My Brunel Prize for Poetry Win Had Nothing To Do With Luck – Romeo Oriogun
Welcome to another fresh and exciting episode of SyncityNG’s Literary Lords and Ladies, a show dedicated to showcasing the best of African creatives.
That’s right: Our guest on today’s show is the poet Romeo Oriogun!
Welcome, Romeo Oriogun. Thanks for joining us. Let’s get started. First question, where is the Brunel money?
Lol. Money come, money go, so we have to wait till it comes to ask about its whereabouts.
Lol. OK, this is the real first question. How did the Brunel Prize win come about? What process was involved?
Well, it was a competition I entered for and I was lucky to win. As for the process, all I had to do was enter ten poems for it and hope I was shortlisted.
Let’s talk about journeys. A lot of poets find it difficult to identify their unique voices. How did you hone your voice?
From the first time I read JP Clark I knew how I wanted to write but I had to do lots of reading and writing poems that might not see the sun to get here and voices evolve, so I’m trusting the process while waiting to see what will come next.
People say you won the Brunel prize because of the theme you chose to write about: LGBT. Do you think this may have given you an edge?
Well, I don’t think they gave me an edge. Anyone who knows the judges of the prize would know they will never compromise their standards irrespective of themes.
I also think people who say these things are ignorant and they should learn how to leave their hate behind.
When people say these things it shows what homophobia has done to us as a society, it shows that people still see homosexuality as something to be put down even when it has to fight to be seen, to even say I’m here.
Members of the literati say some poets do poetry for the International recognition and awards. What’s your take on this?
I think that’s a very biased opinion and I always wonder if those “members of the literati” know how long we’ve been writing. When there is no structure for the growth of poetry, then it is only fair that people look to places where the structure embraces young poets.
We also have to ask ourselves why young poets are looking outside Nigeria. The NLNG Prize for Poetry is a retirement home for older poets, we are encouraged to wait for our time and when is that time? I think we are taking our future in our hands.
We are also looking at way of building structures that will benefit those coming after us, so they don’t suffer what we passed through.
Your poetry is magic. So soulful. What’s the secret?
Thank you. I don’t know if there’s any secret, I just write.
Who is Romeo the poet?
Romeo is someone who loves to live on his own terms and I love poetry that is wild and free and I try to write that way.
A lot of young creatives are looking for mentors. Some end up being used. What’s your take on mentorship? Do you mentor?
I think young creatives just need to be careful, there are good mentors out there, the problem is we always get to ones who want to use us first and it closes our eyes so we don’t see the good ones.
I think mentorship is good, I had a bad experience though.
Care to share this bad experience so others can learn?
I had someone who wanted to censor my voice and wished I wrote about “safer” themes. While it may have come out of place of concern, it affected me and made me doubt so many things about myself and my poetry.
I tend to stay away from the ones who try to censor what I write about.
I am not yet in a place where I can mentor anyone, I’m still trying to find my space in the world and to take up the burden of mentoring someone will not be fair to me and to them too.
Let’s talk about your chapbook. How did that brilliant compilation come about?
The poems were written between 2016 and 2017. They were written because I wanted to explore what it means to be queer and to survive and find love in a country where queer people are criminalized. It is 2018 and we are not closer to any level of acceptance.
Where can we get it?
My chapbook is part of a lovely box set that contains other amazing chapbooks, it can be ordered from Akashic Books.
Would you like to share with us some of the things you have had to go through because of your sexuality?
I have a question from Anonymous. He says, “Hi SyncityNG. Please ask Romeo why The LGBTQ writers seems to be rewarded than the rest.”
I wonder how many LGBTQ writers have been rewarded, it is sad when people ask this question. Can people be judged based on merit? Do you see queer people asking that question? Since the beginning of literary prizes in Africa, how many queer writers have won prizes?
I also wonder they reward means in this case, their are different ways to be known as a writer and while prizes help, it is not the only way.
So, if he is talking about prizes then he needs to trust his process. The duty of a writer is to write, not obsess over prizes.
There is an argument on Facebook about the lack of wisdom on the part of LGBTQs who are vocal in NG. Can you react to this?
Is being vocal stupid? Audre Lourde said “your silence won’t save you” and if people chose to be vocal about their struggles it’s their lives, let them fight the way they know how and trust me, we know what we are getting into, we know what we have walked through.
Do you think social media is the best place to display creative works especially in this age of plagiarism?
Ajayi Dami once told me when I used to write poems as posts that when the time comes I will outgrow that part of my process. I think people have to pass through certain stages especially in a place where there are few places that publishes the works of emerging writers. Even when it is published in creative spaces, it doesn’t stop someone from plagiarizing.
There is a question from Mystique Synn on your life before and after the Brunel. Has the Brunel been the most remarkable win?
I think I’ve answered this. The prize has introduced my poetry to the world.
Let’s drop some subs (evil grin). Tell your editor what you wouldn’t say to his/her face.
I have an amazing editor. I love her and she knows.
Ojoro! We will not takeeeet! Now we’ll be asking a final set of questions.
1.Tell us how we can get your books
2. Advice for young poets
3. Advice for young LGBTQs.
4. How can creatives win?
I don’t know what win means here but as writers our duty is to write, so keep writing and living.
1. I buy my books from @PAGE_Book_C & AMAAB.
2. Young poets should read widely, the internet is collapsing borders, so go there and find your tribe.
3. The queer body is valid. Breathe.
That’s it on the show! #Synners make some noise again for Romeo Oriogun!
On behalf of Syncity NG, we remain loyal! Thanks for honoring our invitation.
Special thanks to our guest Romeo Oriogun for joining us.
See ya until we come again next time!!