>May we meet you?
I [Praise] am a writer of Bini descent, a Virgo, and an overthinker. I’ve been said to be warm-hearted and humorous, it’s what I hold on to when life feels like a joke. I write poetry and prose, and I’m often experimental with my writing. I’m an admirer of all forms of art. I’m a conversationalist, a devotee of SFFH books, movies, and TV shows. I’m attracted to people, I love warm gatherings & community.
>When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’m the kind of person who believes in connection—the kind of vibe one feels that assures them that this is it. When I started writing a few years back, it was out of the intention to unload the heaviness in my chest and the excessive thoughts in my head. Like most people, I wanted to express myself. Soon, it became something I longed to do. I wrote often, so much that it became a norm. That was when I knew I wanted to be a writer. It was as though everything clicked, everything made more sense when I wrote it down. I felt connected withsomething magical, a wonderful stream of creativity. And I could channel it and birth wonders on a page. So I decided then that that was what I was going to do until I couldn’t tell if A is the first letter in the English Alphabet.
>In your opinion, what do you think makes a good poem?
I like to think that all poems are good, it just depends on the reader; and each of us has a unique perspective. That said, when we look at a poem, we can know whether it is well-written or poorly written. A good poem is birthed from amixture of certain elements. A good poem is one that stays true to its purpose. It’s one that is well-written—it possesses excellent use of language, good grammar, syntax, natural emotions, and, consistent diction, among other things. A good poem tackles an idea in the best way possible, using powerful images. It stuns and provokes an emotional reaction on the part of the reader. A good poem often reveals one’s mastery over craft. There’s an art to poetry that every poet should understand.
>Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you cope with it?
I don’t think that believing in it validates or invalidates its existence. I understand that some people experience writer’s block, but to me, I don’t. What I experience is exhaustion from frequent writing which often causes recent works to be poor. And most times, I just need to get away from writing and sort of recharge—which involves a lot of things. What I experience is the inability to perfectly convert an idea in my head to words on a page. To make it exactly as it appears in my mind. But the sad truth is that a lot of works don’t come out as we want. The times when I find it hard coming up with ideas are usually when there’s a theme, or a photograph or a word prompt, or anything that dictates what I should write. I’m the kind of person who wants to write what they want to write, so when that comes into play, it causes a problem.There’ll be loads of bits of ideas streaming into my head. It might take a lot of time, but eventually, I’ll be able to mold one or more out of it. Or I just drop it and move on to the next thing on my ‘to-write’ list. Most likely one that doesn’t involve too much headache.
>Where do you get your ideas?
I get ideas from just being alive. Every day, I make new memories and experience things, which most likely could generate an idea. I believe that there are ideas all around, we just have to pay attention. I get a lot of my ideas from what I observe, or what I witness. Sometimes, I get an idea before I even decide to write. Like it just falls from heaven, free andwithout stress. Sometimes, I get an idea from reading another writer’s work. Sometimes, an artwork or a photograph could spur something in me. Sometimes, I get an idea from theconversations I have with people. Sometimes, the ideas don’t come by themselves. I’m the one who digs and unearths them.
>What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
What often proves difficult to me about writing is finding the right way for expression. I could have something I’m trying to say, but then I can’t just say it like that. Editing and revising also prove difficult. It’s not easy rewriting or reworking or shaping a piece until it is good enough. It’s one thing to write, it’s another to shape the work. And when I say it’s not easy, I mean it requires critical skills. It’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It might take time and there might be occasional “Omo. I cannot kill myself”, but the work eventually gets done.
>Have you ever tried to write for a genre you rarely or never read?
I love trying out new things, and I love creating. But I always try to at least equip myself with a little bit of knowledge before trying out anything. Especially if it’s the first time. I also don’t write any genre or anything I’m unfamiliar with. I dislike misrepresentations. It’s either I don’t write it or I gainenough knowledge to attempt writing it.
>How do you process and deal with criticism?
I’m always looking to make my work better, to put my work in the best shape possible. So I do share my works with a select group of friends who are also writers, for peer reviews. I welcome their comments on my piece and suggestions for improvements. Asides from that, any random person could drop a comment on a work of mine via social media, or even straight into my DM—yes, I have received such. And not all are constructive or positive. What I first do when I receive criticism is to listen to the feedback. I read it over and over again to discern whether it is constructive or destructive, because these days, people disguise things. I check to see if there’s sense to what they’re saying, and it isn’t just confused talk or hate. I thank whoever gave the comment, if it’s constructive, and then I ruminate on it and how useful it is. I proceed to see how possible I can make use of it. In the end, it’s just a person’s view and suggestion. You are the one who chooses whether or not to make use of it. If it’s a destructive criticism, I decide whether or not they’re worth responding to. I try to control my emotions and not explode. If it’s intensely destructive or I feel moved, I let them know how I feel, I let them know that isn’t the right way to air their views and eliminate any room for future destructive criticism.
>Who is your favorite author and why?
I don’t have one favorite. I have a lot of favorites. For books of fiction, one of my favorites is Nnedi Okorafor. There’s no deep reason, other than she’s highly imaginative, and her work is a wonder. I also love Tomi Adeyemi’s books. Her ‘Legacy of Orisha’ series is amazing. For poetry books, some of my favorite authors are Warsan Shire, Ocean Vuong, Safia Elhillo, and Ilya Kaminsky. I simply love their poetry—everything about it—and feel connected to it. I often revisit their works when writing and/or editing.
>If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Determined. Dedicated. Daring.
PS: I’ll like to use this medium to thank the following people for their kindness, love, and support; Olaitan Junaid, Yvonne Nezianya, Anointing Obuh, Timi Sanni, Jeremy T. Karn, Boloere Seibidor, Sodiq Oyekanmi, Samuel A. Adeyemi, Semilore Kilaso, Martins Deep, Zenas Ubere, Timothy Ojo, and, Roseline Mgbodichinma, among others. You’re all amazing!
Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with us. We are super excited at the brilliance of your responses.
Praise Osawaru (he/him) is a writer of Bini descent. A Best of the Net nominee, his work appears or is forthcoming in Glass Poetry, The Hellebore, Ice Floe Press, Kalahari Review, Kissing Dynamite, and Roadrunner Review, among others. He was shortlisted for the Babishai 2020 Haiku Award and the 2020 Nigerians Students Poetry Prize. A finalist for the 2020 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize and the Shuzia Short Story Competition, he’s a recipient of the NF2W Poetry Scholarship. A Virgo and lover of the strange and speculative, he’s a prose reader for Chestnut Review and he’s on Instagram & Twitter: @wordsmithpraise.
This interview was conducted by Ohia Ernest Chigaemezu, for Arts Lounge.