A.R.T’S INTERVIEW WITH CATHERINE LABIRAN

So we threw some questions at Catherine Labiran and the always delightful poet, author and activist shared thoughts on her new book of poetry titled Ayisat and her life as an artist. Check out the interview below.

Give us an insight into the creative journey of Ayisat.
The poems in Ayisat were written across my teenager years, so each poem gives the reader an insight to my experiences and what I was going through at that particular time. I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit and this reflects in different cultural references documented in the book. When I put this book together, I told myself that I was going to be as free as I could possibly be. At first, I was nervous to talk about certain topics because of how I would be perceived. However, I then came to the conclusion that my story is more powerful than my fear of perception. I then progressed to write and collate poems with a free and unchained spirit.

In what ways did you grow upon completing the poetry collection? And did this change or expand when the book got published?
Completing the collection helped me grow up a lot because it propelled me to put myself out there. Sometimes I can be really reserved with my art. Sometimes, I fall into the trap of being a perfectionist, which is a loser’s game. Making Ayisat taught me that imperfections can be beautiful. I included poems that I wrote when I was 16 to demonstrate my journey, not what the perfect poem could be. When the book was published, I grew once again because I had to make myself vulnerable to criticism and open to love. Once a book is out there, there is no taking it back. This process freed me from the restraints I put on myself creatively.

What can poetry lovers who haven’t read Ayisat be excited about?
If you know me, prepare to learn something new about me. If you do not know me, then here I am. Even though all the poems are not directly about me, they all show my thinking process.

Ayisat is dedicated to your mother and all mothers. How does that maternal mind state impact or reflect in the book?
Ayisat is my baby. I birthed this book, I have seen it grow up and go across the world. When I hand over copies of the book to people it is as if I am giving my child away to get married. The book is a collection of poems I wrote when I was experiencing the upside-down-inside-out-crazy-normal-quiet-loudness of being a teenager. This book is my journey in text.

Are there any poems or themes you’d love to revisit when you become a mother?
Definitely, when I am a mother I want to revisit the topic and idea of love. I have experienced love but never the love that a mother has for a child. I can only imagine how intense such a love is. Also, depending on the state of the world when I give birth, I am sure I will have to revisit my poems on politics. It’s bad enough living a corrupt world, but it is even worse knowing that your offspring is suffering at the cost of greed and evil.

How does your written poetry differ from your spoken word pieces?
I do not really think there is much of a difference between both forms. The only difference I can immediately think of is structure. When I write poems for the page, I have to pay attention to the structure, where I want words and the punctuation. However, when I write a Spoken Word piece, I do not really structure the poem or add punctuation because I know my mind would do that naturally.

Is there a dominant approach to your creative process or is each piece developed uniquely?
I think I approach every piece in its own unique way. When I create poems in my mind, I flip reality on its head. My mind births the abstract, filters dreams into reality and makes the reader question if there is a difference between the two. The world is a mysterious place, beyond what you and I know, and my poetry wants to demonstrate that. Also, in order to write I like there to be silence and I like to be alone.

What life experiences thus far have shaped you as a poet?
The biggest experience that shaped me as a poet was moving from the U.K to the U.S to pursue my degree. My transition made me a fish out of water. At first, I spent weeks, months, even, trying to work out how to breathe. The awkwardness of not knowing anyone, having an ocean separate you and your loved ones, drove me to pick up my pen in a way I have never done before. I have gone through isolation in the past, but this time I was not afraid of it. I connected with all that was lonely inside of me, all the little torn up pieces. I introduced my fragments to each other and then they weren’t so lonely after all. My best work has been produced ever since.

Literature lovers can get their hands on Ayisat at Lulu.com. So if you don’t have a copy click the link to see how you can get one, and if you do have a copy go ahead and get another for a friend.

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The Reservations of the Legends

By Ezewi Jennifersoter

She conceived great men on different soils with the image of mind sturdy.
They came as individuals with love, on the field of crucial race, driven by ardor: strung out in pursuance of the herculean task weighing checks and balances.

They came on varied days; yet embraces same route from different paths.
Oh no!
“Come over here and wipe your tears because:
‘GHANDI’ Is enroute to New Delhi!
I can perceive the fragrance of his foot prints from here.
Yes!
His echoes heals the broken hearted with confident satyagraha.”

On the soil of the apartheid spleen roars an assemblage who calls LUTHER!
The dreamer that roars change with a stentorian admiration beyond decibels:
“I have a dream!
Where the oppressed children will be among the ruling parties someday.
Yes!
I must achieve this or set the ball rolling because: non violence is a way of life for courageous people.
Oh yes!
I am on the white soil that unifies states with acronym; I was instigated by passion to be enroute to forward ever with the docket of equality!”

These heroes understood their quest from the onset: building bridges for the generations on and on!
Regardless of the fact that it might cost their lives, yet are they tirelessly dogged to exhume the dignity of equality in certainty.

On this non violence had they emerged from different soils, speaking unification with different tones.
The laughter in this pain gets boosted by the pacifism of the unabashed attribute of these change seekers; clamoring:
“Our names soars beyond boarders in recognition, but that is not our nub.
We solely wish to pursue, overtake and recover change!”

When two bowed to rigor mortis on recumbent: their voice still echoes from the pacific camp, knowing that ‘One’ stands visibly on shaky grounds; commanding the attention of dignity from achievements in the field of victory, legacy and pace setting.

“Look here! ‘Mandela’ stands on the visible path of change laughing onward to fulfillment with the attention of remedy specialties as ‘The Global’ views on bended knees with good wishes towards the south side of Africa.”

