Uche Uwadinachi - Guest Author (Spoken Word Poetry)

I first 'met' Uche Uwadinachi through his blog and then Facebook and finally in Nigeria where we really met at several of the events I attended. he was a charming person and his spoken word poetry even more so. He has a trademark poem, Ebony Goddess, which has won him some prizes and which is a joy to watch him perform. His first collection of poetry is Scar in the heart of pain. In this interview, Uche emphasizes that what he does "is not spoken word but spoken word poetry thus that makes it understandable that every poem, any poem can still be performed. My spoken word poetry is my book in its speech act medium- and I always write my poem not like prose, nor like drama but with that riddle that define the oral tradition where the African poetry began. However I still hope to improve on my style of writing."

I got a complimentary copy of the book and enjoyed most of the poems. In it, there are issues of solitude, absurdity, survival, poverty, and serenity to faith but most of all is the theme of a persisting circle of pain in the life of an individual. "The pain wakes up as an ache of situation but bulge into an entire life of agony and this tradition is seen irresistible in the life of the common man. The hold here strikes at the cells of the mental and physical being of the victim. The common man thus is disfigured with the worries of poverty, unemployment, disease and deaths, thus the continuous struggle against these odds, leaves him drown in despair and desolations with no thoughts of ever surviving."

Enjoy the interview below...

1. Tell us about yourself; a brief autobiography -

My name is Uche Uwadinachi, a priest of poetry. I practice performance poetry and the spoken word as part of my vocation and religion. Am a graduate of the Lagos State University Ojo -2006 with a B.A in English Language. I belong to a two-man music group named Kamazaiah- a culture hip pop movement. Our first compilation album ‘Lifted’ was released in 2007 under the Sound Factory Label and presently we work towards our next album titled ‘Bad Things’. I have featured in several Nigerian movies such as Real love, Love of my life’, Haunted love, Adam and Eve, You broke my heart, Who killed Dele, Veno, Superstory (No pain no gain) among others.

I am the author of the book ‘SCAR in the HEART of pain’ and its spoken word album. The poetry collection was published by BlackArts, while the album was produced by Tuntout Records. In 2006, I won the ANA Lagos poetry festival (poetry performance) prize, by 2010, I won the June Poetry-craze contest, November 2010, I won second place in the Ken Saro-wiwa writing competition for poetry-2010. I have performed my poetry at the 1st Tinapa trade expo, Wordslam 1, 11, 111 and 1V, Bookshelve-LTV8, Poetry-potter, Bristish Council, Samkard Tree-National Library, Pen society, Ayota Art Centre etc.
For a living, I work as a continuity man for TV commercials and reality shows and also as a presenter in Konto Music, a music documentary programme on NTA Channel 10 Lagos, and 9ja TV.




2. When and why did you begin writing?

Since childhood, writing has always been a companion while I was learning to get close to friends. It was my closest pal that understood and could talk to me. I rarely flirt with people because I was so timid then that I wrote so many memos just to express my self or pass message to the next person. This lone nature lead me into singing; though I have a good voice but spent more time in writing songs than singing. I grew up with so much time and romance for my pen that I felt I had to write about something in me, something I felt impeded me from people and rather blanked me out from the outside world. I felt I had a scar as child. And this I began to write about into poetry. Ironically that was how my healing started, and then while writing, I realize that rather than helping me run away from the crowd, it was instead taking me closer to people and giving me more attention. Since then, writing in poetry, music, prose, has ever been my tradition, trade and love.

3. What inspires you to write?

Hmmmm, loneliness has always been my muse. As a person who ‘presently’ is fond of people around him, I find it empty and disturbed to thoughts when am left alone or deserted. Alone, you find me most times talking to myself, like I use to do in my lonely childhood. I would always raise questions about myself and the sad society I live in. I find myself involved in that possible remedy the community can afford. This whole drama of pondering raises my pen to bleed letters in writings. If am not fortunate to find a pen at that moment, I continue arguing with myself without been conscious of those around. This thus, happens to be my best purgative syrup and excursion into spoken word poetry and that why loneliness is anytime, a good exercise for me.

