David Ishaya Osu, a budding poet, writer and photographer from Nasarawa state, is a final year student of Urban and Regional Planning at the Federal University of Technology, Minna. In this interview with AWAAL GATA, he discusses how his romance with the arts started, his motives, influences, challenges and how Nigeria, where he wants to leave soon because it is a ‘sham’, kills creativity
Who is David Ishaya Osu?
I was born in October 27, 1991. I am the second of four children. I hail from Nasarawa state. I am an Afo native, and my village is Onda. Well, don’t ask me to speak the language for you [laughs]; you can pay me to be your interpreter, anyway. I write poems, and have had some published in journals and ezines. I am simply a worshipper of arts – the creativity and the beauty she makes. I am also currently in my fifth year in Federal University of Technology, Minna, studying Urban and Regional Planning.
When did you start writing and what motivated you?
The first poem I penned was in 2009. It was titled ‘What is love?’. But then, I didn’t consider anything I was doing as poetry or writing – I was rather searching through my naivety and the incoming thoughts of what or what not is the life I heard people make noise about. This was when I was awaiting my university admission. Mum loaned me a copy of ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ and a collection of short stories by E.E. Sule. After the readings, I was stimulated and was convinced deep in my heart that art and writing will make up my surname. And, so it started up until 2010 which I consider to be the year I started ‘serious’ scribbling of nonsense – I was a freshman, so the zeal was fresh and consuming. Basically, love was and is still my motivation.
What do you want to achieve through it?
Just like Remi Raji said; “the first duty of a poet is to make love’’. So, I want to share love, happiness, empathy, and inspiration by means of cooking words and as well making images for myself and people to taste. This ambition is not in any way forced by some Ten Commandments somewhere nor some hustle for a wage to be rewarded to me in the end per se; for me, it’s just a response to the breath I have been gifted with. It is, for me, adventuring into the forest of human feelings, the unknown, the complex, the sad, the forbidden, the good, the bitter, the sweet, the sacred. This, in the end, I see as harmonizing the personal with the universal; it is a reality of transcendence–for the paradise life.
Who are your influences?
Nigeria doesn’t motivate – It rather motivates hunger, anger, and many other deadly realities. Stones, phones, sounds, birdsongs, water, friends, hugs, kisses, moon, restlessness, hair, dress, sperm smell, garlic, films, pictures, landscape, flowers, etc. As a matter of fact, I am just as open as the heavens; I welcome, whoever, and whatever ill liberate, stir my imagination and succour me.
In what genre do you want to make your marks?
Well, I am not held down by any genre, or mediums of expression. I simply need only to make images of smiles, frowns, grimaces, make beauty beauty and make it beautifully. If these come through words, fine. If they come through photography, fine, still. You know, the whole thing now is really getting multi-layered day by day. Yesterday, it was music (mum got me harmonica, and later an acoustic guitar); today, it’s poetry and photography; tomorrow, only God knows what it will be. It may be dance, mathematics, painting, taxi-driving, modeling, catery, etc. It may just be anything, something. My point is, so long as I am free to express what I perceive in the astral realm and within, I just on track making my mark.
What is your overview on present Nigerian literature; are we getting things right; what areas would you suggest we do more?
This is a difficult one now. I have not read all works produced by Nigerian writers, so my sentiments would be my sentiments. The rise of writers is impressive and monumental. Social media is curing, in one way, the publishing wahala peculiar to Nigerian literature. I am not fully aware of the vibrancy within the literary academic circle, but I can presume that debates are ongoing. Or, may be the academics should extend their debates and criticisms to non-academic lovers of literature, so that everyone participates. Kudos to such groups as Abuja Writers’s Forum (AWF), the Ibadan ARTmosphere, Lagos Book Club, and others for the readings that have afforded writers the platforms to showcase their works as against the threat of letting their books rot in their houses. Sad what disasters of a country where the creative industry is given no chance to manifest!
Of recent Nigerian poetry, new names are emerging, and we hope more great crafts will emerge as a result. My desire would be that there is a non-stop inventiveness of poet-personas. Evolution of craft. And, quickly, I am anxious to see more Nigerian female poets critiqued.
Who are your literary role models and why?
I do not have particular models. I purely gallivant around surprising poems. Works that entertain my ego, my fear, anxiety, works that arouse me, and take through soul-discovery. I fancy humour in works, too. But, I am allergic to noise. A poem interests me, but another poem from same author wouldn’t. This is just a case of varying tastes, need and gratification quotient. I am fascinated at Uche Nduka works; the errancy in them truly stimulates my senses. Gabriel Okara, for the tonal flexibility. Emily Dickinson is a favourite. Sylvia Plath. Unoma Azuah plays a significant role in my development.
How do you want to influence socio-political change in your society through writing?
Truth and prophecy, beauty and humour, must never be suppressed, simple.
As a budding writer, what does reading mean to you? Tell me about the last three books you read.
Reading means taking a bath, a swim, an intercourse with the wisdom and discovery of other fellow humans. A child needs milk to grow; and, that’s what reading affords me. I used to think fine poetry meant big big grammars, but the more I read the masters, the more I understood how ignorant I was about writing. In addition, fellow poets as well have recommended readings for me that have and are still boosting my growth.
What challenges are you facing as a writer?
I fear that I may not survive the suppression the literary art is suffering in Nigeria. Nigeria is an enemy to imagination, and creativity. I want to evolve daily. The lack of libraries is also affecting my reading. When one cannot own his copy of book, for lack of money or how expensive the book is, then a local library should be his or her salvation. But, that’s not the case here in Nigeria. I have not read widely, and this is a challenge to my growth. I need to grow, I need my craft to expand, I need the internet to research. I want money to get published, to get a visa and flight tickets out of this oppressive culture. I don’t want to end in mediocrity. So, I must grow.
When are you going to consider publishing some of your works?
I have been publishing in journals and ezines. For my debut work, well, when she is ripe you will want to be drunk. Anyway, this should happen before one leaves planet