In this interview, Poet Umar Yogiza Jnr talked about depression in general and how he overcame his suicidal urge a year ago.
Can We Meet You, Sir?
Umar Yogiza Jnr Is an award-winning poet, based in Abuja.
He hails from Doma Local Government Council; but raised in Giza, Keana Local Government Council, all in Nasarawa State.
How can we cure this trending disease drowning the best minds of this generation: majority; poets and writers, falling victims too?
Depression is here for sure, but how did it become the time, history and space that now proofread writers mental organization?
Poet Umar Yogiza Jnr, being a suicide survival yourself how did it start and how did you overcome it?
People are busy teaching us the easy path to poetry, teaching us cheap methods to become a poet; not an ordinary poet but a good poet. They are covering for us to be writers, teaching us how to read hard, how to read deep, how to read wide, read anything words, teaching us how to love words to become a writer. But they forget to warn us about its cruelty, they forget to teach us how to deal with the hazard of being a poet and writer.
We forget that becoming a poet is acquiring another set of eyes, a special kind of mind and reasonings that penetrates steel wall of time and space at ease, we journey in one thought to past and history, god and devil, heaven and hell, truth and lies like how one blink his eyes.
We forget the emotional labor of what we create can later hunt us; that anything we read also receives us to their shade with open arms, regardless of their poisonous darkness.
For a writer, there is no such theme, view as dark landscapes, we devour book’s contents as if we are having sex, we had–learned to be able to write hard, to be able to write well.
Forgetting there are times we become vulnerable to our own deeper thoughts, we became hunted by what we thought we understood, by what we thought we can’t understand, by what cowed us with trembling fear. We became afraid of being misunderstood always. Afraid telling people our thoughts.
There is an evolution in our mind that can remold any living, bring back the dead of any generation. A 3d thought lies in us that can reach out to long-gone ancestors, strangers, nature, yearnings.
There are cruel imaginations that conjure what we know, what we don’t know, what we miss, what ought to recall, the ill done, all into one body, indifferent of time and space. Our reasons instead of hunting for us will turn us into preys. All these our teachers and role models did not teach us.
How did knowledge, the light of the society become the corrosive darkness that curate poets and writers sanity into suicidal merriment?
There is a self-scrutiny that pangs one soul and mental avatar. A self-scrutiny of being rejected that lacerates, a self-scrutiny of being pointed at that confuses and a self-scrutiny of being judged that darkens all light.
It is crude despair, mental exhaustion that poets and writers correspond, collaborate and communicate in their daily life, day to day tasks that widen the hollow one never know to exist within them. A kind that replicates and stretches poets and writers fears and have-nots, beyond thoughts, sights, and reasons, till it numbed and hollow every sight, thought and the reason that makes sense in life.
How did suicide thoughts and yearns overcome your mind? Being a mind that’s used to writing beautiful poems that people of all kind admired?
I think it started three years after my close friend Nuhu died immediately after his youth service, my foreign trip unrealizable and my work’s on stood up.
Things meaning took mundane form in my mental image. All my past failures and tragedies returned to my head at once. My sanity, searching for mythical clues amidst the whistles, drums and talking darkness in my ears.
I begin life with pains with unrecognizable perseverance. All I saw then were my failures, mistakes, and losses; grand mysteries that my mind lost the courage to ask why or how.
Whenever I see a dead person going underneath, or being pray upon, or passing a decorative casket raised should high live or in tv, or in newspapers or in a car, all i wish is for it to be me.
All I saw during my depression is a world’s reasons, faith, fate, imagination and nature moving in shamble and disjointed. And the words I loved and called mine can only refurbish the aesthetic face of these series of events; but not their core foundations.
I tried them in my head to glue many broken events together. I tried to correct or remedy them with my mental image without success. The more I tried the more the inequalities, lies, cheats, and violence erase the fine sceneries of peaceful existence in my head.
I looked helplessly as surmounting dark curiosity repeats woes and tragedies in my mind like a DVD player.
The radicality in words that once liberated my minds has returned with a double edge sword. I mistook it for knowledge, but as the knowledge broad wider, it bites my sanity beyond apprehension.
It bit me till it pushed me into a deep melancholy, where only tragedy gladdens my hearts.
Where all I do is how to plan to die without anyone noticing me dying.
Hmm! Well, I am happy now. I no longer struggle against them. So instead of struggling to mend fate unamendable, I learned to love and accept things in the whole, not in fragment with the warm sense of sincerity.
Now I can only thank God and my great friends that I didn’t kill myself. I am happy and lucky to be alive in a world full of everything wanting to live.
Umar Yogiza Jnr, Do you think the current trend – young bright minds of our generation killing themselves – also happened in developed countries? What then are they doing that we are not doing?