4. What was your publishing journey like?

I don’t know how my girl will take this, but I have to say this, that book is a product of my long secret affair with pens and that’s why I love “tapping” biros in my primary school. I had spent so much time flirting around in poems, romancing my very weird thoughts in the name of an infirmity I believe I was fighting since childhood. I almost died of this idea in my head that I kept the journey writing so as to get to the end of the book and find a solution to that sickness of my heart.

The journey was a Molue- escapade. It was an adventure I never knew I had started until I ended, because that was when I began feeling the backache. I was writing to end a journey of dilemma for years so I was really amazed when I found a book in my hand. I had no money, no publisher, all I had, were those pains in my heart and in the lives of people around me, however I moved to fight these scars. For years, I was querying and trying to meet a remedy and that was how the book was found. In 2006 at the ANA festival, I saw a need to speak with AJ Daga Tolar, the author of ‘Season of Struggle’, ‘This country is not a poem’, ‘Darkwater drunkard’ (all poetry collections) and the chairman of BlackArts, on the need to published my book. However before then, my lecturers in school had been working on it as a collection.

I was so glad when BlackArts in conjunction with Vigillis communication published my book. When I saw the final form, I realized that I had lost so much fluid and pounds and was in pain. The production was quite strenuous and expensive because we took time to make our cover; getting the model and graphic designer to make it all good and also ensuring a good story to tell, however I was smiling real great when I saw the book. It was an end to my journey of pain in the scar of my heart. It was then I realized that no child really is born with a scar except the scary society which leaves in the mind of the growing kid, the fear of ever surviving in a state of discrimination and utmost dehumanization.

5. Why poems, do you plan to write prose?

Interestingly, why poems? Well, I love prose especially, its endurance in holding down attention with cute narrative styles and themes but I faithfully stick to poetry and just poetry for now. I have no plans to write prose. Poem, yes! Because I did not choose it, it chose me through it swift, concise and sexy form. Poetry with its brevity and stylistic construction, delivers its message like a bullet. It saves you a lot of time, words, thoughts and weight, and captures your mind in a precise frame of thoughts in your own words. Uhhhh, it’s like making a charm, so quick and expertise. Whoa! Poetry can take any form, shape, sex and taste, to pass it splendour. Every genre of art, drama or prose employs it. Poems have always been my secret therapy and will remain irreplaceable. As for other medium, my performance poetry is dramatic and its story can prosaic, but it feel, is poetry.

6. Discuss the poem in your books

Me (page 5)

The poem “Me” in page 5 which sights the mind as a mare, exposes a horror encountered by the personae his sub-consciousness. The day occurring as an eye witness ignores the crime scene of “life” to mind its own business. This encounter is a struggle as he kicked “…voiced seized” yet the scar feeds its every part of life “pricking deeply through his skin”. This happens to be so strange that it is only the persona alone that knows the reality and depth of this dilemma because it is “hidden from eyes” however he concludes that this runs through his lineage, thus they are bound to remain in that pain and perhaps until the cure is found.

A world of worries (page9)

In “a world of worries” (Pg9), which portrays the absurdity of life, the world turns a life of eternal worries prevailing against all and sundry. Thus, it’s “Only a man without feet,” that “Feels not the torrid earth/ Or child without nostril,”| that “Breathe not the toxic air”. The war thickens as the battle between the needy and needs makes mockery of any dream of surviving. The world refuses to be comforted by phrases hoping in several dishes of religion that poisons and “forsakes us in a world of famine.”

Cure (Page26) states that we must confront our very selves to overcome our tribulations. The “River” channels our whole struggle and faith into that serene course of resolution. The river mirrors how man drives his fate as he is “washed in the stream” so as to unravel the causing flames of the present. Man is advised to resign wholeheartedly to nature that “cradles the land,” “bore the sea,” and “feed the mammals”. And surely by its water, it can renew the earth and revive the pains in our lives.

7. Do you have a major theme that runs through your book?

The collection is divided into three parts; curse, cure and course. The first part presents life entirely as a world of despair and torments. The next aspect allows the mind to face the reality of the truth of self confrontation as the key to dissolve the reign of such despondency. The third part ultimately takes man to the serene and mystery River which represents nature’s graceful and supreme eyes over our worlds of worries.
In curse, poems like “Heart of pain” (Pg 2) finds the personae in a dawn of a new stitch in pain. “Scar” (Pg3) emphasizes that this misery goes beyond the face of a wound to the “faceless parasitic burden lurking in a locked corner of the living heart.”

