By Godwin Okondo
IN the spirit of celebrating World Poetry Day 2022, Providus Bank Poetry Café held a poetry workshop, with the aim of helping young poets improve their art, as well as deepen the interest and enjoyment of Nigerians in the art of poetry. The event featured poets from four poetry groups across Lagos, as well as solo poets, who presented their poems, and also received tutelage from renowned poets.
The programme held physically and virtually, and featured the founders of the four poetry groups: AJ House of Poetry, AJ Dagga Tolar, Poets in Nigeria (PIN), Eriata Oribhabor, Bariga Poets Collective, Segun Adefila, and LOUDTHOTZ, Chisom Ohuaka, with Prof. Wole Soyinka featuring as special guest. Anchoring the programme was the Executive Director of Culture Advocate Caucus, Mr. Jahman Anikulapo. Providus Banks’ Head of Branch and Corporate Communications, Mr. Dafe Ivwurie, was also on hand to make preliminary remarks.
While welcoming participants, Mr. Ivwurie commended each poetry group for keeping the poetic flag flying all through the years, adding, “I know what they do is very important. We started this to bring a cross-generational event — bringing people of different ages together on one stage, and this is going to be bigger than we thought it will ever be.
“We also want to publish a book this year, to document all that we have done in the past two years. Today is about all of you who have put pen to paper to shape the world, and we will do everything possible to make sure the world hears you.”
Each poetry group founder also made brief remarks about their various groups. Ohuaka said, “At LOUDTHOTZ, we have our readings every second Thursday of the month, at Maryland, for 13 years, and it’s been an amazing journey getting people to know about poetry.”
Speaking about Poets in Nigeria, Oribhabor said, “The group was founded in 2015, and we have centres in tertiary institutions where we hold key events moderated by poets. We hope to still represent poetry and put it at the top, using creativity to drive other genres of literature.”
Of AJ House of Poetry, Dagga Tolar said, “We have the number one school complex in Ajegunle, and our members cut across all human endeavors, with the aim of reaching great heights. We are in search of new voices to learn, using poetry as an instrument to provide education and elevation for young people. You can’t be in AJ House of Poetry without knowing that your education is important.”
Adefila said at Bariga Poets Collective, “We have brought poetry to Bariga. We have a gathering of poets, and we have found a way to being poets together.”
The 40 selected poets then presented their poems, after which they were divided into groups and mentored in a 30-minute workshop. The young poets included secondary school students, and undergraduates, with a few being members of the poetry groups present. Each presented poems based on the topic, “Migrant,” named after one of Prof. Soyinka’s poems.
During the workshop session, the virtual attendees were entertained by videos of Wole Soyinka’s poetry works.
After the presentation, the mentors gave a few words of advice to the poets. Ohuaka said, “everyone here is talented. You are writing for people to understand; you’re pushing information through poetry. I noticed there was rushing of some words and pronunciation. I think you should be careful with pronunciations, so you can give more knowledge and accurate information.”
Dagga Tolar said, “Language is key. Without it, you can’t reach your audience, so you need to be a master of whatever language you write in. You need to learn to translate tones, emotions, and action of each construct. How do you succeed in communicating if you don’t master languages? You can learn languages from your parents and grandparents, recreate your history through books and poetry. We create and give new meaning, a fresh understanding to different languages.”
According to Adefila, “Poetry is the process, poem is the product. We are not creating new words, but rather giving new meaning to the old ones. I felt a positive vibe for what we have done here. We need to be careful of the structuring we make on our words.”
In his closing remarks, Ivwurie thanked all the poets, adding, “They were fantastic. I am not a committed writer, like I tell my friends, but what I see today, you guys are on fire. Do not let it be extinguished. You all shouldn’t give up.
“Providus Bank will look into ways of bringing the communities together, as we’re looking to expand this beyond Lagos. I hope that you will do a good job to make sure your groups run well, and I hope to see you perform on stage soon, as special talents among the entertainers of Nigeria.”