How My Poem Joy Of War Won Me WUP Prize 2016 – Olaoluwa
Abegunde Sunday Olaoluwa
Admittedly, Abegunde Sunday Olaoluwa, who goes by the nick name ‘Speaking Pen’, is one of the finest new generation of Nigerian poets. The winner of World Union of Poets Prize 2016, Olaoluwa is a student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun state. In this interview with IBRAHIM RAMALAN, the award-winning poet discusses how he won the WUP Prize 2016 as well as how he juggles poetry and academics and still remains at the top of his games. Olaoluwa is the principal director of ‘Speaking Pen International Concept’, Lagos. He is also an official representative of Caprecon Development Foundation, Luton, UK.
Introduce yourself to our readers.
I am a poet and public speaker. I am currently a student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. I am the author of “Unleash Your Potential: Beyond Just Motivation”, Christian book, “Young Christians and Love” and a poetry book, “In His Realm”.
I am the curator of some poetry anthologies among which are “We Cry for Peace”(2014), “Voice of Humanity”(2014), “Love poem Anthology”(2015) and “Peace is Possible”(2015). My exclusive interview was also published in the book “The First Chronicle of New Generation of Nigerian Authors” (2015).
My poems are contained in several international anthologies including two volumes of “Art of Being Human” compiled and edited by Daniela Voicu and Brian Wrixon, “Muse for World Peace Poetry”, “Wind of Change” and “The Phenomenal Woman: Maya Angelou”.
Laureates include: Association of Christian Journalist Writers’ Award, Outstanding Young Achiever 2014, Creative Writers Association of Nigeria (CWAN) Award as Literary Emperor Award 2014, EGC Top 50 Poets That Rocked Nigeria 2014 , in 2015, FPASU Award as Most Inspiring Writer of the Year 2013 and Winner of World Union of Poets Prize 2016 among others.
Your friends on campus call you ‘Speaking Pen’. Can you tell us why?
(Smiles) ‘Speaking’ depicts my gift as a public speaking while ‘Pen’ connotes my writing gift, hence, ‘Speaking Pen’. The origin of this pseudonym of mine can be traced back to 2014 when I was to register the name of an organization I founded in Lagos/Ogun with the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria. After brainstorming, I resolved to name the organization ‘Multivisionaire International Concept’ but then I realized I had to submit two names to CAC in lieu of one. While studying my bible the night before my journey to Corporate Affairs Commission, I caught a portion of the scripture which reads “…my tongue is the pen of a ready writer…” (Psalm 45:1). While meditating on this, “Speaking Pen” popped up and that was it! Hence, on campus ‘Speaking Pen International Concept’ is contracted to ‘Speaking Pen’ and I love it.
Are you a spoken word artiste or performance poet?
I am not an artiste. I am a poet! I am more of a page poet like my ‘babas’ in poetry – Wole Soyinka, Gbemisola Adeoti, E.E Cummings, Shakespeare et al). However, in recent times, I perform some of my poems on stage and got encouraging remarks.
Do you think there are distinct differences between spoken word and performance poetry?
Definitely yes! The word ‘Spoken Word’ had actually been bastardized in factual sense. Spoken Word is good, but hey! Spoken Word is not Poetry! Tell me noodles is a good food and I would agree but when you try to convince me that noodles is a type of rice, then would I strongly disagree? It may have colors and texture similar to rice but a deep analysis of its composition in the lab of scholars would reveal that it’s only like rice but not rice! Spoken Word (like music and raps) is poetic but being poetic doesn’t make it poetry.
I learnt from Professor Segun Adekoya that “…the language of poetry is the language of indirection and poetry is cloudy in nature…’. Poetry must be aesthetically appealing, garnished with rich metaphors and other conventional poetry devices. I have seen many watery performances which may pass well as ‘Spoken Word’ but not as poetry. However, I had seen brilliant performances that would pass as both Spoken Word and as Poetry. Such impressive performances are now called ‘Spoken Word Poetry’ in the writing circle. I wish I actually have the luxury of time to demystify this issue further.