“Cure” (Pg26) is a restatement of the chance of overcoming the “…aged scars” only by our “confrontation” rather than going lost path in hopelessness or “in a desert stroll” (Pg50). Course is the solution that comes from the serenity which the “River” (Pg52} as a symbol of natures offers. In the water we find paradise as in the “Heart of ease” (Pg59) and “Such home” (Pg64). So our strength to survive and fight should be resigned to our feet “On water” for they can chase you “through hazy streets of the slum” but they cannot “…dare you/On water!” Only in life can we find the ultimate cure to life’s unending pain of our scars.

8. What books have most influenced your life?

‘Season of struggle’ by AJ Dagga Tolar was one book that best influenced me when I barely had started writing. Though I read across poetry books with a corned interest in the play of the words, but when I encountered that collection, I saw poetry as alive as the very cry in my neighborhood. The poems painted pictures of police brutality in near market locations around me. I got moved by the striking choice of words it employed. I felt involved and initiated not just in the incidents sited but also in those living diction it created and stamped on my lips. The book is so small that I took it every where I went like the wallet-picture of my woman and there my experiment of words started like a bedroom fire and here I am, a published poet and spoken word artist. Unfortunately I’ve lost my copy of that book and every effort to get a copy from the author and publisher seems a sad story.

9. If you have to choose, which writer would you choose as a mentor?

Niyi Osundare is a writer I have always admired and wanted to be like. My reverence for him was payed at my final year in the University when ANA Lagos had its poetry festival in 2006. I had learnt he was a special guest and also one of the judges for the contest, so I had to enter the competition only to be able to see him face to face. Fortunately, on the day of the finals at the National Art Theatre, I emmerged the overall winner of the poetry performance contest and there before me was Niyi Osundare presenting the poetry prize to me. That day lunched me into a poetry height to soar. And after then I have manage to achieve other poetry awards, thanks to him. Niyi Osundare is a grand priest of poetry, an outstanding performance poet.

I remember an event, where he got Dutch audience in Hague to sing along with him while reciting a poem in Yoruba and that was exciting. Osundare always has the premonition of community singers, hearers and composers, when he writes poetry. He made me believe that the audience is the most important element of any artistic performance and composition. As a dramatist of the stage, his poetry fluxes with drama. His poems always go with songs and drums to back him; he goes as far as given a musical direction for some of his poems. Also I revere him for been political in his poems especially tooling it to correct bad governance.
I look forward to achieve a world class audience and fellowship like he has done. Fortunately as a singer and thespian, I want to believe that my poetry will get to that height.

10. What books are you reading now?

Though I have been very busy recently (if not always busy) due to my job in TV /movie productions and music videos as a continuity man and artistic director, however I was able to lay my hand on “Opening Night” by Mark Greene, a collection of performance Christmas poems. It so interesting as it captures poems on times and ordinary people caught in extraordinary moments. Am still reading it, so I believe I would enjoy it and will tell you when I finish. And you cant believe am just reading Dan Brown’s ‘Davinci Code’, hmmmm, it a book I know I will really love because of Brown’s ability to capture history and religion in a bottle. I want to believe there are more things there he must have discovered…well am still reading.

11. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Jumoke Verisimo though has been writing for a while but her last published work still recent ‘I am memory’, really excites me. I love the strength of her imaginative description. She‘s always in this cute frenzy reach with words. I like her and I think she is a promising writer for the future. Moreover I never knew her as a romantic person in school then, not until I read her work. Myne Whitman, ‘Heart to mend’ is another work I am reading again and again. I really love it when a woman settles issues of broken relationships and that why I love seeing Myne mend broken hearts. I call her the HEART MENDER.

