Interviews

Poetic Wednesdays’ Personality of the Month of June, 2022: Professor
Isma’ila Bala.

PW. Hello Prof., briefly tell us about yourself please.

IB: Hello sir, PW is glad to be with you. Briefly tell us about yourself please.

PW: You used most of 2010 to 2020 decade working on your notable Line of
Sight, and in two different worlds, how would you relate that period of your life in
retrospect?

IB: It was a very productive period. I enjoyed a lot of stability and fecundity as far
as writing is concerned. The period defined my creative life in the sense that I
wrote a clutch of poems which were not only published in journals and anthologies
around the world, but were later on collected into my first book of Poetry. I will
always remember that period with fondness and nostalgia. But it also a period
which I must outgrow if I am to grow as a poet. The sensitivity and imagination
which informed that period belonged to the past while I look toward the future.

PW: You are known globally for your excellent poetry in Hausa and English, what
is your experience swimming in these two languages?

IB: It’s even an interesting but also daunting experience. Interesting because it
involves a sort of poetic back and forth in 2 different linguistic and imagistic
continuum but also daunting because translation into English or out of it is never
enough to capture the nuances, rhythm and sensibilities of Hausa. But a translator
must go on and persvere even the face of this poetic uncertainty.

PW: Do you understand (speak or write in) any other language(s) apart from
English and Hausa?

IB: No. Only Hausa and English with a smatterings of Arabic and Spanish. Would
love to learn Mandarin though in preparation for the shift of power from the West
to China which would happen soon, very soon.

PW: We can’t wait to feel your poetic heat in blazing Mandarin. You also translate,
why is translation important?

IB: We cannot over emphasize the need and veracity for translation generally and
literally translation in particular. Life itself as some philosophers argue is or
involves some layers and level of translations without which encumbrance would
be the order of the day. We need translation for intercultural even
intercivilizational dialogue and interaction. Cultures and languages reinvent and
renew themselves through other cultures. Such interactions are almost always done
exclusively in translation.

PW: I see. Is translation in poetry done the same way as in prose?

IB: No. The spirit behind both may be the same and may be informed by the same
need but the technique and tactics are indubitably different.

PW: If not poetry, what would you be doing?

IB: Have not figured that out yet and have never dared to ask myself what my life
would be like without it being anchored to poetry. My life takes on and imitates the
rhythm of Poetry and the conundrum of poetics. Poetry gives meaning to my life
and engenders hope for tomorrow.

PW: Okay. How would you say literature, especially poetry, is faring in Nigeria
and then Northern Nigeria?

IB: I would say it’s faring very well but it still has a long way to go, it has a lot of
catching of to do not just in terms of quality works being published, improved eco
system for poetry to thrive and other support system such as book and art festivals,
prizes, residencies, more avenues for publication and mentoring of young poets but
most importantly techniques and quality of the poetry going to be produced.

PW: Say something about Hausa poetry sir. How is it going?

IB: Have nothing much to say about Hausa poetry. I may be wrong, but I think it’s
a bit stale, though there seems to be many poets writing in Hausa but there is very
little of it being published. Hausa poetry needs some kind of poetic revolution and
needs to wean itself off Arabic poetics and conservative background.

PW: What is that one advice you think has helped you most in your literary career?

IB: To read much more than write. Simple as that.

PW: Nice. Tell us about your family. How is being a family man affected your
life?

IB: It has enriched my life beyond measure. Family has provided an extra
motivation to write, to reflect and to be extra responsible.

PW: Do you believe Poetry can bring about significant social change in Nigeria?

IB: Masha Allah. More blessings sir. Most certainly. Poetry has the potential to
ignite a major social chasm as it has done on other places.

PW: What will you say to someone that has recently fallen in love with poetry and
is lucky to read this (interview)?

IB: Well, they should continue reading poetry across different traditions and
languages.

PW: As a young poet, what was your biggest challenge and how did you go about
overcoming it?

IB: Developing my voice and avoiding the influence of the multitude of poets that
I read across age and traditions.
It’s takes many years of persistent practice. Developing a voice is something very
precarious and takes a lot of honing which is helped by trying to publish one’s
poems in publication outlets. The success of one’s quest for publication may in
most instances attest to how far a poet goes in developing their voice.

PW: Great one. When do you get the most company of your muse?

IB: Anytime literally. There is no specificity , no warning. It’s just come when it
comes.

PW: Wow! What do you do for fun?

IB: I watch the Simpsons.

PW: Interesting! Growing up, who were the people you looked up to?

IB: I was not so certain about the people I look up to when growing up. I had few
that I looked up too. Being a movie buff, I was drawn more towards villains than
any supposed hero, real or fictional.

PW: Given one chance to write your last poem, what will it be about? Why?

IB: Love of course. It makes the world tick.

PW: Sure. Could you share with us what you are currently working on?

IB: I am working on two collections concurrently. One is themed collection
chronicling the break down of a once passionate affair. It’s in three movement: the
first tells about the affair, while both the lover and the beloved gives their side of
the story in the remaining two movements. The other collection is varied and not
so tight as it contains poems about loss, time and its effect on things, places and
people.

PW: Masha Allah! We can’t wait sir. We bet they’re going to be breathtaking.
Recite few lines from any of your numerous poems that comes to your mind now,
please.

IB: No matter bad the poem is, we don’t shoot it with a gun.

PW: I’d want to know why, but I think it should be another time (laughs). Lastly,
what would you say about Poetic Wednesdays, and then some words of advice.

IB: PW is a very good initiatives. It had been doing a lot of good work about
poetry and the art as a whole. You guys should keep up the good work. PW should
do well to make sure that Naseeba Babale brings out her collection.

PW: Definitely insha’Allahu. Thanks so much sir. You’ve given us much, your
time, wisdom and all. May Allah bless you and all you do. Mun gode sosai.

IB: Masha Allah. Thank you.

Leave A Comment

Your Comment
All comments are held for moderation.