The mature Tanko Okoduwa is a Nigerian poet, playwright, literary critic, artist, art historian, actor, activist, and theoretical scientist. He has acted in Nollywood and in many plays. Former General Secretary of the Nigerian Authors Association, his works have been published in print, anthologies and posted online. He is a product of the ‘Nsukka School of Art’ (Umu-Uli), University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He talked to TONY OKUYEME about his poetry, love and passion for writing
You have written many books, can you tell us about your literary career?
For now my body of work comprises six collections of poems; Our Poisoned Love (2005), Crucible (ed., 2005), Drums of Heart (2009), Radical Rhythms (ed., 2010), An Island of Self (2013), Confession (2016); and two plays; Deep Room and Other Plays (2002) and Lamentations of Onajite (2010)
Let’s talk about Confessions: Love Poems for Lovers, what inspired it and why the title Confession?
Love of course. Love is a universal language that takes on different dimensions and affects people differently. I have been loved immensely and I have loved foolishly. All I have tried to do is capture love as fleeting and permanent as it could be, from the quiet voice, to the loneliness of missing a loved one, to the love of a face, a beautiful mind, and the loneliness needed to reach great heights The confession for me, as when thinking of a title, was the most suitable title that came to mind. I also believe that poets can relate more to love and as such have written countless love poems that have endured through the ages and seasons. This book is written for those who have truly loved and loved. At one point, I thought of calling the book ‘Beloved’. But come to think of it, Toni Morrison has a lovely book by that title. So, I buried the thought, once and for all.
What are ‘Your Thoughts’ on love, as written in this book?
That love worth dying for. That if you believe in your heart that you really love someone, do it, try it. As I wrote somewhere in “An Island of Self. ‘No man finds love / Love comes to all.’
What is the Nwanma poem about and why was it so important to include it in this collection?
Like all the other poems, it is about love, hence the title. I prefer that readers discover it for themselves. So let me write a bit of the poem here, if you don’t mind: Don’t wake me up Although the light is coming out of my eyes And the wind is riding On my back And I on yours To read more I would recommend that you buy a copy and get more information about the book.
Any personal experience in these poems?
Every poet or writer at one time or another has written about their personal experience or experiences. I don’t think I’m any different.
How did your journey as a poet begin?
I think it was when I was starting out at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; that was just a year after my older sister, Esther Okoduwa, passed away. My heart was heavy with pain and I started to write something in my notebook. One of my roommates, Mark, saw it, read it, and liked it. That was room B2 207, Alvan Ikoku Hall. Later I started a poetry group called; “Poetic Sign”, which grew to include members of different faculties. I was the founding editor.
What is your opinion on the fall of the reading culture in Nigeria?
I have never been a member of that school of thought which believes that there has been a decline in the reading culture in Nigeria. Nigerians are readers. Perhaps, most of them tend not to read literature, but they do read other types of writing.
Do you have a particular time of day or night when you write best?
I write better in the morning or very late at night. And some scattered throughout the day. I check them at night or in the morning, especially the poetry.
What’s your advice to budding writers?
This is not a profession for a man in a hurry. The writer needs patience, dedication and perseverance. And remember, every good writer is a voracious reader and keen observer.
How have you been able to overcome editorial changes?
It has not been easy, especially with the economic depression. Well, I have a publisher that handles my production. (Written) Sales have been fairly stable.
What do you think about the creative process?
Creative writing offers one of me the opportunity to use my imaginative power to creatively express my feelings and ideas in a way that will captivate everyone. Help readers to explore themselves and try new ideas proposed by the writer or writers like me.
What really drives you as a writer?
The need to document my generation and my thoughts so that generations not yet born can read and study. I have always believed that my voice cannot be silenced and I do not want other people to tell my own stories. I want to tell them myself, in the best possible way.