An Exclusive Interview with Ifeanyi Jerry Chiemeke

Ifeanyi Jerry Chiemeke is an editor, culture critic and lawyer. An author of “The Colours of These Leaves“. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Agbowo, Inlandia Journal, The Question Marker, Bone and Ink Press, among others. A lover of long walks and alternative rock bands, Jerry lives a secluded life in Lagos, Nigeria. He is in the process of publishing his poetry chapbook, “The Vanilla Verses”.

–Our interaction started on Twitter when I needed to interview him over email, in August 6th, 2019. Jerry Chiemeke’s book and works had made peole’s response dignify on social media(s), twitter, facebook and Instagram. And am pleased to welcome him into our interview section.–

LIBRETTO Tell us bout yourself.

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: I’m Ifeanyi Jerry Chiemeke; lawyer, writer, mental health advocate, retired heartbreaker (smirks) and ‘mango-phobe’. I love alternative rock music, small chops, mob movies, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rihanna, abacha, Manchester United, and Nkwobi.

LIBRETTO: How long have you started writing?

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: I wish I could resort to the usual lines of “I started writing as soon as I learned how to spell words”, but that’s not the case. However, I’d say my interest in writing was piqued after a family incident: it was Christmas of 1998 and my elder brother, in secondary school at the time, had written a play for his school and was getting all the praise back home. I wanted the adulation too, so I tried my hands at some directionless scribbles which I imagined were ‘novels’. I soon lost interest though, thanks in part to my introduction to video games, and it was not until early 2011 that I regained my interest in creative writing.

LIBRETTO: What is the process of writing your first book like for you? Was it hard or easy when you were writing a book? Did you give it a second thought or you just decided to see your first book published? How long did it take you to write the book? What inspired the title “The Colours in This Leaves” and why this title?

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: (exhales) whew, this one is heavy.

Well it was really late in 2016, I was at a critical point in my battle with depression, I had turned myself in for therapy, and I had quit my job at a first-generation bank. I was having quite the melt-down on social media, and my father was worried, so he prevailed on me to take a break from the city of Lagos for a while and head back to Asaba. I got around to being officially diagnosed, and not only was I placed on medication, but my movement also had to be restricted.

Initially I was just scribbling on Facebook – I put out the words in whichever shape they presented themselves in my head, whether in lines or paragraphs – but then I was tired of “scaring” people with my posts that were bordering on the suicidal, so I decided to write how I felt in a private document instead. There were poems, there were very short essays, I didn’t care much about style or structure, I just penned down as my thoughts flowed in. At some point I felt I’d end up with a 70-page chapbook, but the words kept coming, the emotions wouldn’t stop rushing, and in time I was looking at a manuscript of 150 pages. To aid my creative process, I listened to a number of alternative acts and bands, including Mumford and Sons, John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band, Lana Del Rey and Florence & The Machine.

There were a very few pieces I had written earlier which were relevant to the “spirit” of the entire body of work, but most of the writing was done within a period of six months (November 2016-May 2017). When it was still in “chapbook size”, I mailed the work to a friend who said that the writing was good, but it was too “haunting and personal”. I was really unsure of how prepared I was to be totally open and vulnerable, but in many ways, it was all I could do: write, or keep quiet and just find a way to end my life. On many occasions I wanted to pull the plug on the entire project because I didn’t think I would be ready for the kind of reception such a deeply personal book would get: did I really want my entire life laid out bare for everyone? At some point the entire manuscript disappeared from my laptop, and I had to do a lot of rewriting, but in the end, I got it published, and that’s probably because it was meant to be. 

I wanted the title of the book to reflect a switch in emotions: you know how leaves that are green in Spring become yellow and then fall to the ground in Autumn, and then the cycle continues. I wanted to illustrate how fleeting and transient Happiness could be, and how Life is hardly the disco party we want. When I started writing, there was this female doctor I was regularly talking to, and she understood what I was trying to achieve, so we threw a few suggestions up in the air and “The Colours In These Leaves” just seemed to be the most appropriate.

LIBRETTO: Can you give us your favourite excerpt from the book.

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: Creating the personal narrative that is “The Colours In These Leaves” was as purgatory for me as it was draining. I did not set out to be “deep” or “profound”, I just needed an outlet for my conflicting emotions at the time. It would be difficult to point to one paragraph or page and say “this is the one I treasure most”, but I’ll do my best to share.

“Sure enough, you complained of a slowly forming gulf when I switched cities, and I admit that my off-colour statements made it harder for you to hang on, but I wish you had fought harder, just a little bit more. I wish I had spent a few more minutes in that hotel room with you, and if I ever had an inkling that I was never going to have my eyes run into yours again, I probably would not have been so quick to assist you in zipping up that yellow, flowery-patterned George dress.

I can’t really wrap my fingers around what meaning it makes, but I still love the way the letters of your name roll of my mouth, and the feeling they leave on my tongue.  I still wear that silver-coloured pair of socks and those white vests you bought for me three birthdays ago, and still head straight home on Fridays to be alone with my thoughts. I still adorn your old watch on my left wrist when I step out, and I still don’t like to sit astride the bath tub. I know you do not really need the information, but the blanket remains folded at your favourite portion of the mattress. Oh, the dog left, so you need not bother with hairs on those tight jeans anymore, if that blue pair of denims will ever march in, if you’re not too busy being happy to drop by.”The above excerpt is from “No Fly Zone”, a personal piece somewhere in the middle of the book which focuses on letting a good woman slip away.

LIBRETTO: Who are your favourite authors?

This question is expansive in scope, especially as you didn’t specify whether you meant “favourites of all time” or “favourite living authors”. Well I’m guessing you want me to mention both living and dead, so I’ll drop a couple of names. 