Performance poetry is a form of performance in which a written poem is dramatized or delivered with appropriate gesticulations. An epitome of a performance poet is Baba Jimi Solanke.
You recently won the much coveted ‘World Union of Poets Prize 2016, tell us your reaction when you first received the news?
Ah! My heart almost jumped out through my throat for joy. I was actually with a friend, Adeleye Tolu, relaxing when I got notified. It’s amazing how the news trended pretty fast on OAU campus and before I could say Jack Robinson, this flooded other campus blogs, websites and other media platforms. Glory to God.
Can you tell us a bit about your award-winning poem; ‘The Joy of War’ and what you think stood it out?
I actually had a vivid imagination of war and painted my view using poetry devices as my painting brushes. I consciously have some things locked deep down the soul of my poem ‘The Joy of War’ and I am happy at the brilliancy of the juries to decode them while messages are left to float lucidly on the surface. The poem is good, the judges are better and God is best!
What inspired you to write such poem?
Just as Black Eyed Piece’s song ‘Where is the love?’ purged my heart to write the poem ‘I know Where Justice is’, the screenplay by Cary Joji Fukunaga I had seen, ‘Beasts of no Nation’ based on the novel of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s son , Uzodinma Iweala. This reminded me of stories my dad had told me of war. My late father, Abegunde Dare Michael once related the story he had heard a Liberian woman narrate at ‘Anointing Service held by RCCG Pastor J.T. Kalejaiye’. The woman was told the story of how as a young girl she used to be driven to school in her father’s car and enjoyed life before the Liberian Civil War ruined that pleasant life as she is now a maid in Nigeria.
This account painted how terrible the effect of war can be on people’s life even having survived the gore of been killed or having their loved once killed in an inhumane manner right in their presence.
My father also once told a story of an old soldier with psychiatric problem of hearing the screams of people, bangs of rifles and blast of bombs even for years after the war. People’s lives are destroyed by war either by death or by more terrible experiences, which left men, women and children living as working corpse. War is so terrible and everything possible should be done to ensure peace reigns always.
Do you write other genres apart from poetry?
Yes of course. Though, I write more of poetry in recent times. If my brain serves me right, I started writing the bestselling book, ‘Unleash Your Potential: Beyond Just Motivation’ in 2010 and guess what…? It is a self-help book launched on 8th February, 2014. As at that period, poetry was just a seasoning to my motivational and inspirational write-ups but now, poetry has grown enough to feed my heart with its sweetness and richness. Watch out for my first contemporary poetry collection, ‘Coloured Injustice’.
You are a 300 level student of Estate Management, how do you juggle poetry with your studies?
Poetry is part of my lifestyle hence I actually find is somewhat easy to blend poetry with my demanding course of study. I share my poems on Facebook almost every day and read a couple of poems daily on Facebook since most of my Facebook friends are people who love, appreciate and write poetry too. Hence, poetry lectures, arguments, competition and so on are things most of us do at our leisure time. We enjoy it. It eases us of stress of work, academics, among others. The philosopher, Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. I love my course hence on first-class presently and love poetry hence won the WUP Prize 2016. I did not actually work hard. All I did is L.U.C.K. That is, Labour Under Correct Knowledge.
Do you perform poems by other poets?
Not really. I have tried that out once. I performed Claytons Jennings’ piece with due attribution to him.
What does it feel like, to be on stage with your poem and having an audience listen to you?
It is that moment one feels like the most important person in the world and as though every living being in the world is watching irrespective of the number of people in the audience on faces. It’s that period that one concentrates majorly on the piece and slightly on one’s self and the audience with their reactions and responses.
Do you have a word for writers who may want to be as successful as yourself in poetry?
In all humility, I don’t actually feel I have arrived when I had just started. I believe success to be a journey rather than a destination. However, for as many who desire to win contests and competitions, here is my advice in a poetic form formed just now:
If you enter for a contest
And end up as runner-up,
You need not protest.
Rather, give thanks. Don’t give up
Don’t refuse to turn up
For other competitions
‘Cause that is not the solution.
A true warrior may fall from his horse
But would shake off the dust,
Forget the pain
And ride again!