60 Minutes With Ajiduah Chris Ngozi (Author, “The Rhythm”)
Can We Meet You, Ma?
Ajiduah Chris Ngozi, is a poet and civil servant based in Lagos state. She writes under the pen name ‘Chris N. John’.
Ngozi hails from Ogwashi-uku in Delta state, but grew in Ibusa, Delta State. She has a masters degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
Ok. So, why did you choose poetry to pass your message across to your target audience?
Hmm…well, as one who had little-to-no friends while growing, but have novels as companions, hardly talk, too shy in the midst of others, barely socialise except for academic ones like the Debating and Dramatic Society outings of my school and is constantly misunderstood for depth of none childish knowledge; the only way left for me to pour out my mind was to write. And well, surprisingly my first write was seen by a friend as a poem.
What then motivated the title of your book, ‘The Rhythm’?
‘The Rhythm’ is a title of a poem in the collection.
I love its sound. Life to me is in rhythms; so when the question of what to use as a title for the collection came up, I just agreed with my publisher to use it, as poetry is all about the flow. And, ‘The Rhythm’ to me, is sounds that metamorphoses into flow.
Having published ‘The Rhythm’, what message(s) did you bear in mind to get across to readers via the book?
Hope. I want anyone and everyone who reads this work to know that no matter the bend it’s not an end. There is always sunshine within every rain.
How important is accessibility of meaning? Should one have to work hard to “solve” meaning(s) of a poem?
The uniqueness of good poetry is its ability to enact multiple meanings. By this, I mean, a good poem should make meaning to whoever is reading at his/her level and in whatever circumstance/situation he/she is exposed to at that moment, or even beyond.
This said, meaning/its accessibility is very important in poetry. And one should not work hard to solve it, as every poem has a message. In as much as it enacts feelings. Otherwise it’s a mere play on words.
How do you see the literary community in Nigeria? Do you see challenges? If Yes, how do we overcome them?
Nigeria’s literary community is a fast growing one. It is an all-comers thing, unlike what it was in the 80s and before.
This is however a good thing. Minds are being engaged. The many platforms/gatherings is helping to not only educate, but to also bridge gaps between the old and the young, the haves and have nots within each gathering of poets.
I see a literary community that will soon cause major changes to happen economically and otherwise.
We have so many religious spoken word poets now as we have general ones, all this complement the typical poets who also have their readings too.
However, poets and poetry community face different challenges. Ranging from lack of finance, little publicity to the lack/readiness to read and appreciate poetry by the society.
You will be shocked to hear someone you think should know ask you “what will I do with this book, poems? it’s for my children”; yet will never see need to ‘waste’ money on it.
To overcome however, is persistence, doggedness. Poets should see themselves as agents of change via a hobby. Because unless otherwise, they will be frustrated.
I believe the gain will cone when it will. And gain does not only translate to money.
Do you think poetry is achieving its purpose in Nigeria and Africa at large? Or, is there something in particular that good poetry ought to do that Nigerian poets are not doing?
I think it is achieving purpose. People are being motivated. So-many are coming out of their shells. A lot of movements now materialize via poetry.
Recently Wole Soyinka wrote for Shuaibu, even if Nigerians and her government pretend not to hear, which is not possible the world not hear.
I believe something will happen somehow, someday if it has not started yet.
I do believe that so many good poets are doing what they can, but these things take time. Do not forget that the nation herself has her many plagues.
We will get there, patience with continuous work is all we need.
In your book: ‘The Rhythm’ God is in almost all of the poems, what motivated such desires?
Hmm…I have come a long way, and it has been God all through. That’s my faith. I am a product of the belief you see and read through my works.
I couldn’t have written otherwise – I don’t think so. God is my source in life.
In one of your poems in ‘The Rhythm’, you went so deep as if you were on another path:
I know my story
Written as a cautionary tale
Daring me from history
Where I exhumed mystery
I stood on this fogginess
To craft my folktale
Carving myself in the details…
Sometimes earlier in my writing, I developed a saying; “the best thing that can happen to one is to understand oneself,” that was when I came to the realization that you alone can tell yourself the deepest truth.
In ‘story’, I was just answering for myself the question, “what’s your story”? It was a product of one of the days of deep self, evaluating true findings.
Please what situation exactly erected such melancholic thoughts?
Like I answered above, it was a situation of self-reflections of journey so far. I am a love child. First of, both parents never stayed with a father, because my mum married another who never wanted me anyways.
And so, the story and struggles goes. I never had a formal secondary education, but instead, a village typing school education.
However, God’s workings found myself in the midst of rich children where I had to work as a teenage typist, because I could use the typewriter quite excellently.
And that was how I sat for my SSCE in the same school with ’em rich kids. And the story is still ongoing.
Your first poem titled “My Hero” was published since early 1995. What then took you so long to publish a collection of poetry?
Haha…. It was not published in 1995, but was written around that time.
It was actually published by Pointer Newspaper (Delta State newspaper) around 1998 or 1999 – I really can’t remember exactly now because it was my friend Felix Ofobruku that sent them in and he told me my poems were published. But then, I had left Ibusa to Lagos.
As per why it took quite long for a collection, hmm…I had to struggle through school sir; no mother; no father; nobody paid anything for me. So publication was far from what was on my mind.
Even writing at a stage was a wish, but yet writings kept me sane.
Tell us about your process of writing poetry: Pen and Paper, computer, notebooks…how do you write your poems?
Give me a pen and any paper my poetry flows.
Any top tips you’d like to share with other writers starting out? Young aspiring poets?
Be yourself. Keep reading. Keep writing.
Get involved with like minds, and especially have a mentor. I mean a good mentor. One that you can respect no matter what. I picked one Dr. Ode and it has tremendously helped my writing.
My Loudthotz poetry family is always a delight to be with.
Thank you so much Ajiduah Chris Ngozifor your granted audience.
The pleasure is all mine. Thank you too.
Bye for now Ajiduah Chris Ngozi. We look forward to having you some other times too.