Posted in AWARDS, BOOK THOUGHTS

ON BEING SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOLE SOYINKA PRIZE FOR LITERATURE IN AFRICA AND THE ANA PRIZE FOR CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

It has been an interesting year for me in every way. There have been several challenges but also accolades. I have spent more time on the SEVHAGE front fighting battles including technical demons that saw our website crash for several months, printer devils [pun intended!], amongst other issues. In the midst all of this, there were several blessings. Most importantly, I welcomed a daughter with my wife, Agatha – that is gist for another time. I also got to feature prominently in two literary festivals – the Abuja Writers’ Forum’s literary festival and that of the Abuja Literary Society. I was on a panel with Zaynab Alkali’s daughters in the former and facilitated a workshop alongside Dike Chukwumerije in the latter. I was part of a pre-festival workshop for the Minna Book Festival… These are just a few. I was published in a couple of fine places online and in-print and to the gist of this post – I was shortlisted for some awards.

Continue reading “ON BEING SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOLE SOYINKA PRIZE FOR LITERATURE IN AFRICA AND THE ANA PRIZE FOR CHILDREN’S LITERATURE”

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Posted in EVENTS, MEET THE POETS

THE SPIRITS OF THE EBEDI INTERNATIONAL RESIDENCY FALL UPON POETS SERVIO GBADAMOSI, EHIZOGIE IYEOMOAN, AND IKECHUKWU NWAOGU

Yes, you have heard of the Ebedi International Residency… and there are spirits there. These spirits are rare in Nigeria – imagine it, electric power supply, water, peace, quiet! Shoot someone already! Yes, let me school you only a bit.

The Ebedi International Residency in Iseyin, Oyo state is one of the few residencies in Nigeria that hosts writers (three at a time) for a period of six weeks giving them time to work on any creative piece of their choice. Now, they also get a small stipend (about thirty thousand naira or so) in the period and are isolated from distractions.

The three writers featuring in the September/October 2016 edition are my people, Ehi’zogie Iyeomoan, Ikechukwu Nwaogu and the cool Servio Gbadamosi.

Ehi’zogie is from Edo state and has an enviable list of awards in poetry which I wouldn’t want to waste your time mentioning. Just know, the guy can write and he has written. Last year, in Jos, we were in a hotel together with Saddiq Dzukogi, Romeo Oriogun (there was a fourth person… Eh, okay, I was the fourth person) and reading through our collective verse, I couldn’t help but note, ah, this really is a poet to watch out for any time. We were at other events last year too but again, I wouldn’t bore you much. He has a published collection of poetry, Flames of Forest, which was written to some acclaim. He also has a considerable number of poems published online. The thing with Ehi’zogie is he gets better with every new verse… So, he is working on a new collection there at Ebedi titled A Spring of Endless Songs. I have seen some of the poems, and I liked most of them but wrinkled my nose at a few others 🙂 He is working on refining and redefining that collection. We wish him luck!

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Ehi’zogie Iyeomoan, Ikechukwu Nwaogu, Servio Gbadamosi – The picture was taken after a long journey, so no vex. the guys are actually finer and more youthful looking 😉 

Ikechukwu Nwaogu… is a fiction writer and playwright. His work has appeared on different sites including www.naijastories.com (he is my brother for being here, I belong to the first generation of the Naija Stories family), http://www.mainlandbookcafe.com, http://www.shughar.com, http://www.elsieisy.com, and on http://www.facebook.com (well, almost everyone’s writings has appeared there, no? 🙂 ). Equally, his nonfiction pieces have appeared on http://www.mainlandbookcafe.com, and his personal blog,  www.inkspilla.wordpress.com. While at Ebedi, Ikechukwu will be working on a collection of short stories and if God agrees, a novel. We can only pray for that. And him too, of course.

The third writer and certainly the baddest of them all, Servio Gbadamosi! (Blow the trumpet!) I handed over the ANA Poetry Award to this young man in 2015, after getting tired of being the ANA Award holder for 2014 🙂 … He won the award with his poetry collection, A Tributary in Servitude which I begged him to publish. Note that he didn’t give me a kobo when he won the award! Any way, we have enjoyed many drinks and meals since then so I think that is compensation. But who is Servio? Ah! He is a poet, and Ibadan based culture and development practitioner. He is the brain behind Winepress Publisher and one of the founding partners of the famous WriteHouse Collective. Servio is one of Nigeria’s leading publishing consultants and a book dealer of great note. He has been published in several journals and anthologies like Crossroads: Anthology of Poems in Honour of Christopher Okigbo, Fela’s Re-arrangement: A Collage of the Poetic Biography of Nigeria’s Folkhero of Afrobeat Music and The Sky is Our Earth: Anthology of Fifty Young Nigerian Poets.

Servio hopes to use the opportunity of his residency ‘to research, reflect and continue work on a new collection of poems titled, From Northwind

All the three writers will also take part in the mentorship of secondary school students in Iseyin and environs in the area of creative writing, drama and public speaking.

Now in its sixth year of operation, the Ebedi Residency is a private initiative for writers to complete their creative works in an enabling environment at no cost. The Residency which has hosted about 75 writers from countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroun, Ghana and Ivory Coast since its inception has also produced several award winning writers. The writers have included our SEVHAGE author, Professor Dul Johnson, my good friend Professor Musa Idris Okpanachi and the satire King, Elnathan John whose book, BORN ON A TUESDAY shortlisted for the 2016 NLNG Prize was completed at the Ebedi Residency.

Wait, why did Ebedi carry my friends and leave me? Hmmm, okay, maybe because I didn’t apply. But you can apply and should apply. To apply, visit http://ebedihills.com/how-to-apply (the link was down a while back but keep trying and go see what you can do). Best of luck to the residents at the moment and to all of you who would apply. For us all others, let’s keep writing, reading and being our very best. Cheerio!

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, LIFE, LITERARY MISSIONARY

RANTING ON WHERE I HAVE BEEN: ON THE ROAD

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Transforming the room

Hey guys! Really sorry I have been a bit off… There has been lots of stuff to catch up with. There was an interview I had with the network service of our Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) which I travelled to the capital for… Ah! That was something else. The way it is done, the interviewee usually has to host the session. I guess the idea is to ensure the interviewee is ‘much at home’ with the interview 🙂 Oh well… So, I drove in on that beautiful Tuesday, for the interview. Mehn, you should have seen the traffic. It was the day for the official inauguration of the National Assembly… It seemed all their supporters had to come to Abuja. Well, I got to town and headed straight to my lodgings. When the NTA guys were through rearranging my room, I had to wonder where I was!

Oh well, it was a beautiful interview and I had to answer a set of ten or so questions like three times! Phew! I read a story, ‘Simply Mortal’ from The Bottom of Another Tale, my collection of short stories… three times! Performed three poems including ‘An Anthem of Pain’ (from Home Equals Holes: Tale of an Exile), ‘Awambe Awambe’ (a war poem in Tiv and English), and ‘If the Sun wasn’t so mean’ (the last  two from my first collection of poems, Bring our casket home: Tales one shouldn’t tell. It was soooo much fun. And yup, you should have seen me doing the theatrics! Yaaaaaay! The interviewer, Dooshima, was wonderful as was Alex Omanchi (both in the picture above). We kept on talking and cracking jokes in between sessions and all such that I hardly had an idea that about three (or was it four?) hours had gone.

