It is not confidence. This thing I have is not faith at all. Yes. I began to write only to comfort myself, those afternoons in boarding school with no one else to turn to. Till, one day, someone said to me, ‘Come read to us’, and I went in jeans and faded jumper. With poems typed out on a piece of paper, neatly folded in back pocket. My thinking was I would be given a quiet chair, and lots and lots of respectful silence. But I found instead a roaring hall packed with under-graduates – rapping, break-dancing, hip-hoping, and all. ‘What’s that?’ I whispered. They yelled, ‘Spoken Word!’
So, very worried, I walked up to the stage – My God! Is THAT what they think I do? Swiped wet palms down my jeans, then turned to face a difficult evening. It was the celebration of Ghana’s 50th Anniversary, you see, by the Afro-Caribbean Society (I think), at the School of Oriental and African Studies. 2007 in Central London, and I was looking at an auditorium sky-high on funk. My brother, no lie, I have never felt more out of place. What? With my ‘daddy’ jeans (as my wife still calls them), and type written poems in shallow back pocket. But, all the same, what could I do? I took a deep breath, held both hands up and – right there, right then – I told the truth. I cannot rap. I cannot dance. (Loud boo-ing in the corners.) I cannot hold a note to save my life. But (pulling out the notes I actually had) I have something to say.
That day, I clung to the lines completely, did nothing at all to modulate my delivery. No sudden highs or dramatic lows, just read the words in front of me. And at first only the sickening murmur of people talking, talking like I wasn’t there. Ah! I willed my voice to hold steady and, reading on, it began to wane; that sickening murmur of people talking, it waned and waned till there was silence. My words alone above their heads, their eyes all locked on me, as if they feared even to breathe, to gasp and lose one syllable. The feeling? Ah! I cannot describe it – to see something so powerful, so self-assured and confident; to see something so powerful stood there on quivering legs.
Yes. And it does not matter how long it’s been. Honestly. Did you know? When I walk to a stage, up till this day, I walk as if I know where I am going. But all the way there, you know what I’m thinking? My brother, I’m thinking – You this boy, where the hell are you going? True! And it makes me laugh, so I tell my friends – creativity, you see, is actually a curse. For no matter how bad it gets (and – believe me – it does) the true artist is doomed to try again. To write, and write for writing’s sake. To read a poem and trust, that words alone – no razzmatazz – can touch the listener’s heart. To seek that distant legacy, not hyped or pimped or marketed, of works that soar because they strike at something in the soul.
For that alone, we reach! I tell you. September 2013. And you know what the said? That there were not enough poetry lovers in Abuja to fill even the smallest room there, no matter it was free! They said that there were not enough poetry lovers in Abuja to put on a hundred and fifty seats! And we said, Let’s see. That night we were standing all the way to the door, not a seat left anywhere. And January 2014, it happened again, sitting on stairs, not a seat left at all. September 2014, try a larger room. Let’s see what happens with a 300-seater. You know what happened? Not a single seat left. And so they said, No way! It’s because it’s free. Just gate it and see! Poetry, my friend, cannot pay for itself.
And so – let’s see – we’ve gated it. Night of the Spoken Word. Friday, the 30th of January, 2015. Hall 10. Silverbird Entertainment Center. Abuja. N1500 regular. N3000 VIP. Why do we do it? Because every day will be one of two things – the beginning of the new, or the continuation of the old. Yes. If this is you too, then walk with me…
Dike Chukwumerije is a Spoken Word Artist, Novelist, and multiple award winning writer. Follow his blog here… and ensure you make out time – wherever you are in the world – to attend Abuja’s NIGHT OF THE SPOKEN WORD 4!
DATE: FRIDAY, THE 30TH OF JAN 2015
VENUE: HALL 10, 4TH FLOOR, SILVERBIRD ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE
ENTRY: N1500 (REGULAR) N3000 (VIP)
Tickets are available for purchase at:
The Salamander Cafe – 5 Bujumbura Street, off Libreville Cr, off Aminu Kano Cr, Wuse Zone 2, Abuja
The Lifestyle Media Store – 4th Floor, Silverbird Entertainment Center, Central Area, Abuja
Discoveries Edutainment World – Suite 8-9, Grd Floor, Jamnab Plaza, Sapele Street, off Ladoke Akintola Boulevard, Garki 2, Abuja