Good evening! So I tried to not ask the first question but I’m tired of waiting so… How did you become a poet for people who don’t like poetry?
I have written a detailed explanation for this here and here. 🙂
When did you started writing?
I’ve been putting pen to paper since my early years in secondary school. I wrote a few poems, essays and even a never-published-and-too-late-to-publish novel in my 3rd year of junior secondary school. (It was about a young detective who came back home from abroad to find his town crippled with fear under the influence of an armed robbery gang, and how he helped restore sanity to his beloved town. I came across the old tattered manuscript recently and got a good laugh reading what and how I wrote as a young teenager). I’ll say I seriously started writing during my NYSC year, as the state drama director for a Christian group I belonged to called NCCF. This was 2010 in Zamfara State, Nigeria.
How did you get into poetry and why? Also what is your favourite subject to write about and where does your inspiration come from?
I can’t say exactly how I started writing poetry, but in 2008, I belonged to a Facebook poetry group that was started with a few friends I met online. This group definitely had a role to play in the continuous interest I developed for the poetry genre.
Life, love and time are subjects I inadvertently find myself consistently writing about. I’m drawn to the trivial details of everyday life; the silly, pedestrian yet relatable aspects of our mundane existence.
Of love, it’s a desire that runs through us all. Some might deny it, but we all are either trying to find it or keep it. Of time, it’s humbling and sobering. The fleeting nature of it. It’s the grossly understated yet most important factor of our lives. I’m blessed as I never struggle about getting inspired, and I do a lot. It comes by observation; of people, places, conversations, music, social media, movies, books, things; everything and anything really.
What inspires you to write?
Why do you laugh at those skinny girls? ?
I laugh at these skinny girls’ is the title of a poem in the book with the same title. It started one summer evening in Woolwich, a diverse community in the south-east part of London, England. I was walking on the very narrow pavement of a street called ‘Artillery Place’ and ahead of me was a group of three or four chatty, attractive young women in the prime of womanhood. They would have been in their early twenties. Ahead of them was an elderly lady trudging along with a pace and demeanour that suggested she would have been seventy years old in the least.
It was a fairly long stretch of narrow pavement around a curved part of the road bounded on one side by a stone wall and on the other, by a fairly heavy vehicular traffic. The old lady had everyone behind her moving at a very slow pace. To get ahead, there were just two options; either step off the narrow pavement into the busy road, or continue at the slow pace till the end of the narrow stretch.
I found this situation amusing, but the ladies didn’t. They got impatient and rudely, didn’t hide it from the old lady.
The poem “I laugh at these skinny girls” captures from a comical perspective what I consider might be a justified reaction from the old woman, towards the rude young women, who tried to bully her. It however hopes to draw attention to ageism issues and the declining respect and decorum young people have for and around the elderly in our society today.
When did you start writing? What and who inspires you and what kind of books do you love reading most?
I’ll say I started taking my writing seriously and writing consistently around 2010. On my favourite genres, I hate to admit it, but since being an adult and for someone who writes non-fiction, I’ve been increasingly reading less of fiction and more of biographies, political, history and self-development books. I already answered the question about what inspires me.
Do you love what you do?
If you mean writing, yes. I do, most of the time.
Why would you not follow me back?
I try, but I won’t be able to follow everybody. Now that you have asked I will. 🙂
Why did you start following me on Instagram? I’m really curious ☺️
I can’t remember, to be honest.
What makes you do what you do?
It’s fun for me. I enjoy writing and telling stories with words.
How often do you write? What inspires it the most?
Almost every day, except when I’m being lazy. I’m mostly inspired by my observations of my environment; things I see and hear. (I once wrote a poem about removing a brassiere after a long tiring day being the second most beautiful feeling in the world. I obviously don’t use one, but that poems was written after eavesdropping on the conversation of two ladies who sat behind me in a London bus).
You are good at writing love poems. Who is your muse? Is your muse an actual person? Or just a figment of your overwhelming imaginations.
It’s true I write about love a lot, (not much else to write about really J ) but I don’t have a muse. My writings are overwhelmingly imaginative or inspired by my environment. I rarely write personal poetry, and when I do, they don’t quite make it into my books.
Are you in a relationship?
Yes, I have an unhealthy relationship with Tropical Sun Coconut Peanuts 😉
1. What made you start @halimaseries? 2. Are you dating anyone? ?
There were times I needed to express things that I felt would be better expressed in an illustration instead of in a poem, and I love the freedom expressing certain opinions through a fictional character, especially when discussing slightly sensitive topics. It’s akin to someone who needs to say something mean about you saying it as a reported speech, transferring culpability. I’m not dating anyone.
