Welcome back! For this week’s interview, I’m thrilled to spotlight poet Wale Owoade. Wale is the widely published author of numerous poems as well as an interviewer at his site, The Strong Letters.
Recently, Wale and I discussed his genesis and his inspiration as a writer, his work as an interviewer, and his plans for the future.
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?
I wrote my first poem in 2010, that was when I was working as a school librarian. I started writing seriously in 2011 when I left the library and moved to Ilorin, North Central Nigeria. I was in love with literature and at that time I was obsessed with the realization that I could ‘create’ my own literature and I kept creating and creating. Today, I am close to completing my undergraduate study of History and International Studies, I think of myself as more of an artist than a writer because I am more interested in writing than being a writer. I write because I love writing and I become sad if I don’t write for a long time. My favourite authors includes Uche Nduka, Ocean Vuong, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, Tarfia Faizulah, Saeed Jones, Safia Elhillo, Warsan Shire, Phillip B Williams, Meghan Privitello, Fatimah Asghar, Aziza Barnes, Niyi Osundare, Nick Narbutas, Laura M Kaminski, Lauren Camp, Mary McCarthy, Saddiq Dzukogi, David Ishaya Osu, Linda Ashok, Ladan Osman, Gbenga Adesina, Clifton Gachagua, [and] Jumoke Verissimo.
You are a widely published poet with pieces appearing in The Bombay Review, Radar Poetry, and Apogee Journal, among other venues. What subjects serve most often as your inspiration?
My inspirations are my breath, my body, art, poetry, music, violence, grief, life, love, lust, loss, loneliness, death, water, the moon, shadows, books, and I can go on and on. Poetry to me is a sacred art, a conversation between the poet and the universe at large. My inspiration is the world I exist in, a world characterised and defined by natural and artificial elements and events. I see metaphors in everything around me, I see on every face, stories begging to be shared.
I recently read your poem, “After,” in The Indianola Review, and it was truly one of the best works I’ve read in a long time. The language is so stark and evocative, and the images have stayed with me even weeks after my initial reading. What is the story behind this particular piece?
I am glad you liked the poem and I am happy to know it said something to you. The first story behind the poem is that one night, I decided to write and I wrote the poem. The second is that I wrote the poem when I was working on equally ‘dark’ poems for a chapbook manuscript. The third is that the poem is the first from a long break from writing, so I was loaded with metaphors when I sat on my desk. I mostly start writing with a feeling, not a story in mind. ‘After’ was meant to be the last poem of the manuscript I was working on, so it was written like a concluding remark.
In addition to your poetry, you are also an interviewer, with spotlights of authors appearing on your blog, The Strong Letters. What made you want to start this site, which also features book reviews?
I began The Strong Letters in January of this year but I remember that two years ago, I read a book that I fell in love with and I was very much interested in knowing some things about the author, the choice of the language of the book and its style. I searched the web for interviews with the author, I read like three and I was disappointed that the interviews didn’t ask any of the questions I have in mind. I made a mental note that day to start an interview series where I can ask important and ‘strong’ questions. I couldn’t start it until the beginning of this year. I am currently working on creating a dedicated website for the project. I actually look forward to getting very serious with it like I did with EXPOUND. The thing is, I am very much interested in literary activities and I don’t think I can ever stop doing them. Starting from my first project, Artbeat Africa to Black Communion, EXPOUND, and The Strong Letters, the primary reason why I engage myself in this kind of project is because I find joy in doing them.
Out of your published works, do you have a personal favorite?
This is hard. If there is a poem I am happy is out there, it is ‘The Volume of Grief, Love and Music’ on Cordite Poetry Review. My favourite poems are still unpublished and have only been read by one or two people. Let me also add that I am more in love with the poems I have not written.
Where would you like to see your writing career in five years?
In the next five years, I want to be writing.
Where can we find you online?
I have poems in Vinyl, About Place Journal, The Missing Slate, EXPOUND, The Bombay Review, Apogee Journal and several other outlets. I am also on Twitter and on Facebook.
Big thanks to Wale Owoade for being this week’s featured author!