In conversation with Ajani Samuel Victor, winner of “prisoner of love poetry contest,”

Bio: 

Ajani Samuel Victor is a black writer and poet. He was the winner of the “prisoner of love poetry contest,” a Semi-finalist at the 2020 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize and he was also shortlisted for the 2020 Kreative Diadem Annual Writing contest. He is one of the contributors to SPRINNG Afro-eros anthology. His recent works are/forthcoming on Snapdragon journal, Blue Marble Review, WRONGDOING magazine, RIGOROUS, East French Press, Eremite, The Shallow Tales Review, PRAXIS, Augment Review, and elsewhere. Say hi to him on Twitter @solvic16 and on Instagram @fab_du_solvic.

TNR: Congratulations on winning the “Prisoner of Love” poetry contest. How do you feel about this?

Samuel Ajani: Thanks so much. I am so elated by it. I wrote and submitted the poem just some minutes before the deadline, which should speak volume of how excited I felt when I won.

TNR: When did you start writing poetry and who were your early writing influences?

Samuel Ajani: Hmm, I will say 2018, although I wrote “crude poetry,” in those years. My early writing influences were Boakye D. Alpha, Romeo Oriogun, and Adedayo Agarau. These men were the torchbearer to my art. I tried all I could to inculcate their wit into my poetry and I’m grateful for where I stand today. Even if I’m not at that “level” yet, I’m happy about the progress.

TNR: What does poetry mean to you?

Samuel Ajani: Eii (Screams) This question! Poetry does mean an ocean of things to me. It means life. It means joy. It means hope. It means tenacity. It means grief and ache. It means forgetting. It means remembering. It means burying. It means unearthing. It means rejection. It means acceptance. It means– a lot.

 I doubt the world can contain the words I would define poetry with.

TNR: What has been the literary highlight of the year for you?

Samuel Ajani: The fact that I can get my words out there, to a larger audience, that is it for me. All win nah win (laughs).

TNR: What book(s) did you read this year that left you wowed?

Samuel Ajani: I will go with Kaveh Akbar’s “Calling a wolf a wolf”. It is undeniable that Kaveh Akbar is one of the greatest living poets. The miracle of his language use in this poetry collection was superb. He conquered the technicality of poetry and made everything too easy. I really do have a lot of poems in that collection that I mull over and over again, but “Heritage” is my favourite of them all. The following lines of that poem ding and dong in my head almost every day.

it’s a myth

that love lives in the heart     it lives in the throat we push it out

when we speak     when we gasp we take a little for ourselves

TNR: What’s your view of the Nigerian Literary Scene?

Samuel Ajani: Growth. I’m still a young’un in the Nigerian literary scene, but I can boldly say we are becoming more visible than ever before.

TNR: Apart from poetry, what other genres do you write?

Samuel Ajani: At the moment, none other than poetry.

TNR: What excites you about a poem?

Samuel Ajani: Well, there is something that transcends language and imagery, I will say a feeling of relativity. The musicality of the lines. Recently, I read Romeo Oriogun’s poem (The sea dreams of us) and I was close to tears. The words were just in strata through a journey, a picture, a life that I wasn’t part of but got soused into. To be simple, the wooing power of a poem into its philosophy excites me.

TNR: Any advice for budding writers?

Samuel Ajani: (Laughs) I can’t believe I would get to answer this question. I am also a budding writer (chuckles). Okay, here is the advice: Read (poetry, fiction, guidelines, everything you feel expedient for your art), join a writing community (I am also proudly a member of the FRONTIERS COLLECTIVE) then write your voice to the zenith. The literary world is wide and to be one of the top voices, I’ve learned to be dogged, to be forbearing, and to trust the process. Don’t bite more than you can chew. Rome wasn’t built in a day… The sky is wide enough for birds to bask without colliding with one another. In the words of Samuel Adeyemi, “wonder will find you.”

TNR: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Samuel Ajani: Oluwa o! I see myself living. I have my projections and plans but the scripture says: “The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong… but time and chance happen to them all.” So, I only pray time favours me to establish my plans. Thanks!

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