Poets Talk: 5 Questions with Jeffrey Jaiyeola Plumbline

Jeffrey Plumbline

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

Jeffrey Jaiyeola Plumbline: If I see something I want changed, something that bothers me, I naturally feel obliged to let people hear me and be equally bothered. I used to go about with a pad and a pen, but I am also honing the art of the ancient Griots:  learning by rote.  I recite a line to myself, then I work on various possible tonal inflections till I get it right and then it somehow naturally ends with the right bar/metre sequence.

Hard or Easy? I’d say easy and hard, Yin and Yang.  Easy because I am vain enough to admit I have a way with words, hard because a lot of times I not only want my words to carry the needed weight, I want to play with the toys: Stacks of Puns from the Bank of Words. You would agree with me that playing is a lot of work!

As a Spoken Word Artist, I want my Poem to sound like Music to the ears, so I bring in the whole Nine Yards; Consonance, Assonance, Alliteration: I’d want to go: ‘My Verses are Vegan, no Vitriol, no Vituperations when avertible, but these Vermin are so Verbose they drive the inevitable’  now, no one asked me to, but the high I get when I pull such stunts tend to lure me into another. You play a lot and end up sounding very serious, that’s where it gets complicated.

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

Jeffrey Jaiyeola Plumbline: I am a Line and a Plumb, the Lead and the Thread.  A Plumbline is used as a Calibrating instrument, I see myself trying to set things straight with my Poems. I once Joked about the time I had a huge Writers’ Block that people called me Plumb because I somehow lost the line.

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?

Jeffrey Jaiyeola Plumbline: That would be 3 Letters (E ba mi ki won). It was about a guy who travelled to Lagos from the village with a plan to raise money to foot his Dad’s medical bills. He eventually chose a life of crime and got killed. See the Yin/Yang thingie? How the story about someone getting killed can save a life?

A lot of people lately link rising crime rates to hostile economic conditions; this may be largely true but there are people living in excruciatingly poor conditions and still clinging to hard work to eke out a livelihood. Crime, however rationalized, has its consequences, and on this side, violent crimes have a result: Capital Punishment.

There was this case of a young chap on death row in Warri who as a juvenile had attempted to rob a shop with a knife. He apparently was trying to raise money for his School Certificate exams. He was caught and detained till he was 18 and as at 2006, he was on trial for Armed Robbery, having attained the age of 18.  I wouldn’t know what became of the case because the people trying to help out were just Youth Corp members who happened to be Lawyers. As at the time they left, there was no reprieve in sight.

So, I expect someone going through stuff that would make crime look appealing to hear (I actually recorded it) it and reconsider; saving such a person from that lifestyle is saving him from eventual death when caught, and saving many potential robbery victims who otherwise would lose their lives in the process.

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

Jeffrey Jaiyeola Plumbline: Africa to me is a survivor of persistent pillage and plunder. I can’t but wonder if things would have been different if Africa had grown at her own pace, become rich enough to trade what we have for what we don’t have.

I’m still amazed how the Yoruba Ifa Corpus already had its 16 by 16 arrangement way before people got familiar with the 16 Bars of Hip-hop. You think of the Bini Moat and wonder how such excavations were pulled off. The Nok Terracotta, Ugbo-Ukwu fabric, Ile-Ife Bronze Heads to mention a few.

As at 500 BC, the Nok people of the Jos Plateau were already smelting iron. I don’t want to talk too much about the ancient Egyptian Civilization because opportunists are quick to dismiss Egypt’s achievements citing exposure to the then ‘outside world’. In present-day Niger, copper was locally smelted as at 3000 BC. When it comes to writing, Nsibidi already existed.

Perhaps Africa’s albatross is the unwillingness to pass knowledge and skill outside a select few. In Yorubaland, for example, you had no business knowing about metallurgy if you are not from the ‘Ogun’ family. Hunting is not for you if you are not from the ‘Ode’ family. The ‘Awo’ and the ‘Ifa’ Family was purely a priesthood system and wasn’t meant for the ‘Ogberi’, the uninitiated.  When you see these prefixes before Yoruba surnames, it tells a story.

What if there was an organized system that taught all these as at then? I still would want to know how the Benin moats were dug around the whole city because I seriously doubt they used primitive tools.

I look at all these and when I’m confronted with our current realities, I feel borderline depression looming and I’m forced to stop.

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.

Jeffery Jaiyeola Plumbline: Mamman Jiya Vatsa’s (the Soldier-Poet, rest his soul) poem on Mahatma Gandhi:

‘I was told that on the grave of Mahatma, the famous man of India bears his last words ‘Oh God’’

Mamman Jiya Vatsa

That was a very short poem but it was in a book given to me by my cousins on my 6th or 7th birthday. It stuck in my head and while it may look so simple to me today, it was my first exposure to poetry by any African and that shaped my Poetry till date.

Plumbline (Jeffrey Jaiyeola) is a Nigerian poet who happens to be a Geoscientist. He started out rapping in 2004 and always caught attention with his stark storytelling, intricate rhyme scheme and wordplay. About that time, a budding community of spoken word poets was developing, aided by the emergence of cafés to provide after-office-hour hangouts for the young working class. In that regard, he is seen as one of the pioneer spoken word poets in Nigeria. He is one half of H.I.D.D.E.N, the other half being Nigerian producer, Kraftmatiks. Together they are working on a project for the Internally Displaced Persons from the Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria.

Plumbline is on Twitter as @Plumbtifex and Instagram as @PlumbtifexRantimus His work can be accessed on www.plumbtifex.com .

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