Bash Amuneni is one of Nigeria’s foremost performance poets. His poetry is laced in love, memory and the subtleties of the human condition. He has performed poetry at various platforms including Kaduna Book and Arts Fest, Abuja Literary Fest, Hausa International Book & Arts Festival, Lagos International Poetry Festival, Poetry Africa International Festival in Durban,South Africa, People Journalism Prize for Africa 2019 & most recently at SLAMeroun Int’l Festival ,Cameroun.
In December 2017, Bash was a guest performance poet at the European Union human rights night .He was also a guest performance poet at the commissioning of The African Development Bank building in Abuja by the Nigerian Vice President in 2018. Still in 2018, Bash Amuneni was the guest Performance Poet at the 73rd Session of the African Parliamentary Union (APU) Congress held in Abuja. Listed amongst the 10 most influential performance poets in Nigeria by YNaija in 2020, he was commissioned to write the poem, “This Is How We All Win” for the USAID’s Health Workers Programme Launch in Nigeria in 2021.
He is the author of the collection of poems, ‘There Is a Lunatic in Every Town’. Bash Amuneni is also an Architect and Audio Book Narrator who recently narrated the International audiobook version of ‘The Whispering Trees’ for Recorded Books USA and performed the poem “Call Us Glory” at the launch of Scottish Malt Whiskey brand ” The Balvenie” in Abuja , Nigeria. He performed most recently at farewell dinners in honour of the Deputy Consular of the Irish Embassy,Abuja and the Managing Director of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority.
Hello, Bash. We are beyond pleased to have you join us.
Thank you. It is my pleasure and I appreciate your kindness and patience always.
What prompted you to become a writer? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and how did you work towards actualizing the dream?
Before I was 13 years old, I stumbled upon a collection of poems somewhere in our little home within a military base, bordered by wild farmlands and a river, and there, the magic of poetry enraptured me. By the time I was in Senior Secondary School, I was further blown away when I encountered the poetry of Richard Ntiru, Odia Ofiemun and David Diop. Then, I would jump at any opportunity to recite the poem ‘Africa’. And since, I have been fascinated with emotion in language and now as an adult, how poetry has become a very powerful tool for changing narratives and elevating conversations. Those powerful emotions I felt whenever I rendered this particular poem, that touch on the nerve of post-colonial African renaissance, is perhaps one of the reasons I am a poet today.
How do your poems develop? Please guide us through what the stages of writing a poem is like for you and how you know when you are done with a poem.
My poems are actually the products of the over flow of raw emotions and an attempt to put them in structure and forms that make poetic sense. I am never a method writer. I scribble a lot actually and later try to rearrange them in a proper form. So as the thoughts come, I write. I am never sure if a poem is finished. I stop where I feel it is best shaped within the context of its existence per time.
Has there been any radical changes between how you wrote your first poem and how you write now?
Radical will not be the word, but there has been changes. Poetry evolves as the human experience evolves because it is a discipline that lives off personal experience, emotional situation per time, space and world view. As your craft and language skill level develops, your poetry too evolves.
How important is research to you when writing, and in what specific instances has it been a defining factor?
Sometimes research is the heart of new materials, new language and new forms. Some themes can not be properly expressed without good research. It just makes sense to be a constant student. My current collection of poems is a research-based anthology, it interrogates the place of material existence and uses the metaphor of the body in pre-historic and historic times to engage language and complexities of the human condition.
What do you think makes a good poet succeed, and what are some of the literary trends and artistic troupes you believe has impacted the thematic essence of the modern poetry the most?
To me, what makes a good poet to succeed would be originality of thought lettered in very beautiful language. The troupes I see a lot are woven around unpacking trauma, while employing metaphors of water, the sea, mother and vulnerability.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your poems? What personal experiences have influenced your writing the most?
Yes I have! None has been that generous to be shared across a lot my poems at the same time. But most poems have different personal experiences at different times woven into them in bits.
Apart from writing, what other profession would you have chosen?
To be an Architect and Visual Artist
Do you think there’s such a thing as a bad poem? I think so.
A poem that lacks originality of thought and defiles fine use of language or form. I will consider that a bad poem
How does one even begin to judge poetry? Are there some yardsticks that help you define a “good” poem from a not so great one? And what are some of the stylistic innovations you feel has elevated the art form in the last twenty years?
Some of the yardsticks will be originality, fine use of language, best arrangement of words and all the poetic forms that matter. The stylistic innovations will be the emergence of troupes around the unpacking of trauma, urgency of phrases and vulnerability as a form itself.
What was the process of writing your book “There is a Lunatic in Every town” like and how long did it take you to write the book?
Most of the poems in the collection had been written a long while before the book was published. Like I said, I am not a method writer. I just felt it was time to share some of my poems with the world and I did.
The book title “There is a Lunatic in Every town” is catchy and fittingly poetic. Why that particular title? What are the boxes you think a good book title should tick for it to appeal to readers?
I wrote a poem with the same title and felt the title was ridiculous enough to be used as a book title. I didn’t give much thought to it really. I think a good book title should be easy to remember, original and honest to the writer.
Do you ever regret sharing your work publicly? Do you trust the reader in a world of instant gratification and haphazard communication to appreciate the quality of your work?
I write with the hope of making connections. I have never regretted sharing any of my works of literature. I try not to be too critical of the readers’ space. I just write and share. Fundamentally, if your writing is worth its salt, it will find its place in space.
A lot of people have spoken about contemporary poetry in Nigeria. In your view, what do you think about the state of contemporary poetry in Nigeria, and what direction would you like to see it take?
We are in a good place. However, it can get better with proper support. We need more awards, residencies, festivals and platforms.
The recent NLNG Prize for Poetry was a break from the norm, with the three finalists being writers who started out being derided as “social media poets”. Do you see this as a turning point in the Nigerian poetry community in terms of the message it sends to older, more traditional poets?
This definitely is a turning point for Nigerian literature. At the end of the day, we all want to see the growth of the literary space and this is a right step in that direction.
Are there any types of book you don’t enjoy reading? Or do you believe that there’s value in all forms of writing regardless of theme, style, and intent?
I believe there is value in every form of literature. One just needs to know the vision you have for your writing. That vision normally directs what materials you read.
Has a poem ever humbled or frightened you? What was it? When did it happen and what did you do afterwards?
Humbled or frighten will not be it. Inspired in new ways, yes. That will be some poems in Nomad by Romeo Oriogun and some lines off the pages of the Sahara Testament by Tade Ipadeola
So, finally, what are you working on next? What should we look forward to?
I am currently working on my next collection of poems for page, which should be out in 2023, and it is titled, ‘We Don’t Bury Bodies Ugly Here’. I also have a poetry album in the works titled GLORY.