In this interview with Odoh Diego Okenyodo, the founder and curator of Poets in Nigeria (PIN), Eriata Oribhabor, speaks on the upcoming second edition of the PIN Cross-Country Celebration of Poetry. He shared insights into the selection process for the cities and institutions where the event will take place. Oribhabor also discussed the inspiration behind the PIN Cross-Country Celebration of Poetry and how it has evolved since its inception.
Cross-Country Celebration of Poetry
The PIN Cross-Country Celebration of Poetry is set to take place in multiple cities across Nigeria. Could you share some insights into how you selected the cities and institutions for this event?
The decision to hold the event was reached at a meeting of the PIN Board and functional members of the family. A background to this PIN’s upcoming Cross-Country Poetry Celebration event was a call for volunteers to serve as hosts. In this regard, the locations of hosts automatically become where to find a venue that was sourced for and secured. Invariably, PIN only approves of hosts and locations/venues as arrived at by hosts. We didn’t choose for them.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the Poets in Nigeria (PIN) Cross-Country Celebration of Poetry and how it has evolved since its inception?
The inspiration can be underscored by the desire to deliberately centre-stage poetry as a unique genre of literature and headline poets as great crafters behind poems. We want to promote existing poetry promotion groups, encourage the establishment of new poetry writing, reading and performance groups, and showcase art-friendly venues alongside individuals supporting poetry and creativity across our country. Another reason is that we want to build bonds of friendship across climes for creative uplifting.
This is in keeping with the PIN philosophy, which is “Poetry for service” and our motto which is “Connecting poets for greater endeavours.”
Contribution to Literary Landscape
How does the PIN Cross-Country Celebration of Poetry contribute to the literary and cultural landscape of Nigeria?
With the Cross-Country event, a lot of people across the country will embrace poetry like any art form and consciously begin to show interest in its reading, writing and performance. Secondly, more centres for reading and appreciation of poetry will be established around the country. This is expected to boost a waiting market for products of poetry and ancillary activities like video editing/production as well as poetry events/ spoken word performances, training/masterclasses, and the like. Poets will easily know poets and where located and build bonds therefrom.
The first edition of this event was a success. What are your expectations and aspirations for the second edition? Are there any improvements or new elements you’re introducing?
Yes. As rightly observed, the first edition was a huge success but was largely limited to members of PIN at the central level, moderators of various initiatives and the connect centres at select tertiary institutions. It was held under PIN’s Month of Freedom and Creativity, celebrating PIN’s annual anniversary that holds every October.
To tell you how much poets love challenges and are ready to use poetry to impact society, all Volunteers had to use their personal resources in delivering on the event. We hope that subsequently, we will have sponsors.
It is important to add that after this event, we are hoping that more Nigerians will know of our activities and the various initiatives that drive them and most likely win interest for sponsorships which we direly need to grow and take the PIN Initiative to higher heights.
What will pass as an improvement for the cross-country poetry celebration initiative is the huge number of volunteers who have willingly joined in pushing the frontiers of things for our collective good. Importantly, with these volunteers, more Nigerians will be abreast of the workings of PIN, driven by the philosophy of poetry for service.
More Poetry Promotion Groups
How do you believe events like the Cross Country Celebration of Poetry impact the growth and exposure of emerging poets in Nigeria?
A fundamental objective of PIN is to discover creative talents and help harness and hone their skills. The cross-country event will not only help stimulate interest in creativity via poetry, but it will also equally promote interest in the teaching of poetry around our country.
Consequent to the preceding, both the government and private sectors will be encouraged to want to do more in the creative sector with social attention to poetry reading, writing and performance. In this regard, the activities of Dike Chukwumerije’s Simply Poetry taken across the country, now being followed up by his training classes on civics will testify to how much poetry could be used for the reorientation of people in positive ways. Same for Bash Amuneni, a spoken word poet doing a lot in the area of poetry promotion via masterclasses.
