Earth wind and fire.
It takes both feet to test the depth of an ocean.
I truly cannot remember where and when I heard this quote, but it stroke a chord in me. Call it the symphony to my journey as a writer.
Some people are born writers, while some people are made into writers. In my case, I think I was the anomaly; a divergent, if you are into fictional films. You can say I inherited a writer’s genes biologically, but it never really was worth anything to me until life tied my feet to an anchor and sunk it into the deepest part of the blue sea. Leaving me with nothing but a waterproof pen.
Growing up as an only child and especially most times home alone, I had to find a distraction from tempting vices and an empty house. Two things did that for me. First, was the arguably greatest invention ever “the radio”. Second, was John Grisham novels.
Now, if like me, you grew up in the era of the “Palito” radio, you do remember how impactful it was. Well… The voices from the radio kept me company and provided me with content; from the music to the conversation. I remember how I would personalize songs from the radio as though it was written and performed by me. That process of internalizing other people’s experiences helped shape my ability to feel, understand and express emotions.
Then came John Grisham books.
I never knew who Grisham was, until I read one of his many books, The Street Lawyer. (Which I bought form a man who sold books daily at the entrance into my street). From that book, my mind learned what it meant to “imagine”,conceive an idea and to tell a fictional story.
The radio and novels were my space ships. They started my journey to being a writer. Each was a vessel of time travel for me, into realms before and beyond me. Moreover, I felt at home in them.
“You can still smell the shells on my skin.
My feet are still feeble. My feathers void.
I might be born a bird but without wings,
I am slave to the wind.”
I remember a friend of mine in the university once told me“heartbreak would turn any man into a poet.” That statement was white to the bones, according to my journey though now that I look back. I say this because; I never intended to be a poetic writer. If memory serves me right, I wanted to just rap and sing. Until I realized my vocal chords disagreed, then I stock to just becoming a rap artist. I was actually good at it but the art form never totally felt like home. There was this gut feeling in me that I needed to evolve from it but I did not know what the destination was. Well, a heartbreak was the fire I needed.
From personal experience as an artist, I have come to realize that we as creatives are born with the art, but that is all. Being born with a skill is never enough. And the universe knows that. Therefore, it takes us on a journey of painful discovery. Now not everyone makes it to the other side. