Here is an exclusive interview between poet D. M. Aderibigbe and Poetry Reader Erica Guo!
D.M. Aderibigbe is a proud native of Nigeria. He graduated in 2014 with an undergraduate degree in History and Strategic Studies from the University of Lagos.
His poetry appears in African American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Hotel Amerika, Notre Dame Review, Poet Lore, RHINO, Stand, and Weave, among others, and has been featured on Verse Daily. He currently lives in Lagos, Nigeria where he is working on his first book of poems, My Mothers' Songs and Other Similar Songs I Learnt.
If you are unfamiliar with D. M. Aderibigbe's work, take a look at some of our favorites below:
What, or who, has been the strongest influence on the themes in your poetry?
What always impacts or runs through the themes in my poetry is the life I live-- this includes what I could tap from the lives of people around. So basically, I see my poetry as an opportunity to communicate with my past, which will somehow translate to my present and affect my future. And you know, it's a conventional knowledge that by tomorrow, today becomes a past, so don't be astounded when I write down today by tomorrow.
What are your goals when writing a poem?
I know my poetry is almost exclusively personal, but when writing, I always hope to speak to the world in general. Perhaps, due to my the kind of childhood I had, highlighted by a mother who was too timid to stand up to an abusive father, I always want to be a voice for that woman down the street going through some physical and emotional torture, for the unlettered mechanic on the sidewalk, who labours to have the kind of life he has drawn for himself with his mind...
What type of writer do you identify yourself as? To what extent do you consider yourself a Nigerian poet?
To all extent, I consider myself a Nigerian poet and writer. For one, I've lived all my life in this wonderful country, and I've really loved it. However, I do not allow my cultural affiliation or patriotism to colour my writing; that would be parochial and unhealthy, because good art is meant to be universal.
Have you written a chapbook? If so, what is your process for assembling a collection? If not, what do you plan to do?
Yes! I have a chapbook manuscript, which has been essentially cut out of my full-length manuscript. For me, the process for putting together a chapbook is just about gathering a handful of poems bound by a common theme, or a common geography. Of course there is more to this, but that's about it for me.
You mentioned that one of your favorite poets is Octavio Paz. Quote a short segment from one of his poems that you adore.
"Between going and staying the day wavers, in love with its own transparency. The circular afternoon is now a bay where the world in stillness rocks."
-From Between Going and Coming.
I particularly love this segment because it portrays the relationship between what has gone and what is coming-- showing that the past is wreathed in the present.
Let me mention that although I've had poets like Ilya Kaminsky, Natasha Trethewey and Naomi Shihab Nye influencing my craft more than any others in recent years, Octavio Paz's poems showed me what poetry is before the advent of the others.
From your experience, which countries' literature has a great influence on Nigerian literature?
Well, I'll say British/Irish and American literature. In high school, we were taught African literature and non-African literature. This non-African literature is composed mainly of British, Irish and American literature.
At a time, we were asked to read Nikolai Gogol's Government Inspector among other non Western literature books, but I can categorically say that the three literary cultures mentioned above have impacted Nigerian literature more than any other.
What do you think the future holds for Nigerian poetry?
I'm so happy with the new generation of poets emerging from Nigeria. I'm confident that many of them will become world renowned in the future and will take Nigerian literature as a whole to greater height.
Which writers do you admire the most?
Some of the poets I will recommend are Ejiofor Ugwu, Rasaq, Malik Gbolahan, and Dami Ajayi. Check these guys out.
Just for fun, please pick a stanza in "Alterego", which was previously published in Cadaverine, and explain its significance in the context of your poem.
"A woman wears the hands of her 3 children around her waist like multiple belts. She laughs with her budding futures, her joy cries – that's what I see. I see mum, me, and my two sisters, those are who I see. They become smaller, they go further."
This stanza to me seems like the most important in the poem became it serves as a link which joins other parts of the poem together.