Soonest Nathaniel is probably one of the few whom we can describe as “Slam-masters” in Nigerian poetry scene today. He recently won the “You-Poetry contest”, even while he’s working on a forthcoming book. He shares the secret to how he wins poetry competitions and more here…
EGC: Please introduce yourself:
I am Soonest Iheanyichukwu Nathaniel
EGC: Tell us about how you started writing poetry:
SIN: It's tempting to say I started writing as a toddler, but my parents have no records to back that claim. From the time of my consciousness though, I can say I started off between primary 4 and 6. I used to be a shy guy when it comes to the ladies, so usually I'll see a girl I liked and would send her lovely letters and great poems as adjudged by my friends as of the time. I won't say it was successful most of the time.
EGC: Is there anything/theme you stand for as a Poet?
SIN: Virtually everything positive, I see the poet as a voice of direction, a voice of truth, a voice for justice; these are basically what I stand for as a poet. It must be noted that the terms 'direction, truth and justice' go deeper than what they mean on the surface, i.e they encompass a lot more.
EGC: Tell us about what you do apart from Poetry?
SIN: Apart from poetry, I work as an administrator and educator for a college. Teaching like poetry to me is a calling.
EGC: You write and perform Poetry. Tell us which you would want to dwell more on in future and why.
SIN: I'll say writing. This is because whatever needs be performed must first be written. So as long as I am writing, you can be sure that performance will always be there. You can’t perform what you haven't written.
EGC: Do you have mentors in Poetry, both home and abroad? Who are they?
SIN: As with every skill, art, trade and vocation; everyone needs a Mentor in his or her chosen field. Nothing is new under the sun, so you must find someone who has successfully done it before, under-study them and forge your path to find your feet… In poetry we say, 'find your voice.' for me there are many who I look up to.
In my younger days, it was Kongi himself (Wole Soyinka), then I discovered Bruce Boston, then came Esiaba Irobi, Christopher Okigbo and Niyi Osundare. I have also found mentors in Efe Paul Azino, Plumbline, Dike chukwumerije and of all ladies, Donna. I trail them when it come’s to spoken word. There are some others though that go beyond mentorship; they seem more like family and friends.
EGC: Is there any poet(s) you consider to be friends/allies on the poetry scene?
SIN: There are very few poets I consider friends/allies. First on this list will be members of my poetry family 'Lyriversity' consisting of ( Solar Okoye Charles, Chika Tito Jones, Aquilla Kalagbor). Then my great friend and brother 'Dr. Dami Ajayi', then my big bro 'Chijioke Amu-Nnadi and my God-mom 'Brigitte Poirson.
EGC: You seem to have a drive to enter poetry competitions, and many times you win. Tell us about the ones you have won.
SIN: I do not enter poetry contest, just for the prize money or to be adjudged best overall, I enter poetry contests that my voice may be heard. I've been lucky to win a couple of times. My first real award was in 2010 for Nigeria @ 50. Then followed FUTO writers award 2011. Then came Korea-Nigerian Poetry Prize 2014. In between all these are numerous awards, and noble mentions. 2015 came with its blessings. It came with a book deal and just mid-way, You poetry came up, nothing so special or so large. Contests only make you grow stronger & better.
EGC: What would you say is your secret to winning poetry competitions?
SIN: I'll advice that to win you must follow all instruction. Follow the deadline instruction. And pick a perfect time to send in your poems. If there is a theme, search thoroughly... Take a different angle of view.
EGC: What do you think will help poetry to grow in Nigeria?
SIN: Let us all who have passion for poetry come together to put up a good show to create the proper awareness as to the presence of poetry in our society. We must encourage our friends and families to read more and attend poetic gatherings.
EGC: What would you say you stand for as a Poet?
SIN: Voice of truth, Map for direction, pillar of justice
EGC: If Nigeria were to be a country of Poets and you become the president, who are those people who will be in your cabinet and what will be their roles?
SIN: If I were president, I'll get back to you on this one, but you must note that regardless the post, Nigerian poets are capable.
EGC: Do you have poets whom you can call yourself their mentors and you are proud of them?
SIN: I think I can lay a few claims; first on that list will be my son and brother, 'Increase Nathaniel. Chika Tito Jones is a son in whom I am well pleased. Aqulla Kalagbor is yet another protege.
EGC: Any message for Poets coming behind you?
SIN: Study and you shall be approved; you have a call and must be ready to live up to the expectations. Follow those ahead of you. But beware, lest you begin to sound only like your mentors and in the long run, begin to be like them .
EGC: Thank you for your time.
SIN: Thanks for having me