Phebe Benjamin recently performed her poem at a “Wole Soyinka-attended” event hosted by Providus Bank on World Poetry Day. In this edition of PIN Literary Interviews, she discusses her love for poetry with Semilore Kilaso, and shares her thoughts on Nigerian Poetry.
Talented, young Nigerian poet, Phebe Benjamin loves writing and expressing her opinions through poetry. She has written several poems. One of her works was featured at the Lagos Book Art Festival 2019 and her work “Environmental Awareness was staged at World Poetry Day 2021 hosted by Providus Bank at Eko Hotels. She is the Lead Rep. for Poets in Nigeria, U.I ABK.
- It’s great pleasure having you Phebe Benjamin on this session of PIN Literary Interviews. Do tell us more about yourself.
I’m Phebe Benjamin, a penultimate student of English Language from the University of Ibadan in affiliation to Federal College of Education, Abeokuta. I am an indigene of Lagos, precisely Badagry. I am passionate about impacting lives and making a difference through my poetry writings. Being an undergraduate doesn’t stop me from fulfilling my mandate. One of my works featured at Lagos Book Art Festival 2019, where I encountered the PIN President, Eriata Oribhabor, and the organization at large. Some of my works are published in anthologies like ARTHUB 2019, Naija Poetry Collection. I was opportune to represent Poets in Nigeria at the World Poetry Day 2021 hosted by Providus Bank at Eko Hotels, Lagos, where I performed my poem titled “ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS.” I’m currently serving as the Lead Rep. of PIN U.I ABK CAMPUS CONNECT CENTRE.
- How long have you been doing poetry? How did you find your niche as a performance poet?
I’ve been writing poetry since childhood. I do read my poems at children’s programs and church events. I believed that my passion would lead me somewhere. I remember I wrote a poem and sent it to a brother of mine, Taiwo Osoba. When he read the poem, he encouraged me not to stop writing, and he advised I search for poetry organizations on Facebook, which I did. In 2019, my niche as a performance poet started officially when Poets in Nigeria invited me to perform my poem on stage.
Can you vividly recall the title of the first poem you wrote? Tell us about it and how you landed into poetry writing.
The first title of my poem was “Mamii,” and it was written to my Mother. I’ve however re-edited it, and I will write out the lines in the last section.
- 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 reading your poem with emotions and actions?
Stylistics has to do with the style a writer uses in writing his or her piece. Style in poetry is how a poet conveys the meaning, emotion and tone in his or her poem. A poet must first select an overall structure for a poem. Based on the chosen structure, the poet then decides the number of lines and stanzas in the poem, rhyme scheme, tone, voice either bright, cheerful or dark, brooding, sarcastic or satirical. The diction must be considered. Performance poetry and page poetry make use of different styles. Performance poetry might not be written down; it is meant to be spoken aloud with expression and movement that reflects their meaning characterized by raw emotions. Page poetry readings don’t require many emotions and actions. As a performance poet, I ensure my emotions convey my tone, mood, and diction to pass across my message to the audience.
- What was your experience performing at World Poetry Day with Wole Soyinka in March, 2021?
Poets in Nigeria gave me a platform to perform before the rare gem, Professor Wole Soyinka. The performance made me feel like a champion because that was my first time sharing the stage with him. I can’t even express my happiness up till now.
- You are the Lead Rep. PIN UI-ABK Connect Centre. How is it volunteering your time and services to Poets in Nigeria?
Poets in Nigeria is a great family I can’t take for granted. Volunteering my time and service to PIN is part of my success story, and it is what I found pleasure in. Most times, when we have an official event, I ensure that the events are first on my priority list.
- Give us a brief on the centre’s activities, and future plan. What challenges has PIN UI-ABK Connect Centre encountered so far and how do you intend to solve them?
PIN U.I ABK CONNECT CENTRE was established by my humble self on the 22nd January 2020, and the centre has grown to have sixteen active members, and our meeting holds every Tuesday. The first challenge was the COVID -19, which affected our plans; the reason was that I worked on the approval of connect centre by the school management, of which I was at the final stage before the pandemic. Secondly, after the pandemic, the school director was changed; thus, the step has to start afresh. Thirdly, the busy timetable of students due to change in academic calendar affected our activities like the inauguration, Poetourism, etc. My plan is that once the school resumes a new session, a new academic calendar will be out; this will help to reschedule the connect centre’s activities.
- What niche do you hope to create for PIN UI-ABK Connect Centre?
Developing poets who are aligned with the vision of Poets in Nigeria.
- Do you explore other genres of literature other than poetry?
Though I write short stories and plays depending on my muse, poetry is the only genre of literature I want to explore.
- What Nigerian poet(s) do you love to read/watch their performances?
Wole Soyinka. Since my day one of my mature days. (Smiles)
- 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?
In the study of the evolution of poetry in Africa, Nigeria can’t be overlooked. With the development of writing and literacy, poetry has spread all over the world. The proliferation of poetry in Nigeria is stirred by the increasing social awareness and emotional pressure brought on by social, political, and economic issues and crisis. More poems are written by Nigerian poets either in books or published on the internet. The generation of poets thrives through poetry competitions; they have the technology to publish their poems. There is hope for coming poets. Nigerian poets are committed to the cause of humanity and social justice and adding oneness in the society.
- What’s your opinion about Poets in Nigeria as a vanguard of poetry renaissance in Nigeria?
PIN, as a literary hub in Nigeria, has been able to bring poets under one umbrella to foster excellence and boost the spirit of creativity.
Also, over the years, PIN has been able to motivate people who are writing poetry in terms of competitions, award-giving, exposure, and platforms. PIN enlightens poets on different initiatives under poetry.
A big kudos to Poets in Nigeria and the president, Eriata Oribhabor.
- Thank you for your time. Please leave us with few lines of a poem you have written. (max 10 lines).
My first poem titled “MAAMI”
The woman who births me backed me with her shawl of love
Cleaned my mess with her wipes of happiness and watched me grow from infancy
A true Abiyamo – With her prayers all night for me
You are not only training me to live alone: You are training me to impact others
Your lifestyle lacks excess opulence
You have the foresight of the generations to come, so you built a strong construction.
For us and generations to come
You’ve made me a blessing to my world and fill me with life and intelligibility.
Let me be your joy forever