On our third Literary Lords and Ladies show for the year, we tweeted with Logan February, fine boy poet and old soul who at only 19 has already made his mark on the literary scene. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Washington Square Review, the Adroit Journal, Vinyl, Paperbag, Tinderbox, Raleigh Review, and more. Logan February tweeted at us about his writing life, poetry journey, sexuality and the story behind his pen name. Like always, we’ve compiled the transcript for you to catch up on.
What happened to you? No offense but something must have happened to make you write this kind of electrifying poetry. What was it?
Lmfao. Wow! Well, I’ve always loved books and literature, but I found my way to poetry in the depths of a really bad depressive episode when I was 16, by reading the work of Sylvia Plath. I guess the sad girl poetics resonated with me and I realized I had to learn to speak too. But yes, mostly it was all of that terrible isolation that comes with growing up queer and mentally ill in Nigeria that gave me the space to explore my own self and mind, and become good friends with my imagination. Silver linings, right?
You know, sometimes I don’t see you as a Nigerian. Since 2017, you have managed to publish a collection of poetry. How to Cook a Ghost ’17; Painted Blue with Saltwater‘ 18; Mannequin in the Nude ’19. Q1: Where did you see light? Q2: How did you find the time?
A1: Writing and reading poetry was always about the search for light, which I think, in many ways, is sort of endless. My earlier work is pretty dark, but my newer stuff is softer and more romantic, so I’m grateful for the progress. I find light in poetry + art.
A2: Time, ha! There’s never enough time, especially because I’m a big procrastinator. But it balances out because I don’t go out too much. sometimes I can stay with my work and really crank out a lot of writing when I’m “in the zone”. But I try not to rush things.
@the_amazingama: Note to procrastinating self
Squad! I like to think you can be productive while procrastinating; by observing the world, reading a book, or just generally living life. I think of it as having myself on “input mode” which makes me feel less like a loser.
Would you say that your sexuality and the inability to express it fully in Nigeria shaped the content of your poetry? I watched you perform at @akefestival (@syncityng was official media partner), and I just wanted to shield you from the world.
Most intimately, my poetry is shaped by my inability to express my true/full self within my family. It became that place where I could say all those things that weren’t “allowed” and I could really test the limits of my desires in there. Poetry is home, tbh. Performing at @akefestival was really incredible! Just being able to share my work in that space (within Nigeria!) and no one was obsessed with the usual backward divisiveness, it’s something I was really grateful for, and still carry with me.
Wow. So poetry was (is?) kind of an escape route. And now that the world knows? How’s your family ‘handling’ it? Are they proud of their achiever son?
My family knows very little of my achievements as a writer. My sexuality is largely ignored by my siblings, and my mother is still oblivious lol. It doesn’t matter to me though. I guess I’ve grown thicker skin. No one can take my poetry from me, and it brings me joy
I’m really curious as to how many doors poetry has opened for you. Asides being a tool to finally express yourself and your sexuality, what other recognition has come from being Logan February the poet?
Well, I’ve got to meet so many incredible and talented people, and sometimes they’ve heard of me. I find that amazing! Also, all the really sweet messages I get from people who have read my poems and had them mean something, that’s really wonderful. I also have increased proximity to the publishing industry, which is super cool because I’ve loved books since I was a kid and was always curious about how they got made. Also got a dope job as associate director of @DvsngLbs, and I’m so excited for that to launch in March! I’m also going on a US tour through the spring and summer, which I think is awesome! My pinned tweet has more info.
You know, a lot of people never ‘make it’. Their poems never get [to be] read at festivals or get nominated for a prize. Some are never known beyond their 10 friends on Fb. What advice do you have for those who wish to be you?
Keep reading + writing + focusing on growth. Learn as much as you can, the internet is vast. Don’t take rejections personally. Take risks, challenge yourself. Believe in yourself and remember there’s no point in writing if you don’t like your own poems.
@mystiquesynn: Hello @SynCityNG, Logan February. 1. How did you get published back to back? Did the publishing houses seek you out or did you? 2. What’s in store for 2019?
I definitely did not get published back to back. Behind the scenes, the rejections were back to back, and sometimes I got a “yes”, these are pretty normal. I mostly sought out publishers (Submittable is a great resource for that) but at times I was solicited.
@brimah_: Right, that bleeds into my next question perfectly. What’s your stand on the old tradition of poetry?
