Konya Shamsrumi: What is the process of writing a poem like for you? Is it a lot of hard work or easy?
Uchenna Franklin Ekweremadu: Writing poetry, for me, is like cooking. Just like deciding what to cook, I sometimes have to choose between writing a love poem and a requiem. Next, I have to source the ingredients needed to achieve the desired feeling and effect, considering such essential factors as quantity and quality. And then, just like watching the fire so that the food isn’t over-cooked or under-cooked, I am careful during the editing stage to know when to stop polishing the poem. Let us just say that I totally agree with T. S. Elliot for holding that the poet’s creative process involves the amalgamation of disparate experiences.
Again, for me, irrespective of whether the outcome is adjudged sophisticated or plain, the process is always hard work because creativity is a solitary and painful endeavour.
Konya Shamsrumi: Pleas describe your sense of identity in this or any possible world in imagery or metaphor.
Uchenna Franklin Ekweremadu: As a piece of the multicoloured myriad that makes up the human mosaic, it doesn’t break my heart to think that even though I play a role in bringing out the big picture, my absence will hardly alter it in any significant way. This realisation, this awareness, that the planet will continue to rotate and revolve with or without me, helps me to prioritise rather than striving to become or do everything at once.
Konya Shamsrumi: If any of your poems could literally save a person’s life, which poem would it be and can you describe the person whose life you think it would have saved?
Uchenna Franklin Ekweremadu: My poem, ‘The Plague’, which appeared in A & U American AIDS Magazine around 2011, is both a warning and a call-to-action. It portrays the fatality and the devastating effects of HIV, and also warns people to employ all protective measures to prevent the dreaded virus from gaining admittance into the city (the body).
Konya Shamsrumi: What does Africa mean to you, as a potential or reality?
Uchenna Franklin Ekweremadu: When I think of Africa, what comes to mind is an amnesiac that is gradually regaining her senses, self-worth and history. Unpleasant situations, both pre-colonial and postcolonial, have kept Africa behind her peers. However, I think that the future is bright, what with the cultural renaissance sweeping across the continent and the daring steps being taken by Africans from all fields of endeavour.
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.
Uchenna Franklin Ekweremadu: A. E. Housman’s ‘To an Athlete Dying Young’ encapsulates not just the ecstasy of earthly accomplishments but the eternal glory of exiting the stage while the ovation is still loud. The poem was one of a few others we read in secondary school preparatory to the senior certificate examination. It only began to make more sense to me years after high school, when I began to compare individuals who retired at the peak of their careers with those who hung on too long and lost their haloes. I particularly like the fifth stanza because of the beautiful way it assures the athlete (who once won his town the race) that by dying young, he has obtained immunity from eventual disgrace. Here it goes:-
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads who wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
Uchenna-Franklin Ekweremadu writes from Kaduna, Nigeria. He lives on food as much as he does on music and literature. His poetry manuscript, Living on as Dust, was shortlisted for the 2017 RL Poetry Award. Some of his poems and short stories have appeared in Jalada Africa, Transition Magazine, sGrub Street Journal, Saraba Magazine, Write Mag, Wilderness House Literary Review, Coe Review, Sentinel Nigeria Literary, A&U American AIDS Magazine and elsewhere. He is currently working towards publishing his first novel.