In a conversation with the award-winning poet Zakiyyah Dzukogi for Konya Shansrumi’s website, poet Ibraheem Uthman explores several themes and insights about the process of writing poetry, the essence of identity, the potential of poetry, and the significance of Africa. Both are members of the Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation and the secretary for the Northern Writers Forum (NWF). Zakiyyah won the Splendors of Dawn Poetry Foundation competition in 2019, the Brigitte Poirson Poetry Prize and the Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors, in 2021.
The Process of Writing Poetry
Ibraheem Uthman, author of a poetry collection titled “Mind of a Bard” and a two-time winner of the National Library Prize, describes the process of writing poetry as a delicate balance between inspiration and craftsmanship. “I often find myself revisiting and revising my work,” Uthman says to 17-year-old Zakiyyah, “trying to capture the essence of my thoughts as accurately as possible.”
The student of cybersecurity at the Federal University of Technology Minna adds: “Essentially, writing a poem is a harmonious interplay between inspiration and effort. It’s a beautiful struggle that ultimately brings me immense satisfaction when I see my ideas come to life through carefully crafted verses.”
This insight highlights the dual nature of creative endeavours, where inspiration can flow effortlessly, but the real work lies in refining and structuring those ideas. This mirrors the creative process in many art forms, showcasing the blend of inspiration and effort, which a thinker once captured thus: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
“Essentially, writing a poem is a harmonious interplay between inspiration and effort. It’s a beautiful struggle that ultimately brings me immense satisfaction when I see my ideas come to life through carefully crafted verses.”
Sense of Identity
Uthman’s metaphorical description of his sense of identity as “the elusive silhouette amidst shadows” provides a vivid and enigmatic image. It conveys a sense of mystery and complexity, emphasising the idea that one’s identity can be multifaceted and not easily defined.
The author acknowledges that his poems are not literal life-saving elixirs but vehicles to explore the human experience, which is a profound perspective on the role of poetry. It emphasises that poetry can touch deep emotions and thoughts, offering solace and inspiration to those who seek it.
“My poems, Crossing The Drainage and Afterlife, would resonate with a soul who yearns for something beyond the ordinary,” Uthman says, “someone who finds solace in transcending the confines of existence. This person would be an explorer of inner and outer spaces, enchanted by the idea of crossing the threshold between life and the enigmatic beyond. In their eyes, my words would serve not as a life preserver but as a whispered promise of a journey far beyond the terrestrial horizon.”
Uthman’s describes Africa as a canvas of boundless potential, capturing the idea that the continent is rich in culture, natural beauty, and dreams waiting to be realised. He seems to reflect an optimism for the future while recognising the challenges and opportunities that exist.
Influence of “Ozymandias”
Uthman appears to appreciate literature that delves into themes of impermanence and the passage of time, exemplified by his choice of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” as a poem that has impressed him. The selected line, “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” reflects the enduring power of literature to convey profound truths about the human condition.
“While considering the impact of one’s words on a person’s life is profound, I must admit that I view my poems as vehicles to explore the depths of the human experience rather than literal life-saving elixirs.”
Overall, Zakiyyah Dzukogi and Ibraheem Uthman’s conversation, titled Poet’s Talk: 5 Questions with Ibraheem Uthman, provides a glimpse into the mind of a new generation of Nigerian poets, shedding light on their creative process, personal identity, the potentials of poetry, and the significance of cultural and literary influences. It showcases the depth and complexity of the poet’s perspective on life and art. It would be gratifying to start seeing what the young poets think of contemporary social issues around Africa and the poet’s place in them, in keeping with the concept of Poetry for Development.