Please introduce yourself, name, sex, state, family and educational background, and other personal information.
I’m simply called Uche Uwadinachi with a stage name Priest of Poetry. I am a Nigerian native of Imo State in Obowu Local government from a christain home and a family of five. I am a young man in his thirties, still shy, raised and schooled in Lagos by Christian parents. I graduated from Lagos State University, Ojo- 2004/5 with a B.A in English Language, then had my youth service in Nassarawa state. I later trained as a Broadcaster/Presenter at the Federal Radio Broadcasting Corporation of Nigeria Training School in Lagos.
What brought you to poetry, and what has sustained your relationship with poetry over the years?
What brought me into poetry is quite adventurous, as it was the search for a cure. I grew up as a timid kid with so many psychological, health and economical issues to contend with. Born into a very humble background and a low life environment, I could hardly afford my school fees or 3 square meals, thus I concluded that life was an unending circle of misery. Ajegunle, where I was born, is a life where as much as it denies one’s so much economic privileges, can also be a throb in the heart of any determined child to be different, and that was the kind of childhood I had, a rugged ragged raging kid. Thus I woke up one morning with a yearn for a cure- a cure to find common clothes and food to eat. Like a saying, I had no shoes, but this time around, I wasn’t begging for shoes but slippers to cover my cold dusty feet. The journey was far. But eventually I discovered that writing down one’s diary of woes can be an unconscious therapy to overcoming the woes. Each time I pen down a particular malady I had, I realized it was becoming lighter and clearer and the problem was getting resolved. Stumbling across poetry as a writing genre, left me with a more stronger findings that poetry is an effective therapy in curing deepest worries and most visible scars. Thus I found a cure. This encounter and gift became my long standing source of sustenance. As long as the society is still uneven and unfair , as long as every child like my childhood has to hawk to eat, as long as the ruling class has to dictate the crime, the holiness, the laughter and the pain of the masses in the society, so much I have kept writing for the possibility of a better society, and for a fulfilled life.
What made you transit from writing poetry to performing poetry/ spoken word?
I did not transit from poetry writing to poetry performance rather I evolved and expanded my scope of what poetry should be. Poetry is the life of letters. As old as the written word can ever be, it started from the oral traditions which ground the fact that one indispensable essence of our writing is to mould our vocal imaginations and accounts. After my discovery of the therapy of writing poetry, I did not stop there, as an agitating and daring person, I was always falling into the temptation of mouthing my poems while on paper to feel the taste of its truth and lies. My mouth was my stage to experiment every single words on paper. Hmmmmm, there I began speaking the word and the word became life, and so I was born a priest of poetry- of the spoken word. This is not a flight ticket to Rome, it’s what anybody can afford to be or not to be – a SPOKEN WORD POET. Thus writing poetry became and remain my cooking pot and spoken word the prepared food. That’s why I am both a written and spoken word poet. Every poem in my first poetry collection “SCAR in the HEART of pain” is a performance. And every performed poem has a written intelligence.
How has your life and/or your relationship with poetry changed since you started performing?
My life and relationship with poetry changed since I found performance. First it is useful to note that I have a grounded background in drama and music. Though I studied English Language as claimed by the department but I was also a bonafide member of the theatre art department in LASU. That situation led me featuring in top Nigerian movies then and signed me a record deal in a top music label by 2006. Performing poetry for me, was fulfilling my dream and living my life. One of my revered lecturers once told me that my written poetry assignment was too watery and accessible and I told him that I was sorry for his eyes. I continued my accessible performance poems until it got me my first award in 2006 as the winner of the ANA poetry festival LAPOFEST (the money small o but books plenty sha). Performing poetry for me has not only made my written poetry more visible and critical, it has also helped me become popular , earn some good cash and prizes, sold my books, meet bigger poets and platforms, attend big shows/events, and become a better thinker and change seeker. My testimony is endless, lol.
What poetry books are next to your bedside table? What are you appreciating about them?
A recent poetry collection I just downloaded from kindle is “Daybreak and other poems” by Dami Ajayi. Please its free , don’t be shy, go and download it fast before Saraba Magazine change their mind. Hmm, that collection na helelele. This is followed by a poetry collection “Listen to the Geckos Singing From a Balcony” by Tolu Ogunlesi, oh my God, that journalist can write o. Other tough ones that I stocked under my bigger Okrika pillow are “Love in the Memory of pain” by Aj Dagga Tolar , “Tears from an old mans eyes” by Bob Ekat, , “Murals of My Mind” by Micheal Andre Brooks and “THE STATE OF POETRY” by Roger McGOUGH. These whole poems make me sleep well without nightmares. I love these poems basically because of the background and profile of the authors, I respect them a lot especially in their ideology, achievement, style of writing and definition. For performance poems, I do open “ Murals of my eyes”, and “Tears from an old mans eyes” while for depth prognosis of issue, I pick “THE STATE OF POETRY”,” Listen to the Geckos Singing From a Balcony”, “Love in the Memory of pain” and “Daybreak and other poems”.
