By Sam Akpe
She was honest in her response. I believed her. “Honestly, I cannot with all sense of truth, claim that I set out on a mission to write poems. I write poems because it gives me the freedom to express myself.
“It could be about anything, it could rhyme, or not rhyme, it could follow a certain pattern or just a verse. I simply write from the depth of my mind.”
I thought she was just a poet until she said, “I have written articles that have been published in magazines. So, I cannot say I am limited to writing only poems. My fourth book, “From Trauma to Triumph: Finding Liberty” is not poetry.”
She is correct. But even that book is written with the touch of poetry. What does poetry mean to you? It was a question she probably knew I would ask. Her answer was not immediate. But when it came, it was deep; and musical. She offered me a completely different meaning of poetry—several versions.
Here she is: “Poetry is the mirror of our soul. It reflects the music of the universe. Poetry gives me a deep understanding of language and an intense connection with nature to better express my ideas.
“Is it not simply incredible how a line or stanza of a poem could encapsulate an entire story? I find it absolutely captivating how emotions and feelings can be compressed into few words.
“With poems, there is no disconnect. Gaps are created not by what is said, but by how it is said. What is said reaches the mind; how it is said reaches the heart. For me, there is no way to win the mind, without first winning the heart.
“Based on my life’s experiences, there is no doubt that words are powerful. Just as they could hurt when used wrongly, words also have the power to soothe, to heal, to repair, to rebuild what has been damaged.
“There is a right way to use words, and that for me, has been found through writing poems. Words are a flaming torch, which in the hands of a master can light the way, but which in the hands of a maniac, can scorch the earth.
“Poetry is fluidity of movement. I could say, from my little experience that poetry is beauty in motion.
“For me, every step I take echoes a melody, a rhythm, a magic of its own. It helps, quite a lot I might add, about a certain gift of intuitiveness that guides me to find the exact words I need to create balance and rhyme.”
Reading her poems has constantly revealed or whispered something to my intellect. It is something she wouldn’t talk about; but which she cannot hide from her writings. It feels like a pain in the past—something gruesome but which she has either escaped from or she’s trying to.
She explained a bit of this when asked what colours her writings: “My writing is flavoured by my experiences.” At this point, her voice goes low, her countenance is as though she is fighting tears. Uninterrupted, she continues; sounding more poetic:
“From the tiniest details to the most dramatic events. In typically sensitive style, I let my words flow unrestrained. I invite all into a new realm of strength, igniting hearts with passion, breaking apart the chains of hate, and welcoming the wounded.
“So, when my path crosses with yours, your pain becomes mine—our collective loss; just as my joy becomes yours. Since I care, like you care, we find solace for ‘our’ loss.
“Our friendship supports the loss and the pain we individually bear, lessening its sting. There is a fellowship among those who know the pain of suffering. For the world is filled with much that nobody’s heart should bear alone.
“I would like to believe that my poems address the emotional, the spiritual, the psychological and the physical aspects of humanity.
“I would also like to believe that people will read my poems and see the light beyond the darkness, see hope above the despair, courage in the midst of battles, strength that overcomes weaknesses, and faith that triumphs over their fears.
“As I share my gift of writing, I remember the quote by Thomas Paine: “Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.”
“In the light of that, I would like my poems to offer healing to the scars on the psyche of those bound in the shackles of oppression, subjugation, depression—and courage in their desperate search for freedom.”
Quite a strong message. Uboho, meaning liberty, sees poetry even in the clothes she wears. Her entire life is poetic. She takes it in phases. Her expressions are short and crispy. She doesn’t waste words. I asked her: how do you see what to write about?
This was not an interview. I was on a journey. She saw me as a sinner who must be converted and led to the altar of poetry. She asked me to look around. As I turned, she excitedly exclaimed “poetry is everywhere.”
With her eyes radiating inexplicable feeling of discovery, she continued. “We cannot evade its allure. It is in the nature surrounding us. It is in the relationships and associations we keep. It is in the ties of family and in the bond of authenticity of our personalities. It is in the practice of architecture, engineering, and design.
“Poetry is a voice of reason to humanity. It calls us to re-evaluate what we see as differences. It makes us see that we are not so different as we think, especially as we share a host of human emotions such as love, pain, grief, friendships, hardships, happiness, doubts, and fears.
“In a world faced daily with different forms of conflicts, poetry can serve as conscience of the society. Poetry, if we allow it and embrace it, offers us a way to empathize with other people’s frailties.
“In its simplicity, poetry is a counsellor. It is the heart attuned to personal suffering, helping others to heal from their pains.
“In its complexity, poetry is an artist painting on a canvas, a carver working on a sculpture, a musician singing a love song, or a composer that conducts an orchestra.
“In its spirituality, poetry is a priest ministering to the conscience of society. In its audacity, poetry is the graceful motion of a surfer riding high waves, the delicate poise of a ballet dancer, and the majestic leap of a whale from the oceans.”
Then she went political: “It was the voice of poetry from Amanda Gorman that sparked a renewal of faith in the democratic structures of the American Government during the last Presidential Inauguration.
“Her Poem entitled, The Hill We Climb, forged new bonds of patriotism and strengthened the ties of unity, inspiring hope, rebuilding trust, restoring faith, and healing a nation on the threshold of a divisive era.
“It is poetry that gives me the liberty to explore the power of my imagination. Poetry helps us to understand one another. It is a vehicle leading us away from abuse to appreciation, to understanding and welcoming diversity, from hate to love, from violence to mercy and acceptance.
“It is also a graceful bridge of change that we travel on during our short lives, hopeful for the next destination.
“The literary impact of poetry cannot be over-emphasized. Literature has continued to play a major role in defining the art of linguistic expression. Its importance and relevance have not diminished since the times of Shakespeare.”
To Uboho, poetry permeates cultures and traditions as dance, masquerades, folklore, folksongs, folktales, proverbs, parables, ballads, hymns, drums, and various musical and artistic instruments.
With a huge smile of satisfaction, this unsung poet said as-a-matter-of-fact that “poetry distils into the expressive language of our artefacts, our belief system, keeping new generations in touch with their ancestral inheritance.”
I was not through yet. She equally seemed to enjoy our small talk. What does it mean and how does it feel to be a poet? That was my next question. The answer came as though it was prepared before time. That will be in Part Three.