Akor Emmanuel Oche is a Nigerian Poet, Critic, Essayist and thinker. He is the secretary of the Africa Haiku Network. His haikus have appeared on Pengician, Failed Haiku, Under the Basho and the Mamba Journal among others.
What drew you to enter for the competition?
Haiku writing for me has been one of those things I do almost on a daily basis for the past two years. After being re-introduced to two short poetry forms in 2015, the Haiku and the limerick, I feel in love with the haiku more because it has to do with nature and i am an unrepentant lover of nature. Since then, I have been writing one haiku a day.
I have always being one of those skeptical about poetry prizes, especially in Africa, I believe it is always saturated in politics and is never fair in its judgments, moreover, awards and recognition are not what makes a writer what he is, they only give him public valediction (my personal assessments though) but after seeing the names of those who made up the judging panel and putting into consideration that this contest had nothing to do with online voting, I thought it wise that it was time I entered my haiku for a contest.
Adjei Agyei-Baah and Emmanuel Jessie Kalusian are two haijins I trust so much, I have been working with them for some time now in my office as General secretary of the Africa Haiku Network/ regional ambassador and I can safely say that their judgment is close to infallible, when it comes to African Haiku. So yeah! The AHN co-founders and my colleagues where the inspiration behind me submission.
Two more people I cannot fail to mention as co-inspirers are Taiye Oguns, who constantly reminded me via chats not to forget that I had a contest I must enter for, then my fellow shortlisted poet, Anthony Itopa Obaro, my statesman, who was the first to alert me when the call for submission was publicized. A big thank you to all fours.
Do you have a particular personal story with haikus?
I have had plans for some time now to write an article I titled A JOURNEY INTO LIFE THROUGH THE NIDDLES EYE: MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH THE HAIKU FORM to be submitted to the Mamba, the thought of it came to me on a sweet afternoon while I was heading somewhere natural to feel nature and write one or two ku’s for the day. Thinking the essay through, I realized that I actually don’t have a haiku story or suffix to say, I have forgotten how, why and when I wrote my first haiku. This amnesia, I cannot tell if it was self induced, psychological or natural, but what I do remember is that sometime in 2015, some interesting haikus about the sun written by Ehi’zogie Iyeomoan I read on Facebook, fired me up from my slumber and launched me into serious haiku writing. Soon after, I joined the Africa Haiku Network and was appointed Publicity secretary by the bored. Prior to this, I had submitted a few haikus here and there, some got published others rejected and here we are still growing still learning.
What do you feel towards the shortlist in general?
Ahh ahh ahh the shortlist hmm!
Firstly, as I have said, I trust the judgments of this years’ judges to be 100% unbiased, apolitical and sincere plus being aware that the contest was blindly judged, what more can I say than that I am very satisfied with the shortlist.
Babishai gets more innovative each year and so does the African haiku form (Afriku), let me seize this opportunity to thank the Foundation for the good work they are doing with haiku promotion in Africa, this years’ shortlist is an evidence of it, some new names have emerged in the haiku world because of this contest and many other secular poets in Africa have also embraced the art form.
Everyone familiar with the haiku family in Africa can testify that this years’ list was both as shocking as it was pacifying. Some expected names of haijins making serious impact with the African haiku made up the major bulk of the list, while the others are made up of new converts embracing the art form and to our surprise are doing very very well with it. It is enthralling to see many of my friends on the list, I won’t mention names but will just say, the list was well selected and let the best man win.
What motivation do poets need, to keep writing, in this ridiculously competitive world that vies for their attention?
“He only observes Nature in awe through the lens of many eyes all at once. He documents it all for his own enjoyment. If this later gets to fulfill a higher calling in the life of humanity, then fine and good, if it doesn’t, all the same, he moves on to other things awaiting his own demise. It’s simple for him. Chaos or peace, life goes on until each man meets his end…” This is a quote from my recent publication on Medium describing what the true poet is.
Writing as I understand it and as I was taught to understand it, is personal business. Being a writer, like being a Christian, is first about personal salvation before it becomes a thing of mass conversion and conviction. What kills the fire in many writers in today’s H I G H L Y COMPETITIVE world, is the pursuit for immediate glory, the internet and the fake lives it portrays about everyone has introduced a negative craving for recognition in writers, there is little or no time for delayed gratification and craft honing anymore, and when a writers expectation is not met, it becomes easy for other issues of life to steal his attention; family, friends, work, marriage, poverty, lack et al. I have always held the notion that the true artist is that person who can create a masterpiece in the closet of his room, where no one can see it, later locking it up or destroying it without losing sleep. Writing, for the matured writer, is like sex, most people have it every day but none gets angry or worked up for not telling his friends every day how good he was in bed the previous night; it should be a normal way of life.
Writing is much about character as it is about talent, at the onset or early stages of being a writer, everyone poet must learn to turn his passion for the pen into a strong habit, that is the only way he can still have enough time and energy to create masterpieces when other worries of life scuffles for his attention. Inspiration is for the beginner, motivation is for the occasional practitioner but habit is the foundation on which masters are built.
If your 2017 submission was food, what would it be?
A native delicacy made out of meshed corn seeds, green beans, vegetables and lots of palm oil. It is native to the Idoma people of middle-belt Nigeria and can also be found amongst the Igala people of Kogi state and the Igbo people in some parts of Enugu state, both in Nigeria.
Igbari! not only because it is native to my people—the Idomas— nor because it is my favorite local dish but because, like the character of my haikus, Igbari is very loose in appearance—more like Jellof rice when cooked—but very rich in nutrients. Its loose nature allows enough space for many other condiments to come in. in my case, my haikus allows enough space for many individual interpretations to come in.
Read Akor’s Babishai haikus here
the town crier’s voice
summons a crowd
Akor Emmanuel Oche
the modulated chirping
of hidden crickets
Akor Emmanuel Oche
We at Babishai, congratulate him again. The winners will be announced at the #Babishai2017 Poetry Festival dinner on Sunday 6 August at Humura Resort, Kitante Close. Cards are on sale at 40,000/- Call +256 703147862. The full festival programme is here.
The full winning haikus are here: