Nome Emeka Patrick graduated from University of Benin, Nigeria, where he studied English Language and Literature. His works have been published or forthcoming in POETRY, Poet Lore, Strange Horizons, Beloit poetry journal, Black Warrior Review, The FIDDLEHEAD, Notre Dame Review, Puerto Del Sol, McNeese Review, FLAPPER HOUSE, Gargouille, Crannóg magazine, Mud Season Review, The Oakland Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly and elsewhere. A Best of the Net, Best New Poets, and Pushcart prize nominee. His manuscript ‘We Need New Moses. Or New Luther King’ was a finalist for the 2018 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. He writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
- It’s a great pleasure having to interview you. Please can we meet you?
Thank you. I am Nome Chukwuemeka Patrick. I love to write as much as I love to read. And one of the things that keep me going, after God, is books. There is not much to say about me. I am just, like everyone, learning to hold on to life. My bio states the rest, writing-wise.
- Your love for poetry is unquestionable. Why poetry?
Poetry allows me the freedom and space —though, I must admit the space and freedom is quite limited —for expression. It also allows me fit my thoughts into those formulaic strictures and structures so that I too am marveled by creation. One of the reasons why I so much love poetry is the legitimacy it grants to the continuity of a thought so that after a full stop, you still feel a surge of incompleteness, you still feel the urgency to look beyond the full stop into life, reality, with all its magnificence and music. My love for poetry is wide and wild, and to be honest, I may never remember all the reasons why I love poetry because as I read, I find new reasons why I love, not just poetry, but books —that sheer movement of alphabets that throttles us into the reality of ‘self’ and ‘society’.
- Can you vividly recall the title of the first poem you ever wrote? Tell us about it and how you landed into poetry writing.
Unfortunately, I can’t remember the title of my first poem. I think I landed into poetry when I was preparing to take NECO after I failed it the previous year. I was reading “Comprehensive Literature-In English” and I stumbled upon the poems and loved them. That was when I started writing poems. It was, as it should be, pristine bukum. But I kept writing.
- As poets, some of us tend to look at stylistics. How would you describe poetry in relation to your style?
Personally, I think poetry thrives on so many things and style is one of them. My approach to style isn’t specific. So, if there is a way, at this moment, I would describe poetry in relation to my style, it is: poetry is dynamic, and when i write it, i (un)consciously open myself to doubts. This doubt, shaky and fickle as the word seems, is what makes poetry interesting. I am in constant doubt of my language and my style. And what this doubt does is allow me become experimental and, most times, curious. The draft of a poem could be written in a string of couplets. But at the end of the day, I might end up experimenting with it until it takes a prosaic form.
- How do conclude that you are writing a poem and how yours develop from a word into lines?
Do we conclude we are walking when we can feel the shuffle of our feet against the floor? That is how it is for poetry, I think. I go into the act/art of writing poetry knowing that I am fully engaged in witnessing or professing an experience, and not doing something else —and it is this awareness/knowingness that helps me shape my words into linearity.
- Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It does both. The realization that you’ve created something would always come with an energizing effect. But remember too, the process of creating this particular thing could be exhausting. Take a sculptor, for example, who chips and chips wood until he gets his desired form. That is how it is for me when I write.
- You studied English language and Literature. Do you explore other aspects of literature other than poetry?
Yes. I sometimes write fiction and nonfiction.
- You use words like “father, mother, brother, cousin”; what does your family think of this?
No one in my family knows I write.
- Have you ever entered for the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize (NSPP) or any poetry contest organized by Poets in Nigeria Initiative?
I entered for NSPP twice. I entered for Pin Food Poetry Contest and Poetically written Prose —I made the shortlist in both.
- What Nigerian poet or poets do you love to read?
Gbenga Adesina, DM Aderibigbe, Okwudili Nebeolisa, Hussain Ahmed, Chibuihe Obi, Ojo Taiye, Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, Romeo Oriogun, Saddiq Dzukogi, Ejiofor Ugwu, Agbaakin Jeremiah, Adedayo Agarau, Hauwa Waasi, Michael Akuchie, Pamilerin Jacobs, Chisom Okafor, Wale Ayinla, JK Anowe, Adebayo Kolawole Samuel and many others. The list is endless, biko.
- What in your opinion is the place of poetry as a genre of literature in our Nigeria? What future? What opportunities for Poets?
I won’t say much. But I must say the place of poetry in Nigeria is wavy, bold and powerful. The future of poetry in Nigeria is full of lights. I’m optimistic about where we are all heading. I can’t say anything about the opportunities. But someone like Eriata Oribhabor, organizations like WRR and few others have been creating fine opportunities for young poets in Nigeria.
- What’s your opinion about Poets in Nigeria as a vanguard of poetry renaissance in our country?
Whenever I hear the word ‘vanguard’ and ‘renaissance’ used in the same sentence I always pause to reflect on their heaviness —because ‘vanguard’, I always imagine, is revolutionary; ‘renaissance’ suggests great responsibility.
However, the Poets in Nigeria are doing a great job, retelling their stories with brilliance and preciseness. I love that nothing seems, as regards our stories, to be surreptitious anymore. No one is trying to muffle the other’s voice.
- How would you want to round off this interview?
I would round it off saying: WRITE WHAT YOU WANT TO WRITE, BIKO.
- If I give you an opportunity of saying something about Poets in Nigeria, what would you say?
One word: Amazing.
- Please leave us with few lines of poetry (max 10 lines)
Sometimes, I am so lonely I sit naked as a knife
before my mirror. I often imagine, too, the image
still inside the mirror’s lung isn’t me —the pimpled
face, the receding hairline, the beards a black fence.
Is doubt an abstraction, or the mind’s might pulled
off its hinges by circumstances? —i gather stones in
in multitudes, each humped against the other, & tell
myself i am building an empire —this, too, is an illusion.
The page says here i am, empty as air, yet I fail to fill in
this void munching me —o, little son of imperfection.