While everyone was busy with the Children’s day festivities, I spent mine celebrating the power of poetry and what I know it can do in the lives of children everywhere. The Niyi Osundare International Poetry Festival took place in the city of Ibadan, Trenchard Hall (Arts Theatre) at the University of Ibadan on the 26th and 27th of May. Due to some unavoidable situations, I couldn’t attend on the first day but I made it on the 27th with my fellow Literature students. The hall was filled up to the brim and we had to sit on the floor but we didn’t mind. A lot was said and it was really hard to write down points because of the height of English that was being used. Some of the VIPs who attended the Festival were Femi Falana, Femi Osofisan, Chris Okogwu among many others.
Just like the title, the Festival was about Niyi Osundare, his influence as a poet, critical analysis of his works and also his personal life. I’ve tried to break everything down so here are some of the things said:
- Osundare’s Poetry: Osundare was described as a man whose poetry was post-colonialistic in nature, i.e he recognizes pre-colonialism and colonialism, combines both together and produces writings on the effects of both in the modern society. His poetry is a fusion of melody, message and rhythm, a master at coining.
- Osundare as a person: He is a living legend of poetry and he is poetry personified. A funny and witty man (I assure you of that), intriguing, humble and still in touch with his roots despite being a professor of English at the University of New Orleans.
Several questions were asked and I got a chance to ask him a few questions, just about 3 important questions that I could get through him. Here it goes:
Me: Good Afternoon, sir
Niyi Osundare: Good Afternoon. You look quite professorial.
Me: *smiles bashfully* I actually wanted to be a professor sir
Niyi Osundare: That’s good
Me: Errm..sir, I have some questions for you sir. My first question is as a writer, do you sometimes find it difficult to put down ideas or expressions into words? Like a block?
Niyi Osundare: I told you you look professorial and you just proved my point with that serious question. Yes, Professor, I do experience situations like that and I have my moments, when I have ideas but they are difficult to pin down, like butterflies, and find the right expression. Whatever idea comes to you readily or easy, that’s not it. Writing is like honey in a rock, what do you have to do in order to get out that delicious honey? Hardwork, of course. It is then up to you to labor and break the rock, continuous effort and application of exertion.
Me: Sir, do you also face any kind of pressure from your readers? I mean, is there a particular qualification you put on your works before you can publish them? In short, how do you react to the pressure?
Niyi Osundare: *laughs* It’s questions like yours, Professor, that exert pressure on me. Well, there are pressures and there are pressures. It is now put to a writer to fish out the right kind of pressure or criticism and use it to improve his writing. When you fish out this kind of pressures, you then compare and try to see if there’s any truth in what has been said. Criticism and public pressure is part of writing. What happens when a person talks and talks but gets no response? He gets dried up and feels he isn’t making any impact.
Girl: Was your ability to write inborn or developed?
Niyi Osundare: *eyes glint with mischief* That means that all my children and siblings should have been poets. It had a lot to do with my environment. My father was a conversationalist and he was always speaking in proverbs, beating Bata and deep Yoruba practices. I guess I inherited a few things from my father but I also had to work on myself.
Quotes by Niyi Osundare
- Art dies when it gets no response
Don’t abuse the darkness, light the candle.
In conclusion, I had a marvelous time and I got the chance to read one of his poems with him on stage…I couldn’t get a picture of that. Sorry if the pictures are not clear, I forgot my camera at home out of excitement.
So that’s all I have on Niyi Osundare…and The Poetry Festival. Who knows, Wole Soyinka might be the next?
P.s sorry for any editing mistake
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