OLAYINKA SAMSON AREMU is a Nigerian Poet and Spoken Word Artiste from Ado-odo, Ogun State. He is a Communications graduate from the National Open University Nigeria (NOUN). He started writing poetry in his Senior Secondary School days. Olayinka is presently one of Nigeria’s fastest rising poets and his insatiable love for the art has seen him grace many high profile platforms, winning several laurels, including the prestigious War of Words and Abuja Literary Society (ALS) Poetry Slam titles. In this interview, Olayinka discusses his views on poetry with Sam De Poet…
When and how did your poetry journey begin?
It all started in my first year in Senior Secondary School when I was chosen to represent my school in a performance poetry competition. Ever since then poetry has become my heartbeat.
What styles and what themes do you employ in your poetry?
I write in no particular style, albeit I rhyme mostly. I write more to right the wrongs of the society, to bring back the lost nature of mankind. These are some perilous times we live in, things happen every day and we have to use whatever arm we have in our arms to hack off the neck of those things destroying and decaying our moral values and peace.
What inspires your poems?
Anything. Life itself is poetry. Muse is everywhere; in you, in me, on the street, in the heart of the ocean, riding on the winds, in our places of worship, in schools, at work, at home, in the traffic, et al. Everything inspires me. But reading gets me in the mood.
Your poems are known to have a traditional feel. Where is this coming from?
My root. I came from a place where Yoruba norms and culture is grounded and rooted. I grew up among these people observing their norms and culture with keen interest and respect. Most times I write first in Yoruba language before translating it to English language. I have many poems that I’ve not been able to translate to English language yet, due to my level of understanding of the Whiteman’s language.
For you, is there such a thing as an ideal kind of poetry?
This question is a thought-provoking one.
I think there is but that it depends on the critic or reader because a poem that may seems good to me may be unrefined to another.
The levels at which we understand language and literature differ, hence I still take my poems to poets that are higher minded than I am for editing. The best thing is to keep writing and keep learning.
As a poet you’ve attained an enviable height. To what can you ascribe this success?
To my friends, to my family, especially, my mother and my foster parent, my mentors and foremost to Jehovah. Everyone contributed to what I am and are still contributing to what I am becoming.
You don’t just write poetry, you perform it too. Which came before the other, writing or performing?
Performance came to me almost as at the same time I began writing, but it was the page before the stage as it is common with most performance poets.
Talking about the rewards of writing, is it paying your bills?
It’s not paying yet, but it will soon. Sometimes I get compensated, sometimes I get nothing, but all the time I get satisfied. It is poetry; it is what I love to do. I am not a slothful fellow. I work and I’m into agriculture too.
Do you have role models? Writers who have greatly influence your poetry?
Yeah, sure. It’s a long list that includes Mutabaruka, Kofi Awoonor, D. O. Fagunwa, J.F. Odunjo, Alfred Edward Housman, William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, Wole Soyinka, Andrew Marvel, Dike Chukwumerije, Efe Paul Azino, Soonest Nathaniel, Graciano Enwerem. There are just too many of them.
Nigerian poetry spreads wider and wider with each passing moment. What should the industry do to sustain this progression, and avoid retrogression?
We should keep doing the good work. Keep writing and keep performing. Anywhere we go, we should always take poetry with us. I can see we are almost there.
What do you intend achieving writing and performing poetry?
I want “the chemical reactions of my name to keep reacting in the minds of men when my mic would be off and I would be off the stage of this world”. By the time I would be out of this field I want my glory to stay. I want to be great.
At this point, we would like you to give a word of advice to upcoming poets who intend to be like you someday.
Like my mentors always say to me, keep reading. That’s the only way you can sharpen your mind and your writing. Read wide and write. Read more.
Performance needs practice. Build your confidence. Marcus Garvey said “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence you have won even before you have started!” Go to open mics and poetry shows. Keep learning. Above all, read and keep reading.
Facebok: Olayinka Samson Aremu