‘Nigerian Poetry could produce another Nobel Laureate after Soyinka’ – Shitta Faruq | PIN Literary Interviews

Though in his late teens, Shitta Faruq sits with Semilore Kilaso of PIN Literary Interviews for an insightful discourse revolving around his experiences and growth as a young writer and poet.

Shitta Faruq Adémólá, 18, is a Nigerian Poet, Writer, Graphic Artist, Bag Maker and a budding French Linguist with poems and stories appearing or forthcoming in Libretto Magazine, Icefloe Press, The Trouvaille Journal, Parousia (Christian) Magazine, African Writer, Jalada Africa, ARTmosterrific, Eboquills, Nanty Greens, Mad Swirl, Ngiga Review, Communicators League, A Country Of Broken boys; Boys Are Not Stones Anthology, and elsewhere. When he’s not writing, he’s either looking for fair ladies to admire or playing Scrabbles. Say hi on Twitter @shittafaruqademola.

1. It’s a great pleasure having to interview you. Please let us meet you?

 It’s a great pleasure to be here. I’m Shitta Faruq Adémólá, an eighteen-year-old Poet and Writer from Nigeria.

2. When did you start writing and what sparked your interest in poetry?

I started writing poetry in 2017 when I was fifteen. Then, I was in a Senior Secondary School (2). Poetry came to me like a sudden flash of lightning. The thing is how I started writing was funny to me for many reasons. One, I never had any passion for writing. Two, my ambition was to become a Lawyer. Three, I never loved novels. The thing is, I went to the same secondary school with Ernest Ogunyemi and Olude Peter, another poet-friend. It was when I saw them creating the arts, I thought of making moves towards trying it. Ernest was and is still a good poet, Peter has also been superb. In short, I was blended into the cycle of poets by the pieces of advice they gave, the books they recommended and my sleepless nights. By that, I started creating something and Alhamdulillah, the words are not failing me by.

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

Hmm. A little funny too. The title of my first poem is “Genesis”. I could vividly remember it. I was in my Aunt’s house when I wrote the poem, and it revolved around the creation of the universe; how in the beginning, the world was shapeless and void and darkness crept in the corner of everywhere. That, was my first attempt in writing poems and I thank God it succeeded and is still succeeding.

4. How has it been, being a young poet? Have you been shut off writing opportunities because of your age?

I don’t think so, and probably yes. I was fifteen when I started writing poetry. Then, I didn’t know much about submissions to Literary Magazines and/Journals or for competitions. The only promotion I gave to my works was to post them on Facebook and pray my Likes and Comments keep on increasing to trigger me. That was how I continued my writing journey till late 2019 when I saw a call for submission on Facebook concerning the plights of the Boy Child and voices needed to fight for it. I decided to try by submitting a poem and a story simultaneously, in which the story was selected for publication. It was the Boys Are Not stones Anthology. I was already 17 by that time. So, I started browsing literary magazines to boost my works with what Boys Are Not stones Anthology did to me. Then, I got a few rejections and by the time I clocked 18, the acceptances started coming in like the way a rush of wind would encamp dry leaves. I would say I wasn’t shut off opportunities because most of the calls favour writers that are 18 years and above. And, though, I can say I was shut off, too, because who knows the rejections and the loss of contests was because I was underage. Lol. But I thank God it is making waves.

5. As poets, some of us tend to look at stylistics. How would you describe poetry in relation to your style?

Poetry is a universal language. It only depends on the mood the poet gives the world he is creating. Most poets focus on writing their poems with rhymes, while some never do. Stanley Kunitz called the tradition of poetry “the sacred word”; the poetry being written in present times characterized as the living word. Poets are the master plan of their works and while they breathe and after their last breath, their work still lives. A Poet’s style, to me is as a result of the hotness in his head he wants to build solace for. The tears he does not want to draw white lines on the map of his face. I would describe poetry in relation to my style as the aftermath of a hard-won battle. Lol.

6. You also write prose, how do you conclude that you are writing a poem and how do you develop from a word to lines?

No one can call himself a poet unless he questions his ideas, ethics, and beliefs. Or you allow the self to enter into the world of discovery and imagination. The truth about my writing is that I read a lot of Safia Elhillo, and the only world I find myself in when writing a poem is on her lap, in the power of her pen, in the large brightness of her eyes, in her curled hair. In the journey of my writing, the only thing I see are her white teeth and bright eye balls and began describing them into words till I’m satisfied with the image I’m creating, the beauty. I form those words till they join together to form a part of her beauty. And I’m free!

7. Do you think the art of poetry creation can be learnt or is it an inborn talent that can only be polished through practice?

