Poetically Speaking

Chidi Nwosu is a self-published Nigerian poet with his works appearing in different journals and anthologies. The man who is in early fifties divides his time between Mozambique and Zimbabwe (currently residing in the latter) where he works as an entrepreneur. Not a single day passes without him posting a poem or two, as part of his pastime, on social media forums and sites like the Free Poetic Universe and others. Here, he gives his take on poetry and why he chose this path.

You have this passion for poetry and no day passes without you posting a poem or two. Why love for poems over other literary genres?
My love for literature started way back in high school. I later went to the university and studied English language and literature for my first degree. Among other genres of literature, I find poetry easy to read, grasp, interpret and write. I like the condensation of words in poetry; using too few words to say much, unlike in prose. It may also be because I am a natural taciturn and my love to express myself lucidly with few words. Nevertheless, I love other genres of literature and have tried successfully on short stories and drama.

Is it possible for one to live off poetry especially in Africa as poetry is less appreciated and hard for many to understand?
My answer is yes and no. Yes, it is a fact that some African poets both oral performers and authors have achieved a modicum of financial success through their art. They may not be affluent like their hip hop cousins, but they're not poor either. No, because majority of poets in Africa are conspicuously poor. This is because poetry is not valued widely among the populace. The poverty and struggles to make ends meet do not allow many Africans to buy poetry books or pay to go and watch poetry performances. Sincerely speaking, to sustain oneself and family wholly through poetry in Africa is an almost impossibility.

Are you a published poet and what are your works?
In 1992, I walked through the lengths and breadths of Nigeria looking for a publisher for my manuscript but failed in that endeavour. Publishers here rarely publish green horn poets, but go for big names, as this will surely guarantee them a return on the investment. I don't blame them, for they have balance sheets to maintain. Having despaired in my search, I decided to self-publish my anthology titled, 'What the Mad Man Said'. After this, I took a long writing break in order to concentrate on building my business. However, I have many other works published in several anthologies and journals both in Africa and overseas.

Which poets do you admire most and which of their works would you consider as best?
I admire lots of poets, be they Africans, Asians, Caribbeans, Americans, and Europeans - both classical and modern. At school we did lots of European literature which influenced my early writings: William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, John Donne, Ezra Pound, just to name a few, easily comes to my mind. Currently, I admire Niyi Osundare, Kofi Ayidoho, Maya Angelou and Chenjerai Hove. I like their simplicity. They made me realize that poetry can be sophisticated even in plain people's language.

Given an opportunity to meet great poets, living or dead, which poet would you like to meet and why?
I would like to meet many poets out of curiosity and to drink from their fountains of poetry. I would mostly want to meet the late South African activist, educator and poet, Dennis Brutus. The first time I read his book, Letter to Martha, I shed tears. Something inside me moved. Up to date I can't describe what it was.

Which poet had a great influence in your writing?
A writer must also be an avid reader. The more you read, the more you imbibe wisdom, forms and styles from diverse authors. One may not be doing this consciously; many at times it happens as if by osmosis. So a lot of writers influenced me. But the major influencer was my countryman, Niyi Osundare. He made me realize that you don't need to be esoteric in poetry.

Which book of poetry do you treasure most and would not like to give out any time soon?
I have many books of poetry. In fact, I am a bibliophile! I treasure all books. The two books I keep thumping now and then are Red Hills of Home by Chenjerai Hove of Zimbabwe and Labyrinths by the late Christopher Okigbo, who arguably is the best Nigerian poet to date. These two books are like treasures to me.


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