Congratulations on your Pushcart Prize Nomination. How did that make you feel?
The Pushcart Prize Nomination came as a huge surprise to me. I was not expecting it, because it wasn’t even up to a year since I’d found the confidence to submit my works. I have been writing poetry since 2015, and people have always told me how much they loved my work. I was and I’m still a member of different poetry groups. I didn’t have the time, resources, tools, confidence and knowledge on submission to journals and magazines until I attended Transcendence Poetry Masterclass in June. Coupled with the lockdown, a new phone and improved power supply, I got all I needed to dive into the world of submissions.
I was thrilled that my work finally got recognition as big as that; that my efforts haven’t been in vain. I feel glad that the goodpeople at Feral not only resonate with my work but they think it deserves a Pushcart.
Your poem “Walking” nominated for the prize really fascinates me. There is this saying that you can’t really say what makes a good poem. You just know, when you see one. “Walking” is a sweetly sad poem. It consists in the act of reaching for that which cannot be possessed. Desire.
i reach for your hands.
i fall, my hands clasps the wind not
I think I’m just curious, Rahma, as to what inspired this poem?
Lol. This is quite hard to answer. I will say a lot of experiences inspired the poem but not romance as the poem seems to portray. The year 2020 brought an end to several relationships which I valued so much and it still hurts. The poem is a mirror to everything I ever lost. Every person, every dream, every want, everything I ever wanted and didn’t get. The lines towards the end of the poem that, “I count the ceilings, I count the window panes…” were gotten from my mom. She is smart with words and unlike my dad who will pamper you when you don’t get what you wanted. My mom would tell you to count the ceilings or the stars, or any other smart remark that finds her tongue at the time. Times we say we were not going to sleep or eat because we did not get what we wanted. This fascinated me so much as a child and got me thinking. And these days I find myself counting the ceilings, shadows or window panes when I can’t sleep at night.
Off the record, can you borrow me your mum for a while?Lol. She may have words to help my life laidis.
Loool. Don’t mind her.
“North Peace / But Pieces” and “We Found Love in Protest Streets” seem to be socially committed. Do you think that writing informs change?
Like RMG said, in his recent interview on Con-Scio Magazine, The Lockdown issue curated by Kukogho Iruesiri Samson, “I hunger for change, but I am aware that writing doesn’t change everything. Instead, writing creates a debate. It resists oppression. It gathers songs and chants. It reveals what seems to be blurry.”
I agree with RMG, writing politically inclined poems, may not directly influence change but indirectly they tug at the consciousness of the society, they wake up a tinge in the mind of the readers and push the society for change and betterment. The popular axiom, “a pen is mightier than a sword” best justifies this. The pen intrudes into the mind of the society, the mind is what conceives and decides before action. Also, writing for social change is a form of documenting our histories, of recording our stories for generations unborn.
What was the piece of writing that had the biggest influence on you?
I read a lot as a child, and most of these books had a lot of influence on me. I relied so much on books while growing up. But a book that influenced major decisions I took in my life, is Ben Carson’s Think Big. I read it at a very decisive time in my life and it gave me the courage to follow my heart and go for my dreams.
Who are your favorite Nigerian writers to read?
Nigerian writers are amazing and I’m proud to be a Nigerian writer too. I love to read Itiola Jones ever since I discovered her, Aisha Oredola’s stories are compelling, Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, Adedayo Agarau, Ayeyemi Taofeek, Chinua Ezenwa Ohaeto and recently Micheal Akuchie.
What has been your greatest challenge as a Nigerian creative?
Honestly, money has been and I think is almost all Nigerian creatives’ greatest challenge. We need money to get access to resources, to tools for better writing. I am a writer, I do not even have a laptop. I can’t buy books as I’d love to because I am just a broke student. Life is hard for Nigerian creatives. Most of us have to work even as students to survive.
Have you ever experienced writer’s block? How did you manage it?
Yes, late 2019 towards early 2020 I could not write and I was not able to submit for the NSPP. It was painful, I was frustrated with writing at that time because I did not know what to do with my craft. I went in search of other things but writing is home, I came back to it! But not until a picture prompt inspired me on Writers Connect WhatsApp group in May, I didn’t write.
How do you feel about book clubs and literary communities? How does it help to have one?
I think every writer needs to have a community or club. It aids growth and companionship. My writings have been shaped by these communities for years. Writing is a lonely journey and belonging to a community of like minds can be very helpful. It connects you to a lot of amazing people, gives you a sense of belonging and encourages you.
Also, you find a lot of writing opportunities in these clubs and communities. They also give you wonderful experiences through readings, outings and literary events.
I am grateful to communities like Writers Connect, Poesy Writers, Artmosterrific, Spic Family & especially PIN. Also, I am grateful to my mini writer’s club —The Playful Writers which was founded after the Transcendence masterclass and inspired by The Unserious Collective, consisting of Abu Bakr Sadiq, S. A Ibrahim, Timi Sanni, Sulola Imran, Abdul Hadi Halima, Aisha(The Ishvita) & recently, others.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading December by Elizabeth H. Winthrop and Autopsy by Donte Collins.
Are there other things you do apart from writing?
Yes, I am a student of Mass Communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, if that counts. I also do a little bit of smartphone photography and smartphone graphics design.
What writing projects are you currently working on? Should we be expecting a chapbook this year?
I am not currently working on any writing project but I am working (still in my mind) and hoping to publish a chapbook this year.
Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.
Bio: Rahma O. Jimoh is a poet and nature photog and writes on humanity, identity and politics. She’s a lover of nature and tourism. She has been published or forthcoming in Ninshar Arts, The Hellebore, Serotonin and other literary journals. She was a joint winner, Pin 10-day poetry challenge, 2019, Second runner up in the Poesy writers contest 2019, a top ten in the Hysteria writing contest. She is a 2020 Pushcart Prize Nominee. She is Poetry Editor for The Quills and Contributor at Best Of Africa.
She tweets @dynamic_rahma
Follow this link to read her poems. https://artsloungenyc.com/2021/01/13/name-as-the-genesis-if-a-childs-identity-rahma-o-jimoh/