The interview aired on Thursday of the same week. Really cool. Don’t worry, I might get to post the video online at some point. Just remind me to do so 😉

After that, I was able to catch up with a lot of people including Ben Ubiri, TJ Benson, Hymar David and Cece Ireneh, among

Hymar David, Cece Ireneh, TJ Benson and Su'eddie
Hymar David, Cece Ireneh, TJ Benson and Su’eddie

other writers. Yes, there were family and friends to meet but why bore you with that talk …

Since then, there has been a million running around and you don’t want to know the half of it. At a point, I thought my butt was going to scrape off. Thank goodness for family, my parents, friends, my lovely sister and yes, the belle.

Now, I was in Ibadan too and met with a million people that I cannot start mentioning! Maybe I should put that in a different post… Ah! What a town! There was the Niyi Osundare event I posted about earlier… At that place, I met everyone – well, nearly everyone. There was Anita Ikhifa who I hadn’t seen since my reading in Ibadan two years ago… There was Peter Akinlabi, Akintunde Aiki, Femi Fairchild Morgan, Servio Gbadamosi, Tosin, Jonah Obajeun…Iya Ibadan too (yeah, I know you don’t know them but Google might help small…that or Facebook. Lovely award winning writers, bloggers and peeps there)…

And the men themselves, Hyginus Ekwuazi and NIYI OSUNDARE! When I was going to perform my poem at the event, the

Performing at Osundare's event
Performing at Osundare’s event.. That’s Prof. Osundare and Femi Morgan behind me… I felt like one bamn preacher sef! 🙂

renowned poet and Professor, Niyi Osundare stood up to greet me and gave me a hug while offering a handshake. Big honour. He said he had read me…and when I completed my performance, he gave good constructive criticism. Same as he did for Richard Anyah, who had performed before me. Prof. Osundare said Servio and I write alike… Hmmm. Strange.

Somehow, I got back with Debbie, beautiful friend/thought stealer and invaluable colleague, who I had been traveling with after sneaking to go pray with my loved ones in Ife. Sometimes life teaches us to always value our health, our loved ones and those we hold dear more in certain periods. Maybe you should thank the heavens for any and every one who you have with you right now. Never take any moment for granted.

with Servio Gbadamosi and Prof. Hyginus Ekwuazi
with Servio Gbadamosi and Prof. Hyginus Ekwuazi

Oh well, there’s been much since then. As the Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors, I was able to conduct an inter-secondary school competition in Makurdi, Benue here. Had support from writers like Anselm Ngutsav, Debbie Iorliam (both were judges), Ene Odaba, Tersoo Ayede… Mount St Gabriel’s came first.

Now, I have ranted on and on and on. Bottom line: I am back. Did you miss me? I missed you. I still do. So, do quick, get back and let’s continue with this, yes? Okay. #hugs

Posted in MEET THE POETS, NAIJA POETRY, POETRY, POETRY FROM THE WORLD, SEVHAGE

NIYI OSUNDARE TO READ AT ARTMOSPHERE, IBADAN and there are gifts for early birds!

Hey, you know about Niyi Osundare? He is one of Nigeria’s finest poets and someone whom we have sipped many creative thoughts from. Well, the news is he is going to be reading at ARTMOSPHERE in Ibadan by 3pm on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The venue is at the NuStreams Conference Centre, KM 110, Iyagunku Road, off Alalubosa GRA, Ibadan, Nigeria.

But let me tell you a bit more about Professor Osundare…

Poet, dramatist, critic, essayist, and media columnist, Niyi Osundare is a Professor of English at the University of New Orleans, USA. He has authored over ten volumes of poetry, two books of selected poems, four plays, a book of essays, and numerous articles on literature, language, culture, and society. His works of published poetry includeSongs of the Marketplace (1983), Village Voices (1984), A Nib in the Pond (1986), The Eye of the Earth (1986),which won both the Association of Nigerian Authors Poetry Prize and The Commonwealth Poetry Prize in its year of publication. He was also a recipient of the prestigious Folon/Nichols Award for ‘excellence in literary creativity combined with significant contributions to Human Rights in Africa’. Other published volumes of poetry include Songs of the Season (1987), Moonsongs (1988) and Waiting Laughters which won the 1989 ANA/Cadbury Prize for Poetry. He is a literary figure per excellence and the sole recipient of the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) award in 2014.

