SENTINEL POETRY (ONLINE) #15

February 2004   .   ISSN 1479-425X

This may sound patronising but I learnt very early to accept their imperfections, one of which is an acute strain of selfishness that they are all born with. That is not to say that the symptoms should be condoned; they should be battled and fought but with knowledge that there is little one can do about it. I can therefore understand why you're upset. It's never pretty when you look in a mirror and finally see the rash you never thought you had. I bet also that you wish the whole book was about you and your kind.

NA: This declaration of love and appreciation of men sounds like a cop out to me. You showed no love in your two collections, why do you now strike a retrospective balance to things?

LS: Cop out? I laugh out loud. That would mean that I were influenced or even afraid of what men thought about me or my work. No really, it's nothing like that. I was just being honest and I really didn't have to say those nice things about men, did I?

Let me put it this way, the day I feel that men are getting the short end of the stick and for example, polyandry becomes the order of the day, I'll try to start writing poems that are sympathetic to the men folk. It will be a huge challenge but I'll give it a shot. And hey- you started this me vs. men thing.   

Two angers. Two comforts.
Busting mushy fetters to society's flaws.

Two male friends. Two deep ends.
How subtly they relinquish virtuous cause.
   (excerpt from "Two Women Two Beginnings")

NA: There seems to be some correlation between the purported disrespect and deception women suffer in the hands of men as portrayed in 'You Didn't Know' and the lesbian tango in 'Two Women, Two Beginnings'. Did you intend to portray the view that same sex relationships are products of necessity and pain rather than of a natural orientation?

LS: 'You Didn't Know' is one woman talking to another in a polygamous environment. It is a very sad poem about how the economic situation in Africa has led African women to become their own worst enemies. A young woman, for status and security will happily become a second or third wife to a man who is glaringly demonstrating an enormous amount of disrespect to his first wife. The very act of courting a woman outside your marriage is already harmful enough to the incumbent wife's ego; to bring another woman into your household to glaringly compete for your affections is downright unacceptable. Unfortunately however, a lot of African women have come to terms with this culture so they are not regarded as being overly-possessive, selfish and domineering. Can you believe that? For them, the issue has stopped being the evil the man has done but the conduct of his new wife.   

'Two Women Two Beginnings' is one of those poems that I wrote as a result of indirectly sharing another woman's experiences. I developed an interest in homosexuality (in the Nigerian context) due to the number of conversations their activities dominated while I was in university. I had several gay friends which was great because I had loved them before realising that they were gay and therefore found a reversal of my emotions outrageous. At the time I wrote that poem, I thought I had it sussed because one lesbian friend of mine had told me of how as a child she had been sexually molested by grown men. I simply put two and two together and figured homosexuality was a direct consequence of negative sexual experiences in one's past. How wrong I was to put it in such simplistic terms. I am relieved to say that I have since updated my somewhat juvenile conclusions.

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"...people who don't have anything positive to contribute to their environments
annoy me....I feel that writers especially owe it to their 'people' to sensitise, educate and enlighten them."
- Shoneyin