Oh no!
The star has fallen: the cloud is dim!
Blubber twists the mood of nations.
Weeping saturates the gaze of loved ones.
What a day of ‘fifth’ when December sings at the time of CAT on 20:50 in the midst of 2013:
“Tata Madiba!
The last of his kind has fallen.
Rolinhlanhla!
The unforgettable hero lives on!”

As the wind blows the echoes, voicing vociferates:
“Our course enjoys relaxation in victory, but our names enjoys a dignified reservations of presence on after-math; because our names awakes the significant of good works to scoop out the reserve we preserved in dignity.”

The record of the race gave account that these Social Prestige came from different race with one voice, speaking in unism:
“freedom from segregation!
The oppressed must be free!
Equality, equality!
Egalitarian must emerge.”

African Poetry to Receive International Recognition

The $3,000 Brunel University African Poetry Prize is awarded to an African poet for a selection of poems. The prize which is now in its second year and is sponsored by Brunel University and partnered by Commonwealth Writers is aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poems from Africa.

The Brunel University African Poetry Prize is open to anyone who was born in Africa, is a national of an African country or whose parents are African. Exactly ten poems must be submitted in order to be eligible for this prize.

Bernardine Evaristo, award-winning British-Nigerian writer, initiated the prize in 2012. Bernardine teaches creative writing at Brunel University, is the author of the critically acclaimed Mr. Loverman (Penguin, 2013) and a 2013 judge for the Golden Baobab Prizes for African children’s literature. On the importance of a prize exclusively or African poetry, Bernardine explains,

“I have judged several prizes in the past few years, including chairing the Caine Prize for African Fiction in 2012, an award that has revitalised the fortunes of fiction from Africa since its inception in 1999. It became clear to me that poetry from the continent could also do with a prize to draw attention to it and to encourage a new generation of poets who might one day become an international presence. African poets are rarely published in Britain. I hope this prize will introduce exciting new poets to Britain’s poetry editors.”

Apart from the $3,000 cash prize, winners of the Brunel University African Poetry Prize will have some of their poems published by Prairie Schooner, one of the leading literary magazines in the USA and Wasafiri, the leading British journal of international writing. The first winner of the prize was Somali poet, Warsan Shire, who describes the impact of the prize on her writing career:

“Since winning the prize I have travelled to six different countries to teach poetry and read my work; I’ve had interest from different literary agents and publishing houses; and I was appointed the first Young Poet Laureate for London, definitely sure that the last one wouldn’t have happened had I not won the prize. I have a chapbook due out in America and small collections of my poems translated and published in Estonian and Danish.”

The prize is currently open for entries and will close on November 30th. The winner will be announced on 28th April, 2014.
For more information on the Brunel University African Poetry Prize, visit their website: http://www.africanpoetryprize.org/.

The Place of the Child

by Ezewi Jennifersoter

Doula welcomes me at applause,
Signal announces my arrival.
I am for peace, but learns to war from you.
If your security fails me, my strategy will defend me.
I live to make you happy.
Where then is my place?

Secure me now I pray, to avoid my return of announcement.
If I am happy, I copiously flow!
But when am angry I cease my flow!
Is it not you that knocks? Yet my protection is not assured.
Where then is my place?

Come rain come shine, I am needful.
You saw me the day I saw you: smiles were in embrace, until care became at war with responsibility.
The child weeps!
Publicity views!
Huddling on the floor is a blenched child whose name is vagrant.
Where then is my place?

I know my name! It is not darkly but highly alarming with authority commanding
the ,dawn ‘chorus.
If you cannot rename me, I will search for me and bear me because I am me: The king of mustard seeds, whose place is with honour and dignity.
My place is peaceful, pure and secured longing for your love.
This is the place of the child.

Extant Heritage

by Ezewi Jennifersoter

I have been pacing around you,
Without me thou has no colour.
Your progenitors abuts onto my route to arrive.

You preferred heat for my shade and took after sodden instead of the cover above,
Spewing before the enraged care until penury offers to intervene.

Shut the snivel against my sensuous pleasure because I am puritanical:
Clothes does not pay my dowry, I bring her home after a reputable purchase to warm my wardrobe.

Recusant will adore you at pugnacity clinking in regret if you violate rectitude.

I am ready to tame your super ego, if only you will bear tutee: searching for hone, hooting diligence, despising persona and embracing pertinacity without tiff.

I pervade around your trail screaming my name: “I am Extant!” my heritage remains the same.

Achebe: My Literary Friend

by Jennifersoter Ezewi

The fluid of a writing pen has been exhausted;
Yet, the paper maketh an outcry.
Who can quench the infused passion for oil?
Whose echo resounds for Ages without fear?

Strength! What is expedient?
At the point of departure of thy master,
Who screamed for hope?
When the journey beamed
At the Invisible exit,
The seeds scooped out
The voice of continuity.

Integrity has left a legacy;
Weep not, Memo!
For the social prestige lieth awake.

Professor Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe (16 November 1930 – 21 March 2013). Photo credit: Stuart C. Shapiro.

Recommended

Category: Poetry

Title: Th’ Apparition

Author: John Donne

About: a widowed woman, perhaps not sadly so. A spiteful ghost, perhaps rightly so. A clueless lover, perhaps wisely so.

Thoughts: the master of metaphysical poetry will send chills up your spine with this haunting piece. The pacing of the words is… let’s just say, to die for. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself supporting the ghost.