INTERVIEW WITH REMI RAJI
By Amatoritsero Ede
Amatoritsero Ede: You are on a writing fellowship somewhere in Europe at the moment; where exactly is that and how has it helped you creatively?
Remi Raji: I am on a writing fellowship in Sweden, precisely working as the Guest Writer to the City of Stockholm for year 2005. I am already in the last month of the fellowship, and should be returning to Nigeria even before the term ends in order to attend to some pressing matter. The residency has been very helpful generally in terms of the opportunity I’ve had in continuing more work with less or little distraction; of course, the space or the solitude provided was complemented with the other experience of meeting and sharing ideas with other writers who are resident in Sweden and other parts of Europe. There’s no doubt that I am coming away from Stockholm with fresh air.
A.E.: Should we expect a new poetry collection out of this?
R.R.: Probably yes, but not so soon after my latest work, Lovesong for my wasteland. But I can tell you that in the few months of residency here, I have worked consistently on another work which I started before leaving Ibadan in April. The scope of the collection will probably expand and integrate memorable instances of my recent experience; and of course, apart from poetry, I intend to complete some essays out of the working notes taken in the course of my residency. One of two of such essays has already been translated into Swedish and published in Dagens Nyheter.
A.E.: Have you had any contact to local poets out there; in short is there a kind of creative atmosphere around you?
R.R: I have had a lot of contact with both local and international writers in Stockholm. I have been involved in readings, and at least once in a performance in the real sense of the term, at festivals and other meetings around Stockholm. A typical day of engagement included a reading, a meeting and a lunch or dinner with fellow writers. The support of the Culture Department of Stockholms stad as well as the hands-on assistance of both the Swedish PEN Centre and the Swedish Writers Union was all I needed to feel the sense of the secure. In residency, I was in total immersion with creative thinking every day that writing became in fact dangerously effortless. Also, as a guest writer, the facility of the International Library, with its confounding statistics, was available. And of course, Stockholm itself is an open library or reading arena, and the creative atmosphere is always around the corner. In Sweden, I met and made friends with many writers, culture journalists, and literary editors including Ljiljana Dufgran, Magnum William-Olson, Ann Hallstrom, Birgitta Wallin, Matilda Wallin, Maj-Britt Wiggh, Bjorn Linnell, Lars Linder, and Anna Gustafsson-Chen. I had special meetings with the Swedish Africanist author, Per Wastberg, Maria Modig and Jonas Modig, both of who made the connection with others possible. I also interacted with writers from Scotland, Lithuania and Slovenia. There were others who I didn’t meet personally, but who also helped in providing the assuring and comfortable atmosphere of writing full-time in residency.