- Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your educational background? What are your general professional and non-professional interests?
I was christened Hannah Tamarakariebi Oluwatosin Dogubo as a baby but I adopted “Fragile” for uninteresting reasons. I am from Bayelsa state, Sagbama LGA. I am a graduate of the Niger Delta University with a degree in English and Literary Studies (nope, this has nothing to do with my poetry. Absolutely nothing), the Co-organizer of the More Life Concert (the biggest poetry concert in the South, by the way), a Fiction writer, MC and a prolific singer…in my bathroom. On the side (or front… Depending on the angle you are looking from) I am a skin and hair care formulator running an Afrocentric beauty brand called Nubiette (Yup. Feel free to check out @nubiettebeauty) so I naturally have a keen interest in chemicals, “lab practices”, aromatherapy, herbalism and non-weird stuff like that.
- What brought you to poetry, and what has sustained your relationship with poetry over the years?
In 2016, I stumbled across a video of Jackie Hill, on Facebook, performing a piece called “Jigaboo”. Months later I met an Abuja-based poet, Tonton Raymond, who started the Umuahia Literary Society. I found a freedom in poetry that I never knew I needed and it is one I would never trade for anything. I believe I have been given a gift and a task and that has kept me in the literary world this long (or short).
- What came first for you, writing or performing? What made you transit from writing poetry to performing spoken word?
Performance came first to me before writing. I have always been a performer from a family of performers; singers, really, who love to show out on a stage. The stage has always been my favourite playground since I was a little child and even when I wrote my very first piece, I wrote it performing in my head – which is funny because at the time I didn’t know Spoken Word poetry existed in Nigeria. I was never a page poet though I try to scribble once in a while for the fun of it.
- What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have before you write/ perform?
(laughs) Nothing really. As far as I don’t have a deadline, pieces come to me at the oddest of times just like that. I just make sure I have lots of edibles when I write because I burn fuel really quickly. Like I said earlier, I perform in my head as I write. Preparing for performances, on the other hand, I had a weird ritual which I have outgrown. I would stand in the nude in front of my mirror and perform my poem to ensure I stayed focused and master all distractions. I’ve outgrown that now and I can tell how weird it sounds to others.
- How has your life and/or your relationship with poetry changed since you started performing?
I have become a tad bit bolder in my interactions with people. I would rather stand on a stage with a million people in an audience than have a one-on-one conversation with a person. Poetry has helped me get around that. I can`t say how because that would be leaking my secret (smirk).
- What’s your favourite piece that are you yet to perform? And why are you yet to perform it?
Every new piece I write is a favourite until I write a newer piece but if there is any I would mention, it’s called “Selfie”. The reason I am yet to perform it is it looks better on a page than a stage. It is a solemn poem with words that should hold attention. You can’t be listening to “Selfie” and looking at fine girl. LOL
- You recently won the biggest Slam Poetry Competition in Nigeria, War Of Words Season 8, how was the competition (as regards the poets, judges and all) and what has changed in your poetry life since you won?
The competition was a beautiful reality check, I must say. It shocked me into a fierce alertness that I didn’t realize I needed. This season had some really tough poets that had me on my toes. I literally wrote my pieces with their faces in mind. The judges were great. It’s amazing how a panel can have differing opinions on a matter, or in this case, a poem, and at the time of the competition, they were scary but I’m grateful for every one of them. My view of life has changed drastically since the competition; befriending and having conversations with poets with different world views would do that and surely that has impacted my writing to an extent. Next time you want to write a heartbreak poem, you think of the more pressing issues in life when you remember Otor Matthew’s poem (LOL).
- Did you know you were going to win? If yes, please share your strategy that made you win.
Nope. I didn’t think I was going to win but I knew I was going to leave an impression: you would either love Fragile or hate her. I mean, how do you go into your second competition ever as a newbie with former slam champs, former WOW competitors, in a place you do not belong and think you will win? That’s a lot of faith that I didn’t have. So my strategy for leaving an impression was to amplify every energy on that stage: be twice the beast any poet would be and for a girl that is quite an impression.
- Are you a fashionable person? Please describe the general process you go through to dress up.
- How would you define the style your dressing exemplifies? What five fashion items must always accompany your dressing?
I strive to stand out, not in an outlandish way but the keyword would be “notable”. Sadly I do not have any “most-have” fashion item but I love my boots and wedges though. The tall girl must stand even taller.
- What is a measure of success as a poet?
I would say the impact of your message and the money in your account FROM POETRY. it doesn’t matter how many countries you’ve toured, if you do not have testimonials from people whose lives have been touched by your poetry in one way or the other, I don’t consider you a successful poet. The money in your account, on the other hand is very very very very very very very very very important. It’s the 21st century and I don’t see why we should remain content with being broke Shakespeares. Poetry is no longer a side hustle, it’s a career and your finance should have a say in your career. Simply put, let your money be loud. Just my two cents though.
- If poetry was an animal, which animal would it be and why?
I’m not a fan of animals so I’ll skip this. I think this is Mr Olulu’s jurisdiction (evil grin).
- If poetry was a drink, which drink would it be and why?
I would say a cocktail. Disclaimer: I don’t know much about drinks outside yoghurts. I choose cocktail because poetry is a mix of everything (kindly snap to this. I know it’s not that deep but just snap). I’ll stop here so I don’t annoy my village people.
- We know of your love for “Amala,” can you make it now? Are you a foodie? What other food do you love?
(LOL) Amala would lose its effect on me if I learn to prepare it so I’d rather not. Yes, I am a foodie. Not a glutton but a foodie. I am a fan of ethnic meals and love to try out new delicacies everywhere I go. I love the Calabar Fisherman Soup. I love Kekefia (as an Ijaw woman I need to represent). I love Okodo. And of course back to the West, I love Ofada rice and that distinct Yoruba stew.
- Are you in a relationship? Is he a poet?
- Who are some of your favorite poets (home based and foreign)?
Jackie Hill Perry, Ezekiel Azonwu, Saul Williams, Wana Wana, Donna, Graciano Enwerem, Neofloetry, Oruz Kennedy… To mention a few.
- What advice do you have for aspiring poets?
Find your niche. Don’t try to sound like everybody but yourself. You are unique. Plagiarism is a plague, don’t steal people’s lines. Be adaptable. Attend workshops, try out open mics, participate in slams, befriend other poets and most importantly acknowledge God as the first ever Poet, so draw reference from His word.
- Aside poetry, which other creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
Stage acting. I have always had the dream of being in a stage play especially as a female representation of Sango. If somebody does not write that script soon and cast me (is that the proper term?), I would have to write it myself. I love stage plays and the creativity and dedication that goes into them.
- What should we expect to see from you this year? And where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Expect an EP, a poetry sketch and of course the third edition of the More Life Concert. I see myself as a more established poet, seasoned MC hosting events across Africa, a cosmetician doing a lot of work for charity and publishing my first novel…with a lot of monies.
- On a final note, please share something people don’t know about you with us and your social media links.
This is more of a “something people know but do not believe”. I am a very shy person. Whatever you see on stage does not follow me off the stage. If you see me at a corner, keeping to myself and not smiling, I’m trying to pretend I’m in invisible, so please help a pressed sister and engage me in a conversation instead of assuming I am proud. Secondly, erotic or “vulgar” poetry or not, I am a lover of Christ and a believer in his finished works. Thirdly, my poems are not vulgar. Just listen to them with a clean mind (or don’t…)
Imstagram: @fragiledogubo, Twitter: @fd_ink, Facebook: Fragile Dogubo