Nosakhare Collins founded Libretto Magazine in 2019. Here, he talks to Semilore Kilaso about his activities as a poet, publisher and poetry promoter.
Nosakhare Collins is a poet, editor, documentary photographer, and founder of Libretto Publishers and Magazine. His chapbook A Pilgrim of Songs (published by Sevhage Publishers) was released in 2018, and his most recent, A Song of Endless Flames co-authored with Usman Karofi, was unveiled in January 2021. Poetry have appeared in Sevhage Review, Youth Shade Magazine, Best “New” African Poets Anthology 2018 & 2019, 84 Delicious Bottle of Wine for Wole Soyinka Anthology, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), and Several others.
- It’s a pleasure to have you on this session of PIN Literary Interviews, Nosakhare Collins. Do tell us about yourself and Libretto.
Thank you for having me. I am a poet, editor, documentary photographer, tutor, publisher, and accountant. I have always wanted to be a good reader; reading actually opens my heart to breathe more. Though I never believed I would become a writer, but here I am today, celebrating the gift.
I started Libretto Magazine in March 2019, and in January 2020, we launched our publishing house. The goal was to reach out to writers across the globe who want their works to be more appreciated. I wanted to contribute to the literary world by promoting writers across the world through the magazine and also through an independent publishing company. I want writers to have the best platform to write and submit their works or manuscripts and to be appreciated for the value they bring through their art.
- How did you start Libretto? What prompted you to create a brand aimed at promoting Literary art and beyond.
The thoughts of having a magazine and publishing house started dwelling in my heart since 2016. I reached out to Ehi’zogie Iyeomoan and Dhee Sylvester about my intentions and they gave me the support and good counsel I needed about the process. The magazine was launched in March 2019 and later evolved to a publishing house in January 2020. Since then, it’s been overwhelming with one success story to another, and we hope to do more in publishing new and established writers.
- It’s only fair to assume that most of your submissions are poetry, as there’s an abundance of poet. What’s your experience promoting poetry?
Poetry is fun and interesting. Poetry has always been my source of survival, confidence, inspiration, and comfort. Poetry allows me to stay focus and write more with interest and tenacity. Whenever I write a poem, my imagination flows freely and my mind attains a state of euphoria. I express myself passionately through poetry, so promoting what speaks for me and makes my heart leap in joy feels like a purpose I was fated for. At Libretto we publish a lot of poems in our magazine, and last year we published numerous poetry collections as part of our Chapbook Series. These are some of the ways I am promoting the art at the moment, but I would like to do more, and I hope I can do more in the future.
- Evidently, running a website and literary press requires funding, and as compared to other sections of the creative industry in Nigeria, there is almost zero funding for literary art. How has Libretto managed to stay afloat amidst this?
Well, at the moment, we are able to fund most of our projects through personal contributions and donations. As we grow, we plan to generate profit through sponsorship, advertisement, and book publishing, either through digital or print. That said, we need support for the next coming anthology prizes and chapbook prizes.
- What roles would you say small presses play in the promotion of literary art in Nigeria?
There are magazines that work on different type of roles, but the main important thing is the choice of opening a magazine or publishing house should be for everyone irrespective of their financial reality or standing within the literary world. I believe in creating a platform that inspires, encourages, promotes, and rewards writers both within and outside Nigeria.
- Small presses in the UK, USA, and Canada solicit funds through public donation and crowdfunding. Do you think such can work in Nigeria?
I believe it’s possible. As a society we still need to show more appreciation towards the importance of literature. One of the ways we can achieve this is for those within the Nigerian literary cycle to work together in harmony and become more accessible to the reading public. If we are able to achieve this, and the government provides the necessary funds for the growth of literature in Nigeria, then there is no reason small presses can’t be community-funded enterprises.
- It is important to promote literary art amongst non-literary artists. It would be a shame to have only writers read other writer’s work. What can be done to encourage the public into reading poetry, because there’s a generally wrong perception that poetry is for restricted readers?
