When I started writing, I did not
know I would win a prize. I did not even know I would be published at all, not
even in pamphlets or online journals. There were times I was at crossroads—this
was because I knew the energy in me could be used to forge a life in different
directions—and then, something would happen and it would put me on its compass.
I remember, about 3 years ago, reading
a line on Facebook, “bathing my eyes in the season of freeze,” and instant-messaging
the writer of the post, implying I knew she was a poet. She is Unoma Azuah, the
poetry editor of the then Sentinel
Nigeria, a literary journal for contemporary Nigerian writing. I did not
know her before then. She agreed with me that she was a poet and shared her
website with me; later she requested to see some of my poems. I sent her Muse and Your Eyes and she published them. I knew that day I would write
more. I knew then the compass bearing and I did not feel lost.
But the process of writing and
producing a worthy work is only fired by hope. Some brilliant artworks have the
history of falling out of sync with their time leaving the artist depressed.
This is not an easy thought to bear, knowing one may suffer such fate. So one
periodically needs validations to stay in the court, to stay in the process—here,
I do not imply quick need to be noticed or famous, but I speak of
encouragements that could help one vault over the constant fear that accompanies
the journey of writing: its milestones of failures often waiting as rejection
letters in the mailbox or trashed copies of unsuccessful drafts.
While respite seems to be
emerging for the prose genre, poetry seems to suffer more and, for this,
without need for references or particular stories—the facts stare at me now—a
number of talented writers have quit the art. Ours is the loss of whatever
enlightenment the works of art they could have produced could bring us.
Yet we need artist because we
need art. Sometimes I think only carefully created artworks will redeem us. Some
part of Africa is conflict ridden. Her politics is fueled by blotted individual
interest, religion and ethnic divide and more importantly ignorance. There is hardly
room for common good in the ethos of her politics. But good literature increase
our pores; it breaks through firewalls of self, sentiments and prejudice to
make us feel the experience of others or perhaps make us see ourselves better
in shades of lights that give illuminations.
Stories, poems, play and others
are therapeutic; they put us in malleable frameworks where we spend hours
learning and considering the experience of others. This experience often has
emotional truth and suspends dangerous binaries that favour conflict. The
participatory element of literature engenders empathy and enlightenment in all
of us, often at subliminal level where character is built. It increases our
tendency to be interested in others beyond the framework of stories and cleans
the lens of our vision for increased perception to better understand
To what extent is art crucial and
how far will this brand new faith steer me, is the jarring thought that woke me
this morning in the ambience of the Eureka Place, Kampala city. I am glowing in
the warmth of the people of Uganda, how they easily smile and always willing to
offer assistance anytime I needed one. I am in the broad arms of the Babishai
Niwe Poetry Foundation, particularly encompassed by the geniality of my host,
Beverley Nambozo. I am ambling in the across-border experience the platform
offers me, the overwhelming loom of winning, the possible impact it would have
over my future works and the energy and faith it gives.
It is 29th of Aug, the
morning next to the night I was announced the winner of the 2015 Babishai Niwe
Poetry Award. The time is about 9 am (local time), the sun is out and regal,
its brightness slips from the curtain like a baby’s smiles, there are birds
tweeting outside as hints of promises, they make me consider flying but the
voice of Sheila, who wrote the Ghost of
Jevangee and took the second place, lingers; she said to me (in private)
before checking out of the hotel at about 7 am, ‘Ibukun, this experience will make me read and write more.’ There
is certainty in her eyes.
Adeeko Ibukun lives and writes from Abeokuta, Nigeria. He is
the winner of the 2015 Babishai Niwe Poetry Award.
. . .