and many teenage girls had to live with the consequences of their actions – definitely they were not ready for the raw deal life was handing out to them. And that’s why you find lines like:
“… We saw our lone lives thrust …
Into the dungeon of motherhood –
A place we knew nothing about,
A place we had no time to explore, …
We became bewildered slaves to
Perpetual late-night drunkards … licking
The beer-stained lips of young girls like us,
Whose dreams will congeal
By the next menstrual visit.”
There is a sense in which poetry offers me the platform to do what other writers do in fictional form, that is, telling other people’s stories. “Leave and Let Live” tells of how my older sister’s life changed – in my own eyes – the day she set foot into a boarding school. She grew up faster than her age. Whether she shares my view or not, I don’t know.
The poem “Even Love Surrenders” is my ideal of what romantic love should be. Far too many relationships are doomed long before they start off, and some times for very obvious reasons. Love must be tough if it must survive, and people must know what they are looking for before they enter into relationships.
A.E.: These poems of the erotic are not bashful at all. Is the poet persona’s voice that of the new age woman in a patriarchal society?
V.K.: Again, this is a question that seeks to draw me into labeling. Nevertheless, if the critic/reader associates my thematic engagements with that of the new age Nigerian woman, then I feel honoured. Indeed, it is necessary for every sensitive poet to deploy his/her gifts in the service of society, especially the marginalised set, like the women I speak about. I have never hidden my determination to give voice to my voiceless compatriots in my poetry and in other forms of social commitment. Hence, it might interest your to know that besides poetry and in addition to my 9-to-5 job, I am involved in NGO work and our activities are targeted at young female prostitutes, which we are working at rehabilitating and relocating, as many of them still live in brothels. We are making progress, but more still needs to be done considering that we have yet to receive the kind of funding that will make a colossal impact in the lives of these young women and society at large. We help them learn a skill or trade of their interests for self-reliance. We also support those who still want to acquire tertiary education – all within our meager resources and with the help pf personal friends. I believe strongly that women should be economically empowered if the world really wants to eradicate poverty. No matter how illiterate or poor women are, many of them are entrepreneurial by design and all we need do is channel that ability properly.
I am an advocate for women leading responsible and fruitful lives, and to stand up for what they believe is just and morally correct, even if we all have different view points on the same issues. More than we realise, we mentor others based on how we live and not what we preach. The new age Nigerian woman has her place and a role to play in the patriarchal society. Such roles should not be misguided. If anything, men are fast realizing that they need the support of women to succeed, no matter how insignificant that support may seem – and, permit me to say, vice versa. Women, like men, need a voice to air their views and harmonize issues affecting society if there is to be a positive change. And to take my advocacy another step higher, where I believe greater impact can be achieved, I am contesting for the House of Representatives in Jaba/Zango Kataf Federal Constituency come 2007. Through this platform, I anticipate that more women, especially at the grassroots, would be economically empowered and lead more productive and rewarding lives.
A.E.: What have been the responses of women – in the marketplace or ivory tower – to the new woman you insinuate in your work?
VK: I wish there had been the kind of responses you speak about. In a rather ironic twist, responses to my work so far have come from the men folk. They are those who have written reviews in newspapers and have been more audacious in reactions and through personal correspondences on my book. Whether this is indicative of the marginalisation of women in public discourse or the media is another question. Moreover, the reference to women in the marketplace