How good is ur jollof??? Sorry can you even cook????~
You don’t have to be sorry, my friends know my cooking is one of the things I brag about. 🙂
Are we allowed to ask who won the giveaway? ??
I’ll be announcing the winners today.
If you were not a poet, what other profession would you have ventured into?
I get asked a lot if I am a full–time writer. I’m not and I don’t think I’ll ever be. Writing is one of a few things I enjoy doing that I also make some income from. If I didn’t study Architecture, I could have become a lawyer or an actor. I love acting.
Where did you school? University.
I went to school at The Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria, where I studied Architecture. I also have a related MSc. degree from The University of Greenwich London.
What is your creative process like. Why did you decide to focus on poetry?
For my poetry, it often starts with a prompt; could be a word I heard on television, a phrase from a song; an idea, anything that catches my interests. I write these down (I use Keep by Google which is a very handy app for putting down spontaneous ideas).
Later, I play with these prompts as I develop them into full poems. I must say, it’s rarely a linear process. Often, the poems end up looking nothing like the prompt that got them started. I don’t pre-select what I write about. I just write as ideas come to me and then group them by similar themes when it’s time to throw them into books. On why I decided to focus on poetry, I didn’t, poetry ‘chose’ me. There is something exhilaratingly beautiful in being able to say so much with few words. It’s why I rarely write long poems. My last three books have been collections of poetry, but the book I’m currently working on ‘ Bobolaya The Land of Liars’ is fiction.
Do you design every of your illustrations by yourself or someone does the graphics for you?
I do all of my creative designs by myself. I mostly work with the Adobe Premier suite.
*sits comfortably on the tall udala tree, sips his coffee, grabs popcorn and chews uncontrollably as he quietly watches the show which already promises entertainment*
Hope you’ve not been disappointed so far?
When I think of your poems, I think sarcasm & clarity. So, how were you able to simplify your thoughts and not lose the poetic form, and how did you identity sarcasm as one of your strengths? And the cheesy one would be how do you come up with such funny titles?
I don’t think sarcasm is the most prominent device in my poetry. Humour perhaps. You are right about clarity though. I have found out that poetry doesn’t have to be obscure to be deep or profound. One of my favourite quotes about writing is this; “Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators.” – Albert Camus.
People love writings they can easily digest and relate to. The titles of my books are intentionally unusual. We all judge books by their covers, so I endeavour to come up with titles that will catch people’s attention, and it works. Readers have given feedback of their copies of my book unwittingly kickstarting conversations in public with strangers.
Why do u always look for my trouble? ??
I don’t always look for your trouble, only sometimes. J
Do I get a free copy of funny men cannot be trusted by participating in this Q&A session?
@poetolu when did you write your first poem
It was my first year of senior secondary school. I had represented my state (Ondo) in a national UNICEF event, in Ibadan, Nigeria. I was asked to write a poem on a subject which I no longer remember. It had to do with children’s rights I think.
How do you get inspiration for your poetry?
I think it’s okay to skip this one since I already answered it. J
Hi Tolu, could you please share your journey through poem writing, what inspired you, how you built stability, do you have any form of education in building this gift? Thanks ?
Asides the very numerous books I consumed while growing up (It almost became a vice. I used to steal smuggle extra books out of my school libraries to read at home over the weekend; always returned them on Monday however), I do not have any formal education as a writer, which is not unusual for many writers. About ‘building stability’, you can build stability in anything you dedicate time to.
Is there a particular place you go to get your inspiration for what’s next or it just comes so you have a notepad and a pen anywhere you go?
Unless it’s a commissioned writing, I write as ideas come to me. I have an app on my phone (keep.google.com) that I use for taking quick notes. In the past few years, I have also kept a notebook and paper by my bedside every night. That started after I would dream of an idea for a poem, and I’ll convince myself in my sleep that I’ll remember it in the morning. I rarely did.
I have a few places I enjoy going to, to write. One of them is the beautiful ruins of an 1178 Abbey, called Lesnes Abbey. It’s not far from where I live.
What are those things that you have done that have brought you to where you are currently in poetry?
I think it helped that I was willing to find my own style. I didn’t necessarily care to write poems that academicians might find brilliant, I wanted to write poems that the average person can relate to. I’ve noticed there is a sharp contrast when comparing the kind of writings that impress the two groups. It’s like the gorge between reading movie reviews written by movie critics and moviegoers.
Just to be clear; are you your own writer, editor and creative director?
For my poetry, writer and creative director, yes. I have an editor.
How did you know this was what you wanted to do (writing poetry)?
I didn’t. For me poetry was accidental, and I took a liking to it. I think usually what we call talent is opportunity that developed into interest and then passion.
