‘Festival Poetry Calabar is a convergence of happy people’ – Utibe-Eno Ekpuk | PIN Literary Interviews

As the Lead Rep of Poets in Nigeria (PIN) Calabar Connect Centre, Utibe-Eno Ekpuk talks to Semilore Kilaso on poetry promotion in Calabar, the activities of Festival Poetry Calabar, social media as a tool for promoting literary arts and her experiences as a poet and volunteer.

Utibe-Eno Ekpuk is a graduate of English and Literary Studies and lover of traditional art and the literary tradition. She currently leads Poets in Nigeria, Calabar Connect Centre. Utibe-Eno offers her services for the growth of communities through volunteering with BrenCare Foundation and The Bridge Leadership Foundation.

  • It’s great pleasure having you on this session of PIN Literary Interviews. Please can we meet you?

    The pleasure is all mine! I am Utibe-Eno Ekpuk, Lead representative, Poets in Nigeria, Calabar Connect Centre.
  • Evidently you are passionate about poetry. Why poetry?

Of course, yes! I am quite passionate about poetry because it first resonates with me. Since my first impression of poetry was geared towards ambiguity and complexity of language, I was snatched. I liked the fact that I had to think out meanings from the poems I read. However, my passion for poetry has grown beyond this to be inexplicable. Let’s just say, I love how I can interpret a poem to mean what I think it means and I love the solace I get from listening to poets pour out themselves in a piece.

  • Can you vividly recall the title of the first poem you wrote? Tell us about it and how you landed into poetry writing.

I literally gave up on my first poem. Lol. I had just attended a literary reading in school that weekend and loved everything about it so I thought to scribble down what I felt was poetry while in church on the Sunday that followed. It was something on Fate.

  • What is the writing process like for you? How do conclude that you are writing a poem and how do you develop from a word into lines? Do you have any interesting writing habits, such as how and when you write?

Well, I have never really made a deliberate attempt at writing prose or drama so I know it’s poetry already when I pick up my pen. At many instances, I already have a narrative in my head because I write when I’m prompted by something so it flows but at other instances where I have to develop my thoughts into words, words into lines, then stanzas; I might just have to pause and return when I have the right flow.

  • You were the Lead Rep. PIN UNICAL and now the current Lead Rep PIN Calabar. How has it been volunteering your time and services to Poets in Nigeria?

Oh wow! Volunteering my time and service to Poets in Nigeria has been humbling. Basically, I have had to learn a lot and certainly, connected with a team that directly and indirectly pushes me to do more. Very many thanks to PIN.

  • Give us a brief on the centre’s activities, project implemented and future plan. What challenges have your Connect Centre faced?

PIN Calabar Connect Centre is still quite young. Our activities revolve around poetry hangouts, talks and literary outreaches to primary/secondary schools within the capital city of Cross River State, Calabar. We have had a number of online and outdoor readings/discussions. The centre has also hosted two (2) secondary schools for a poetry writing competition in commemoration of World Poetry Day 2020.

Our future plan is to have and carry through with school clubs where co-representatives of the connect centre will lead at least two schools in order to regulate an efficient and consistent literary outreach for the promotion of poetry in the state. We are also looking forward to having a combined poetry outing with UNICAL and CRUTECH connect centres to enable a louder voice, synergize and strengthen one another.

For challenges, I don’t know of any at the moment. We are focused on growth.

  • What niche do you hope to create for PIN Calabar Connect Centre? Tell us about Festival Poetry Calabar.

PIN Calabar is very desirous to be identified as nurturers of children and teen poets that will embrace and fly the flag of poetry.

Meanwhile, Festival Poetry Calabar (FPC) has become the foremost literary ritual in the State that puts together poets from within and beyond to showcase poetry, festivity and the rich cultural heritage of Calabar. The festival announces itself with a “Walk for Poetry”, “ Calabar Welcomes” that ushers in visitors to the serenity, that is Calabar, a poetry slam open for all participants of the festival with a handsome prize for the winner, exposition on the theme; open mic sessions; a beautiful poetry gallery coloured with excerpts of poems from brilliant writers, Palm wine poetry and bolé, Sights and sounds of Calabar etc. It is just a truckload of content that has grown over the years to be a convergence of happy people.

  • You are a graduate of English and Literary Studies, how has your course of study influenced your writing and creative process? Do you explore other genres of literature other than poetry?

I feel some kind of peace writing non-fiction too and yes, my course of study has grossly influenced my writing and creative process. It spells out the definition of “good” literature (if the literary world will agree to have good and bad literature). I think I like to attribute my approach to constructive literary criticism to my course of study.

  • What is your opinion on engaging Social Media as a tool to promote literary art?

Time has created a gradual move-away from the organic art to digital literature. It is therefore pertinent that writers engage the media as a tool for promotion of their literary produce. I mean, if the aim is to create a voice for society, advocate for the world we want and talk away demeaning constructs, the media is friendly enough to amplify our voices so why not?

  • What Nigerian poet(s) do you love to read?

Caleb Femi, Chuma Nwokolo, Ofem Ubi, etc.

  • Poetry appreciation is gaining grounds in Nigeria. What in your opinion is the place of poetry as a genre of literature in Nigeria? What future? What opportunities for Poets?

Poetry is indeed gaining grounds in our contemporary society. I like to paraphrase the words of Sir Eriata Oribhabor: We are getting to the time where every event and gathering will have a poet read poetry to startle and win souls for the art. The cliché “The future is bright” works here.

  • What’s your opinion about Poets in Nigeria as a vanguard of poetry renaissance in Nigeria?

My opinion? It’s popular opinion now that Poets in Nigeria is setting the pace for the rebirth of poetry in the nation. It’s five years and there are children all over the place born out of this vision, so are we going to even talk of what the next couple of years will bring? We are fast becoming what we want to be “The foremost literary hub driven by poetry”. So many thanks to Sir Eriata Oribhabor for conceiving a vintage child as this.

  • Thank you for your time. Please leave us with few lines of a poem you have written. (max 12 lines).

Thank you too, Semilore.

Someday we will realize that love is compatible

And that every word is too

Trust. Faith. Mindset. Health

We will unravel the mystery

And demystify the genes

Till that day, we will learn to take our lovers

Not for who they are alone

But for what their blood says

We will weigh our love with our child’s luxury

Someday, we hope

That children will be born happy

That children will live happily.

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