Interview by Lucas Coyne
David Ishaya Osu (b. October 27, 1991) is a Nigerian poet. His works have appeared in publications including: The New Black Magazine, Saturday Sun, African Writer, Gobbet Magazine, Elohi Gadugi Journal, The Kalahari Review, Ann Arbor Review, Sentinel Annual Literature Anthology (SALA 2012), Poetic Diversity, and elsewhere. David is currently exploring Japanese poetry forms, as well as polishing his debut poetry book. He is also a street photography enthusiast. Following the interview, we present two of his recent works.
In poetry, so much of a strong style comes from a unique command of imagery, in seeing the world in a different way and being able to express that to the reader. How do you think your background and past experiences have shaped your own thinking in this way?
First, I’d say that life is free. And so whatever carries life (of which everything does) is free and stands for their power and activity, whether stone or log or air or hair or bear or human. All these are becoming and de-coming and re-coming. Some sort of transformation and circling and cycling is how I see life.
So, it is true to say that my thoughts and feelings have added a bulk of flesh to my writing and art. However, it is truer to say that the other chunk of my thinking, writing and art, is not from outward experiences. I have lived and still live more inwardly than in most obvious encounters. This is not to disregard the events going on, no. I am rather pointing to the stirring in waters that makes you see both a flat shape and a globe-shaped air and a rainbow line all within a single water flow. I am talking about fantasy, imagination, trances, the temporariness of perspectives and its effects and whatnots. So, my past experiences are as much a face and phase of acne; while I move on with the becoming and building of the being that I am, and as I frolic with the inflow and outflow of comets in my universe. Illusions form only to be shattered by an influx or say a power supply in my spirit, which consequentially influences cerebrality, sight, touch, feel, movement, and so on and so on. Hence, kiss, whether experienced or not; snow, whether in Nigeria or not; menstruation whether experienced or not; all translate to my being a member of the universe. I feel I embody the manifestation and empathy and harmony of the past and the present and fate in my writing and art in general.
For instance, I have never travelled to Santa Fe in New Mexico (although I can’t wait to visit), but I have written a poem about the widespread legend of La Llorona. There is just no style for me, but spontaneity. What even is the shape of the air we breathe in and out? I simply see myself and the things I practice as air. I am an allegiance to the paranormal and natural states and none of the above-mentioned. The imagery I simply observe and pull from dreams, from fantasy, imagination, from a stone without shoe, from a book with boobs, from a soldier ant huger than a hill, from a river running to catch my legs, from the feeling of my afro as the crown of life, from the fear of losing a souvenir, from a kid teaching a doll how to dress, from the bald head that feels like Zuma rock (laughs), from the woman I see myself in, you know, the images just play this way and that way, wind being my driver.
I simply see life as a fruit salad so is writing and. Everything. All in one.
What media do you enjoy – literary as well as art, music, television, or film? How has it also contributed to your own writing in a thematic or stylistic way?
I enjoy all. I am myself a visual artist, so film which is photography on motion appeals to my senses. I cannot, by a bit, deny any of these mediums. I won’t. You know, music is to me the production of heartbeats. These pulsating movements and sounds in the activity of the heart are what music carries: Jazz, rap, blues, country songs, juju, makosa, etc. I am open to any kind of music. In a way, I see the literary as the observation and capturing of mental pictures, fleeting rainbow colours, and vibrations. I see writing as the broadcast of vision, of everything transiting, all of which are performing in a distant plane, somewhere in the firmaments. But here are we terrestrials privileged and free to televise what’s going on within the outer space and the space within.
I’d say that the major contribution of this to my art is simply enjoyment, illumination, empathy, communion, and the release of creativity.
A couple of your works mention books, but rather than being solely signifiers of knowledge, the context emphasizes incompleteness or conflict. Is that an intentional subversion to imbue a more straightforward symbol with new meaning?
It’s both intentional and unintentional. For instance, one of those poems was written in the library. And here I was with other people seeking light from heavy books. I was writing and researching when I raised my head to find a girl in the next cubicle already dozing with her head and arms spread on her books. She was also sweating. So the poem came out sporadic. Later, I got to discover that the girl was actually ill. So, my question was: why go through such rigour even in a not-so-comfortable situation? It was a telling experience.An irony.A metaphor. And I related it to life: the whole pursuit of happiness yet a seemingly no disappearance of war, poverty, emotional conflicts, and so on. Life is so contradictory was one point I was thinking in that poem–the ‘book metaphor’ provoked thoughts on the disarrangement of living and ideas and illusion and their effects. It is negative and positive; feminine and masculine; chaos and harmony; knowledge and ignorance; meaninglessness and meaning. This suggests something nearest to balance or balance itself. Yet, the making of books will not end neither will seeking and illumination end. With this, I am just being a part of the strong wave across the erratic course of humanity, calling for unity and transcendence.
In that vein, are there any particular symbols or imagery that you find yourself returning to often, that resonate with deeper meaning?
I’d disagree with myself if I say a no or a yes, because I am not programmatic in my creative endeavours. Poetry being a vehicle, I am more on an exploration; travelling through the deserts, the snowhills, the swamps, the rainforests, the floodplains, the highlands and lowlands, the tundras, the seabeds and what have of you of creation. I meet strange phenomena that shock and shake preconceived ideas. As a free spirit, I am open to sadness, to pain, to depression, to dispossession, to numbness, to voicelessness, to blurs, to wreckage, to the distortion of my perceptions, to both the forbidden fruit and the sacred in the course of every adventure of a poem; this is because everything ever, to me, revolves round the ever-expanding circle that the universe is. And so because creation and its creator wear more than seventy (70) trillion dresses, and I am myself habituated to the urge to wear same. This is central to my existence: no censorship, no control, no suppression. To me, poetry happens at the time she happens (or not) and within the poet’s craft. But I can tell you that I am aware of the particular force in me. It’s Eros. I am just too obsessed (laughs).
Finally, as a young author but one published in numerous, diverse places, what has been your approach to establish yourself as a poet? Do you have any advice for someone else who intends to walk a similar path?
I love and honour my poems and every other thing I create or destroy. Love is key, you know. My approach is the freedom to relate to people and perspectives, the freedom to share observations and humour and prophecies and beauty with those who will read and not read me, with the faith that the poetry will provoke whatever she wants in readers. Reading and writing and interactions with soul have been core. I read other authors, and also read to myself and friends. Arguably, writing is a solitary venture like other trades. But then, a cook cooks, so a writer should write, isn’t it? Frankly, I do not subscribe to a thing as establishing myself as a poet; what I believe in is that I am just being the energy inside me, growing and expanding; and I am grateful for this blooming, and also thankful to journal editors.
My advice is simply that everyone should love themselves and sail across their oceans till they cannot find the end.
Poetry by David Oshaya Osu
she came to
the library to
and solitaries and
the meaning of her name,
it was the door glass
where her face had
leaned into, that
told me this –
in the library
the only peace is that
of books in war with readers
this town is
an unripe yolk
that cannot survive
it gives you the feeling
of nearing hospital bed
with a face made
would you sit
under the same tree that
shows your late mother’s
even if you do not wish
to live as one poem
in an unfinished hardcover