In a chat with Azeezat Olayinka Okunlola, joint second place winner of “prisoner of love poetry contest,”

TNR: Congratulations on your joint second place finish in the “Prisoner of Love” poetry contest. How do you feel about this?

I feel excited! Well, I haven’t been in the competitive literary space for a while now, and just when I was getting my boots back on, this happens! So, yes! I’m excited and I feel encouraged to push my writing even more.

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

I was about twelve years old, when I started. I read a lot of anthologies and I also listened to spoken word poetry. Until now, some of my greatest influencers are Maya Angelou, William Ernest Henley and Robert Frost.

TNR: What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry is an opportunity for me to express myself in the most beautiful literary languages possible as concisely as possible. I’m a fictional writer, but then I also understand the need to say so much with few words and the impact that has on its own rights. Poetry has always been my escape into a world I do not only wish to explore but also an opportunity to look into my dark experiences and make something of it, something others can relate to.

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

‘Poetry is everywhere!’

TNR: What book(s) did you read this year (2021) that left you wowed?

I’ve read anthologies like The Odor of Death, The House that Built Me, and this year, I’ve also read works of great poets like Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, along with prose works like The Devil’s Pawn, Desperate Desires, The Letters of Pliny, The Inferno, etc.

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

I believe literary artists are gradually finding themselves and stepping into the light. Having watched literary bodies like Poets In Nigeria put together literary events and initiatives for poets and writers across Nigeria, both in institutions and without, and looking at the hike in numbers of submissions, it only shows how much interest people have in literature and it’s commendable. Plus, it’s positive feedback.

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

I write prose fiction.

TNR: What excites you about a poem?

The way the language is woven, the message, and the literary devices, if employed so well.

TNR: Any advice for budding writers?

I know writing isn’t an easy task. I’ve also heard a lot about people having writer’s block, but I believe it’s most times due to lack of preparation and poor planning. No matter how creative we want to be, the muses won’t bring any inspiration to us when we try to bare our souls on paper if we do not already have the right words, vocabulary, writing style and literary language registered in our heads. This means that to write, you must be willing to read and explore the works of other writers, tap into their wealth of knowledge and use of language, and then carve our own signatory style.

Once done, writing becomes easy and the words flow with ease.

TNR: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I see myself, having won various literary awards, scripting for shows that would speak to the hearts of people.

Author’s Bio:

Azeezat Olayinka Okunlola, born in Port Harcourt on the 19th of June, 1999, is a writer, a poet, a blogger, a columnist and a content strategist.

She has been shortlisted for the Glass Door Poetically Written Prose Contest, and has featured in AFAS Review (Issue 2), Pin Quarterly Journal (Issue 8), Save Our Future Initiative, and Communicator’s League Journal.

She hails from Atiba, Oyo State.

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