Oh! Yes, everywhere in the world, it’s the same woes that haunt writers and poets, although we have individual and geographical differences.
Pains of what we cannot change effects and haunts us the same way. There are undercurrent violence and darkness of the world that emerged in poets and writers once a while that ordinary persons may only see its fragments or may even never understand.
Darkness buried beneath for many years may all comes up in one thought without a sense of control.
They are pains, lies, cries, and injustice that goes on unspoken that only poets and writers see, that sometimes their sense of control cannot be handled.
When the poet or writer struggled without success against these inner guilts and remorse, and had wane all their processing mechanism, razor-sharp thoughts sliced the throat of all the good and bad they meet.
Many foreign, harmful forces attack from the different front line of their serenity. No, any magic nor logic can un–haunt or exorcise their dark debilillty.
In United State and Europe too many poets and writers committed suicide, some in their primes; Virginia Woolf 1941, Arthur Koestler 1983, Ernest Hemingway 1961, Sylvia Plath on February 11, 1963, at the age of 30.
She killed herself by placing her head in the oven. She sealed off the kitchen with wet towels to stop the gas from drifting into the room where her children were sleeping.
Ann Sexton, on October 4, 1974, committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning in her Boston garage, Ned Vizzini 2013.
We have writers like Hunter S Thompson, Nicolas Chamfort, Beatrice Hastings, Sara Teasdale, Karin Boye, and etc. all killed themselves in developed countries.
So, for me, suicide rates have nothing to do with third world countries or developed countries or their infrastructures. Sickness has no race or religion.
What do you see as an obstacle in your writing, or what gives you a headache, when facing the work of poetry?
The unfriendly obstacle I have with my writing is clarity of syntaxes and tenses, having studied a discipline other than the English Language – Engineering.
My friends and editors are used to teasing me. Saying Umar Yogiza Jr. stick with your engineering where only numbers used to be syntaxes and tenses.
You see, writing is a creative journey; journeying past, present, future and beyond. And I roam between different syntaxes and tenses a lot, that sometimes I lost their placement.
The rules sometimes annoy me. How will I write a poem then start editing, placing where the past and present connect with each other?
Writing for me is where I kill my imaginative curiosity, terrors, and this sometimes beats and pulls me from all ages.
I hunt the conjunctures of my mind with rational imagination to stay sane. I struggle daily believing what in my mind I know are lies. I learned to keep my mouth shut.
How can you distinguish the suicidal rate between Soyinka, Okigbo, Achebe’s era and ours now?
In Soyinka, Okigbo and Achebe’s era, there is what I called developmental structure for talents and fruity opportunities.
For the educated to get employed in their era is not too hard, some were employed even while in school.
There is patience in the workforce. They were allowed to mature slowly, they hone and nurture their skills without the insane race to succeed like we have today.
There is depression amongst writers of their generation too, but the numbers of writers, poets, wannabe poet, and writers then are far less than ours. The nature of their depression and its causes were of lesser gravity.
Then the scale of education between some Africans universities and European or United State is almost equal. The number of the working class or educated community is eating–table-like compared to ours of today; where we have more than one hundred universities, all graduating more than five hundreds students nonstop, students full of passion and dreams graduated to have nothing to do.
Soyinka, Okigbo, Achebe‘s era is like a startup era in Nigerian history, but the talents and genius of their era were not sustained. We gave their success God–like space in our heart that we forget to learn the art in deep as they did.
Now that we are learning with little or no resources, nor motivation, nor passion, there is what I called chronic competition for fame success.
We see them as Gods who created heaven, earth, nature, animals and human beings, while we see ourselves as human-like. Trying to ease our life here on earth without a manual, creating, re-creating, creating, testing, testing, testing, full of trials and error, full of errors, full of tragedy.
We find ourselves in a rush to outmatch one another, to outmatch what we met on the ground without prior planning.
Our generation finds ourselves confronting everything with fear; fear of failure and success, a burdensome condition that pilled depression in the head of our sanity with each struggle.
Writing is a genuine product crossing the border of the mind of poets or writers; full of bribe seekers checkpoints, full of arm rubbers hold–up, bumps of inequality, roads signs of educated thieves and liars and so on.
Poets and writers that took up arms in their mind to defend their journey, found this world inhabitable, they hence wrestle without a plan. The egalitarian pains boiling in them, made some become aggressive, seeking to resolve fate with their beliefs, in that, their restlessness grew maze, that some consider given up living. Thinking only death can give them the kind of peace their minds imagine.
It has been a nice session with you Poet Umar Yogiza Jnr. Thank you for granting us this opportunity to learn from you.
The feeling is mutually felt. It’s my pleasure to have engaged in this conversation too.
Thank you once again, and bye for now!