“The essence of every piece of writing is to create something new” -Nwachukwu Egbunike

Nwachukwu Egbunike is a Social Media Researcher, blogger, essayist and author of the collection of essays, Dyed Thoughts: a Conversation in and from My Country (2012). In this conversation with Sogo Faloye, he talks about his new poetry collection, Blazing Moon, and encourages emerging writers to be persistent.

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Blazing Moon is a celestial reflection of creations that surround us; it is also a digital extrospection that brings those familiar experiences to the fore. Could you please elaborate on these themes?

The themes are as varied as the experiences of the poet. It was not a deliberate crafting to tell a premeditated story. Rather the poems came into being by themselves with a brutal forcefulness that consigned the poet to a spectator, merely a servant to the themes that came in the book. The division of Blazing Moon into eight sub-themes was an afterthought, an attempt to assert some type of order. Thus these eight themes express varying experiences. My Story is Mine paints a portrait of the intimate battles that flooded my imagination. The constant tension of contrasts: stories of mine, are like tar, luminousness and dark, they blind and blaze (p 10). This contrast does not cease here, but continues with the poet daring others to paint theirs in Yours is Yours. This subtheme is particularly interesting as one penetrates the façade that masks the actions of people. Then the introspection to the extra mundane – the so-called celestial themes: this comes from a love of silence. We are a generation enveloped in noise yet very lonely. The irony of it is that the more we seek to immense ourselves outside ourselves; we are thrown into more loneliness. Yet the greatest void is covered with something simple, to contemplate – to hold that conversation within. This contemplation of things high under paves the way to suckling from wisdom’s breast in Wisdom Songs. The last dominant theme comes from the digital space of social media. But this media is alive with conversation, with people and such has stories…

There is a wave of avant-gardism in the collection. Some verses seem like tweets. The last section treats the internet fad known as hashtags. Hashtags and posts by online activists, some of whom have been accused of paying lip service to the causes they claim to champion and the gullibility of followers; of what significance is the internet in the socio-economic setting of today’s Nigeria?

The essence of every piece of writing is to create something new. Obviously my triple immersion in social media as a practitioner, scholar and advocate was certainly reflected in the collection. The question among media scholars is no longer how social media has impacted on the public, but how this impact can be sustained. For a developing nation like ours, the new media rise coincided with Nigeria’s democratic evolution and its attendant freedom of speech. The ability of citizens to freely interact with their leaders, to speak directly to actors, to hold them accountable, etc. are intrinsic to the participatory nature of social media. However, there is also a corresponding responsibility that netizens should not abuse this right of free speech to mean free spite. Besides, active citizenship also entails autonomy, the ability of people to subscribe to a view and work out it consequences. Sadly in many social media platforms, the influential people play on the gullibility of their followers. This is what I have referred to in other writings as the Google It Generation: people who have ample access to new information, but lack the critical depth to distil it or the historical foundation to appreciate it.

Nwachuku Egbunike – The Essence of Every Writing

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You made ample use of rhetorical questions; do you sincerely hope answers could be given to the questions bordering the masses?

The questions were used essentially as medium of expression. As a writer, I never intended to propose all-knowing solutions. That’s not what writers do, we ask difficult questions and hope that those queries lead us and others to make tough introspections. May be later, we might find the courage to frankly seek solutions.

“…Beauty is substantial, Beautiful is accidental…” How do you attribute beauty to being? What divergences are there in our perception and actual experience of beauty?

In his book, Categories, Aristotle established the supreme genera to which all predications of beings can be reduced. Of the ten categories of Aristotle, substance holds the prime place for it constitutes the substrate for all the other categories. Only the substance is in itself, whereas the other types of realities (accidents) are merely “affections” of the substance. In other words, only the substance exists on its own whereas the accidents subsist in the substance. Thus beauty is substantial, in that it exists in the person. What we consider beautiful therefore is subjective. All that is, for the mere fact of being (existing) are beauty, good and one. One can say that beauty “simpliciter” (by its being) is substantial while beautiful “secudum quid” (according to its actions) is accidental. This analysis of beauty flows from the universality of metaphysics, investigating the first causes of reality. The central characteristics of all things are that they are “beings.” Beauty is immaterial, it dwells in the substance. What we consider beautiful is thus accidental because we “impose” our own criteria of beauty on a substance. The oft-recycled statement that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder is fallacious. Beauty is the property of the beheld.

It could be safely assumed that you are a preacher of self-realization in the collection, how has this enhanced your message?

Perhaps I am one or just a pretentious contender of self-realization. I do think that the reader of the collection should be the judge in this case…. (laughs)

You profess love for the cities of Ibadan and Enugu, how have these cities impacted your creativity and development as a writer?

Enugu is the city of my birth while Ibadan has been my home for more than a decade. Obviously both cities lay a stronger claim on my identity as a Nigerian. It is only natural that they have influenced my creativity and development as a writer. The Orient Literary Group Enugu was the cradle that nurtured my creativity. I was still in secondary school but I rubbed shoulders with writers like Anaezie Okoro, Ifeoma Okoye, Mary Okoye, Oziomma Izuora, Ray Odenigbo, etc. It was a small group but highly impacted my writings. Sadly, the group no longer exists. These are one of the tragedies that have befallen the once literary capital of south-eastern Nigeria. In Ibadan, the WriteHouse group provided the needed push. This renascence of the Mbari spirit still makes Ibadan the literary headquarters of Nigeria.

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Your experimentation with Yoruba and Igbo languages shows your knowledge of the two cultures as reflected in this collection. How has this intercultural blend, informed your understanding of Nigeria?

In the previous question I have showed how Enugu and Ibadan moulded my identity. It is only natural that I drive my thoughts with a vehicle that can capture the nauseas and intricacies with precision. But language is not only a medium of expression; no it is more than that. It is the carrier of my identity, civilisation and worldview. This cannot – no matter my competence – be effectively transmitted in English language. That’s why translation has always been a risky business. If that is the case, why should I be ashamed to interlace my writings with Igbo and Yoruba? The French and Italians do so in their work with no apologies but we are so eager to adopt another language to tell our own stories, odiegwu! That’s simply agbaya behaviour. Nigeria exists as a political and geographical expression but there is nothing like the “Nigerian” cultural expression. What we have are diverse cultural civilizations that make up the Nigerian experience. The earlier we wake up to this reality, the better for us.

Blazing Moon is your debut poetry collection, how long did it take you to put the collection together?

Actively, it took two years to put this book together. However, the collections contain poems that I wrote as far back as 1992.

And what advice do you have for emerging poets out there who would one day like to publish a collection of their own?

Never give up for a writer is a word hustler. Never accept no for an answer, pile up the rejections but don’t allow them to discourage you. Seek like minds to encourage you and to be your worse critics – both are essential in improving your craft. If you are consistent, sooner than later, o ga-adi mma!

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