In the past years, all that came with poetry was reading tons of poems written by popular poets, and if we could, write poems for the fun of reading them over and over again. With Spoken Word Poetry, a new and more entertaining art form that’s gradually gaining ground in Nigeria, poetry has gone beyond the use of pen and paper.
Spoken word poetry involves performance-based poetry that focuses on the aesthetics of word play and story-telling. It is used by performers to express their views on societal issues and also to pass across positive messages to listeners. Rhymes, rhythms, repetitions and other poetic elements are infused by the performers, who refer to themselves as Spoken Word Artistes or ‘Poetpreneurs’.
Christie Uzebu spoke with one of Nigeria’s Poetpreneurs, Olumide Holloway, who is gradually increasing the popularity of Spoken Word Poetry in Nigeria.
Olumide Holloway is Writer, Poetpreneur, Spoken Word Artiste and promoter of literary events. He is the CEO of i2X Media Company Ltd, organisers of WORD UP, the biggest Spoken Word Poetry event in Nigeria.
What inspired building a career out of Spoken Word Poetry?
First, it was all about passion. I was passionate about writing poems and which lead to discovering venues of open mic poetry events in 2010. All through 2011, I attended different open mic events hoping to be discovered by a big shot promoter or company that will take me to the next level. But after a year of touring different open mic venues, it was clear the poetry industry was just emerging. Thus, my friends and I started organizing poetry events with a vision of developing a vibrant spoken word poetry industry in Nigeria and beyond. In effect, instead of me being discovered, I was now the one discovering new poets.
Now it’s more deeper that just discovering poets, as we have come to realize that though Spoken Word Poetry is a genre of entertainment, we can use it as a tool to increase literacy level, and a means of communication among people across the globe. Thus our objective is now to discover and promote poets so we can create a means of employment where they can earn a decent living from their amazing performances.
How has the experience been since you became a ‘Poetpreneur’?
It has been exciting so far, and getting better by the day. From organizing events at physical venues we have moved to online platforms thus increasing our reach and audience.
There has also been plenty learning curves from the process of transforming from just a poet that performs on stage to a Poetprenuer who has a more holistic view of this art form. As a Poetprenuer, I look at how to solve social, economic, educational and political problems using poetry.
Tell us about your Spoken Word events
One first event that we (i.e. My friends and I) started co-organising and co-hosting is an open mic poetry event tagged, Chill and Relax in February 2012. The event holds monthly on Sundays and still runs till date. It is a relaxed setting where we fine tune old poems and try out new poems.
In August 2012, we launched our flagship show, WORD UP. We created this platform for known/ established poets to perform. This is because we wanted to maintain quality by putting our best foot forward and to also make upcoming poets desire to be on stage. WORD UP was designed as a quarterly event ab initio. The event was a strategic move to capture the attention of poets and people, and get them interested in the event.
Then in June 2013, we started our Slam Poetry Competition, War Of Words. This is to discover, train and groom new and upcoming poets. The top 3 winners are automatic performers at WORD UP. The competition itself gives us a pool of poets to choose from and work with.
We also organize seminars and workshops (i.e. WORD UP Talk Series) for poets in order to train and prepare them, and act as a resource center for poets via our sites (i.e. www.wordup411ng.com and www.wordupnaija.tv).
In addition, we partner with other poetry circuits/ organisers for their events.
Our latest project is www.warofwordsng.com, the online Poetry Slam and Poetry Playground. The site was conceptualized to get more people from different parts of the world involved in our slam poetry competition without being physically present. Thus we have a higher level of participation and an equally higher number of audiences. The site was officially launched this June 2015.
How has the response from Nigerians been?
It has grown to become awesome. We get over 10,000 monthly hits on our sites; we get weekly mails from all over the world from poets and poetry lovers. We have gotten requests for collaborations from Australia and UK, and an International exchange program between us, and poets in Holland and Belgium.
How would you describe the spoken word scene in Nigeria?
It’s growing bigger and getting better. We have more poets coming on-board and more shows being organized.