Poets embrace digital innovations at Festival Poetry Calabar 2019

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The annual fiesta of poetry, culture, and tourism tagged “Poets in the Digital Age: Bytes and Heights” began with a Walk for Poetry which was opened by Mr. Paul Liam from Minna, Niger State with a short remark on poetry, its place in society and poets in the digital age. The walk had the presence of Sir Eriata Oribhabor (President Poets in Nigeria), Mr. Kolade Olanrewaju Freedom (Executive Secretary, Poets in Nigeria), Mr. Onyekachi Peter Onuoha (Creative writing lecturer, University of Calabar and Keynote speaker, Festival Poetry Calabar), Paul Liam (Guest, Festival Poetry Calabar 2019) and other excited participants/performers.

The walk which held for the second time since the inception of Festival Poetry Calabar witnessed a life band moderated by Isaac Daniel and Gina Idor. The movement was a refreshing galore which saw a tour through the city of Calabar 3 from the James Ene Henshaw Foundation through Mary Slessor roundabout where performances were staged and back to the foundation.

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Just after the walk, the participants were converged to experience Sights and Sounds in the city of Calabar. This activity tagged “Poetourism” included, a boat ride from the marina resort, Calabar and a tour to the Slave History Museum.

The second day of the festival opened at the Poetry Exhibition and gallery moderated by Ibe MaryHilda, member Poets in Nigeria, Unical Connect Centre and a Top 100 entrant, Nigerian Students Poetry Prize (NSPP) 2019. Poetry readings, performances and an on-the-spot poetry writing were staged at the gallery. There were Paul Liam, a guest author; Micah Okoye, winner of 2019 Nigerian Students Poetry Prize (NSPP); Kolade Freedom, Executive Secretary Poets in Nigeria at the gallery of poetry where Micah graced the poetry exhibition with a reading of his 2019 NSPP winning poem.

Donald Archibong, Maven Isong and Biachi Anointing were announced as the first, second and third prize winners of the on-the-spot poetry writing by Mr. Kolade Olanrewaju Freedom while gifts presentations were made to them and also to the writers and readers of some exhibited poems from UNICAL and CRUTECH connect centres respectively.

Meanwhile, Top 100 entrants of 2019 Nigerian Students Poetry Prize (NSPP) present in the poetry gallery were recognized by the President, Poets in Nigeria and decorated with the Initiative’s lapel after which a spoken word album for the festival entitled; “The 47th Year of the 21st Century” by OddFelix Ayuk was featured.

Participants proceeded to a workshop on chapbooks and digital promotion of poetry which was moderated by Utibe-Eno Ekpuk, assisted by Odok Dorcas and Adie Lawrence while the overall presentation and lessons were adequately given by Mr. Kolade Olanrewaju Freedom. The workshop which was quite interactive provided participants with practical activities and group tasks. Mr. Isaac Daniel and Miss. Anointing in their contributions stated that readers who may not be into very long writings will prefer provisions for a shorter publication as the chapbook offers and writers who are not financially buoyant could also leverage on chapbooks. Mr. Kolade Olanrewaju Freedom showed accessibility and viability of digital platforms in the promotion of poetry. The workshop participants where however guided to create digital pages, boost the pages and build sponsored posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

Following the workshop was the Teens Forum. This session allowed for the exploration of teenagers as they showcased strong developing skills in writing, poetry performance and singing.

A poetry slam of three (3) stages held thereafter with Mr. Elijah Adie, Miss. Ekaette George and Mr. Ifeanyi Agwazia as jury. Over twenty (20) registered contestants intrigued the crowd and results were announced for which Loveth Liberty, Charles Prince and Worden Enya emerged first, second and third prize winners respectively.