12. Is there anything you find particular challenging in your writing?

As a performance poet and a voice over artist, writing poetry is somehow challenging. When I write poetry, I play so much with words rather than on vocabulary, so as to picture the act and sound of my poems. My poem turns out so simple (though retains it, puzzle on the readers) as against that of my older scholars (some) who are of weighty vocabularies. I have been told that my poems are more romantic, dramatic than intellectual…opps! Well, every poems I write, is to be performed on stage not in the library, so I have always had in mind an act behind every poem I write. That why my whole poetry has it spoken word version. Now, the question is how do I differentiate my book from my album, yes! They are different most especially in the medium.

13. Who is your favourite author?

Niyi osundare, but permit me to call him with respect Pa Niyi Osundare. That man does not know that I’m his son. Osundare’s writing cradled me when I really wanted to start writing poetry till the time I started excelling in poetry. That has earned me making him my favourite author, I am always looking out for any of his latest work like waiting for the movies. Osundare is a craft, a deity that turns simple common words into strange charms that can hypnotize you till you are lost in the Amos Tutuola’s wonder-forest. Although there are several young authors with interesting writing styles but my choice of him still lies in the fact that his style has been there at the start and has remain relevantly constant.

14. What do you think about the Nigerian publishing industry?

That one na big question…..well I think we somehow need a reformation. They are either still the same intellectual library we use to have or they have refused to believe that the new generation has any thing better to offer. Many books have been published to be forgotten in their heaping shelves in the store-house-libraries. No distribution network, no promotion, no incentive for the author. Am glad we now have publishing houses that are making so much effort on the few works they’ve published, yet we need younger and daring minds to come into this industry. We need people that will publish our works to the hands of the readers. Yes, am not stating that book should be so popular or money wheeling like the entertainment industry here, no! They should rather make efforts in:

 Branding the book and the author
 Creating distribution networks for the works
 Creating online, websites, blog and social networks for awareness and market
 Promote these works in Medias (electronic and print).
 Make way for interviews, tours, exhibition, shows and features for the authors

Note that this is not about making money, it is about branding, awareness and orientation. However all these, the future is bright, the industry will improve, e go beta.

15. What comments do you have about the reading culture in Nigeria?

First of all, I don’t believe that putting anything in a book for a Blackman can hide it because the average Blackman is naturally smart. For Nigeria, reading culture has not been encouraging at all. But it has not been stagnant. There is an improvement especially with the level of print media (Magazines, Newspapers, nuggets, novellas etc) you find on paper stands these days, new publishing houses for writers are also emerging, internet freedom and popularity is glaring, and there is also a level of consciousness and activism of people on continual political disturbances and hazards. It is improving, but it is still poor compared to meet the kind of reading standard that is demanded. Well I think with individual/group/government support, it can be better; I want to see other cooperate bodies support literature like some other banks are doing now.

And with the kind of experiment, I am attempting with my poetry, I think I can to some extent contribute to readership in Nigeria and even Africa. So also I believe other vibrant youths in arts today are doing, together we can improve it.


16. Do you have any specific thing you want to say to your readers?

Uuuhh! I almost mistake the first letter of readers as ‘L’, well all join. Readers, I want you to see yourself as leaders. Your opinion, your treatment, your faith, your effort to any work of art matters because it goes a long way to affect others. That why I say, please lets support ourselves by tolerance, respecting and been objective of anybody’s point of view or way of expression, because that’s the only way, we can grow and make any sense to ourselves. And, fellow writers in the media, please support the upcoming writers (published or unpublished, young or old, home or abroad) like you. Every one has a story to tell that will sell you today or tomorrow. And do endeavour to read and enjoy my writings online or on any shelves you find them but most especially try to listen and watch my poetry performance.


17. Do you have an online presence, Facebook, Blog, Twitter or a website?

Am on Facebook, and manage a blog titled http://www.flames777.blogspot.com where you can references or links to my other writings and performances. Meanwhile, am still working on my website.

18. Where can we buy we buy the book in stores and online?

Am sorry, I have not officially lunched my book because its spoken word album was not yet ready. But now the book and its album are ready, so I will, by the grace of God, be presenting and launching the book with its spoken word audio album and possibly a single video by March. It will be announced here and other places online/on air and the distributors would also be mentioned. Please bear with me. And finally, I want to tell Myne, the Heart Mender to keep the great work. Time will not forget you and the mended hearts.

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