MY DATE WITH POETRY

a writing by Dowell Ighohwo Oba

Growing up as a young man brought with it great experiences and daring challenges as the days do pass by; but worthy of mention is my unimaginable invitation to the amazing world of poetry. Being an easy going guy I’m good at taking the day as simple as it comes, paying no ear in making it as complex as it claims to be. But the good part of it all is that at a sudden snap of determination when I most certainly make up my mind to give my trials a best shot; I do it without a grip of pessimism but faith all the way. And with this got me admitted easily to a very high ranking university in my country with tough admitting status, just a year after my secondary school education that’s called high school in the States. For even though with the lack of faith and opposition from my sisters, owing to their promising records as compared to mine, they sparked one major ingredient in my system which they always failed to realize in the midst of my cool headedness, which is putting me up for a challenge with every pessimistic vocabulary they could ever find, in calling it a waste of time. For behold, at such times did I snap off to the other side of my actions and make the unbelievable happen by getting admitted to an incredible university at first attempt, just as it happened earlier when entering secondary school.

And here I was, in an incredible atmosphere, living my life, and receiving lectures as smooth as it goes, with just two friends, Philip and Rosemary, whom together we formed a three musketeer by watching one another’s back. For every time I did snap in my regular twist to unseriousness, Rosemary was quick to bring me back by reminding me of the seriousness of the environment in getting good grades, and Philip was quick to act like the brother I never had by briefing me of the essential facts. Indeed, they were my side-kicks. So out of the regular trend of friendship in being there for one another came my sudden invitation to the world of poetry, from the open space of non experience. At one certain day, Rosemary came to me in need of help, which was something unusual, since she always gave me help on the contrary, seeking none in return. And boy, this was my big moment in making my friend proud, not entirely knowing what I was up against. So then she began, briefing me of it all. She told me it was a matter of urgency; that a friend of hers in their female hostel had invited her to write a poem on beauty, needed for presentation at her beauty contest, so she immediately accepted; for most certainly, it would be a talk of the entire girls of the block in finding a student in the Department of English and Literature that could not write a poem. So she had to take her chances, in avoiding the shame.

Hearing all this, I took a deep breath immediately, and knew it was definitely up to me to restore my friend’s dignity in any way I could, by writing her the poem, even though I had no idea on the game of poetry. And there I sat, lonely in my bed, pondering some rhymes with my roommate, Nadiz, in the unrelated field of Anatomy. With staunch determination on the work at hand, we continued, producing the first poem we’ve ever written, in collaboration, with a title “Beauty”. Thus after hitting on success with that one, which came from luck through the blue, Rosemary brought a second job, and briefed me about it. This time it was on the theme ‘Desire’. Getting that done, it was as if a new revelation of a new found talent had just been unleashed. And so I began my poetic revolution, doing well with some Nursery Rhymes my natural quill did compose. Like a child developing teeth for the very first time, I felt as though I had a will power to speak and attain accolades with my new unrefined talent. And by March 2007, in my 200 level, I surfed through the internet for an International Poetry Contest, where I confidently clicked on the first one at the list which was VoicesNet.org.

Suddenly the page opened, where to my surprise I discovered myself in a community of poets who saw poetry as not just a voicing of words, but an art in itself. So I became a humble student, an amateur to be precise, in this beautiful school of poets where at first I could hardly get a star in the contest, taking my time to study contest winners like such magical entries like “Leaves” by Lee Emmett, and “…Of the World…” by Hilda Poo of South Africa, surviving 3rd place. And as I patiently waited each time for each 6 months contest to elapse, to see my judging results and learn from contest winners, I finally got a star, that I managed to attain once in a while, till I finally came to terms with imagery, which out of a sudden I used in attaining my first 3 star finalist, “Death of an Immortal”. So as if in a revelational understanding, I took my time to appreciate poets I find more and more; taking time in practicing rhymes and rhythms, and at each passing phase learnt various styles of expressing myself in this profound art.

Thus, such came the gradual metamorphosis and arrival at perfection where almost every poem I dropped at the contest got a 2 star and more so a 3 star. I read creative and enlightening poets like Ros Shrapnel and Jacinta Ramayah, and ventured into more practice of flexible styles like Onomatopoeia and Alliteration. Carefully, with my first recorded attempt at Onomatopoeia, I wrote "World Cup South Africa" last year which got requested for publication by a Dutch editor in the ZAM Africa Magazine, Netherlands, with a financial token for the author, in person of me. My picture was requested, and by June 2010, I was featuring in the pages of an international magazine for the very first time, in my exploration of this sudden invitation. And thus, after that priceless moment came my one year ordeal in service of my nation, after graduation from the university; just after climatically winning First Place in Poetry in the Creative Writers' Award for Excellence of the Faculty of Arts, UNIBEN.

On returning home one year later by June 2011, with enormous inspiration to share, I sent three of my masterpieces perfectly judged with 3 stars by the contest judges in Voices, to the Copperfield Review, USA, in line with my pledge to get published in more journals and magazines abroad, as a means of publicizing my new found creativity. And with eager expectation at the best and constant check at my email, the reply came on finally from the publishers, who shared their sincere remarks on my 3 submissions being a much enjoyable read, and expressing their intention to publish them in the Summer 2011 edition of their historical journal - The Copperfield Review, inspired by Charles Dickens. So there it was, with tears of joy crowded in my eyes, as I contemplated through the favours I was born to receive in one lifetime, which were destined to kickoff at a tender age, with just one single invitation and date with poetry; that made me sought after by a close friend at first, my poet friends at second, and the entire world at large, that's made me recognize just one freedom up above, in the sky staying farther away as my stretch limit.

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