An Interview with Godspower Oboido: One of Nigeria’s Emerging Poets

DSC01212With a name such ad Godspower, how can he go wrong? Perhaps his parents were prophetic, the moment he arrived, they saw that he would wield words, an irrepressible power; or perhaps they hoped that he would harness his inner powers to create a better, more egalitarian world, whatever the sentiment, this is clear, Godspower Oboido’s name is a harbinger of his talent as a wordsmith.

 

OPA: How long have you been writing poetry and how did you come to poetry?

GO: I’ve always wanted to do poetry. The first poems I wrote were in 2005–which interestingly got published in a Journal in the States but I am not saying which journal it is as I do not think those were successful poems –the type you no longer want people to see.

I used to make a living from working as a painter. Visual art was everything to me and everyone wanted me to study Fine Arts in College but I knew somewhere that I wanted to paint with words. I wanted to marry poetry and painting –so that is why as a poet today, I am more concerned with imagery than anything else really. I want to see and live in the poems that I read, or write. Let it have feelings, frown if it likes.

OPA: As a poet what do you want to share with your audience?

GO: As a poet I quite like to hide behind my poems. But I guess these days I am not so much about writing for meaning but writing about significant experiences in my life –giving my audience the opportunity to share in them. That was what Christopher Okigbo did too. Again writing about your own experience is also writing about other people’s experiences too, or being their voice in a way.

OPA: Nigeria has an impressive body of Writers and poets, what do you think account for that? And who is your favorite Nigerian writer?

GO: Yes that is true. It is very inspiring, if not daunting, to come from a country of literary heavyweights. We have a great storytelling heritage. Everyone is a storyteller –your grandma, teachers and peers –I remember growing up in Benin City, the children in the neighborhood would collect ourselves together to tell folk tales of the tortoise, ancestors and everything else. It was a tradition passed down through many generations. Then the early postcolonial writers from Nigeria did a lot to establish our literature on a global level. I am talking of the era of Christopher Okigbo, John Pepper Clarke, Chinua Achebe, and Nobel Prize for literature winner, Wole Soyinka. They were all friends –how cool is that? We draw a lot of inspiration from that generation.

My favorite Nigerian poet is easily Christopher Okigbo who is today widely acknowledged as by far the most outstanding postcolonial, Anglophone, African, modernist poet of the 20th century. There is a chapter devoted to his works in the British Open University textbook, Aestheticism and Modernism: Debating Twentieth Century Literature  (Gupta Danson Brown and Suman Gupta, 2005), David Richards (2005) that placed Okigbo side by side with T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Anton Chekhov, Katherine Mansfield, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Bertolt Brecht, and Virginia Woolf, among the pillars of twentieth-century modernism. I also like Niyi Osundare who was one time my favorite and modern poets like Afam Akeh, Amatoritsero Ede and a few others.

For prose fiction though, it is surely Ben Okri, the Man Booker Prize winning novelist. But in my opinion the most complete and accomplished Nigerian writer of all time is surely Wole Soyinka. His face is the most common of all the writers and it is not because of his iconic hair.

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OPA: Have you performed widely? At any other festivals besides Kistrech, and if so where?

GO: I haven’t performed widely, but I have done a handful of poetry readings around the place. The first time I read my poems in Public was in England at a really nice Theatre in Hastings called The Stables Theatre. That was such an experience with a handful of talented poets. I remember thinking to myself, “wait people are actually paying money to come hear my poetry?” Peter Harvey, a distinguished theatre director and poet, who put the event together gave me encouraging feedback and would later edit my first volume of poetry, as well as write the foreword. After that, I did several weekly readings in Norfolk, to small audiences, and that was pretty cool too.

OPA: What did you take away from the festival in Kenya?

GO: It is the joy of sharing poetry that is so little valued around the world today. It was very refreshing to be with other international poets and to share in their passion for poetry, which is power. Poets like you, Dr. Opal, and Dr. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley provided inspiration and encouragement. That is something.”

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With a compelling laugh that is full and satisfying, Godspower is thoughtful, a keen listener and a quiet observer. His maneuver of language, evident in his poem, “The Drum’s Lament,” is that of a practiced dancer lost in the exuberance of the beat.

 

THE DRUM’S LAMENT

For Christopher Okigbo (1930 -1967)

Cowhide cry of white light summons

The spirit of the sojourner,

Sole listener to the drum’s dirge.

A raging tide approaching,

A gathering war,

A gathering fear.

“The child in me trembles before the high shelf

On the wall,

The man in me shrinks before the narrow neck of

A calabash;”

The trembling gong loses its throat to the drum

The drum loses its beats, tonalities that prophesy war

To gunshots that know too well the ethnicity of skin.

The curtain falls on tremulous eye that loses its dream

The dream loses its dawn, the dawn its hope of a rising sun.

An anthology dies ambushed at a junction, open-paged.

Open let it be till the funeral night of posterity.

Contact details: kingpowerunited@yahoo.com

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