Servio Gbadamosi is the award-winning author of the poetry collection, A Tributary in Servitude. He is a publisher at WriteHouse Collective. Sabinews spoke with him at the just concluded Ake Arts and Book Festival and he shared his thoughts on new poetry, publishing and winning the Association of Nigerian Authors’ (ANA) Prize.
Sabinews: How did you feel when you found out you were nominated for the ANA Prize?
It was a good feeling really. I felt that would give my book more visibility than it had before it made the shortlist. The book was written over a two-year period and the initial draft was ready as at April 2008. But it wasn’t published until February 2015. I even lost the original manuscript and some more along the way but I was able to retrieve some earlier version through the support and cooperation of friends. I went back to work on the retrieved version and here we are today. A Tributary in Servitude is a book that took me so long to write and so long to get out. So I was glad that more people would get to know that this book had been written and that it is available.
Sabinews: What has winning the ANA Prize done for your self esteem as a writer?
Winning doesn’t feel any different from writing. I’m still the same person I was before the prize was announced. Am I glad that I won? Yes. But I believe that everybody on the shortlist is equally deserving of the award. I had read Dami Ajayi’s Clinical Blues, Nwachukwu Egbunike’s Blazing Moon, and Terseer Samuel Baki’s Euphoria of Sophistry long before the shortlist. I had also read majority of the titles shortlisted for the ANA prize for prose and the Abubakar Gimba prize for short stories before they made the shortlist. These are books I enjoyed reading and would gladly recommend to anyone who wants an insight into Nigerian literature today. Prizes help in drawing more attention to books and the hard work that writers are investing to birth them. It is a recognition that I believe will serve as an encouragement for me and a vast army of emerging writers out there who are giving serious attention to the development of their craft.
Sabinews: There has been a proliferation of young poets, putting their work out on blogs, on Facebook and social media generally. What are your thoughts on the quality of work you’ve seen?
I think this is one of the best times in the history of Nigerian literature, in that there’s so much flowering; people are coming out, there’s an abundance of writing. Of course, the question of quality arises whenever there’s an abundance. But you need to know that this is the digital age, the age of social media. A lot of the writings being published on blogs and social media generally are usually the writer’s first or second draft. I started writing before social media became the vogue. I didn’t expose my first drafts to the whole world. They were shared privately with a circle of friends and influencers who would say, ‘you can make this line better; you can improve on this.’ Then you go over it again. Sometimes it takes days, sometimes it takes weeks, months or years. But in the end, the work and writer are better for it. Patience is a virtue we all have to learn. It makes all the difference. These emerging writers are following a creative and evolutionary process similar to ours. The difference is that technology continues to improve access to and amplify the reach of their first or initial drafts.
I read and follow a lot of them online. We meet and interact at Artmosphere and other literary events round the country. There are lots of amazing gifts and talents and it will be wrong to access them solely on quality. They’re all going to get there. Now, maybe not all, but those who have the commitment and the drive will.
Sabinews: You are a publisher as well as a writer and your book was published under your publishing house, WriteHouse Collective. Do you think your book is good enough to be published if you didn’t have your company and had to send it to a different publisher?
Yes, an emphatic yes. A Tributary in Servitude speaks boldly for itself. WriteHouse is a collective, a closely knitted and disciplined collective. We had published Dami Ajayi’s Clinical Blues, Towunmi Coker’s Promise of the Future which won the ANA/NECO Teen Author Prizein 2007 and Olubunmi Familoni’s Smithereens of Death which won the 2015, ANA/Abubakar Gimba Prize for Short Stories, before mine was released. We do have a strict manuscript assessment process and my book still had to go through it. It had to pass all the tests we put the books we’ve published so far through and when that was done, they considered it fit and decided to publish it. I don’t see any conflicts of personal interest arising because we have policies regarding who we publish and how we assess the books. We don’t publish for awards, we opt for works that we believe have promise. We do not have all the funds in the world but there are still risks we can dare to take.
What we believe in is situating ourselves in the future of publishing, in the future of African writing. And that future is found in young and upcoming writers. We are carving a niche for ourselves as the go-to publisher for the young generation.
If you were not a writer what would you be doing?
Two things; I’d probably be a priest or a farmer.
What’s your favourite kind of literature?
I think by default and because I’m a poet, I’m sympathetic to poetry, so I read a lot of poetry but basically when it comes to my reading tastes I just read anything. Once it catches my fancy, no matter what it is, I read it. No matter the topic or theme as long as it appeals to me, I pick it up and read it.