Loveth Liberty, who recently clinched the 2nd prize of the LaCasera Spoken Wars, sits with Semilore Kilaso for an enlivening interview.
Loveth Liberty is a fine poet, singer, songwriter, performing and recording artiste whose work interrogates the Nigerian sociopolitical pulses, delicately explores womanhood, and highlights the human experience.
With her artistry throbbing with social consciousness, the young multiple prize-winning poet has performed for and worked with notable national and global organisations like the BBC Media Action, Amnesty International, and the United Nations Development Programme. Loveth Liberty is currently the winner of the ALitFest Slam Viewer’s Choice Award.
PIN LITERARY INTERVIEWS: Hi Loveth, Congratulations on winning at the LaCasera Spoken Wars. It’s a pleasure to have you on this session of PIN LITERARY INTERVIEWS. Tell us something interesting about yourself besides what is in your bio.
Loveth Liberty: What’s interesting about me? Let me see. I rap sometimes. And sometimes, I nurture the fantasy of being Nigeria’s top female rapper.
PLI: How long have you been doing poetry? How did you find your niche as a spoken-word poet?
LL: I’ve been doing poetry for 5years now. Started in 2017, and it took me no time to find my niche as a spoken word poet because performance was always my thing. Did I mention that I had always been in the choir? So, the stage was my thing. The voicing thing was my thing. So, it wasn’t even a thing to think about. Spoken word poetry was it for me.
PLI: Can you recall your first main spoken-word poetry performance and how you felt? What would you say contributed to your growth as a poet?
LL: My first spoken word poetry performance was at a Church event in Kubwa. Hosted by my now manager, Raphael Ndifreke. And my first time was fireeeeeee. No caps. I was nervous when I got into the venue and saw other older poets. I was so nervous that I kept going to the restroom to pee. Lol. But when I went on stage, it felt like I was a different person. Maybe because, though i was performing poetry for the first time, I was an experienced stage person who already knew how to work a crowd. However, I did forget my line at some point and started singing. Hahaha. The things we do to cover up.
A lot of things have contributed to my growth, really. Two chief things I will credit to are spoken word poetry videos and the Abuja Literary Society.
PLI: As poets, some of us tend to look at stylistics. How would you describe poetry in relation to your style? Would you say performance poetry follows a different style from page poetry, or is it just embodying page poetry?
LL: Well, Poetry in relation to my style would be relatable stories told artistically whilst creatively harnessing literary and poetic devices here and there. I don’t think performance poetry embodies page poetry. At least, not the typical page poetry. Lately, there has been this new brand of poetry my friends talk about and get various acceptances and publishing for; Contemporary Page Poetry. That form or style of poetry kind of mediates between our typical performance poetry and page poetry. It is like a perfect blend of spoken word poetry and page poetry. So, it isn’t too different from performance poetry. Page poetry, on the other hand, comes off as really different from performance poetry in a lot of ways.
PLI: What is the writing process like for you? How do you conclude that a poem you have written should be performed on stage or read on a page?
LL: So, lately, I haven’t had the leisure of just writing for me, unlike my formative years as a poet. I write majorly for events I get booked for, competitions, or commissioned projects. So, unlike when lines just fly to me, and I jot them down and build on them, I now have to sit down in front of my Samsung note, outline themes and subthemes for the subject matter I’m required to write on. Let’s just say these days, my writing process has seen some dynamics.
About how I conclude that a poem you have written should be performed on stage or read on page… Well, i don’t do or haven’t done page poetry just yet. So, all the poems I write, I write to be performed on stage. Except when I’m ghostwriting a poem. I ask my client if the piece is for stage or page and write accordingly.
PLI: Do you have any interesting habits, such as how and when you master your poems for performance?
LL: An interesting habit of mine isn’t so interesting. Just necessary. I speak my lines before I write them. So, I repeat them a lot to hear what they’ll sound like and how they can hit home better. Repeating these lines makes them stick without me trying too hard to memorise.
PLI: Do you think every poet can be a spoken/performance poet, or does it require special training and talent?
LL: I don’t think every poet can be a spoken word poet or performance poet. I think it requires training like every art form. Just the way I think that not every spoken word poet can be a page poet until trained to be so.
PLI: As one who has won poetry slams, you would agree that competitions are healthy and important in the creative space. What influence has competing had on the quality of your poems?
LL: Competitions are not exactly healthy if we’re being honest. But I can’t deny that they are important in the creative space, as it forces creatives to bring out their best. Well, it’s a lot I have to say on the subject of how healthy or not competitions can be.
Personally, competing has influenced my writing in more ways than I would love to admit proudly. My art grew beautifully, I must say. However, it grew competitively. Like, almost every time I write a piece, it has to be a killer. It has to be able to body another poet in a Slam. My poems were mostly written for slams. Written to outdo other poets. Lol. Does this make me seek excellence? Arguably yes. I write with the intent to create unmatched quality, but there’s always a backlash to these things. And maybe that’s a story for another day.
PLI: What Nigerian poet(s) do you love to read/ watch their performances?
LL: There are plenty o.
I will start with our “parent poets.” Titilope Sonuga. My all-time poetry mother, Storyteller, Bash Amuneni, Dike Chukwumerije, Efe Paul Azino.
Then for my contemporaries, I watch and read my guys. So, I have this Poetry family called Poetic Nest. I read them a lot. But I’ll list a few; Divine Inyang Titus, Raphael Ndifreke, Michael Immosan. I also listen to Toby Abiodun, Fragile, Pariolodo, Younglan. These guys are doing great.
PLI: 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?
LL: I think the place of poetry as a genre of literature is to first cater to social consciousness. Social activism and all. But I think sometimes we have to let our hair down and not just try to save the day with all this social activism stuff and all. I honestly feel that at this point, poetry can’t boldly say it has enough entertainment value to sell to just anyone. So, in light of that, the future of poetry as a sellable artform may partly lie on how poets and poetry enthusiasts and investors make poetry so entertaining so much that people trust it not just to teach but “give them joy”.
Lately, some mouth-watering opportunities have been given to poets in the form of competitions, grants, and all. I applaud and really am grateful for those. Because it is evidently changing the way poets have been perceived over a while now. Still, a lot more can be done. A lot more can be offered. Thanks to literary communities like the Abuja Literary And Arts Festival and Lagos International Festival, who put up huge slam prizes for grabs. And then non-literary communities like ANAPFoundation and LaCasera.
PLI: Thank you for your time. Please leave us with a few lines of a poem you have written. (max 12 lines) and a link to your poetry performance.
LL: BURNT OFFERING
It is a Sunday morning in Madalla
The Grimreaper walks into a church
With a suicide bomb in his agbada
And like Elijah,
He sends the fire down.
Got me wondering
“Did their charred bodies become burnt offerings?”