I first met Soonest Nathaniel at the Poetry Workshop facilitated by Nigerian poet, Dr. Obari Gomba, at the 2012 Garden City Literary Festival. We spoke and exchanged thoughts. He later read at the Poetry Evening—on the last day of the festival—as one of four of the outstanding poets from the workshop.
Soonest has won several awards and made several shortlists. Most recently, he was shortlisted for the Isele! Spoken Word Poetry Prize 2013, for his poem, “These Children.”
I had a chat with him lately to discuss, specifically, the current popularity of spoken word poetry and what he thinks about it. Here’s the chat and three of his unpublished poems.
Do you consider yourself a poet or prophet, or both? If both, which comes first?
I consider myself both a poet and a prophet, I would often refer to myself as SIN-Da-Seer; that is to say that I am first a prophet and then a poet, I dish out prophesy in verse.
”Poetry,” said the Mexican Poet, Octavio Paz, ”is language making love.” What’s poetry to you?
To me poetry is a religion, often it is defined thus, ‘the sacred act of speaking from one’s heart to another’s soul… either to direct the other’s path or to soothe them whole.’ I go on to further say of poetry that; ‘only in this venture do men become as God, creating their own universe with an unfallen Eden; just by the infinite power of the ’Word’.
You do spoken word too. Could there be something unique about this form of poetry?
The oral form of poetry will be the art’s future, with the evolution of trends from paper to techno-forms; poetry will only keep her relevance by evolving too. It must be noted though, that by evolution I do not mean a transformation into the barbarity that is paraded as modern poetry and spoken word, I mean poets and poetry still keeping their sublime form and character, amid the waves and fashion of the times, refusing to be displaced, and rejecting to conform to the norms of a tomorrow and its people shrouded with the regal of mediocrity, yet keeping abreast with the current means and trends of reaching and sending the message across to the people.
Tomorrow’s people yearn for entertainment, their shallow minds thwarted by the media; thus I deem it fit that poets will seek to use the form the people know to change their minds, hence, when I do spoken word, I refuse that it be seen and called another form of entertainment, so I give my spoken word a niche and call it “EDU-TAINMENT”.
If you were an older poet, who would you love to be?
For me, it’s a very difficult task because I have a lot of great bards whose works have shaped my hands, and forged my wits into steel; many of which are young poets as I craved to be. In Nigeria for instance, I would have loved to be: Esiaba Irobi (of blessed memory), Niyi Osundare or J.P Clark. In Africa as a whole, I would have loved to be Kofi Awoonor, Leopold Sedar Senghor or Christopher Okigbo (all of blessed memory). If I were Western, then I would have been: Pablo Neruda, Robert Frost, T.S Eliot or of more modern times ,Bruce Boston.
Most of these men weaved with their words, warm nests for me to brood; there are a plethora of them even from centuries almost immemorial. Poets like John Donne, William Wordsworth Ezra Pound, Langston Hughes, E.E Cummings and many more. Any of these men would have sufficed.
”If you can’t be a poet,” said David Carradine, ”be the poem.” What poem is it that you still find difficult to forget?
“I BUILD ENGINES- Bruce Boston”
What are you working on right now?
My debut collection of poems is in the works, alongside, I am gathering materials for a spoken word album hoping to drop by mid-year.
Returning to soccer any soon?
I still play on the weekends, but I can only return full time when I get to Europe and claim my own under-17 (laughs out loud).
when finally you push us to the wall,
we’ll scrape our fears against it,
like matchsticks do against their boxes.
It will be raspy,
we’ll sputter into flames of furry,
our sputtering will be uneasy;
as we show to you the grave yellow,
our true colour.
we’ll trail our way up,
up towards ourselves,
and find death at a sudden puff.
Leaving you to sew with the wispy threads of our smoke,
a stitch in the patch left by our absence;
that which will forever choke
till your frail candle wicks-out of existence.
have passed through the fire
The land is a rotten soup,
maggots harvest the fruits of decay
from a bloody fish coup.
Have thy own way love
Have thy own way;
Thou art real number
And I am thy base...
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