As it is the tradition of Festival Poetry Calabar to officially welcome participants with beautiful cultural and poetic performances of Cross River, there was again a night tagged ‘Calabar Welcomes’. This night staged performances from some of the best performance poets and singers in Calabar like Riches Solomon, Chris Friday, Worden Enya, Jim Poet, Vivian Ofre, Erikan George and the Boltons Abierekina and Ketini. There was also the performance of the famous Ekombi dance after the presentation of a welcome address by Mr. Bassey Asuquo, Chairman, Local Organizing Committee to introduce the “story of Calabar in song and dance and the spoken word!!!” as were his words.

The final day of the prestigious festival held at Transcorp Hotels, Calabar on Friday, 20th December, 2019 and was moderated by Mr. Isaac Daniel. There was an overview of Festival Poetry Calabar since its inception in 2015 given by Mr. Kolade Freedom. The festival was also graced with notable faces and supporters of literary activities in Calabar in persons of Hon. Emmanuel Etim, special Adviser to the Cross River State Governor on Creative and Knowledge Economy; Mr. Felix Duker, Chief Executive Officer, FAD FM; Dr. Obari Gomba, Lecturer, University of Port Harcourt; Prof. Peter Onwudinjo, Professor of poetry, University of Calabar; Dr. Aaron Nwogu, Senior Lecturer, Linguistics and Communication Studies University of Calabar; and Mr. Ibok Ekpenyong, Senior lecturer, Theatre, Film and Carnival Studies, University of Calabar and Mr. Paul Liam who came in from Niger state .

Before the keynote address presented by Mr. Onyekachi Onuoha of the University of Calabar, the Chairman, Local Organizing Committee, Mr. Bassey Asuquo gave a warm welcome to participants at the festival. He urged them to be ready for more of what the festival had in store for all. “Poets in the Digital Age: Bytes and Heights” which was the theme of the festival was thoroughly expounded upon by Mr. Onuoha who likened “Bytes” to what Chinua Achebe refers to as “iji-uwa”, the Ogbanje child in an African tradition.

The festival was then spiced up with educating sessions: Book Readings by two (2) guest authors; Dr. Obari Gomba and Barr. Obo Effanga; A panel discussion moderated by Mr. Paul Liam engaged the participants on the discourse of poetry. The panelists were Mr. Kolade Olanrewaju Freedom, Mr. Onyekachi Onuoha, Dr. Obari Gomba and Barr. Obo Effanga. While Mr. Onuoha professed to be in an establishment and generation of netizens of which he must represent, Barr. Effanga commented on poet’s responsibilities towards re-strategizing the society whether they be within Nigeria or in the diaspora.

There was then an Igbo spoken word performance by Mr. Anointing that enlivened the atmosphere before the final session which was an evening of awards and open mic. These awards were presented by the President, Poets in Nigeria initiative to deserving awardees resident in Calabar and to the host Connect Centres was a presentation of book prizes. The connect centre Lead representatives Utibe-Eno Ekpuk of University of Calabar and Chinatu Orji of Cross River State University of Technology were decorated with a lapel each from Festival Poetry while Mr. Bassey Asuquo, Prof. Peter Onwudinjo, Dr. Arnold Udoka, Mr. Ibook Eyoita and Prof. (Mrs) Ebele Eko were presented with a plate award respectively.

Festival Poetry Calabar 2019 was indeed an epoch-making festival and the most involving since its inception. The initiator and President Poets in Nigeria expressed his gratitude to the Local Organizing Committee for producing a bigger, better and bolder festival with special appreciation to Miss Elizabeth Ita and Mr. Ambassador Aniede for being Secretary to the LOC and the best volunteer respectively. This time, the festival also gained recognition from the Calabar Carnival Commission as the chairman of the Commission Mr. Gabe Onah graced the festival and committed himself and the commission to the making of a better Festival Poetry Calabar. Little wonder it gained the interest of participants as they shouted, “mad o!” time and again to mind-blowing artistry displayed poet performers. The festival ended in a live session of poetry, dance, music and excitement.


Official Reporter, FPC 2019



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