For those of you who want to have a feel of good Naija poetry, come for a feel from Niyi Osundare, and others who will be there… It will also be a cool relaxation place…

ARTMOSPHERE is a fascinating monthly literary platform curated by the poets, Servio Gbadamosi and Femi Morgan among other really cool literary folks. I was there as a guest in 2013 with Reward Nsirim, and before then, with Professor Hyginus Ekwuazi, the amazing poet. They have brought a lot of amazing people from Tade Ipadeola, Chuma  Nwokolo, amu nnadi, Ahmed Maiwada, Remi Raji, Akin Bello, Rotimi Babatunde, Atilola Moronfolu, Emmanuel Iduma, Dami Ajayi, Efe Paul Azino and phew! A whole lot of others.

Niyi Osundare
Niyi Osundare

Curated by WriteHouse Collective since July 2011, ARTMOSPHERE has consistently incorporated the classic ideals of artistic erudition with the innovations of performance practice and contemporary culture. The event offers an eclectic mix of creative dexterity from leading and emerging culture practitioners in Nigeria. Book readings, poetry performances, panel discussions, music and art exhibitions are creatively fused together to make each edition a memory to be relished.

The June Artmosphere evening comes up on Saturday June 20th 2015 will commence at 3pm with readings from Professor Niyi Osundare’s numerous poetry collections. This will be followed by an interactive session centred on the backstories behind his works, the creative process, literature and political as well as social issues confronting our nation and people today. Tade Ipadeola, author of the award winning poetry collection, The Sahara Testaments will moderate the session. There will also be music performances by D’Jazz Band as well as a book signing session. There will also be lots of amazing authors, writers and the like… Maybe I might  be there too. First five people will get complementary gifts from SEVHAGE Publishers and Su’eddie Vershima Agema (me) ANA Joint Prize for Poetry 2014! Yaaaaaay! Well, I think we are giving books or something else but please, come early. I should add there will be free refreshment and if you aren’t okay with that, you can buy some too! 🙂

Remember: ARTMOSPHERE for June comes up by 3pm on Saturday, June 20, 2015 at the NuStreams Conference Centre, KM 110, Iyagunku Road, off Alalubosa GRA, Ibadan, Nigeria and features Professor Niyi Osundare, amazing poet and beautiful scholar.

Additional information about the event, together with details about how to get to the venue are available on our fanpage: www.facebook.com/writehouseng. Ciao!

Artmosphere June 2015

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, BOOKS, LIFE, NAIJA POETRY, POETRY, POETRY FROM THE WORLD

Ibadan’s ‘Artmosphere’ Charged with Hyginus Ekwuazi, DTone, Su’eddie Agema and others at the City of Words

It was March 31, 2012, the place was Chrysalis Place, an exclusive restaurant in Old Bodija while the event was the ‘Artmosphere’: an avant-garde literary event with the March theme ‘City of Words’. The event started with general introductions by everyone. To get things rolling, co-anchor, Olukayode Servio Gbadamosi (a performance poet) read from the opening passage of Amos Tutuola’s The Palmwine Drinkard much to the amusement of the audience.

The first performance came from Haastrup, an English student and poet of the University of Ibadan. He read his poems, which though laden with much thoughts and seemed deep was belied by the reading of the poet.

Hyginus Ekwuazi, film critic, scholar, multiple-award winning poet and writer was the star of the event. He was accompanied by his friend and fellow poet, Su’eddie Vershima Agema who offered a poetry rendition of four captivating poems; ‘Tales One Shouldn’t Tell Often’, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Wrinkled Star’, ‘Bring Our Casket Home’and‘Let there be Light’. Su’eddie who is the Vice Chairman of the Benue State Chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors was lauded by the audience for his ability to present his poems in simple, realistic and emphatic words. Agema is also a development practitioner with a strong online presence and has been published in several anthologies, both online and print.