How do you do your themes and designs.
I use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator for my designs.
I marvel at how simple and straight to the point your topics are yet the body, mind blowing… How are you able to do that?
Thank you for the kind words. Again, I think what makes my poetry different is the humour, storytelling and the relatability. I’m also always looking for unique angles to tell everyday stories.
What is or who is the inspiration behind the poem #thewall
That poem was inspired by the song ‘Beneath Your Beautiful’ by Labrinth featuring Emeli Sande.
1. How do you make poetry simple and fun without losing poetry? 2. Those designs ? , how do you carve them to blend with each theme?
Thanks. I think I already answered these questions too. 🙂
What are your top tips for writing poetry, especially narrative ones?
Understand your audience. Don’t be verbose. You are not trying to impress, confuse nor ‘punish’ your reader with puzzles, your desire is to communicate intimately and beautifully. The goal is not to hide meanings between sentences, rather it’s to reveal them. Sometimes it’s silly saying simple things complicatedly.
Hi there! How long have you been writing? What were the first few challenges you faced as a new writer? And how did you get passed them?
I’ve been writing for about 7 years. On challenges, it took me a while to understand that I’m not writing for me but for an audience. I went through a challenging process of identifying my audience and determining the best way to connect to them.
Oga Tolu, I’m a writer, I have a lot of poems too, I was thinking about publishing a collection after law school, is it financially tasking?
Congratulations on the body of work you have put together. Unless you have found a publisher willing to publish your work, there is still a sizeable financial commitment involved if you decide to go the self-publishing route and you intend to do a good job. The good news is that it’s now a lot easier getting your writings into the hands of readers compared to a decade ago. Options like print-on-demand considerably eliminates the costs of getting your books out, especially onto platforms like Amazon.
How does one submit poems and a collection of poems for awards?
Every award or competition has its own rules. Some accept single poems or require a specific number. Some will receive unpublished works and others will only accept published collections either from the writer or from publishers only. You will need to find one that suits you and check its individual requirements.
When are you writing a novel?
Working on it. 🙂
What do you do when you have a writer’s block?
I’m usually hesitant about answering this question, because I’m never sure how my answer is received. The truth is, I don’t get ‘writer’s block’. If I’m struggling to write, it’s rarely because I don’t know what to write but often because I’m being lazy, and sometimes ‘writer’s block’ and laziness are one and the same.
I think ‘writer’s block’ is grossly overrated and it’s often an excuse to shroud laziness or a lack of confidence in one’s ability. Inspiration doesn’t guarantee effortless creativity. You still need to put the work in. If you blame ‘writer’s block’ every time you have the littlest form of inertia, you will never get anything done.
Sometimes it’s people being too hard on themselves. Whether it’s a poem, a blog post or a chapter in a book, you will never get it perfectly at the first take. It helps to just start writing and worry about editing later. I’m sorry if this sounds simplistic, but it’s not an issue I can honestly relate to.
What does it take to publish a collection of poetry?
That’s a very broad question. Are you publishing digitally? Today it’s fairly easy to get your work on digital platforms like Okadabooks , Nook or the Kindle.
If it’s for print, it takes some hard work to find a reputable publisher willing to publish your work, and it is often not a negative reflection on the quality of your work. Almost every bestseller was once rejected by a publisher. The self-publishing route is comparatively easier, but it’s important to be thorough and diligent. Self-publishing is not an excuse for a shoddy book.
When are you writing a novel?
Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about??. I think your first degree was Architecture, does that help in making your art ✍? more effective? Is”Halima” your alter ego?? Have you ever considered modelling? ?
Photography, entrepreneurship, computers and gadgets, tennis and cycling are a few thing I love besides poetry. Yes, my first degree is in Architecture, and perhaps it has a passive influence on my writing. Most architects would agree Architecture (which is also an art) has a way of impinging almost every aspects of your life; it helps you see everything differently.
I wouldn’t go as far as calling her my ‘alter-ego’. She’s just a character. If it counts I once interviewed for a few fit modelling jobs while in the University.
Do you write stories?
Yes I do. I have written a few short stories and flash fiction available on the internet. I’m also currently written a collection of short stories and a folk tale.
How to negotiate a fair price for a creative endeavour in which you’ve put your blood sweat and tears? Your advice. 2. If you don’t mind answering, are you in a relationship? (I’m guessing you are).
Creative works are usually undervalued. Nobody goes into a phone store to ask for a free phone, but if you sell creativity, people have no problem asking for it for free or for peanuts, because of its usually intangible form. It helps to have a realistic expectation for your work is worth, and when you do, don’t be apologetic in your demands. It also helps to always agree on remuneration before your start a project, not after.
