Maryam Gatawa is a young poet and a graduate of Economics from the Bayero University, Kano. She lives in Kano, Nigeria and is a passionate lover of the Arts. Some of her work has been published in the African Writer Magazine, Praxis Magazine, Ink Sweat and Tears, PIN Quarterly Magazine, Tuck Magazine, Better Than StarBucks, Anthology Of Best New African Poets 2017, The Arts Muse Fair, Kalahari Review as well as in local papers. When not writing poetry, she talks to her parrots or plays snooker, watches Netflix, or reads other poets.
Poet or poetess? I am, in truth, no longer sure of which one is right. And I think I should not care, just like I do not with regard to which one is right between author/authoress and/or writer/writeress, if anything like these exist. All I know is I have a muse, a muse that enables me compose poems, poems the experiencing of which many people tell me brings them joy. I do not know how they find that joy and I do not think I need to. I’ve often told many a questioner that the ‘muse’ is a poets’ thing, beyond the comprehension of those who do not personally experience it. So, I with my muse and they with their joy. The equation is balanced. I think so.
Whether a poet or a writer of poems, it is now my lot to be your regular companion on this page. Thus it is a good, I fancy, that I introduce myself to you after being presented to you by the Editor-in-Chief. I opt to do so in order to give you a clear picture of the kind of stuff you will be coming across on this page. Leaving things blank creates a very big window for conjecture, and conjecture might lead to getting grand expectations that cannot be met by this page.
There is, I believe, a dearth of platforms devoted solely for light literary discourse. The present one is an addition to that near-nonexistent category. It is therefore fair for a literary outlet to be left for literary stuff, alone and solely. This column will not veer by delving into commentary on politics and political issues. The ‘dirty game’ has more than its fair share of coverage. And there is more to life than politicking, politricks or whatever it is called. For me, there is everything in the arts. Therein I get the reason to smile as well as the reason to cry. It is a world I feel comfortable dwelling in. I might add here that this exception is not just due to the nature of this platform but more importantly because yours truly has even less than a minute interest in the game of politics and all that goes with it. The isis and oughts of politics do not catch my fancy. I have left it to the politicians.
Our first rule, then, is that you will not, on this page, see anything about who joins or quits a political party; who gets or loses this or that election or appointment; what policies the executive should execute or what law the legislature should legislate. These and related issues will have no place here. You get to look out for them someplace else.
I believe in accidents. But I do not believe that everything that is sudden and unprepared for is accidental. Many things germinate before they crop up. Many things remain latent, dormant and in limbo until they get triggered. If there is anything like a ‘trained poet’ then I am not one. I am, still, not an accidental one either. Poetry came to me as an inspiration at a certain period of my life. It is a period I reflect on with some nostalgia. To understand the stuff I write as poetry, a thing or two needs to be said about that period as its simulation continues to be the threshold of my poems. To say that I will be discussing my recollections and perceptions on this page does sound like ‘setting down a rule’. But if we are to take it as that, then it is our Rule No. 2.
Poetry, like everything else, means different things to different people. To some it is a mechanism for escaping reality. To some others it is the exact opposite. Some use it as a vehicle for conveying happiness and joy. To some others, it is the tunnel for dissipating sadness, stress and all that goes with those. In my world, poetry serves all these purposes. It will not, methinks, be out of place if I share a part of my world, my poetic world, with you, my readers. After all, caring, they say, is embedded, and manifested, in sharing. So, this too you should put down as one of the things you may be encountering here. Can we take this as Rule No. 3?
My not being a ‘trained poet’ should not be construed as me not believing in having ‘trained poets’. I think there is nothing that can elude a determined and tenacious enthusiast. I know of many that have learned poetry from others for I myself, in my humble way, have ‘mentored’ a handful of such enthusiasts. I am taking the liberty of assuming that among those that will be reading this page there will be such enthusiasts. And for them I will, once in a while, give the narration of how I go about writing my poems, what taps the muse and sends the inspiration. If this is a rule, then it is more on me than on you. The Rule is saying: be mindful of your readers that may not yet be poets but are dreaming of being such.
Poetry has taken me places, linked me up with different people from different parts of Nigeria and beyond. I have on numerous occasions been greeted with surprise and awe: a poetess from the North! and thus I am made to feel like a rare species. But rare I am not. There are many budding bards in the territory north of the Niger. Unheard? Yes! Non-existent? No! I will therefore use this page of mine to keep my readers abreast of the wonderful things many wonderful people are doing down here, pertaining to poetry and other literary activities.
Writers of all genres, novelists, playwrights and poets are the teachers of their society. This much I believe in. The novelists have it virtually easy. The playwrights have it simple. But the poets’ message is always coded. And therein lies the secret and the mystery. Therein lies the reason behind the immortality and the timelessness. This page will, therefore, be decoding appropriate poems at appropriate times for appropriate purposes in order to appropriately bring out the message of the poem by linking it and applying it to appropriate circumstances as they unfold. Poetic wisdom enables poets to address political issues without infuriating the politicians, to dissect the society without encroaching into the sociologists’ reserve and even commit some atrocities that are astonishingly beyond the purview of security apparatuses. These, and many more, underscore what Abbas Mahmoud Aqqad, an Egyptian writer, once said about philosophers being the lovers of wisdom and poets being the beloved of wisdom. I cannot see a single reason to disagree with him.