One of Africa’s finest Poets, Efe Paul Azino took some time to answer some questions about his craft and his journey.
He is widely regarded as one of Nigeria’s leading performance poets. Efe has been a headliner at many of the nation’s premier poetry venues. He is the founder and director of the Lagos International Poetry Festival, director of poetry at the annual Lagos Book and Art Festival, director of spoken word poetry at the Open Door Series’ International Cultural Exchange and the Lagos Black Heritage Festival. He is the producer of Nigeria’s first spoken word poetry theater production Finding Home and has performed at Johannesburg Arts Alive Festival, Ake Book and Arts Festival, Lagos Book and Arts Festival, Lights Camera Africa Film Festival, and British Council Lagos Theater Festival amongst others. He is an Osiwa Poetry Residency Fellow. For Broken Men Who Cross Often, his first collection of poetry, is published by Farafina Books.
- Tell us about the journey to the point you released your break-out spoken word piece, “This is not a Political Poem?
I started writing actively about fifteen years ago, a journey prompted by reading. I started out writing short stories. But every short story I wrote wanted to become a poem. The spoken word poetry circuit opened up in Lagos at about 2008. Anthill, a poetry and music event put together by the Okigbos (Victor and Funmi), was the first convergence point. This was also enabled by social media, Facebook particularly, which helped spread the word at little or no cost. Events like Anthill, Taruwa, Poetry Potter et al helped show the potential poetry had for created new audiences off the page. I did my rounds. Wrote more. Seized more platforms. Then signed a book/audio CD deal with Farafina in 2014.
- Do you have a philosophy for life that guides you?
I take each day as it comes. Plan your work as thoroughly as you can. Get on with it, don’t spend the whole time planning. Winning is somewhere in between.
- You have written and performed poems with themes of love, identity, advocacy, religion, and politics, do you feel a responsibility to contribute to something through your work?
Sometimes I do. But that’s entirely personal. I think you can be didactic without sacrificing beauty.
- Do you have mentors or artists that have shaped the nature of your work?
My greatest influences have come from literary fiction. I’m a big fan of Herman Wouk, Gore Vidal and Tolstoy. Maybe that says something. But I’m also fascinated by a relatively wide range of old and contemporary voices, from Langston Hughes to Seamus Heaney to Warsan Shire to Jumoke Verissimo.
- Are you creatively satisfied, and what advice would you give to upcoming spoken work artist poets taking this path?
I try to properly challenge myself. I have found tremendous value in dreaming up huge artistic endeavours, committing myself to them, and then trying to figure out how it’s actually supposed to work. I think that answers your question on creative satisfaction and serves as an advice to upcoming spoken word poets if I’m qualified to give one.