In this educating and inspiring interview, Northern Literary Forum had a chat session with Safwan Suhaib coordinated by Zainab Abdullahi. He spoke briefly about his literary journey so far, the obstacles he overcome and the achievements he had.
Safwan Suhaib Ibrahim is a writer, poet, essayist, critic and a first year medical student at Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto, Sokoto state.
He was born and raised in Bagwai local government, Kano state.
Excerpts from the interview:
NLF: How did you become a writer? What influenced it?
GUEST: I started writing when I was in primary school, primary 3 to be precise, when I represented my school in a interschool debate competition) and I was inspired by my English teacher who saw the talent in me.
NLF: What are the challenges you have been facing as a writer ?
GUEST: Time. Time is my worst challenge that’s been dragging me into the catacomb of idleness since the day I started writing. Being a science student, I find it hard to cope with my studies and writing at the same time.
NLF: Between when you started and now, what growth have you had ?
GUEST: Huh! (chuckles) this question reminds me of someone asking me “did you grow bigger since you left secondary school?”
Truth be told, I’ve counted a lot of achievements and still counting. I had my poems published in two international magazines, inspired more than 50 people to write, won gifts and even my writing skill is improving all day.
NLF: Why are you called the thug poet? You choose it, or your friends saw the thuggery in your poetry that they blessed you with the name?
GUEST: It came from my unwavering love and support for 2pac. My secondary school friends nicknamed me and I loved it.
NLF: What do you want to achieve as a writer?
GUEST: What every writer hopes is to find people that are ready to listen to him and his message to be meaningful and comprehensive and I’m not an exception too. I want to voice out my inner self and influence people around.
NLF: Who are your greatest influence and why are you in awe of their works?
GUEST: My greatest influence is 2pac. He’s a poet and a rapper too, followed by JHC, Nguigi Wa Thiong’o and Chinua Achebe. I don’t need to tell why I love Pac’s poems and songs, for they’re my everything when it comes to poetry.
JHC writes much about violence and thug’s blood runs in my vein that’s why I love his. Achebe’s eloquence in braiding words to portray a perfect imagery is heavenly. Nguigi is exceptional when it comes to romantic works.
NLF: As writer what are the major challenges you have won?
GUEST: Won? The major challenge I won so far is fighting the spirit that whispers to my ear that I’m not an art student and couldn’t write well. I fought and conquered.
NLF: I love your writings, Safwan. Do you by any chance send your poems out for publications or it’s just for us, your social circle?
GUEST: Yes, I did. I sent my poem to a school-based magazine in Nairobi, Kenya, and got published and many. I even got $25 as a token. It’s been years since I sent my works. I find it hard to spare a time and submit.
NLF: What makes up a good poem?
GUEST: One’s ability to cook the imagery and all the poetic devices and most importantly considering his audience’s/readers’ level of comprehension, for the most important aspect in all writings is one’s ability to write a comprehensive piece.
NLF: Do you think criticism can build up a writer or poet?
GUEST: I wasn’t initially a fan of criticism, for I find it hard to endure how my well braided poems were raped and scattered to pieces. Thanks to brother Stephen for making me understand how criticism shapes one’s ability to write better.
NLF: How do you overcome writer’s block?
GUEST: By calming my desire to write there and then. I only write when I feel like writing.
NLF: How long does it takes you to write a good poem?
GUEST: It depends on how unrestrained I’m and the length of the poem I want to write. When I’m at home, I can write 4 poems a day but I find it hard to write even one at school.
NLF: You’ve written quite a lot of poems, do you wish to get published in the nearest future?
GUEST: Yes, I’ll be glad to be published. I’ve been looking for a way for my works to be published but it seems hectic.
NLF: What’s your vision and hope in poetry?
GUEST: I want to be basked in the ditch of poetry till my last breath. I want to see myself writing aloft the vault of sky, one day. I want my works to go farther, beyond this world.
And I want to be amidst you guys, reading and getting gingered by your works.
NLF: What genre do you love most and why?
GUEST: I love poetry most, for in poetry, I find myself writing something that I’ve never experienced, going to the world that I’ve never dreamt of and opening doors that have been shut for good. I find the strength to voice out my chest and cajole readers mind in poetry. In fact, poetry is heaven to me.
NLF: What advice do you have for aspiring writer’s out there?
GUEST: I can only advise them to read, read and write. They shall not let aroma of one’s work distract them from cooking theirs. Voice yourself out. Don’t write to impress anyone, just express yourself. Find those that are already in the system to guide you, send your works for critique.
NLF: Thank you for honoring our invitation. It was nice having a chat session with you. We look forward to more.
GUEST: Thank you too, it’s an honor to be hosted here.