Naturally, after this edition of the Cross-Country Celebration of Poetry event, more poetry promotion groups will be known, and some more will spring up. What the preceding will, in the main, translate into is that more emerging poets will begin to find their creative voices.
Funding As Challenge
Hosting events across different states must come with its own challenges. What are some of the challenges PIN have faced in organising such a widespread event, and how have you overcome them?
Going by the place of PIN in the area of poetry promotion in Nigeria, we weren’t expecting an issue with volunteers signing up as hosts. The only challenge is that of funding. To tell you how much poets love challenges and are ready to use poetry to impact society, all Volunteers had to use their personal resources in delivering on the event. We hope that subsequently, we will have sponsors.
Poets in Nigeria have always emphasised community and connection among poets. As you said earlier, the Cross-Country Celebration of Poetry follows this desire to foster these connections on a national scale. What have been the results of these new connections that you have witnessed in the past?
The major positive side being experienced is that more poets have known and are knowing themselves while possibilities for new ventures around the craft of poetry are opening.
Qualities of Host
The advert for the event invites people to host or co-host the celebration in their towns/cities. What qualities or characteristics are you looking for in potential hosts, and how can interested individuals get involved?
We want volunteers. And they have to be people who have demonstrated the following three qualities: one is, a love for poetry. Two, passion for poetry promotion; and three, capacity to cause a gathering for poetry fellowship. If you have got this, then you are a potential co-host.
Can you share some highlights from the upcoming celebration? Are there any special guests, performances, or themes that attendees can look forward to?
As it is, only hosts can speak on expected guests at different locations and are being encouraged to have guest poets.
As a literary organisation, Poets in Nigeria has achieved a lot in promoting poetry. Looking ahead, as you recently turned 60 and the celebrations exemplified the Cross-Country approach you have adopted, what are your long-term visions for the organisation and its impact on Nigerian literature?
Thank you very much for referencing my recent celebration of 60yrs which your good self and others in your team like Paul Liam and Soonest Nathaniel played a major role in making it happen memorably. The vision of PIN is to become Nigeria’s foremost literary body driven by poetry. As you may be aware, PIN is regaled with the epithet: Initiative of Initiatives. In this regard, we are looking at the various initiatives standing alone and impacting people and society for good.
Moreso, poetry as a genre of literature will be taken more seriously and given its pride of place as the heart and soul of literature. We are looking at specialised teachings/trainings dedicated to poetry. Importantly, when more persons show interest in poetry, will become a money spinner in diverse ways. No need mentioning how more persons will grace halls on the score of poetry.
Advice for Aspiring Poets
What advice do you have for aspiring poets and literary enthusiasts who want to contribute to the literary scene in Nigeria?
My candid advice is that whilst one passionately pursues his passion for poetry, one shouldn’t foreclose stark realities facing us as a nation, bedevilled by lack of good governance over the years, paying little or no attention to creativity. Therefore, an aspiring poet or enthusiast wanting to keep the passion for poetry going must be concerned about self-sustenance which mustn’t be settled by poetry.
How to Stay Updated
In what ways can people stay updated on the PIN Cross-Country Celebration of Poetry and other initiatives by Poets in Nigeria?
There are many. Poets in Nigeria can be found on all social media platforms such as @nigerianpoets (Instagram, Twitter) and on the Facebook page: Poets in Nigeria as well as the Facebook group: Poets in Nigeria Initiative. Other Facebook pages include The Arthub, Lagos; National Poets Residency; PIN 10-Day Poetry Challenge; PIN Annual Food Poetry Initiative; PIN Annual Photo Poetry Contest; and PIN Punchy Poetry (Instagram).
Let me thank you for the necessity of this interview because in the main, a lot of people will know about the Cross-Country Poetry Celebration event and looking forward to attending. My message for everyone is that this event is expected to be the biggest on poetry in the country and considering attending any venue that’s closest, is making the right decision to support creativity via poetry, a critical genre of literature.
In case there is no event happening close by, help to talk about it and share our posts. Finally, start preparing to be part of next year’s Cross-Country Celebration of Poetry.