Konya Shamsrumi: What is the process of writing a poem like for you? Is it a lot of hard work or easy?
Nome: The process of writing for me, itself, is art. Firstly, it is like a sculptor who patiently and meticulously sets out to to mould a figure – memorable, imagistic,and wonderful – out of clay. Of course, this is not all there is to the process. This experience is only valid if there is/has been an idea in my mind: a persona, a voice, a fickle light somewhere inside me that yearns an illuminative manifestation. Then secondly – this might sound weird – the writing process for me can be likened to the act of seeing. The eyes, how it looks everywhere without knowing it. Its possibility of sight so that even sometimes we mistake phantasmagoria for visual sight.
Sometimes, I would just write a poem I never set out to write. It just happens. In such a case, the poem is right there within the core of my being. The poem shapes itself without me really controlling it. The writing process, for me, is the overall stimulation between the mind and the paper – an ocean-old union strongly associated with written language.
The process of writing, its level of difficulty, easy or hard, depends on different factors. For instance, around April, August, and September I set out on a poem-a-day challenge in which I wrote all through those months. That was very tasking considering school assignments and other engagements. I was calling forth the poems, like summoning the “muse” if there really exists anything like that. And sometimes again, the poems come freely: in class, amidst a discussion/chat, in my sleep, listening to my siblings, while walking e.t.c And these poems remain the easiest to write because there sort of seems to be a metaphysical influence at work.
However, lately I have been attempting exploring the intersection between the natural and the supernatural. Thus, my “monologue” poem series in which I imagine the ghost of my mother in a room with me. My process of writing isn’t just about the writing but about the encounter, a certain kind of consciousness: how the mind controls the graphological presentation and how this in turn stimulates the thematic relevance of the poem.
Konya Shamsrumi: Please describe your sense of identity in this or any possible world in imagery or metaphor?
Nome: Like Walt Whitman said in his fantastic poem “Song of Myself”, “I am large, I contain multitudes”. I can’t really allocate to myself a particular metaphor. That would place on my existence a limitation. For example, you can look at a bird and imagine many things: a music box, a spy, a traveller e.t.c How much more a human. Though, this is not to ignore the fact that I and the bird are linked by life and mortality. Or to downplay the life of the bird. Or to sound condescending.
However, to answer your question I would like to be wind. To be felt. To be heard. But not seen. This perfectly reflects my nature. I love solitude. I love to be left alone. I don’t like going out. I don’t like attending events. I am timid. My timidity is a midnight storm. This has affected most of my relationships with friends and family. Recently, this caused a breakup between my lover and me. I love to be the hum of the wind, a song sung from an invisible mouth, perhaps God’s.
But above all, the best metaphor that defines my identity would be one that includes Whitman’s “large” and “multitudes”. Think of a metaphor. If you get it, then that is it. I would help you out, say: a rainbow, a night sky riddled with stars, an ocean, or a blue sky.
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?
Nome: I never thought my poem could save a life. Or perhaps I never really imagined I would come across a question that subtly interrogates the power of language. But I knew, I know a poem could save a life. For to me, a poem is a “magical” manifestation of language. And has language not saved people, animals and the world over the years?
The Holy Bible, The Holy Quran and many Holy Books have saved lives. How these Holy books do this is through language. Then why wouldn’t a poem which unites us under a universal experience save a life? These are questions I am asking myself, and in turn asking you. Or they are not questions, they are just words that startle us towards an awareness: the indisputable power of language.
Let me say this: writing a poem somehow saves me. In the sense that, an animal of experience has been let out its cage, has been given freedom: an experience has left me so it loses the power to taunt me. In giving my experience the luxury of language, I have freed it and in turn freed myself. For instance, writing about my depression has greatly helped me cope with it.
Like a writer said, when I write I no longer possess the poem, its power rests with it. I only have created it. What it does to the world remains with it. The Poet only exists as a reference or creator of the magic. For instance, when a magician performs magic we marvel at the effect of the magic itself and not the magician. How a poem is perceived – as a weapon, as a lifesaver, as a comfort – depends on who reads it. The poem remains with the reader, it is now he/she who possesses it.
Let me make an instance: I have written many poems about my late mother. I am impressed and honestly I wish they could save her. But what if she really could read these poems, would they save her from the loneliness of death? Would they make her more peaceful? Would they make her more happy or sad? For me, they would make her happy but that is just what I feel. What would she feel? What she would feel doesn’t exist within my knowledge.
Konya Shamsrumi: What does Africa mean to you, as potential or reality?
Nome: Africa is a vastness of realities. Africa is just a term, what unites us is our realities: the joys, the sadness, the foolish leaders, the good leaders, the competition, the tradition. Africa remains the birthplace of whatever I am and whatever I will be. My experiences, my language, my passion, my dreams etc. are forged within this space. Africa for me transcends its geographical spot in the universe, it is much more. It is the way I speak. It is the way I walk. It is the way I carry my identity. Although Africa has faced sentimental criticisms from the west, the world can’t deny the richness of Africa in arts, culture, entertainment etc. Like my friend usually says “una no fit kill star light” – and this sounds like what Fela or Brymo would say.
Konya Shamsrumi: Could you share with us one poem you’ve been most impressed or fascinated by? Tell us why and share favorite lines from it.
Nome: LORD! I never think twice when I am asked this question. Lucille Clifton’s “won’t you celebrate with me” has been a life saver. This is because this poem acknowledges the daily struggles of man, the infallibility of man, man’s ability to pull through despite these toils and travails. The poem also edges forcefully towards joy with a voice creamed with honesty and vulnerability. The poem umbrellas our experiences as humans. It unifies us as animals haunted by something: death, joblessness, depression, loss e.t.c
Hilary Holladay writes about Lucille Clifton: “Clifton is a strong presence in her poems, just as she is a strong presence in person. But her poems, even the ones containing intimate details of her life, make room for everyone’s sorrows, every survivor’s noble plight”. And God, I totally agree with Holladay.
The poem is a prayer, a song, an i-am-a-conqueror speech. It is my mantra. I run to it every time I am sad (and I get sad easily, God help me). I wish everyone could see the magic in this poem, I wish my late grandma could read this. She was sad, having lost my mom, her sons, and her third daughter (my aunt). Few months later, she died. This poem would have calmed her. She would have found a friend in Lucille Clifton; would have sworn Lucille Clifton knew her. She would have been glad there is a black woman somewhere whose voice carried the tempo and pitch of every other woman.
won’t you celebrate with me what i have shaped into a kind of life? i had no model. born in babylon both nonwhite and woman what did i see to be except myself? i made it up here on this bridge between starshine and clay, my one hand holding tight my other hand; come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed
Nome Emeka Patrick is a blxck bxy; student in the University of Benin, Nigeria, where he studies English language and literature. His works have been published or forthcoming in POETRY, Poet Lore, Strange Horizons, Beloit poetry journal, Notre Dame Review, Puerto Del Sol, FLAPPER HOUSE, Gargouille, Crannóg magazine, Mud Season Review, The Oakland Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly and elsewhere. His manuscript ‘We Need New Moses. Or New Luther King’ was a finalist for the 2018 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. He is currently guest-editing, alongside Itiola Jones, Nigerian Young Poets Anthology. He lives in a small room close to banana trees and bird songs in Benin.