Today we’re doing something entirely new here. Kindly come with me as we meet Nigerian poet and author of ‘Dead Dogs Don’t Bark’ Tolu Akinyemi and hear him talk about himself and his newly released book ‘Dead Lions Don’t Roar’.
Born in Ado Ekiti, Nigeria, but now resident in the United Kingdom, Tolu aside from being a prolific writer/author (with more than 10 years’ writing experience) and a poet is also a business analyst and financial crime consultant, as well as a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS) with extensive experience working with leading Investment banks and Consultancy Firms.
He has headlined and featured in various Open Slam, Poetry Slam, Spoken Word, and Open Mic events and has appeared as a keynote speaker in major forums and events in the United Kingdom. He has also facilitated creative writing masterclasses to all types of audiences, and in March 2018, was endorsed by the Arts Council England as an ‘Exceptional Talent’.
Enjoy the interview.
You have written quite a number of books but poetry seems to me to be your preferred voice. Is that true, and if it is, why?
I wouldn’t say Poetry is my preferred choice however based on my publishing statistics, you could also be right in a way as my fourth book “Dead Cats Don’t Meow” scheduled for release next year is also a poetry collection. However, I am also writing a Children’s book which might end up as a series and a full-length novel which I hope to publish in the future. I love poetry as I can convey a message by writing a short burst of words, however to great effect.
Your titles, how do you come by them, especially as they are usually attention-grabbing?
The titles came about as a result of advice from my Dad and some of my friends who advised me that I needed a punchy title, something that will easily catch the reader’s attention. And the other titles published afterward have been easy picking for me. We all have a unique roar inside of us and I do hope my books will help people find their own voice.
Some authors get their titles first and the books follow, while others finish writing and find fitting titles, tell us your own experience.
My own experience has been a sort of mix and match, I have had instances where I already had the titles before writing and for some of my past publications, I picked the titles in the course of writing.
Quite a number of people believe that poetry has to be ‘awkward’ and understandable to only to a select few to be termed ‘real’ and that anything different from this is ‘vertically arranged’ prose. What do you think?
The debate of what poetry should and should not be will always keep raging. However, ambiguity in Poetry should not be the only criteria to define what poetry is. Truly, Poetry does not conform to the norm as unfiltered poetic license means a poet is free to set their own rules and write as they deem fit. There are stark differences between poetry and prose; however, if this generation is re-writing the history of poetry, then we must learn to embrace it.
Do you think your environment influences the poems you write? Like if you were struggling to come to grips with the madness of rowdy Lagos and not the serene sanity of England, would you still write about the same things?
I would say the environment influences my writing in a way as I might not have been able to write about some events and places “In the abroad” without having first-hand knowledge of those situations. However, I always try my best not to lose touch with my base, as much as I write about the culture of others, I also try my best to connect with my root through my writings and more of this will be done in my next collection.
Some believe writers are duty bound to be society’s conscience and moral guardians, while others think they should write whatever they’re inspired to write regardless of how it is received. In what direction do you lean?
I lean towards your assertion that writers should not turn a blind eye to issues that plague the society they live in. We can always cause a paradigm shift in every sphere of society through our writings, and we must as a necessity be voices for the voiceless. I try my best to write about social issues and be a positive influence through my books.
Has writing been commercially rewarding for you?
In December 2017, I donated £1,000 (One Thousand Pounds) from the proceeds of Dead Lions Don’t Roar to support AgeUk Northumberland’s loneliness campaign, I have sold thousands of books, and the goal someday is to attain best-seller status. However, the aim right now is to keep writing and get better in the process of writing. I don’t rely on writing for survival, but writing has been rewarding enough to foot its own bill.
There is a lot of fuss and fanfare attached to literary awards and their recipients. Have you ever been directly or otherwise influenced by the thought of awards in your writing?
If I win an award in the future, it will be a great boost, however, I am not desperate to win awards, I crave for global impact and that is what truly matters to me.
Who do you write for, you, or the reader?
I write for my readers which includes me as I have read my books repeatedly.
We know writing can be a time consuming and an individualistic exercise. How do you ensure that writing doesn’t eat into family time?
I always set clear goals and there are days, I don’t write anything and on some other days, I am on a writing streak. I also have a highly demanding day job that is time-consuming in equal measure; I try my best to give quality time to my family as this is the bedrock of everything I do.
Tell us about your latest work ‘Dead Lions Don’t Roar’
Dead Lion Don’t Roar is a collection of inspiring and motivating modern day verses addressing many issues close to home. The poetry is reflecting of today’s struggles and lights the way to a positive future, and the book will appeal to all age groups, anyone going through change, building or enjoying a career and facing day to day struggles. Many of the short verses will resonate with readers, leaving them with a sense of peace and well-being.
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