Konya Shamsrumi: What is the process of writing a poem like for you? Is it a lot of hard work or easy?
Chika Jones: Sometimes it’s hard, other times it’s easy. If I am inspired to write a poem, everything comes in a rush and the poem can be ready in ten minutes, then I do a little editing. But if I am commissioned to write on a particular subject, it is usually more difficult. I have to read a lot on the subject, write, rewrite and edit over and over before I get a semblance of something worth it.
Konya Shamsrumi: Please describe your sense of identity in this or any possible world in imagery or metaphor?
Chika Jones: I like to think there are infinite worlds and infinite possibilities, but maybe that’s just my way of coping with the difficulty of this world. In this world, I am constantly trying to define my identity by the parameters I feel are important: Belief and value system, religion, relationships, my creativity. Currently I am going through a process of redefining a long-held sense of identity, so I find this question difficult to answer, that’s probably why it has taken more than five lines. But, of this I am sure: I believe that art in whatever form is integral to this world as we know it and I want to always contribute in any way I can to the art we put out. So that when my time is done, I might feel a reasonable sense of contentment with what I have done.
I just realised you asked for a metaphor. It would be this: I feel like one of the little stars hung from a silent night, trying its best to shine along with all others to keep the overpowering darkness at bay.
Konya Shamsrumi: If any of your poems could literarily save a person’s life, which poem would it be and can you describe the person whose life you think it would have saved?
Chika Jones: It would be this poem ‘Let it all happen to you’.
I go to that poem whenever things are especially difficult. When I published the first draft on Facebook, I got several comments that showed it resonated with a lot of people too. So basically it’s a poem for anyone who is at a low point in life, because it says: Let it all happen to you, you will not break, for you are not made of brittle things.
Konya Shamsrumi: What does Africa mean to you, as potential or reality?
Chika Jones: I would say both. As long as there is breath, potential exists, but right now, where we are is our reality. Also, some things will not change, we are a people with a largely dysfunctional moral code. Our sense of morality is deeply bound to culture more than it is to people, at least in Nigeria. And this I feel will be our constant undoing no matter how much we progress as a people.
Konya Shamsrumi: Could you share with us one poem you’ve been most impressed or fascinated by? Tell us why and share favourite lines from it.
Chika Jones: There are a lot of them, but recently, it would be a poem performed by Andrea Gibson titled: Yellowbird. You can listen here:
My favourite line, which sums up the poem is this: “Picasso said he would paint with his tongue on the floor of a dusty cell if he had to, we have to create, it is the only thing louder than destruction. It is the same way saxophones in New Orleans play under water, hoping those notes would rise to the top, carrying people and hope to shore.”
The poem reinforces my belief in the power of creativity, of letting the “percussions of hearts” continually play so we can keep the darkness at bay.
Chika Jones is a poet who largely showcases his work through performance. He recently worked on his first one-man show in March 2018 at the Lagos International Theatre Festival and is working on a poetry collection about Lagos. You can read his work at chikajones.com