Kukogho Iruesiri Samson with a copy of his book
'What Can Words Do?'

KUKOGHO IRUESIRI SAMSON is the author of the recently published poetry book, 'What Words Can Do?', and the founder of a social poetry movement, @WRRPoetry (Words Rhymes & Rhythm).

In this engaging interview with Lucius Ndimele of BookRepublic, he sheds more light on his poetry and what words can really do.

BR: Congratulations on the recent unveiling of your poetry collection 'what can words do', how does it feel being a published poet?

Well, the initial euphoria of being a published poet does not stay long after you first see the printed book in your hands - that is actually when you feel elated. Beyond that point, for me especially, I just want to move to the next thing - the next book, a novel which was meant to come before 'What Can Words Do?'

BR: So really, what can words do?

Anyone would be able to answer that question without batting an eyelid given that everything we do daily are contracted with words. A man asks, 'will you marry me?' A politician's rhetoric may win him a coveted position and an accused becomes a convict by the power of a judge's words. The world itself, going by religious teaching, was created with words.

By words, the politician steals the people's trust and by words, he pits them against each other so they will not remember to bring him to book. Yes, words do and undo everywhere. It is by words that religions heal the souls of people, even as the dubious ones amongst them loot the same people - by words too!

Copies of the best-selling collection of social poems
 'What Can Words Do?'
How was the suicide bomber convinced to sacrifice his life? Ponder on that.

So words can do everything, good and evil, depending on how we wield them.
For example, a poem of mine has helped save a friend's marriage. This friend changed his mind about physically abusing his fiancé, whom he had caught with another man after reading one of the poems in my book, 'Beggars Without Choice' - that is the power of words.

BR: The issue of lack of reading culture in Nigeria have been lingering for a while, can we have your input in this issue?
I think Nigerians read. The problem is what they read and where they read it. Most educated youth find themselves reading foreign authors for two reasons. One is that those foreign texts, both fictional and educational, are well packaged while most local texts are rather unprofessionally presented. Those books don't appeal to the potential reader.

 Secondly, availability of the published books to the potential audience is a challenge. A book is published and six months after, you can't find it in bookshops around the country.

How will it be read?

The Author Kukogho Iruesiri Samson

So we have a quality and presentation problem - alongside several other mitigating factors.

BR: Will I be right to say that your exposure as a journalist have given you a cutting edge in poetry all round?

Ah, I was far gone into poetry before I became a journalist. In fact, my first published poem appeared on September 27, 2003 in New Nigerian Newspaper. At the time, I was still a first year undergraduate.
This is not to say my profession as a journalist did not help me. It did. My theme shifted from the self to society after my first year as a journalist, with exposure to the workings of society beyond the veneer that most eyes see.

BR: You are the founder of WRRPoetry, can you tell us about it?

#WRRPoetry, Words Rhymes and Rhythms is a personal protest, first against the seeming denigration of poetry in Nigeria with more focus directed to prose and secondly the need to help build the talent of budding Nigerian poets who, like me, are (were) wandering the wilderness of talent, needing just a little guidance to get to that place of self actualization.

 The idea was to create a community where pen will sharpen pen and everyone will get inspired and encouraged to take the next step in the journey to being a poet.

#WRRPoetry & #VerseUp! logo,
Social poetry initiatives of Kukogho I. Samson
The initiative is 14 months old now and we have almost 5000 members from all over the world and we have organized two poetry competitions. Again, we have branched out into advocacy against Women Abuse with the VerseUp! Initiative and will soon publish an anthology of poems highlighting the evil of abuse against women.
One last thing about WRRPoetry is that I wanted to use poetry as a tool for change, with purpose, other than just a medium of self expression - it is working.

BR: What is your personal definition of poetry

Poetry is an expression of an impression of aspects of the world and its machinations, through the eyes of self in deliberately crafted verses that speak to the reader, inspiring, amusing, provoking, accusing or just informing.

BR: Can you tell us a little about your time in NTA College Jos.

I was at the Nigerian Television College on scholarship, sponsored by the then DG Nigerian Television Authority. There, I got the training for television production which was more of a build up on my training as a journalist in the making and a rookie film maker having attended National Film institute Jos, the year before.

BR: So when are we expecting your first film/movie?

Ah, I have a lot of reservation about what we produce in Nigeria as films today and it is one of my ambitions to be involved someday soon. I would hope it's not more than 5 years hence. *Don't tell anyone I told you* There is a script already waiting.

BR: Back to WRRPoetry, what do you think is the major setback for upcoming poets and how are we to overcome it?

I would say the major problem of poets in Nigeria is the educational set up in which they find themselves in. Most of the young ones I have related with and mentored on WRRPoetry actually got little or no formal guidance in their schools. They just picked interest along the way and thus observe no rule, formal or informal in their writings. What this means is that their output leaves a lot to desire.

The Author, Kukogho Iruesiri Samson and his book
Why would people read watery, direction-less verses that they cannot connect with? 

Haven said that, poets need to realize that the scribbles for their personal diaries are different from poetry for public consumption which must make a connection with the realities of the lives of the audiences they serve.

Let me add that the publishers are also a problem. They look away whenever a manuscript written in verse nears their table. It is bad.

BR: Nigeria is facing series of challenges, don't you think the poets are mute, or rather not speaking out loud enough in the face of these numerous crises.

Some poets are speaking out. People like BM Dzukogi, Ahmed Maiwada and a host of others - but mainly the older folks. Most of the younger ones are too busy writing watery love poems to bother.

It's a sad situation which forced me to restrict poems on WRRPoetry to ones with social themes because I believe poetry is not just for the expression. It is also about the impact of the expression.

BR: Is it poetry before journalism or journalism before poetry?

'What Can Words Do?': The book in the spotlight...
Do you know that role of a journalist and every poet who knows his onions are one and same? A journalist writes to inform, entertain, educate and above all, act as the conscience of society? As a social poet, a poetivist - poet activist, as I like to put it, writing poems is just one form of journalism I find myself in.
But in the strict sense of it, as far as I am concerned, it is poetry before life and life comes before everything else. So poetry is everything.

BR: As a published poet and established writer, what advice do you have for unpublished and upcoming writers?

Keep reading everything and anything. It makes you versatile and gives you access to a larger palette of experiences and words with which you'll paint your creations.

Writing is not just for financial gain. Being able to write down thoughts is reward enough, doubled when others appreciate it and the bonus is when monetary reward follows.

So write, first to express thoughts that will trigger positive reactions, then hope for the money.


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