Rasaq Malik Gbolahan (RMG) could be described as one of those Poets whom upon seeing him you know he is one of the future of Nigerian Poetry scene. This young man who is presently an NYSC member in Benue state shares insight into his works and his person with us at EGC media.
Here is an excerpt from one of his advices: “Poetry is not something you do in your leisure time. Poetry is life.”
EGC: Please introduce yourself
RMG: Rasaq Malik Gbolahan was born in Iseyin, Oyo state. He had his secondary school education in Iseyin, and his tertiary education at the University of Ibadan. He is presently a corps member serving in Benue State.
EGC: Tell us about what you do apart from poetry.
RMG: I sing. I find bliss in singing in my native language - Yoruba. Also, I write in Yoruba. I have a Yoruba novel in progress.
EGC: Tell us about how you discovered you are a Poet.
RMG: The journey started during my secondary school days. My literature teacher, Aunty Lizzy would read poems and engaged us in interactions that covered poems like 'On His Blindness' by John Milton, 'An African Thunderstorm' by David Rubadiri, 'Song of Sorrow' by Kofi Awonoor, and many African poems. Through the reading of these poems, I was stirred to write my first poem for the late lawyer-activist, Gani Fawehinmi. Even though I didn't know him until his demise, I had heard my father, who till today is an avid reader, talk about Gani. Later, when I got admission into University of Ibadan, I met a friend who helped in paving my path in the world of poetry. He recommended some poetry books that really aided my journey as a poet.
EGC: Which of your performance is your most memorable? And which of your written poems do you like most?
RMG: I have performed on campus and outside campus. I remember my last performance at the Trenchard Hall, University of Ibadan. It was during a convocation party organized by the Dean, Faculty of Arts, Prof. Aderemi Oyelade Raji. That night remains indelible in my heart. I shared the stage with Laff up. Also, the hall was filled to brim by Lecturers and Students of the Faculty of Arts. It was really a wonderful night. For my poems, I believe in every poem I scribble. I find it difficult to pick the best out of these poems.
EGC: You write and perform poetry. Which do you think is more effective?
RMG: Both are effective. It depends on individualistic perspective. Writing poetry is like carving a mask that will be unveiled through performance. Performance brings out the hidden beauty in a poem.
EGC: Who are your favourite poets and why?
RMG: Every poem is important. As a reader, you need to explore these poems like a map. Sit and pay a keen attention to every line. You'll be surprised that there are poems that linger even after you no longer read them. Some poets are wonderful. The way they weave words is mesmerizing. Anyway, the first thing I look for is diction. The handling of poetic language should be effective. If you want to appeal my mind as a poet, prune your diction. Jumoke Verissimo's debut collection is always the first on the list. I hope her second collection surpasses her first collection. Jim Harrison is one poet I just discovered. His poems interrogate the mundane, the things people forget to talk about. Jim brings these things into existence through poetry. Sometimes his poems sound funny. He writes about delicate things in a memorable way. Clifton Gachagua is another poet whose poems mirror life in an astonishing way. His poems shock and haunt. His poems go to the streets to gather experiences. Warsan Shire does very well with her style. I like the way she writes about women. I discovered her after she won the Brunel Prize for African Poetry. D.M Aderibigbe is one poet who is really doing good with poetry. He inspires many of us to write more.
EGC: Do you consider yourself to be an established poet or an upcoming poet. Please give reason for your answer.
RMG: I'm an upcoming poet. What matters to me is consistency. One should believe in what he/she knows how to do.
EGC: Is there any poet(s) you consider to be friends/allies on the poetry scene?
RMG: They are many. We have the likes of Kayode Olla Taiwo, Shittu Fowora, Damilola Aderibigbe, Olaitan Olaniran, Oladele Noah, David Ishaya Osu, Emmanuel Oluwaseun Dairo, Saddiq Dzukogi, Soonest Nathaniel, Rahman Biola Toheeb, Adewale Oreshade(Abu Irfan), Ayomide Festus, Enoch Ojotisa, Oluwasegun Romeo Oriogun, Adedayo Agarau, Tunde Oladosu, etc.
EGC: What do you think will help poetry to grow in Nigeria?
RMG: Poetry needs to be supported by people who see the beauty in it. Here I'm not talking about politicians who embezzle our collective resources. Also, it is a thing of joy that literary gatherings have started booming everywhere. In Ibadan we have the Society of Young Nigerian Writers, the brainchild of Wole Adedoyin. It's a platform for young writers to hone their writing skill. Femi Morgan and Servio Gbadamosi are doing well with Artmosphere. In other states we have literary clubs that see the need to revive the culture of writing in Nigeria. We have ANA (Association of Nigerian Writers). This exists in every state.
Anyway, we still need more. Poetry is not something you do in your leisure time. Poetry is life. Also, we have young Nigerian writers who are in need of tutorship. Recently, I was reading T.S Eliot's 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,' when I found out that Ezra Pound took the whole thing upon himself. He helped Eliot in his journey to limelight. He made it possible that the poem was published in many great journals. Toni Kan does something like that. He helps writers in publishing their literary pieces. We need more people to help young writers achieve their dreams.
EGC: You had a swell time doing poetry while at University of Ibadan. How do you hope to keep yourself afloat especially when you finish NYSC.
RMG: Performance continues. It runs in my blood. I love it. I’m passionate about it. I don’t see that as a problem. Presently, I'm working with some of my students on 'Piano and Drums,' by Gabriel Okara. I hope to stage it next month. After NYSC, there will be time to further.
EGC: Do you believe in entering for poetry competitions? If yes, how many have you entered?
RMG: Yes. Can't remember.
EGC: What would you say you stand for as a poet?
RMG: For Justice. For what some would call Marxism. For what Osundare echoes in his poetry collections. For what Tosin Gbogi attempts in his debut poetry collection. I have written poems to address the societal ills and incessant political imbroglio that rock Nigeria. I have performed poems that address the aches of the common masses. In Nigeria we struggle to exist. People die daily. Boko Harams invade houses and burn our kinsmen. There is no place to rest one's head. The earth is full of burnt bones and skulls.
EGC: As a poet, where do you hope to see yourself in the next 5 years?
RMG: I'm presently working on a Yoruba novel. I see the need to propagate my language. I'm done with my poetry collection. In the next five years I should have my book published.
EGC: Any message for poets coming behind you?
RMG: The first thing Jumoke Verissimo did was to recommend 'Letters To A Young Poet,' by Rainer Maria Rilke to me. I recommend it too. Every aspiring poet should read it. It helps a lot. Also, every young writer should be passionate. Passion is what remains when hope fails. Don't relent. Read until the candlelight fades. Don't forget to write!
EGC: Thank you for your time.
RMG: Thanks for stretching your hand of love here.