You have performed/ taught poetry over the years. What do you find as the best way into a poetic state of mind for people who are new to the craft?
The best way into a poetic state of mind is silence. Being too loud is a whole distraction: you can never hear yourself or your inner voice and response. Like I noted in one of my online article on my blog, “ Taste of Poetry”, poetry is in everything you do that requires silence , words and rhythm. Find a situation, find a pen and find a reason to write. First, be involved in a particular idea/event, next, attempt to paint it exactly the way you feel, then apply some simple and affordable figurative expressions like simile, metaphor, oxymoron, personification etc to dress it up like a poem , and lastly add style to your kind of writing and delivery in a way that provides rhythm, and the poem is done. Poetry can be as simple as sex and as difficult as making love. Be free, be real and fluid. Rhymes are not necessary if you can’t afford it, don’t starve yourself for 27 days because you want to have rhymes in your punch lines so that you can be called the Will Smith of poetry or the Omonile of spoken word, haba! Let it out, like an innocent semen to form the life of your idea on plain paper, and that will be your contribution to the poetry family, the society and the world at large.
You are a published poet, what lead you to publish your poems?
I have a poetry collection titled “SCAR in the HEART of PAIN” and am done with a new one “Love to a flower Bird” a love gallery. My first collection was my therapy to conquering my situation of childhood psychological and material maladies. It was a journey I started from the first day I was born into a city of poverty, pain and pressure amidst a world of abundance and freedom. My battle as a child were all epistled in those metaphors of verses in my book. It was later in my adulthood that I realized I should bring these narrations together in a book as a poetry collection. This was to help me not just have them compiled but also help others to see that we are all together in this circle of societal predicament and only in our togetherness can we fight and conquer this ill representations.
What makes a poem “good”?
A good poem is a bad poem in its finest quality. Bad because the initial idea can be discomforting and subjective. No poem starts so good enough and perfect until it is ready and out to offers a reasonable voice to the waiting audience. A good poem is branding your individual interpretation and expression of a situation or imagination into an idea that anybody will appreciates as a fine piece. A good poem is piece of art form written in verse (lengthy or short), embedded in depth meaning, figurative in expression and a sound sense of idea that cut across the world view. So to write a good poem, first, read and read wide, write and write well, edit and edit earnestly, accept and accept criticism, then finally mouth and word your poem to either get a final boo to hell or handshake into the next best poem.
What is the craziest thing you have done just to ensure you get on stage and perform? and what is the biggest poetry platform you have performed on so far?
The craziest thing I have ever done to perform my poem on stage, was when I had to trekked from from Boundary to Ijora (about 5 kilometers, chei!) after losing my wallet to pick-pocketers and also having had to appeal to organizers to allow me perform my tribute poem for Chinua Achebe at the conference hall of National Institute of International Affair Lagos Island on the 14th of May 2013. It was the presence of the ANA chairman (i.e. Association of Nigerian Authors) that rescued me that day o, as he told them that I was a prominent performance poet in Lagos, (na wah o). However, it was eventually the happiest day of my life because I was able to offer my heart to a legend, a mentor and a father , rest in Peace Chinua Achebe!
The biggest poetry platforms I think I have had was at the National Poetry Slam Competition in Abuja and the Bring Back the Book Official Launch in Bayelsa State, both in 2012. I emerged the 2nd runner up in the National Poetry Slam Competition with over 30 contestants from different states in Nigeria. After that award, I was invited alongside my 1st runner-up for the unveiling of the Bring Back the Book Official Launch in Bayelsa State. My flight to and fro was paid, my hotel bills and movement for 3 days paid, I sat in the hall as a major guest (i.e. a performance poet, lol) alongside top Nigerian actor/actress who were also there to recite poems and there before me was over 2000 audience waiting, to equally hear us do our winning poems as ambassadors of Bring Back the Book Project. Really for poetry, it was BIG and motivating and that’s why I believe poetry will survive and surely excel in this part of the world.
What is a measure of success as a poet?
For me, a measure of success of a poet, is the level of expressiveness and definition that that poet can attain in his writings and performances. And such is the life that marks you with a flag that you perform your poems without fears or favour, delivering your mind in lines that are not dictated by the presence, absence, gate fees, guns, hips or applause of any crowd. That is poetry! And this can be very funny but to me, this is a fulfilled poet. This does not undermine the fact that a poet should understand the ethics of a show and an audience which channels to the kind of material success he/she can attain. But this should be a secondary submission as a poet. No matter how buoyant the industry becomes, poets can never be comedians, musicians, praise singer or dancers. That does not mean that its only poets that offer change to a society, no! Poets will always be the head, the mind, the root of these other genre and as such will have to bear the material situation it can suffer.
