Poets Talk: 5 Questions with Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike

#PoetsTalkSeries, Interview

Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike has written extensively under the pen name Uche Peter Umez.

Photo of Uche Peter Umez by Fabio Bracarda – Civitella, Italy.

Konya Shamsrumi: What is the process of writing a poem like for you? Is it a lot of hard work or easy?

Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike: I’d like to address the second part of the question first: Any writing (creative or critical) is hard work, and I doubt if it ever comes effortlessly to anyone, or if it gets any easier with each work created. Lazy me, I have no particular structure for creating a poem. Though I wish I did, that’d take away from the beautiful spontaneity of creativity, wouldn’t it? Sometimes the poem unfurls itself to me as an image, other times as a luminous phrase. There are times, rarely though, it might appear as a vignette, pressing impressing to be kneaded into poetry. I figure poets as the medium through which a poem is distilled and voiced.

Konya Shamsrumi: Please describe your sense of identity in this or any possible world in imagery or metaphor?

Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike: I try as best as I can to be ambivalent about questions of identity, for how identity tends to speak of difference. Identity, it seems, is not usually with, but always to or against some/one/thing. Of course, people are differentiated in varied, even intersecting, ways. So identity, as far as I can see, is to position the self – or selves, if you will – in a particular way, which invariably may misposition me to others. To make the self recognisable, intelligible, and definable to others, is the work of identity. Identity, perhaps like language, is one way we make meaning of people? Thus, to speak of identity is to enable narratives or ideologies readily mobilised by certain persons, groups, institutions, and authorities to facilitate structures of power and privilege, as well as hegemony, domination, exclusion, oppression, and possibly annihilation.

“Thus, to speak of identity is to enable narratives or ideologies readily mobilised by certain persons, groups, institutions, and authorities to facilitate structures of power and privilege, as well as hegemony, domination, exclusion, oppression, and possibly annihilation.”

Uche Peter Umez

Think of the identity-speak or rhetoric of nationalism or racism, for instance, each instating its “facts” of difference. To be human is complex enough, without adding cultural markers(on)to one’s self. I’ll be naive to think that any one of us can escape the norms of identity in a world so rooted in capitalism. And yet, as imagery or metaphor goes, take me for a river.

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 whoselife you think it would have saved?

Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike: That’d be attributing a messianic quality topoetry. But, really, could any poem save a person’s life? I’d love to read such a poem!

Uche Peter Umez


Konya Shamsrumi: What does Africa mean to you, as potential or reality?

Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike: Ha, Africa, land of the romantic, land of the realist! Africa of Dennis Brutus, Africa of David Diop, that stubborn, resilient, undying baobab, that kindler of dreams that is quick to provoke the dreamer at times to bouts of pessimism. Africa, despite her quilt of ethnicities and histories, has great potential to become a sanctuary for all, but – alas! – the deficit of leadership, co-engineered by local and global  hegemonies, staggers her, assailing her in every direction, grafting her to everyday realities of dea(r)th.

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.


Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike: The question of “impressed” or “fascinated” makes me reflect on “affect” or “evoke.” In being affected, some feeling is evoked. Poetry aims to impress in order to fascinate. Not wishing to come across as self-admiring – but are creators truly less self-effacing?  – each of my poems, I fancy, impresses and fascinates me in ways I find utterly unique and personal, considering that poetry comes from a private place, arises out of a need to better understand my relation to happenings not instantly clear. A poem to which I turn in certain moments is “Crows in Flight.” Here is an excerpt:

The sky looms
a different blue
thoughts oscillate
between mangos and olives
then coalesce
a consolation
 
We call home anywhere
we find something to love
home is no more than
concrete and earth.

Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike is a Ph.D. student and a Vanier Scholar at the English and Film Studies department at the University of Alberta. His poetry, fiction and non-fiction have been published in print and online anthologies and his articles have appeared in Postcolonial Text, Tydskrif virletterkunde, etc. An alumnus of the International Writing Program (USA), Uche is a Board Member of the Ebedi International Writer’s Residency. Currently, his research is focused on representations of masculinities in contemporary Nigerian fiction.

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