An Interview with Featured Poet Gospel Chinedu
By Poetry Editor Jonah Meyer
“When a story is told, there’s this weightlessness and freedom from within. Poetry is the medium by which I unweight myself from a whole lot happening in and around me.”
Why do you write poetry?
Writing, beyond the scope of being just a cognitive activity, to me is a habit. And this habit has developed from my admiration for language, and music when it comes to poetry. Poetry, I believe, is an interaction between writer and page. Page and reader. Which is to say, there are people whom my words seek to speak to — and remind them that we share the same experience, think the same thoughts, have similar stories and what not. It makes them feel that there are not alienated in their sphere of life. When a story is told, there’s this weightlessness and freedom from within. Poetry is the medium by which I unweight myself from a whole lot happening in and around me. Also, I write poetry because it is the only way through which I can share some really personal stories of mine, in the best way possible. Consequently, I will admit that a blank page is my most trusted ally, my closest companion — always willing to hear me out. It is my conviction that poetry is how I belong and feel relevant to the world. Like an act of service in shaping a beautiful universe. Pablo Neruda said, “poetry is an act of peace,” the world needs poetry, and that is why I write poetry.
How, when, and where do you write poetry?
My writing process is a two-way thing. Sometimes, I innovate. Other times, I re–innovate (or renovative). My innovative process usually starts with something very little and non-substantial — could be an emotion, a mystery, a question, a quote, a political or cultural perception, could be music or even football commentary, could also be something appealing to my senses or nerves —anything I just had to make more sense of. The whole process is like building a house from scratch. And it requires that I pay close attention to my environment and also to my subconscious. Sometimes, I nurse these ideas for a couple of days in my head until I am ready and courageous and most importantly, excited about it. One beautiful thing about this excitement is that it is accompanied by lines — fully–baked, half–baked — and at times, a rhythm that I keep humming until there is a perfect word or a perfect group of words to ignite the sensation of the idea. This practice is tasking and at many times, difficult. Because it requires editing over and over and over until there’s a satisfaction within, which sometimes isn’t enough.
Then, my re–innovative process is a renovative process. Unlike the initial process, I am not building from scratch: I just use what there is to make what I want. So, I read a group of poems until I find a poem that speaks to me in some way or is rich in language and style or is peculiarly experimental. Then, I draft a writing prompt from the poem. And this only allays the cognitive activity in the initial process. I read short mythologies too, and speculatively tell my own story — where the mythological characters are the main idea behind my creation — not necessarily the theme of the myth. Recently, I have been re–innovating. And I relish every outcome. As no poet is an island for himself.
For when and where I write: I write poetry anytime and anywhere. But, I’m convinced that I am more artistic at night — when it’s very quiet. Simultaneously, I prefer to write poetry in my room. Or any secluded vicinity.
What would you like readers in the US to know about living, loving, working, and creating in Anambra, Nigeria?
Anambra is one of the south–eastern states in Nigeria. There are beautiful places all around. I live in a small village in Ozubulu with my very extended family. And what I love most about this place is the long-standing culture and history of my people. How many things which I heard in the folktales as a child, growing up in the city of Lagos, have unfurled into real scenes and sensed before my very own eyes. I uphold the beauty of being, not only Nigerian but from an Igbo descent — from Anambra, precisely. I attend school at Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka, here also in Anambra. Awka is an urban area. And the school surrounding is much more civilized and prevalent with the western lifestyle, unlike in Ozubulu where traditional culture is prevalent. So, I kind of tend to always re–adjust my way of living to align with my immediate environment. However, creating poetry here is such an amazing experience as there are so many stories to be told, especially the mysterious ones.
Can you tell me more about the Frontiers Collective?
The frontiers collective is a poetry family that comprises twenty members who have come together to mainly share ideas about poetry. But, beyond this perspective, the frontiers collective is literally a second home for us. The atmosphere we’ve created for ourselves is amazing — it feels so much like a place we can run to and seek solace, a place where we can always throw parties and have the good vibes, a place where we can grope for answers and find them. We are always there for each other and have each other’s back. You can learn more about us here
Who are some of your personal favorite poets and writers? What is it about their work that speak to you?
There are many poets I admire and whose works speak to me. Some of my favorites are Romeo Oriogun, whose works about exile have opened my eyes to a harsh reality. Chiwenite Onyekwelu, with a touch of tenderness in every one of his poems, and the ones I love most are the ones that speak about his father or his mother — and just how he beautifully weaves true family ordeals with fibers of words. Jericho Brown is one of my American favorites. Most of his poems which speak to me are those about racism. Also, there is an endless list of voices I enjoy reading: Ocean Vuong, Jeremiah O. Agbaakin, Ada Limon, Saeed Jones, Nome Emeka Patrick, Pamilerin Jacob …
What do you hope to accomplish with your poetry?
A whole lot that I have yet to discover. A vast audience is very important for every writer. But for me, it’s not just about the audience, but also an audience whom my works can speak to and inspire.
What’s next on the horizon for you — personally, poetically, professionally?
For now, I am currently an undergraduate pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy. After that, I will consider an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry). The way from there is God’s own poetry — I have yet to read. But this I know: I will so much love to teach poetry for a long period of time.