Ayokunle Emoruwa, author of Living in the Restaurant noted that she observes and tries to understand contemporary issues, “I try to break complex issues to simpler ones, and it just flows out unconsciously. I don’t write poems but I write, when I think about society, I try to simplify trends and it flows out unconsciously”. She read her notes, ‘Dear Parents Teach Us, Our Mother Tongue’, for her “native language removes from limitations in the future-for language makes you understand the heart of the native”. She also read “Love in the Nursery”. Ayokunle usually creates vivid imageries that can be harnessed for children’s understanding of the issues happening around them. She relates different ideas in a familiar way.

‘Debisi ‘Degbohun, a fiction writer and poet presented an elegiac poem, ‘Akogun Okunrin-Ogun’, about a warrior who died for his society. Debisi who is also a business consultant informed the audience that he is still learning the ropes and that a writer must not assume “he has arrived”.  ‘Debisi has read his poems at several literary and music events in Ibadan, alongside folk music act, Babatunde, Afrofolk musician, Beautiful Nubia, and the late performing poet and writer, Ify Omalicha.

Popular and dynamic, alternative music act, Dtone Martins performed several of the songs in his upcoming album. The anchor described him as “one of Nigeria’s finest alternative musicians”. Dtone, a AfricSoul artist, noted that his music is motivated by “things I see around, books I read and my friends”. Dtone has performed at several art exhibitions, literary events and other events.  He performed his soulful songs, Kati Kati and Kosia san(‘there is no illness’).

It was time for the star to take his throne. Hyginus Ekwuazi praised the organizers for putting the event together. He gave copies of each of his titles to all the members of the audience. He noted that it was only right for readers to follow the reading if it was to make sense. (Adjunct Associate) Professor Ekwuazi is the author of four collections of poetry, three plays and a coming of age novel, I’ve miles to walk before I sleep. He has won the ANA-Cadbury Poetry Prize twice and also the ANA-NDDC/Gabriel Okara Poetry Prize twice. He was shortlisted for the NLNG Literature prize in 1999.

Ekwuazi spoke about his poems explaining that “You have a trilogy in Love Apart, Dawn into Moonlight and The Monkey’s Eyes. You have the same persona, the same worldview-its like a trilogy”. He noted some influence from Okigbo in his Love Apart: “In Love Apart, you have a persona who is separated from the lover, the title itself is gotten from some amous lines of Okigbo”. However “given the period it was written,…we have some kind of social realism that this lover who is away, critiques his society in meeting his lover, like you have in Dennis BrutusLetters to Martha”.  These books juxtapose the imageries of love and life with the seemingly distant realities of politics and economics.

Furthermore, some of Ekwuazi’s poems present a recollection of universal memories and a celebration of words that birth the philosophy of living. He also talked about the spate of violence, the social awareness of the society-questioning and revealing the innards of hypocrisy of society.  His book That Other Country is a collection on the Biafrian civil war.

Ekwuazi read a few poems from Love Apart and recommended other poems from his other collections for the audience who seemed engrossed with his reading to go ahead and read.

The audience also spoke about Osundare’s Katrina experience in relation to personal disasters experienced of other poets.

Artmosphere is an avant-garde literary development initiative based in Ibadan. It was an opportunity for literary enthusiasts and writers to connect, interact and synergise ideas. It was also leverage for those who only knew themselves through the mirage of social media and have never met themselves before to connect with full validity. There was poetry, music, and good food with drinks to match and make the March edition tagged ‘City of Words’ a fun-filled event. The event was co-anchored by Olukayode Servio Gbadamosi and Femi Fairchild Morgan, spoken word poets. The audience who were at the event was mostly bankers, business development experts, publishers, doctors, intellectuals and literary enthusiasts from all works of life.