elder brother, Jimmy Ekat. He literally had poetry oozing from his pores, with his fancy words and hypnotic tone. Jimmy was the first poet I got to know. One day, he walked up to me and showed me a new poem he had written titled “parting”. I had learnt about literary techniques already, and I realized his poem had several amazing ones – rhymes, assonance, alliteration etc. – all creatively used. I felt I could do something similar, so I picked my pen and painted my pains on paper in a poem titled ‘Life’; my first poem. Jimmy loved it. My friends thought it was awesome. Thus, the flame was oiled! I realized that writing poetry was a positive use of my mind which always ran like a wild cat. The solitude of the exercise spurred dazing thoughts from my head, as common words assumed spiritual wings that carried the soul to levels of excitement hitherto unknown. The feeling was new. It was, and still is, indescribable.
QUESTIONER: What inspires your poetry and what made you transit from writing poetry to performing poetry/ spoken word?
BOB EKAT: I write as I feel. So, it won’t be wrong if I say my feelings inspire my poetry. When my mind is plagued by a certain feeling, whether of hate or love, anger or joy, my pen reacts appropriately. The thing is, a poet writes from the recesses of the soul, and it is there that strong feelings end up. Transiting from written poetry to spoken word was easy for me because from the beginning, I always crammed my lines and spoke them to whoever cared to listen. I enjoyed playing with the sounds of the words, modulating my voice and altering the pitches for fun. My friends would always tell me, “Bob, please recite that poem again…” I had my first taste of performance poetry on the stage of Poetry Porter; an encouraging experience for a neophyte.
QUESTIONER: How has your life and your relationship with poetry changed since you started performing?
BOB EKAT: Uhm… I’ll be painfully honest here. Taking my performance public has had both positive and negative effects on my life. Let me start from the positive; there’s an intense feeling of fulfillment after every performance. Seeing the audience respond with excited cheers to words and lines is a poet’s ultimate reward. Performing a poem before a live audience brings the words to life. It highlights beautiful imageries which may escape the eyes when read. Thus, it is an opportunity for the poet to showcase the enchanting beauty he has created which people will most likely ignore on pages. As a matter of fact, I’ll accept death with a smirk on my face if it comes after my bow on stage (hahahaha…). Yes, now onto the negative. Outside the little elitist circle of poets, the spoken word poet is perceived as a nomadic talker, who traverses the length and breadth of the earth spitting fancy words and illusory ideas. This position is strengthened by the fact that the genre lacks the requisite resources to reposition itself and enlighten ignorant men. However, this is a little dent, as men always realize their folly. The art is growing. The performers are now more respected. In due time, light will prevail.
QUESTIONER: What has sustained your relationship with poetry over the years and why do you believe poetry is important today?
BOB EKAT: Love. Love is the reason why I’ve continued to relate with poetry. A psychologist once said that, ‘the mental condition of a man in love is similar to that of a mad man’. I’m madly in love with poetry. And it is that love and madness that make me pick up my pen and fix lines, when in the view of the world I should be chasing more tangible things. Poetry comes with a muse, and when the muse takes over, the poet surrenders. I’ve always believed that the world is as savage as it is today because humanity lacks poetry. Poetry ensures cognitive balance, as it forces people to think so they don’t stink. This process ensures the purging of social vices.
QUESTIONER: What made you publish your poems and also do an audio CD? What has been the acceptance level of your book and CD?
BOB EKAT: I had always dreamt of publishing a book as my contribution to poetry, and so when the Pen Society offered to publish my collection of poems, it was the fulfillment of a long time dream. Before then, I had borne this fear that I might someday loose all of the scraps of papers I had my poems stored in, and that my intellectual property would be forever lost. So, having a book was like an ultimate memorabilia. As for the audio CD, it was the suggestion of my great friend, Edaoto. As a seasoned musician, he was very instrumental to the entire production. The acceptance level of both the book and the CD has been amazing. In 2012, the book was one of the ten chosen titles used by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) in the Yusuf Alli Literary Campaign. In the same year, the University of Lagos chose it for its Creative Arts Department for a course in Poetry. Also, with the media attention it has enjoyed, people have been ordering copies online and in book stores. It is also in the libraries of several secondary schools. So, I’ll say the acceptance has been encouraging. However, it is not where it should be. The book industry in Nigeria is at a serious low.
QUESTIONER: What makes a poem “good?” Which one of your poem is special to you and what led you to write it and have you also performed it?
BOB EKAT: there is no single factor that makes a poem good. As a matter of fact, a number of elements come together to beautify a poem. But, most importantly, a write-up is not a poem unless it has literary devices. These devices are what add colours to the lines. So, the assonance, alliteration, metaphore, personification etc. must be effectively employed in the writing. Also, clarity matters. A complex poem with difficult words and closed ideas make some poems seem like puzzles. So, a good poem must be easily understandable, because that’s where the relishing lies. My most special poem is titled ‘Saro’. It’s a short poem of less than fourteen lines, dedicated to Ken Saro Wiwa, a relentless advocate for the Niger Deltans, killed by the brutal Abacha regime. I wrote that poem because I felt the need to remind humanity that posterity should be our ultimate watch line. It is until men stand up like Saro and lay their lives on the line that they should expect change in Nigeria. Fear is our worst foe. Life is worth nothing if we are unwilling to die for something. I’ve performed it severally. Although, I still feel I’ve not performed it enough.
QUESTIONER: You display so much energy on stage, where does the energy come from?
BOB EKAT: This is a difficult one. Maybe it’s as a result of my forceful nature. Or perhaps, the fact that I’m passionate about the themes that I write on. Yea, I think ‘passion’ is the answer. When I’m on stage sometimes, I forget the art of the performance, and let the words in my lines evoke sensitive emotions within me. The energy which is seen is the subliminal consequence of the verbal stirrings within me
QUESTIONER: Who are some of your favorite poets and why?
BOB EKAT: The list is very long o… But, I should mention a few in no particular order; Noni Aneke, Lanre Ari’Ajia, Uche Uwadinachi, Efe Paul, Jiworob, and many more. These are my favorites because their works meet both academic and entertainment requirements.
QUESTIONER: Where do you see Spoken Word Poetry in Nigeria 5 years from now and where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
BOB EKAT: If I was asked this question five years ago, I would probably give a tasteless response. But, having related closely with some passionate men in recent times such as Olulu and Remi Adegbite, I would say with all certainty that in five years, poets will become hot cakes for big brands in need for promo. And when the time comes, I’ll still be writing poetry.
QUESTIONER: What advice do you have for aspiring poets?
BOB EKAT: The basic thing you need to be a poet is to give your mind the freedom to roam. To imagine. The mind has a wanderer’s thirst. Give it water and let it wander into the unknown. There, lies the food for the soul. Also, read, read, read. Books are the materials for strong thoughts and fancy use of words. So, read! And lastly, read and listen to other poets. You will learn a lot from them.
QUESTIONER: Any other information (maybe personal things you would want to share with us):
BOB EKAT: Nah!!! Just kidding… It’s been a lengthy, but engaging interview. I will like to use this medium to appreciate the Wordup crew. I imagine it’s not been easy. YOU ALL ARE THE BEAUTIFUL ONES THAT HAVE BEEN BORN!