I love works written by Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin, Chinua Achebe, Buchi Emecheta, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Chimamanda Adichie, Roxanne Gay, Elnathan John, H. Rider Haggard, Marlon James and Toni Morrison. The list is, of course, not exhaustive, but we’ll probably need a Microsoft Excel sheet if I was to name all the authors I enjoy reading.

LIBRETTO: What genre of books do you read?

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: I read mainly Fiction, Creative Non-fiction, Poetry and Autobiographical books, in that order. I really don’t like motivational books; they bore me and a lot of them say the same things, however I understand that some people need them for self-development, and no knowledge is wasted anyways.

LIBRETTO: Do you have published works or articles? Where can they be found? 

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: It was in 2016 that I decided to move out of the comfort zone that was my personal blog, and start sending out works for publication. Kalahari Review and Brittlepaper were the first magazines to publish me. Since then, I’ve seen my fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction get published by a number of journals within & outside the continent. My work can be found in Agbowo, The Question Marker, Inlandia Journal, Kissing Dynamite Poetry, Bone and Ink Press, Thoughtful Dog Magazine and Nightingale & Sparrow, among others.

LIBRETTO: Could you share with us one story/poem you’ve been most fascinated by? Tell us why and share favorite excerpt/lines from it? And please tell us why this story/poem? And what prompt this story/poem?

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: I’m drawn to the emotions in Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s poem “Survive”, from her debut collection “Questions For Ada”. It illustrates the trauma faced by many women in today’s society as they navigate a world bedeviled by predators and manipulators. I think Umebinyuo is a really good writer, and I think her art is “necessary”.

Some women survive by

growing claws on their skin,  

    pinching whomever comes, 

    examining them 

    before cutting their claws off 

    to be liquid love. 

    Don’t curse them 

    for when the attacker came 

    she was liquid first; 

    she has just learnt her lesson. 

    Some women survive  

    by creating walls, 

    big walls guarding their hearts 

    and you say,  

    “let them in”  


    she has been covered in regrets, 

    crawled on all fours for her salvation. 

    Don’t curse them  

    for when her attacker came  

    there she was, loving, now  

    she has built her walls

This poem is relevant, especially when you consider how women are made to endure physical as well as emotional abuse, and live in fear of sexual harassment virtually every day. You can hardly blame today’s women for being angry, for being paranoid, or for their unwillingness to trust the men around them. The system is rigged against them, the system demonises them when they dare to speak up – the other day someone called feminists “children of disobedience” on Twitter – and they are exhausted from always having to look over their shoulders.

LIBRETTO: In a few words, what are your best wears?

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: I think of my sense of style as “safe” and “fairly boring”. I like stepping out with a round neck t-shirt and a pair of shorts on a weekday evening if I want to take a walk to the mall. I could try out my denim jacket and jean trousers with a pair of sneakers if I really have to go out on the weekend. If you want to see me on native attire, invite me for a wedding, or pray that I’m the mood to step into church on a Sunday.

LIBRETTO: Do you think the Writing industry can grow better in few years time?

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: While there’s still a lot of work to be done, particularly in the areas of publishing and sufficient remuneration for talent, I’m of the view that the industry is growing already. People are taking more risks with their craft, narratives are changing, and there’s fluidity with the sub-genres: there’s a lot more room for experimenting, the conversations are heavier, and there is hope for even more diversification. Afrofuturism is now a thing (cue TJ Benson, Suyi Davies Okungbowa & Nnedi Okoroafor), and the Romance Fiction sub-genre is rapidly growing (Amaka Azie and Kiru Taye are making their mark under the Ufere publishing platform). Much is being made about what kind of stories we are exporting to the West and the quality of the Prose, but more than anything else, I want to see an industry where writers actually support writers, as you see with music and Nollywood. We could be more, and when we start reasoning from a communal perspective, we will expand.

LIBRETTO: Do you have a specific time for writing? 

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: People say that writers come alive at night, but I don’t align myself with that school of thought. Some of my best ideas have come on a toilet seat at 2.47pm, so for me, the movement of the clock or positioning of the Sun has nothing to do with my process.

LIBRETTO: If you were to write a story/poem for a Writer/Author who would that be? And why?

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: That would be Natalie Lima. She’s currently one of my favourite essayists, asking all the questions and shaking all the tables pertaining to sexism, body-shaming and fetishisation of the plus-size woman. She owns her space, and I would like to outline her awesomeness in coherent prose.

LIBRETTO: If peradventure all social media(s) decide to go on vacation till further notice, give us three things you will be doing?

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: Watching old movies on my laptop, taking long strolls, and trying out new cooking recipes.

LIBRETTO: Drop your social media handles so your readers can get in touch with you anytime.

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: You can catch me up on:




Jerry Chiemeke website


LIBRETTO: In a few words, please describe your handsomeness/identity to your readers.

IFEANYI JERRY CHIEMEKE: (giggles) Ok, this question is really hilarious.

For a long time I didn’t think of myself in terms of physical features, I just felt all that vanity was stress, and I decided to channel that energy into being an intelligent, skilled creative. I hardly see myself as that guy whom a girl would stare at with any real intent when she walks into a room, for one I don’t have a full beard, and I was very socially awkward in the earlier parts of my adult time. The idea of being viewed as attractive has never been a point of interest for me.

However, I can’t apologise for the fact that I’m six foot plus, I’ve got nice eyebrows and I have shoulders that a woman could lean on. I’m a lot prouder of my gap tooth these days, and my receding hairline takes nothing away from the fact that I bring the best out of clothes (chuckles). In terms of personality, I am warm but elusive, I’m big on emotions, and I love my space to bits.

LIBRETTO: Ifeanyi Jerry Chiemeke, thank you for your time. Blessings!

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