Why did you abandon me your akure friend? Hehehheheheeee trouble maker ? ?
Kemi, I didn’t abandon you oh. J
Baba what is the number 53105? Lol
Lanre, 53105 is the post code for Burlington, Wisconsin in the USA 😉
Note: 53105 is a number that occurs a few times in my recent book, ‘Funny Men cannot be Trusted’. I have had several readers asking to know what it means.
I pen things now and again
Today I want to write
Tommorrow I try not to think like one
I love to be able to put words in ink
But along the road
Love alone is never enough
Tell me why do you write?
What drives the words when you have to pen down something contrary to your emotions?
And how did this journey of words begin?
Writing only from emotions can be very restrictive. It’s good to be able to draw inspiration externally.
Are you open to collaborative writing? And also open to featuring on people’s blogs? I’d love to have you feature on my blog someday soon.
Please let me know with details of whatever you might have in mind.
How do you do it ? I mean you make your poems and social media handles very personal, meaning you actually read the comments in the comment section and respond timely to dms where necessary.
Thank you. My aim is to build a ‘community’ instead of just an audience. I know a lot of people who might disagree with you about ‘timely response to direct messages’ though. I try my best.
Do you have plans on writing a novel?
Is writing a full time thing for you or just a side job?
No, writing is not full-time for me.
How can I be a better poet?
Be a better reader; every good writer is a good reader. Write; a writer is someone who writes and the more you write, the better you become.
If I write it is mostly a one copy thing, and delete it after it is seen. I don’t care for the attention but am very passionate. We are obviously opposite when it comes to attention. (Or so it seems) How do you deal with and had to adjust your life because of it?
I’m not sure I quite understand this question. You can’t avoid the attention to your person, unless you write anonymously.
Would you like to do a collaboration with me? ?
Do you have something in mind?
@poetolu ebook format or print format (or a combination of both)? What’s your opinion for a first time publisher?
There’s an on-going revolution affecting how people consume books today. First time publishing or not, one can’t afford not to have digital versions of one’s work out there.
Are you ever in Nigeria @poetolu? When next will you visit? When you do, cab you organise a meet and greet session?
Yes please. I had a ‘meet and greet’/book reading in Lagos, in December of 2015. There will be another one before the end of this year. Please watch out for details.
Have you read any of David Sedaris book? @poetolu his books makes me literally laugh out loud… And I see similarities.
I hadn’t, not until you mentioned him here. I went on amazon and checked out his works. I now have ‘Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls’ in my shopping basket. Thanks for the recommendation.
Hello ? how are you?
I’m handsome, thank you.
Oh and what’s up with the Clark and Lois thing you have going on with @thelotachukwu?
The Clark/Lois raillery is an inside joke.
Where are you from? When did you start writing? What inspires the satiric nature of most of your poems?
I’m a Nigerian, from Ondo State. I started seriously writing around 2010; that was when I began to consistently write and share my writings. I love satires. It helps to pass a message across very clearly. It’s like a needle cutting through water.
Sorry, is this Femi?
‘Sorry’, this is Tolu Akinyemi. 🙂
How are you so witty? Your poems crack people up but pass across the message, which is usually positive or something deep. It’s inspiring. How do you do it? Does it come naturally or what? I want to be like you. ??.
Thank you for the kind regards 🙂. I think it’s partly natural and partly learned. Anything can be learned.
I love what you do, you’re inspiring me a lot. Do you mentor people or take interns? If yes, how can someone be your intern?
Not really, but I’m always happy to respond to an email or a direct message when I can, if you want to run anything by me, please feel free to.
What books do you read?
Question already answered.
At what age did you choose to start writing publicly? Who do you look up to in poetry? What app do you use to create the images next to your poetry? And what advice would you give a 21year old writer who only recently started harnessing his gifts, thank you.
I was about 23 or 24 year when I started seriously writing and making them public.
My influences are quite diverse and atypical; Mike Rosenberg, Robert Kelly, Bukola Elemide (Asa), Wendy Cope, are some of them.
I get asked a lot about my social media designs. I don’t use an app, they are all done on a computer using Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.
Words of advice? Avoid clichés. They bore readers. Avoid verbosity. The goal should always be to say so much with as little words as possible.
Always look for unique perspectives when writing. Here’s an example. If I am asked to write about Suya (a popular shish kebab delicacy in Nigeria), It’s unlikely I would write about how popular or delicious Suya is; that would be a pedestrian approach.
I might however write about a cow that desires to leave the world, not perched atop a plate of jollof rice because the noble and honourable way for a cow to leave is as Suya wrapped in old newspapers.
When you can lockdown a unique perspective for a piece of writing, you have a great head start already.