Until recently, no one knew new literary genres like flash fiction and spoken word poetry would be added to the ones that have been even before the days of Shakespeare, T.S Elliot, Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spencer, Bernard Shaw and others whose impact would forever be in the sand of time. It is very arguable that flash fiction and spoken word poetry aren’t new considering their emergence from the existing structure. Flash fiction, on the one hand, is a form of prose but what makes it relatively new is the amazingly short length spanning between fifty words to a thousand words. Spoken word poetry, on the other hand, combines action with musicality to express both concrete and abstract ideas. Hence, it’s in every sense different from most poetic genres including lyrical poems, ballad, dirge, lullaby, etc. that are all written to be sung.
For now, we don’t know if these new trends would become academic just like new words find their way into the dictionary, but what we do know is that these trends are growing by the day and spoken word poetry, in particular, is about the next big thing on the literary scene in Nigeria.
In this interview with Njoku Paul Chibuike Henry a.k.a Fr33zinPaul, an undergraduate of P-Studies at National Open University of Nigeria and one of Nigeria’s finest and high-flying spoken word artiste who has performed on the same stage with other big wigs like Efe Paul, Sage Hassan, Kemi Bakare (Kemistree), Oyinkansola Adesewa, Donna Ogbonnaike, etc. he talks about the future of spoken word poetry and the challenges associated with it. Have fun!
I know it’s not unusual for artistes to have stage names. So, how did you come about Fr33zinPaul, what made you coin that name?
Hmmm…it’s quite a long story oh. Well, first of all, ‘freeze’ means something that is stiff, something that doesn’t move. I used to be that person. I got easily discouraged by comments or little things and it made me remain at the same spot. On a more serious note, I never thought I could adopt that name but the adoption started with ‘Matrix Revolution’, a trending movie in those days. There was a scene where a character said ‘Freeze!’ on the street and everyone actually froze excluding him and the person he was talking to. When I got to school (secondary school) the following day, I started using the phrase ‘Freeze!’ to silence the class. One day, a friend called me ‘Fr33zinPaul’ and I felt the name sounded cool. Actually I took off the ‘ee’ and replaced it with ‘33’ because of its historical connotation. So, I decided to keep the name to always remind me that I can be the best that I can be. This is my long story indeed.
That’s nice. Why did you choose poetry and then spoken word, why not story writing?
Actually, I started with story writing. I wrote a lot of children stories when I was quite young. I also wrote articles and wrote debates for others. I just chose spoken word poetry because I am a very expressive person. I also like the sound of my voice. I want others to hear my voice. In summary, spoken word poetry always tells a story.
Your voice? That’s self-crush. Has it brought any girl close to you?
Plenty! It brought the current girl I’m in a relationship with. Plenty plenty bro.
You are a teacher too but considering its demanding nature, how do you combine that with spoken word?
Hmmm…. well, I am a part time teacher. So, I don’t really spend most time in the classroom. I close early unlike some full fine teachers so I say I have an advantage. A teacher is a reader, a poet must be a reader. I use my students and pupils as my audience when rehearsing. Well, most times I write and rehearse my poems in the field or late in the night. I think teaching is the best work for a poet abi which other work go give you time na?
What subject do you teach?
Subjects! Government, Literature and English Language.
I hear a lot of spoken word artistes and I see them struggle with their true identities, as it were. What would you say distinguishes your renditions from others?
Well, I am still working on that. I want to add a bit of comedy to all my piece. A bit of humour. I just want to make sure that when my name is called upon to perform, people are keen because no matter what this dude says, we go still laugh small sha. I am still working on this and soon I hope to create a niche for myself.
What if adding comedy still doesn’t give you the kind of identity you wish to have, what would you do?
Hmmmm. When we get to that canal, we will cross it.
I personally like your style…the way you do your presentations. Do you write those poems yourself?
Yes! originality is key to any kind of performance. Don’t you realize that it is easy to read a note you made up yourself than reading what someone else copied for you? All my poems are written by me, edited by others . So you see maybe one or two lines were added by someone.
What motivates you to write the way you do?
Hmmm…should I be honest? God. I get inspired When I am in a spiritual realm; free from sins for a while. When I am well fed. When I don chop well plus real life happenings. All these three put together and my muse flows like it’s an issue.
Lol. ‘…free from sins for a while.’ What kind of sins, sexual?
(Laughs) You know as a Catholic, we have original sin and the other sins. So when I am free from the other sins!
Please educate me on this. What’s original, what’s others?
In simple sentences though, original sin is the sin of Adam and Eve. The SIN OF DISOBEDIENCE. We inherited it but it goes after baptism.The other sins are the ones we commit on a daily basis.
So, sexual sin is one of them too, right?
You are not a saint bro (laughs).
You say God motivates you. Did He inspire your ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ too?
Yes, God created women. Isn’t that the best motivation?
Is there a difference between a spoken word artiste and a poet?
See ehn, this question brings a lot of controversy, the only thing I can say is that there is a difference between speech making and poetry rendition. So when you do speech making and think it is spoken word poetry you are wrong.
Is it because of the length or the demonstrations that come with it (spoken word)?
Yes, in a way. The demonstrations, the poetic devices: imagery, puns, metaphors etc. really add up.
Which spoken word artistes do you respect a lot?
I respect all. Why? Because we go through sleepless nights and work hard just to deliver the best. I respect all no matter all level. They’re all doing it the way it should be done.
Regardless of your respect, in your heart of hearts, do you think there are better spoken word artistes?
Better spoken word artistes? Of course! In life some people will fit into the comparative superlative and positive definitely.
I like your ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ poem a lot. Why didn’t you do the recording before ‘Keep Hope Alive?
That poem will be released in February 2018, the 14th precisely.
’Keep Hope Alive’ is a message everyone needs at this moment. ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ is a ‘lovey dovey’ something. The recording has to be dope.
How challenging has it been promoting your recordings?
Finance is the only challenge! Once I get enough finance, I will be churning them out.
Do you have plans to release a poetry album too?
Sure. Let the funds come and it will be ready soonest. For now, my poems are on a poetry mixtape compiled by Osigwe Benjamin.
Has this venture started paying off?
Yes, it has started paying in trickles.
Where do you see spoken word poetry in future?
I see it becoming one of the major arts in Nigeria: poets headlining events, companies having jingles and adverts performed or written by poets, performance poetry being taught in primary schools.
Have you won awards?
Yes I have. The most recent one is thrilling an audience from the start to the finish of my rendition. Anytime I do that. I feel honoured. I feel I have an award. I was also the 1st runner up at the Be Blessed 13 Slam in Ibadan in 2016 and many others.
Do you share the opinion that poetry is the most abused form of writing?
Hmmmmm… well, I really don’t buy the idea. I even feel it is the most expressive form of writing.