On Self Reliance

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, from On Self Reliance.

I first read this essay in my teens, from something called The American Reader published by the United State Information Agency. It was my first introduction to America.

This essay, this part, has always given me something akin to goosebumps. Perhaps in my writing, I think, I shall someday touch the essence of Life in the way Emerson has done here? I think, if one manages this, how can it matter the things we are wrong about and the things we do wrong?

– Ra.


On the Aftermath

Suddenly, you can’t do it anymore. Playlists are sentimental spaces. This one is from just before a stormy period. All the damage is done now, all ways. The wind and the rain owe me nothing. Yet, beyond the devastation, there is half of hurt and sadness beyond what words can say.

– Ra.

On Intimate Partner Violence

I was just on NTA Network Service’s Good Morning Nigeria show, alongside a cop, Saidat Musa, from the Police Gender Unit, with a psychiatrist in Benin, a criminologist in Kaduna and an NGO activist in Lagos linked in. The subject was “intimate partner violence” and I tried to give a legal-oriented view of it, tying in the nature of crime and its constituents. However, because of the limited time and the full house of panelists, there are two things I wanted to say which I had no time to.

In northern Nigeria, we have this saying “wa za aura bazawara?” It’s meant to be a wisdom and also rhetorical–who marries the divorcee, who dares marry a divorcee, who is foolish enough to marry a divorcee, why would anyone marry a divorcee? All captured in one four-word fatwa. This leads to the stigmatization of divorced women in our society, and I’m told this is common in other cultures and regions, nationwide. To avoid this stigma, women have put up with a lot of abuse and internalized a lot of violence. This is changing as more women fight back in several ways, including violence and psychological counter-abuse. All lead to misery. Intimate partner violence. We should stop stigmatizing women, especially, but men also increasingly, who escape from toxic relationships.

Related to this. I favor an all-of-society approach to this issue of intimate partner violence. The educational curriculum, the latest learning from psychology and psychiatry and criminology and sociological sciences, as well as law and criminal justice, need to be scaled into a cocktail of interventions that will prevent intimate partner violence and at the same time change perceptions and punish perpetrators.

Can’t recap all I did say (because I wasn’t listening to myself 😌 ) but this is in addition to what I said on air, and I felt to put this out there as well.

Sorry I failed to give a heads up on the program.

– Ra.

What is “Konya Shamsrumi”? It is a new African Poetry Publishing House


Konya Shamsrumi? Four weeks ago, Kechi NomuUmar Abubakar SidiFunmi GajiRasaq Malik Gbolahan and I quietly launched a new project, a publishing house called Konya Shamsrumi. We had formed ourselves into the KSR Collective, and you might have seen the hashtag #KSRCollectivehere and there. Konya Shamsrumi is a poetry publishing house.

Our dream is, simple, to—
1. Create great poetry content, ranging from interviews to essays to poems.
2. Publish 2 collections (Richard, Sidi) and three chapbooks (Kechi, Rasaq, Funmi).
3. Sell 2000 units of our poetry box set of all five.

We started with weekly interviews on the blog and have published interviews, called “5 Questions”, with Unoma Azuah, Peter Akinlabi, Alexis Teyie and DM Aderibigbe. Our website has had 2,580 unique visitors who have dropped by 4,953 times. We are so pleased, thank you thank you. And many thanks to Umar Saleh Gwani, who made the first pre-order.

Our unusual name is a homage to the Persian Sufi poet, Rumi, who is strongly associated with a village called Konya (in Turkey) and his friend, Shams of Tabriz, who inspired a lot of his poetry. Poetry can be so much more when we share.

So, this tag is to ask you to:
—share this post and all our content when you see the #KSRCollective tag
—bookmark www.shamsrumi.com.ng and explore it today
—like our Facebook page www.fb.com/KonyaShamsrumi
—follow us on Twitter @KonyaShamsrumi
—visit our blog www.shamsrumi.com.ng/blog regularly and enjoy the content
—pre-order our box set www.shamsrumi.com.ng/order at a discount

If you have any inquiries, you can reach out to the Editor, Kechi Nomu kechi.nomu@shamsrumi.com.ng at any time. Partnerships and collaborations are welcome.

– Ra.

On Interviews

800px_COLOURBOX17916802‘Lastly, there is, of course, the issue of the media trial, and its attendant reality TV type dramatizations of opinions and remorse. Forgive this African but the West is looking increasingly like a continuum of tribes, this time based on what they call “communities”, and with tribes witch hunts are as natural as is blood feud and ordeals. I see this every week and I am worried. But this is our brave new world.’

I’m answering emailed interview questions. Very good questions. I write, wondering if my answers will be published. As a writer, the interview is one of your most important tools. You use it, where the questions are good, to clarify your thinking. You use it to plug the work of your friends you’re certain deserve to be looked up. You use it to find your own truths which, often than not, provoke others by questioning their neat little worlds. An uncensored interview where interviewer and interviewee are competent and matched can disrupt worlds.

That’s why I enjoy them. That’s why I do so few of them.

– Ra.

On Nigeria’s Millenials

1. Today’s youth irritate you because, often than not, the height of their engagement with anything Nigeria is a sneer. How sophisticated and worthy!

2. Beyond Nigeria, they have only engagements so-called. Slogans and cliches and outright naïveté.

3. The effect is a generation that’s certain someone owes them something, who imagine that being young and uncertain are values positive.

4. One acknowledges that these kids are thermometers of all that has come before. What I do not understand is the sense of entitlement arising from thoroughgoing complacency.

5. My generation came of age in the noughties. Arriving in a dislocated space, for the immediate generation were in Diaspora mainly, we self defined and self generated ourselves. We are on the wane, of course, and the point of the decline is fittingly 9/11.

6. Behind me, I see next to nothing concrete, the effects of points 1 to 4.

7. The generation prior to mine found themselves in strange encounters with exile. It just may be that, for mine, exile will be chosen because we have lost the language of experience and cannot seem to get across to the younger. Perhaps it is in the space of our absence that today’s young will finally look themselves in their society’s eyes and see their arms and legs and brains for what they truly are.

8. Perhaps, then, we shall have more than a sneer as the height of engagement.

– Ra.

On Prizes As Motivation for Writing

Blueprint Weekend Newspaper October 21/22 2017

I think it is a motivating factor, but it is not all there is to writing. Nor do I imagine that writers write in order to win prizes. Let me explain. Prizes are, in their nature, arbitrary and I have always thought that a prize is only as good as the quality of work on the long list. A longlist is entirely at the discretion of the judges, who have their tastes in literature and persuasions in politics, and which judges a writer cannot know until they are announced by the organiser. It is simply impossible to write to order in order to win a prize.

However, prizes are very important in the visibility a well-organized prize gives to the writer and his work. And then there is the monetary value, of course, which can make one feel good and be more comfortable in the high-risk game that is dedication to writing. So, prizes do motivate, but prizes are never why a writer writes. If his or her writing is to be any good that is.

Richard ALI

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