Who are some of your favorite poets? and why are they your favorite?
The foremost poet in my list, is Niyi Osundare, his poems “Songs from the Marketplace” and “Village Voices” made me believe I could write poetry as far back as 1998. And his handshake at the 2006 ANA award, changed my life. Christopher Okigbo is one poet whose poetry collection I still read today and find fresh meaning whenever I perform them. Tchicaya u tam’ si is another beautiful poet I still read from. Presently am fond of Aj Dagga Tolar because of his faithfulness to living the letters of his poems in his social and political interventions. Odia Ofeimun stage details and style keeps me addicted to his every poetry performance event. Akeem Lasisi is one lord of my typical kind of indigenous performance, he’s good. I love my mummy, Akachi Ezeigbo, especially in the way she addresses the real essence of feminism. Bob Ekat is also in my list for agility on stage. Efe Azino is one poet I love too because he is defined and has a sense of direction. Iqwo is my favourite too because she’s consistently good. Ayeola Mabiaku is another female poet I wont forget. Kemistry (Kemi Bakare) is one fine young vibrant female poet that I want to watch anyday and many others.
Which one of your poem is special to you and what led you to write it? Have you performed? If not, why?
Ebony goddess is my most adored poem because I wrote it to the first girl I ever wooed when I was too young to understand the meaning of love. She was very dark yet radiant and had the accolade of bright white smiles when she stared at me… hmmmm! Well let me not remember that. I have performed it only at the Wordslam poetry event and it was beautiful.
What is the major difference between Spoken Word Poetry in Nigeria 5 years ago and now?
There’s a big difference. As much as poetry was pronouced then, 5 years ago, spoken word sounded like one Molue drug seller seeking attention in a shopping mall. It was seen then as something close to fake poetry and a concoction of sympathized rap and awkward rapid speech. One place I can remember that appreciated this word-experiment was Wordslam by Jahman. This was not just a poetry reading event, it was a combination of poetry performance and spoken word. Poetry Potter, Potters Lounge, Anthill, Pen Society Taruwa , Arthouse and a few were notable for poetry reading. However now, spoken word is born and growing as an independent genre of poetry. I know many poets who dropped their chieftaincy titles as IGWE de POETS to be SPOKEN WORD ARTIST because of the popularity, lol. With the advent of Chill and Relax (a spoken word gathering by Plumbline), WORDUP, the Literary Society and Metro Open Mic, spoken word has earned a voice, value and fame. A loud kudos to the slam master – Ken Ike and Olumide Olulu-the king not from Zulu. Now anybody can do poetry. Good! The fact that anybody can do poetry does not reduce it worth, it instead opens literature to all and helps people to start writing, thinking, until they get better and better which is a core of contemporary literature. What defines and dictate who can write? Especially in this kind of society where education is costly and guns are pointing at you at every corners of the street. Let all join the movement to write, to voice, learn, to change, to entertain and with events following, we will get there.
What is your vision for Poetry and Spoken Word in Nigeria 5 years from now and how do you plan to actualize it?
First I hope to have released my second and third poetry collections “Love to a Flowerbird” and “Broken Lips” with the spoken word audio versions and e-books . I look forward also to have officially released my first spoken word rap album featuring the “E fimi le” popular hit single. Equally I should have completed my six videos then. More important, I plan to take my performance to other countries from this year. I am equally working with a poetry organization called AJ House of Poetry, made of wonderful teenage poets and spoken word artist, I hope to have helped them achieve some interesting street poetry projects and shows.
What advice do you have for aspiring poets?
To upcoming poets and spoken word artist, I would say welcome to the world of words unchained. First thing to note is that, it’s a strange world where flying can be interesting. But when you fall, If you remain down in your mistake, the same writers that criticize you, will stone you there, so you must pick up yourself and fly again. You don’t learn how to fly on another’s back. Experiment your own ideas yourself and test them in poem, then make it fly again for people to see it, as it sail higher and get better, they will definitely begin to appreciates you. And as you continue, they will love you. Exploring other works is indispensable. I’m still seriously learning how to write especially following the works of older poets and writers to help me develop better. So the key points are: be bold, keep studying, be thinking, be writing, be performing and be attentive to learning.
Attend, find, seek or hustle for your work/performance to be read/heard. Don’t underestimate any gathering, show or promoter, however have a guiding principle and respect for your art. It can only get better. Be encouraged.
You can check my blog http://www.priestofpoetry.