We need more awareness, which is more publicity, and to continue demystifying the stereotypes that have been attached to poetry over time. I don’t believe poetry is for restricted readers. Poetry is for everyone; it has always been and it will always be. A lot of poets these days are going out of their way to engage with their audience and leverage on the opportunities provided by technology, especially through social media. We have Instagram accounts dedicated to poetry, poets sharing their works on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, with some of these poems being written in a style and language the average Nigerian can relate with. Then there is the contribution of spoken word artistes, most of whom are creating audiovisual content that brings a different element to how poetry is experienced and formulated. So yes, a lot is already being done to encourage the public to engage more with poetry.
- It is interesting to note that Libretto Magazine would be two years in March, 2021 yet it has made a name for itself, would you say engaging Social Media as a tool for the promotion of literary art has greatly helped or is it solely publishing phenomenal works?
Yes, social media has greatly helped in pushing the effort of the magazine since the release of the first issue. I must confess it has been amazing and wonderful. Within a short space of time, we have been able to reach places and people we may not have been able to without social media interactions and engagement.
- Do tell us about the Libretto team. How are you able to get such geniuses to work with you? Are they all volunteers?
They have been quite supportive and helpful in facilitating the growth of the magazine since its establishment. A lot of them are volunteers, but their contribution has been immense. Sincerely, I don’t really know how to start appreciating their effort towards the growth of the magazine. Working with them has been fantastic and glorious.
- As a writer yourself, do you have any interesting writing habits, such as how and when you write?
Well, I don’t have a specific time when I want to write but I actually write when I am less busy, and my work takes almost all day. I still find time to jot something down, though I read more than I write these days.
- What Nigerian poet(s) do you continually revisit their works?
Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Odia Ofeimun, J P Clark, Christopher Okigbo, Ben Okri, Ikeogu Oke, Niyi Osundare, Servio Gbadamosi, Su’eddie Vershima Agema, Dami Ajayi, Amu Nnadi, Efe Paul Azino, Laura M. Kaminski, Bash S. Amumeni, Chris Abani, Uche Nduka, Jumoke Verissimo, Uche Peter Umez, Jide Badmus, Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, there are whole lots of them but let’s stop here for now.
- Poetry appreciation is gaining ground in Nigeria. What in your opinion is the place of poetry as a genre of literature in Nigeria? What future? What opportunities for Poets?
I still feel we need more publicity. In terms of having writers write more of poetry I won’t disagree, but then we still need publicity for poetry to gain the appreciation it deserves among literary enthusiasts, not only within Nigeria but across Africa, Europe, North America, and every other part of the world. The other day we saw Amanda Gorman delivering a powerful poem at Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony. Images like that—of a young, female, black poet—inspiring a nation are the kind of things we need to see more of. I want poets to be as respected as musicians, to be seen not as eccentric creatives, but as entertainers with a million diverse voices demanding to be heard.
- What’s your opinion about Poets in Nigeria as a vanguard of poetry renaissance in Nigeria?
Poets in Nigeria are one of the leading platforms doing excellently well for young Nigerian poets. I appreciate the support being rendered to young poets residing in Nigeria and those in the diaspora. A few years ago, we didn’t have so many people who wanted to be poets, or who were even proud to recognized as poets. PIN has played a huge role in the social acceptance of poets, in the confidence of poet, and I hope it continues to help bridge the gap between the general public and Nigerian poets.
- Thank you for your time. Please leave us with few lines of a poem you have written. (max 12 lines).
Few lines from my poetry chapbook ‘a pilgrim of songs’ published by SEVHAGE Publishers 2018, ‘hopelessness, Pg 26. Here it goes:
i have lived in many houses
that forged memories
into something sinister than darkness
there’s no help here
no one sees the body drowning
i have seen silence chasing the body
like a ghost
the house hisses like a snake in the shadows
ready to bite what has lost the light
and the stars did not say my name
the day did not meet my eyes
somewhere in a house full of sorrow
i have left the orphans inconsolable