I once had a reading in Canada, I think in 1986. When I finished, of course the usual — I had to circulate among the audience, and so I had a glass — yeah, my glass of wine in my hand, so I — then there was a family, husband-wife and their daughter, they came, and they came to thank me. And I had to thank them too for coming. And the girl then asked, “How come you’re writing a poem about water? I mean, water?” Because the poem I read was about water, the problems involved in getting water to drink.1


So, I told her, “Yes, water indeed.” So, I asked her, “Have you had water today?” She said, “Yes.” “Where did it come from?” She said, “It came from the tap.” “Of course, from the tap.” I said, “Yes, there are many places in the world that have no taps. There are so many other places that have taps, but no water.” And the girl looked at the parents and the parents shook their heads, and we started talking. It looks like a very simple episode, and that’s not the first time. I think another instance took place in the US. I read that poem and it was during the question and answer period when somebody asked me again, “Niyi, why write about water?” Our world is a large place. Oh, it’s a small place, but it is also very large, because our world is large and unequal, and because of its inequality, poetry is bound to perform different functions in different parts.2


When I look at contemporary American literature, particularly poetry, well, as a teacher of poetry and a writer myself, there is a lot I admire about it, but I also see a lot of artifice. I see a lot of tinkering with the words, tinkering with — a lot of abstraction. Of course, all these things are important in art, but hardly would you really find people talking about the concrete problems of the society.3

  1. Mother Earth []
  2. Feel The Injustices, Inequality And Contrast []
  3. American Novel []
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