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

Wana Udobang: I don’t think it is easy because I often struggle at different phases of the creative process. I usually start with a story I want to tell. Sometimes there is a certain metaphor that hits me and the poem can sit inside or outside of it, sometimes, I am thinking of a form that can illustrate the story better, then the words finally start coming together and then the edit and reedit. There is also an edit that is happening for sound and cadence as well because I am a performer, so I am also thinking of how it comes to life. There is also a natural edit that happens on the stage as well. It gets better with practice.

Wana Udobang

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

Wana Udobang: I see myself as a conduit, a light beam. Since poetry for me is a spiritual provocation, then, I am just the messenger.

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?

Wana Udobang: I think that poem would be ‘‘The banquet”. I think it would be for anybody who feels exhausted by experiences or the strange things that life throws at you. When I am performing that poem, I find myself focusing on certain people I don’t even know during a performance and it feels like a message I am passing on. I often feel like my poems come to me as stories, a certain form or a spiritual or cosmic provocation. I think The banquet has all three.

Wana Udobang

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

Wana Udobang: African for me is beautiful and complicated.

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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.

Wana Udobang: For Women who are difficult to love by Warsan Shire:

“You can’t make homes out of human beings. Someone should have already told you that.”

My connection to art of any kind starts from an emotional place and I think that particular poem connected with me on a very visceral level. That line in particular applies to everything and every moment you have felt disappointed. It seems like such a simple line but very layered because we all seek for safety and home in people willingly or unwillingly.

Wana Udobang is a storyteller working at the intersection of poetry, performance, journalism and film. She has two poetry albums “Dirty Laundry” and “In Memory of Forgetting”. She is currently working on her third album and first collection of poetry.

Richard Ali
Richard Ali is a Nigerian writer whose poems were first published in 2008. He has served in the National EXCO of the Association of Nigerian Authors and sits on the board of Uganda’s Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation. A member of the Jalada Writers Cooperative based in Nairobi, his work has been published in African Writing, Jalada, Saraba Magazine and elsewhere. The Anguish and Vigilance of Things is his debut collection, was published in 2020. He practices Law in Abuja, Nigeria.