Brief like a Poet
Amatoritsero Ede: It is a pleasure to have this opportunity to engage you on certain issues readers must have been curious about for years. You are known mostly as a playwright. But it is an open secret that you are a consummate poet as well. Does the one calling interfere with or overshadow the other?
Femi Osofisan: Not at all, I hope. Rather like having different limbs.
A.E.: Minted Coins, your first poetry collection, came out about a decade ago. It is an important collection, indeed, in terms of its deployment of language. I think it did win the ANA poetry prize In Nigeria in its year of publication. Do you have another collection out at the moment?
F.O.: I am glad you liked Minted Coins. Since then I've published other collections (Dreamseeker on a Divining Chain, Ire Ni, Pain Remembers, Love Rekindles!)
A.E.: Do you not think that perhaps you deny your readers more of your poetry?
FO: I hope I don’t do that. You must remember that I write poetry rather rarely. I tend to think more spontaneously in dramatic images and scenarios.
A.E.: There has been some criticism – I think by Niyi Osundare as well – bemoaning the absence of rigorous craft in the work of younger crop of Nigerian poets. Do you agree with this assessment?
F.O.: You can't really generalize. Yes, some are shoddy, mediocre, and yes, some are quite talented. The majority certainly seem to be in a hurry to be noticed, before they have developed their craft. They are aggressive, noisy, belligerent. Their voices tend to swamp the field and drown out the exciting ones. One of these days I will do a critical assessment, to point out where we should be looking. But I've been saying this for years now. Time is the real enemy!
A.E.: What about some poets in the third Generation who are doing, as far as I know, powerful work; or are the general critical accusations pervasive?
F.O.: It's just as I said above. One must sit down and separate the grain from the chaff.
A.E.: Does being a notable playwright affect the way you relate to the genre of poetry?
F.O.: I don't know. But again, I hope not. I find I am saying in poetry something different, or at least a different level of perception, from what I am saying in the plays. So I hope the two complement one another for whoever is listening...
A.E.: You were once the President of the Association of Nigerian Authors. I think during your tenure the All Africa Okigbo Prize for Literature was still being awarded. What has happened to that Prize?
F.O.: Well, the person to ask is Prof., Wole Soyinka, the person who endowed the Prize.
Sentinel Poetry (Online) #46
The International Journal of Poetry & Graphics...since 2002
Editor: Amatoritsero Ede