Konya Shamsrumi: What is the process of writing a poem like for you? Is it a lot of hard work or easy?
Kabura Zakama: Whenever I go through an intense emotional experience (good or bad), the words pour out with my sweat. At other times, the words barely trickle through. That is the easy part. The hard work is when my perfectionist tendency kicks in and the revision never stops. Then I perform the poem in the privacy of my room (much like singing in the shower). When I get tired of reading, revising, performing and staring at the poem, it is finished.
Konya Shamsrumi: Please describe your sense of identity in this or any possible world in imagery or metaphor?
Kabura Zakama: I am the cat that cuddles and purrs but unleashes its claws for the dignity of man!
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?
Kabura Zakama: I don’t think any of my poems would save anybody’s life, but if it could, it’d be mine! The ink in my blood is part of my collection of poems, The Man Lived. It is the poem that kills me in order to save me. Here are the first and last stanzas:
Take me to the gethsemane of life Where fleeting pleasures cost too much, Let me sit under a tattered tree And sing these songs of toil and pain. … Lock me up, oh silent muse, In the closet of my desecration, Let the ink in my blood flow For my purification and death!
Konya Shamsrumi: What does Africa mean to you, as potential or reality?
Kabura Zakama: Africa is the seed from which the world sprouts. Africa is nourisher of the earth. Forget this savagery against Africa now, the world is a child of Africa. The child will come to honour and nurture the mother if it (the child) is to live on.
I say with Black Uhuru that ‘the whole world is Africa, but it’s divided in continent states…’
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.
Kabura Zakama: Tanure Ojaide, Birago Diop and Lenrie Peters are the biggest influences on my poetry. We have come home by Lenrie Peters remains my most fascinating poem. Every time I read this poem, I get fresh energy from it! It is, to me, the experience of Africa’s struggle from which I find inexhaustible courage to break away from the despair of it all and then to ask ‘no favour of the world/But to have dignity.’
My favourite lines are the ones in three of the stanzas of the poem reproduced below: We have come home
We have come home From the bloodless wars With sunken hearts Our booths full of pride- From the true massacre of the soul When we have asked ‘What does it cost To be loved and left alone’ … The gurgling drums Echo the stars The forest howls And between the trees The dark sun appears. … We have come home Where through the lightening flash And the thundering rain The famine the drought, The sudden spirit Lingers on the road Supporting the tortured remnants of the flesh That spirit which asks no favour of the world But to have dignity.
Kabura Zakama is a Nigerian writer and promoter of writing in indigenous languages. His collection of poems, The Man Lived, won the 1999 ANA Poetry Prize. He is a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Abuja Literary Society and Abuja Writers Forum. He has been published in several anthologies, including 25 New Nigerian Poets and Dance the Guns to Silence: 100 Poems for Ken Saro-Wiwa and is currently working on a collection of poems, Chant of the Angry. He is an international development and humanitarian practitioner based in North East Nigeria.
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.