Poetry #35 – October 2005 Online Magazine Monthly…since
December 2002. ISSN 1479-425X
Sentinel Poetry #35 – October 2005
Online Magazine Monthly…since December 2002. ISSN 1479-425X
The Unyielding Muse
Interview with Guest Poet Uche Nduka
By Amatoritsero Ede
Amatoritsero Ede: Uche Nduka, your name rings a loud bell in Nigerian and certain European poetic scenes. You have won the Association of Nigerian Authors Prize for Poetry—with Chiaroscuro, yet it is not easy to find your books in circulation. What is happening?
Uche Nduka: How weird! I cannot adequately answer you. Perhaps my publishers ought to answer the question as I am not directly involved in the distribution of my books. However I know that the books can be ordered in bookshops and in Amazon.de. I am also aware that those deeply interested in poetry have found ways to track down the books.
A.E.: One would have expected you to be signed by a major publisher by now. Do you think perhaps you should pander to the publishers' whims and write a crime thriller?
U.N.: I honestly don't give a fuck whether I am published by a "major" publisher or a "minor" publisher. It is important that the poetry is secured against loss. I find it more fruitful to be able to write the poems. To allow what wants to come out through me to do so. I am beholden to the scripting of lines, refrains, choruses, chants, mantras etc than to any other thing. I will regard it as a betrayal of my calling if I heed a publisher's voice rather than the inner voice in me. I will feel I have sold out if I let the outside - be it publishers, literary coteries, critics, peers, friends, enemies dictate the content or form of my writings. So the issue of pandering to publishers' demands is out.
A.E.: You lived in
U.N.: The movements you
referred to have made certain things about myself and the world clearer. For
instance: I hate melancholic resignation. I hate expressions that verge on the extreme,
on the fanatical, on the dogmatic. I hate religious and artistic and political
fatalisms. I have no absolute faith regarding utopia, so-called free market,
idealism, post-colonialism, postmodernism, artistic magic. The stuffy and the
staid have never attracted me-in life and art. Disillusionment is not
emblematic of my life and thought. I find provincialism odious. Each book and
style charts my growth, my searches, and my experience and contacts. I can no
longer abstract my writing from my life. Most times they fuse. My doubt
witnesses the clarity of my faith. My faith affirms the valiance of my doubt.
In the present phase of my work I treasure generic inventiveness. I try to
battle the commoditization of literature. I struggle to record the core of
living in whichever way it touches and moves me and those close to me wherever
I happen to be:
A.E.: What is funding like
for foreign writers in
U.N.: I am not aware of any
funding for foreign writers in
A.E.: How do you feel in the
prevailing atmosphere of increased xenophobia in
U.N..: Why not? As long as
the poetry is not written along party lines. As long as the poetry comes from
the deepest part of humanity. As long as it is not a poetry of hatred. But
hoisting poetry up as a weapon of defence is not
enough. An unsentimental education of consciousness is needed to stem the
present tide of xenophobia here in
Keepers’, a coalition of Afro-German Hip-hop artists in
U.N.: Not yet. But plans are underway for such a collective. Some writers are presently meeting to work out the logistics for such an umbrella group. Yes: I occasionally work with members of the Brothers Keepers-in strategising, in street protests, in media info releases.
A.E.: You were in
U.N.: A three-week visit home is not enough time for me to be able to do an appraisal of the poetry being written nationally but the works-the majority of the works I saw on display at the Association of Nigerian Authors Conference in Lokoja - are shoddy, half-baked, visionless, gutless, anaemic, mediocre. Though there are more books of poetry published in Nigeria today than ever before, the themes they explore and the way they are explored, to my mind, are halting and cowardly. To me, political ineptitude and economic depression are no excuses for bad and sterile poetry. There is no risk taking in most of the works I saw. They all seem to fall into a kind of linguistic pigeon-holing and stasis. Except for the writings of people like Chiedu Ezeanah, Nengi ILagha, Toyin Adewale, Chijioke Amu-nnadi, Joe Ushie, David Diai, Maxim Uzoatu and a few others, home-based workers in the vineyard of poetry are thorough disappointments.
A.E.: Is there the kind of literary ferment typical of the 1980s? If so, are these efforts getting published?
U.N.: Like I said earlier,
publishing doesn't seem to be the problem in
A.E.: .Do Nigerian publishers still hate poetry; must the poet pay to publish himself/herself?
U.N.: Yes vanity publishing is widespread. And running from poetry is not restricted to Nigerian publishers as you know yourself. But how I wish that current Nigerian poetry will question itself instead of praising its stasis. How I wish we won't go on forgetting that actuality + Invention + discovery = Poetry.
A.E.: Do we expect any new work from you soon?
U.N.: A new volume titled Heart's Field shall be out in
A.E.: Uche, thank you for your time.