‘I don’t think poetry is gender-specific’ – Hauwa Saleh Abubakar | PIN Literary Interviews

In this edition of PIN Literary Interviews, Semilore Kilaso moderates a conversation on poetry writing and copyright infringement, with a two-time Nigerian Students Poetry Prize (NSPP) shortlisted entrant, Hauwa Saleh Abubakar.

 Hauwa Saleh Abubakar is a writer and poet. She had her nursery and primary education at Turaki International school and secondary school at Uncle Bado Memorial College, Kaduna. She then proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University where she studied Civil Law. You will find her ranting about feminism or scribbling down poems and stories. She is into performance poetry/spoken word even though she says she is still working on the performance part. When asked what she writes, she usually tells you in this order: poetry, stories, and will sometimes say she is ‘experimenting’ with creative nonfiction. She was shortlisted twice for the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize and her works have appeared in a few publications. She considers herself an accidental lawyer and aims to make people feel ‘something’ with her work.

  1. It’s a great pleasure having to interview you. Please can we meet you?
    Hello, it’s my pleasure. My name is Hauwa Saleh Abubakar. I am a writer, a poet and what I like to call an accidental lawyer.
  1. 2. You love poetry. Why poetry?
    I have always loved poetry, but writing it was a whole different story. I liked it so much that I forced myself to write ‘poetry’. However, that didn’t really work out for me, I bet in a parallel world, I would have been hanged for my crimes. My favorite thing about poetry is how it makes me feel.
  1. 3. Can you vividly recall the title of the first poem you ever wrote? Tell us about it and how you landed into poetry writing.
    As I mentioned earlier, I kind of forced myself to write things that looked like poetry. But then one day, I experienced something that inspired me to write a real poem and I wrote this piece titled ‘The Laborer’ and it seems like the experience opened up a gate of emotions inside me because I have been writing poetry ever since.
  1. As poets, some of us tend to look at stylistics. How would you describe poetry in relation to your style?
    I don’t know if I can define poetry accurately but I do think poetry is a means of self-expression and also can be a form of therapy. Many people have been saved by poetry. We discover parts of ourselves we never knew existed through poetry. We get to reach out to other humans through poetry. This is why we started ‘The Poetry Doctor‘ series under the platform of Ayambalitcast, where we encourage people to send request so we can read out the poems of their choice or send us how they feel so we can prescribe a poem for them. I see poetry as not only a means of self-expression but a tool of self-actualization.
  1. What is the writing process like for you?
    I just write whatever comes to me, I don’t think I have a particular way I write. It all depends on the poem. Some poems come easily, others don’t. Others don’t know how to end and it takes sometime before I write an ending.
  1. How do you conclude that you are writing a poem and how do you develop from a word into lines?
    I think we know deep down when we are writing poetry or stories or any other thing. Though there are other pieces that you don’t have names for till you are done. There are days I write pieces and I will be like oh ‘this sounds like a poem,’ so I let it become one.
  1. There is not an abundance of female poets in Nigeria. What is your take on this?
    Err, I beg to differ on that. There are as many female poets as there are male poets. I don’t think poetry is gender-specific. And I think just a walk into an open mic or a literary meeting can debunk that misconception.
  1. As a lawyer what is your take on plagiarism, intellectual theft, and copyright infringement, what are the legal implications? Are they legal actions that can be taken as regards these?
    Plagiarism and copyright infringement are issues that have been plaguing artists, especially with the fact that the world is now a global village. As an artist I think plagiarism is a very disrespectful and hurtful thing and as a lawyer I think we need stricter laws regarding copyright infringement in the country. I think most of our laws are outdated. But as artists we also have to understand that copyright only covers the expression of an idea not the idea itself and we also have to learn how to protect our works so we can easily bring an action when our work is infringed on. This is too broad a topic to discuss here, so I suggest artists read more on copyright and how to protect their works.
  1. Have you ever entered for the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize (NSPP) or any poetry contest organised by Poets in Nigeria Initiative?
    Yes, I have entered into the Poets in Nigeria Nigerian Students Poetry Prize in 2017 and 2018 and I am pleased to say I was shortlisted among the top ten both times.
  1. What Nigerian poet or poets do you love to read?
    To be honest, I listen more to poetry than I read it. My favorite poets are Titilope Sonuga, Emi Mahmud, Franny Choi, Maryam Sa’eed, Safia Elhillo, Warsan Shire and many others. It is difficult choosing a favorite considering all these poets write differently and I love them for different reasons.
  1. What in your opinion is the place of poetry as a genre of literature in Nigeria? What future? What opportunities for Poets?
    I think there are more opportunities for other genres within Nigeria than they are for poets, even when it comes to selling books or getting published. I believe fiction writers have better opportunities, but that doesn’t mean opportunities for poets are non-existent. But I like the passion we have for poetry and I like the fact that we are creating platforms for ourselves. 
  1. What’s your opinion about Poets in Nigeria as a vanguard of poetry renaissance in our country?Poets in Nigeria is a much-needed platform and I am glad it exists. There are so many voices waiting to be heard and giving that opportunity to young Nigerians will go a long way.
  1. How would you want to round off this interview?
    Thank you for having me.
  1. If we give you an opportunity of saying something about Poets in Nigeria, what would you say?
    Poets in Nigeria made me feel more like a poet by giving me a platform and I bet other poets feel the same way. Continue being great.  
  1. Please would you mind leaving us with few lines of poetry (max 10 lines)
    This Poem is from my collection ‘How to Practice Forgetting’ published last year on Okadabooks titled ‘Mourn’


I buried you again.

I dug up your casket to take another look at your body.

I tried to memorize every inch of your form before I lowered you back into the hole.

Poured the sand on top of your body and watched my tears create wet patches on the ground.


Will be the first time I’ve cried since you were gone.

How do you mourn, when you still see ghosts everywhere?


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