The newly crowned winner of the 2017 NLNG sponsored Nigerian Prize for literature has granted sabinews his first interview since winning the prize.
Ikeogu Oke, who likes to describe himself as ‘The Poet’ won the coveted prize which comes with a $100,000 prize for his poetry collection, The Heresiad.
Commenting on the prize Ikeogu, poet, journalist and public commentator said – “I am humbled by and grateful for the experience.”
And continuing in his usual self effacing manner he added that the win is not his alone. “It is a win for Nigerian poetry, African poetry, world poetry, poetry qua poetry.”
And in response to what the prize means to him personally Ikeogu allowed that “it offers one an opportunity to contribute more meaningfully to the growth of poetry, literature and the arts generally, in our country, continent and globally. I look forward to the associated responsibilities with enthusiasm.”
Ikeogu also responded to comments on his sticking to a particular rhyme scheme – the heroic couplet – all through the collection. Was it tough and given the chance would he do it again?
“It wasn’t [tough], and rhyming has never been tough for me,” he began. “I think I have cultivated a facility for it. And I think in the case of The Heresiad there were forces beyond my control that made the rhyming inevitable. But whether I will do it again depends on the circustances.”
Reacting to a question describing poetry as the “step-brother” of other genres, Ikeogu begged to differ.
“The French poet Charles Baudelaire described poetry as “the queen of the facilities”, implying something like literary royalty. That’s the description of poetry that I would rather identify with than consider it a step-brother of other genres. Then, to answer your question this means that one more poet, working with other dedicated poets, now has a unique opportunity to help attract to poetry the recognition it has always deserved but has not had as much as it should in recent times or literary epochs.”
Will “The Poet” become a novelist, someday? Ikeogu avers that poetry is his native calling.
“Poetry seems to come more naturally to me than the other genres. I would call it my native or natural genre, my metier. But I also recently concluded work on a novel which has yet to be published.” – Toni Kan.