Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Author Speaks with Samsudeen Alabi

This is the sixth in a series of interviews featuring the seven OAU alumni who put together Sandstorms in June. You can download the anthology here.

Samsudeen Alabi is the convergence of a thousand selves. He writes and reads. He discusses literature, politics and history with anyone he can find whenever he's bored with studying the law, which is most of the time.

Samsudeen Alabi
AA: What does poetry mean to you?
SA: Poetry is an age-long communication between all that has been, all that is and all that will ever be. It is an interaction between souls expressed in words. But poetry is not only limited to words, everything is poetry waiting to be written. The fact that it has not been penned doesn't reduce its poetic significance. So I think everything is poetry.
AA: What does OAU mean to you?
SA:OAU signifies freedom to me. Liberty. A visa to be who or whatever you want to be in a community that is small enough to acknowledge you and large enough to show you that you are just one out of thousands. That school is a leveller. Be ye ever so high, Ife is above thee. Yet you feel free and welcome.
AA: Tell me about your favourite poets.
I think I have read almost all if not all the poems published by Dr Maya Angelou. Her work means so much to me. If I ever have the privilege of fathering a daughter, I will ensure she commits ‘Phenomenal Woman’ and ‘Still I Rise’ to memory before she is ten. Her poems have such sheer power behind them. Seamus Heaney always makes me feel. No matter how steely my resolve, he always reminds me of my humanness. Chinua Achebe is famed for his prose but his poetry is an expression of elderly traditional wisdom that I aspire to. Christopher Okigbo's Labyrinth is one collection for all times. His Thunder Poems always get me excited. But the list goes on and it is still open to addition.         
AA: Was Ile-ife a big part of your OAU experience?
SA: There is no way I can divorce the town from my own gown. Ile-ife is its own civilization. OAU is the proverbial icing. From School gate to Mayfair to Lagere to Opa and beyond. I used to go to Oja in the evening to buy ingredients for soup. Ife is a lot like where I am from, Offa. Needless to say I felt more at home in town than on campus. Campus had its own pretentions, but Ile-Ife was undiluted Yoruba life. 
AA: How did this inspire you to write ‘Ife’?
SA: I wanted to write two poems: one for OAU and another for the town but the separation kept failing. After about twenty minutes, I gave up and married the two. That poem is the wedlock between Iya-ila and Ongbona, the love between town and gown.
AA: What inspired you to write ‘Moremi and the Sojourn of Hands’?
SA: I think the question is not What but Who. I was having a hard time explaining myself to a darling of mine so I wrote what I was thinking in verse and sent each verse to her as soon as I finished. I really didn't have to imagine. I just wrote what I felt and things that happened. It was a poetic conversation with apostrophes and rhetorical questions. A late night confession from an ‘onitiju’. With her, I think the verses succeeded.
AA: What are you working on at the moment?
SA: I am part of a Group of Nine known as Kano Chroniclers. We are all students at the Kano Campus of the Nigerian Law School located in Bagauda. We have been writing and reading together. Law School is really monotonous and boring and writing has been our escape. We hold readings beside the Lake on Campus and critique each other's writing. Then we publish on our blog.

Samsudeen Alabi blogs here and tweets occasionally about anything via the handle @samolaalabi.

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