Haha, it’s old! tradition is great, but we must never hold on too rigidly to it. I do think poets have a duty of learning the traditions before breaking them though, if only to appropriately understand the intentions behind them.
@brimah_: Apart from Sylvia Platt, who else is your biggest inspiration when it comes to poetry?
I tend to lean towards the women poets and generally, contemporary poets working in the present day. some of my absolute faves are @mafiasafia @DorotheaLasky @heatherchristle @lutherxhughes @TianaClarkPoet, Richard Siken and the ancient OG, Sappho.
@kwaku_kyereh: Hi Logan February, what’s your take on Insta-poetry?
Not my cup of tea. I don’t think poetry is something to be read in 6 seconds and scrolled past. So when you write towards that, you mostly end up with a shallow punchline. but I don’t speak against it because I’m mostly team “let people enjoy things”.
@the_amazingama: In Painted Blue With Seawater, your poems are accessible (favs in photos) I read with an airy yet haunting aura. Some people sneer at poetry that is at once accessible. What is the place of complexity in poetry, and do you consciously walk the accessible path?
I think the best poetry finds a balance between accessibility and abstraction/complexity, and also simplicity. I don’t want to write poems that go entirely over your head, but not poems that won’t make you think either. I guess poets should trust that readers aren’t dumb?
@the_amazingama: So if you were to be an editor or a judge, what would be the first thing that’d make you either toss a submission or advance a poem from the slushpile. Give us expo for future purposes plix.
Hahaha! It’s generally different with each poem, but I cherish poems that elicit a physical reaction from me (a smile, a sigh, a groan, a laugh) and poems that don’t worship sadness. poems that are simple and curious. And of course, I have no respect for poems with bigoted sentiments.
@the_amazingama Noted. No intensely sad poems anywhere near you. 🚶 🚶 🚶
Hahaha not exactly, it’s just that the sadness should be doing something! Some people just inject lots of sadness into their poems to give them “depth” and that’s not always necessary.
@the_amazingama: I get you. Do you think the Internet is contributing to or taking away from poetry in the grand scheme of things?
Big picture: the internet is definitely good for poetry. People just have to be intentional/conscious of what they choose to read, and not just what is immediately accessible on social media.
@K_tops: Logan February, on centering your sexuality in your poetry, considering the fact that it comes with certain risks and fears (I suppose), what/who gave you the bravery to defy those things and speak your truth, however forbidden?
I think a big part of it was when I left Christianity and became a Buddhist. It came with a lot of mental freedom. I remind myself that I live on this earth and am allowed to take up space. Also, listening to @mafiasafia’s (Safia Elhillo’s) Alien Suite made me feel free to explore my own story and internal tensions through poetry.
@UnkleTayo: OK, Logan February, has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems? What book are you reading right now?
Yes actually! My relationship with poetry and my poetics evolves semi-regularly. Maybe because I’m becoming a more experienced poet, or maybe because I’m growing as a person idk. But I’m open to the evolution. I have so much curiosity.
I am currently reading Homer’s The Oddysey (ridiculously slowly but that’s fine!) as well as Katie Ford’s Blood Lyrics + Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
Is there any particularly traumatizing experience you want to share with us? Caused by your love for poetry or freedom of expression? Someone out there may need to know it’s not all that rosy.
I’m not particularly interested in unearthing trauma, but if there are any young queer Nigerians on Twitter, my advice is, make the mute button your friend. Don’t let them get inside your head. And never forget that they are the ones who are wrong. Also don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad for writing/liking poetry. You probably have a more beautiful mind, and real ones know that dorks are always cooler than “cool people”.
I know Logan February is not your real name. Over here, we answer names with 14 syllables and surnames with 12. 😅 Give us the story behind the name Logan February and end the show with advice for young writers.
Well, my dad died in February 08, so when I needed a pen name (for freedom to write sad gay shit) I felt I had to take it as my name, to strip its power over me. Logan means “small hollow” and is just generally a sexy name 😂 So, yeah, Logan February.
OK. This has been fun, and it turns out I was nervous for no reason! My biggest advice would be: poetry may not change the world, but it can change the way you see the world, and that, in some way, changes your world. if it calls to you, embrace it.
SYNCITY And with that, we have come to the end of the show! Thank you @LoganFebruary (Logan February) for honoring our invitation. Amazing stuff, I tell ya.
Thanks to all those who tuned in. I love you all!