The power of talent can never be underestimated. In every variety of arts, especially one that revolves around talents and learning, like poetry, or music, or drawing, or painting of objects, or carving, or even in the field of dancing, one does not bloom well in it if it is not a talent. I know lots of people whose talents make them more than the success they are seeing at present. We can not compare Ronaldo to an ordinary footballer like Evra in terms of the arts the same way we can not compare an Artist just learning how to draw lines on cardboard to someone drawing from age 5. Poetry can be related to that too. An art student writing poetry does not need much writing workshop the way a science student would need it. The answer to this question is a yes to the two insinuations, it’s just that there will be a better side from each perspective.

8. A number of young poets have claimed to stop writing because of their works being plagiarised. As a creative, what is your opinion on plagiarism, intellectual theft, and copyright infringement, and how can these acts be curtailed?

Life is never perfect for man. A successful thing does not succeed without its thorns. One of the major problems a writer faces is plagiarism. To me, after rejections, the word that stinks in my ear is this theft. No writer would ever love to see his work framed to another person’s name. It is uncalled for. A man’s sweat is never to be enjoyed by another without the latter tasting out of its sweetness. The thing is, I used to wonder if those beasts do not fear their conscience or the emotions of their preys they turned into a fire raging in a new building. It must be stopped. And, one thing is, I can not accept it, you cannot accept it, we can never let it stay. One thing I think we should do to it is finding a safe home to house our works. That is why these Literary Magazines give me joy in terms of publishing. The editors should act according to the denotative word ‘editor’ and not the connotative, by helping emerging writers polish their works into a better one and publish them, than rejecting and planting in despair into the mind of the Writer. Most writers are often backed down and lost by rejections. The Writer would not, with this feat, post his work to platforms where plagiarism is highly rampant and I think it’d, at least, reduce.

9. Have you ever entered for the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize (NSPP) or any poetry contest organised by Poets in Nigeria Initiative?

No. I’m still processing an admission into a University, so I’m not eligible for it, yet. And for the rest of the contests, it’s a no too, because it is not quite long I knew Poets In Nigeria. I think it was around June, this year. But I’ve been seriously looking forward to one.

10. What Nigerian poet or poets do you love to read?

Nigerian Poets are so beautiful and among them, I love Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau, Pamilerin Jacob, Wale Ayinla, Nome Patrick, Aremu Adams Adebisi, Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto and lastly, Ernest Ogunyemi. I admire Adedayo for everything beautiful about his works; the bright metaphors, the broken imageries standing up to form a mountain and his sincerity with words. In his book, “For Boys Who Went”, he described the burden in a girl child when he said “our television opens with a documentary// about girls teaching their laps the heat of strange men in Hong Kong…” (From ‘Not Survivors’). These lines had always been the shadow that follows me whenever I move in darkness. I love Pamilerin Jacob for the beautiful ‘break’ styles he uses, Wale Ayinla for his visual prowess, Nome for brevity, Aremu Adams for the Arabic words he never fails to use in his works, and Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto for his simplicity and richness. Ernest Ogunyemi’s works always ring in me, and they make me always want to cry and laugh.

11. What in your opinion is the place of poetry as a genre of literature in our Nigeria? What future? What opportunities for Poets?

 The future of poetry is so bright for Nigerian Poets. Seriously, I’m really impressed on how more voices are coming up and not trying to stop the move. I think if we do not stop this beautiful thing and continue to write more, another Wole Soyinka would be named, and Nigeria would be proud to have another Poet as a Nobel Laureate. Because, for one reason, we are getting more beautiful day by day in our writing, the opportunities for we, Nigerian Poets are countless, and I pray we begin to step into it, even though some of our Egbons are making it already.

12. What’s your opinion about Poets in Nigeria as a vanguard of poetry renaissance in our country?

Poets In Nigeria is really encouraging, and to be candid, they are making me proud of Poetry and its growth in Nigeria. Starting from the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize (NSPP) which gives a lot of opportunities to Nigerian Tertiary Students, to the PIN Food Contest, to the PIN Chapbook Contests (which I’m seriously looking forward to. I can’t wait to be an Author of a chapbook lol). And to more of their beautiful activities. It also gives me joy that PIN is celebrated her 5th Anniversary this month of October and I was a guest reader. It is really encouraging. PIN has been giving hope to the development of Nigerian poetry and we are appreciating it. We pray the reasons behind their joy does not turn sour. Thank you for everything. Merci!

13. Kindly give an advice to young writers like yourself.

We are future great Soyinkas, Achebes, Okigbos and J. P. Clarks. We are future great (ourselves). Do not wait for your fears to come before you fight them. Poetry is really an interesting thing to do and I urge you to continue writing and spreading the voice. Read widely, buy collections, go to readings, go to workshops, see more than the imaginary because the power of every poet is in seeing. And, lastly, meet others who feel a similar love for the ‘word’. Thank you.

14. Thank you for your time. Please leave us with few lines of poetry (max of 10 lines)

in my chest// i carry the star of a god,

a bird’s wing, & words i want to

pluck like mangoes falling from

a failed tree.

the reason for my songs is that

when my grandmother called me words

my ears hated to be fed,

i ran into my mother’s breast milk

& poetry found me.

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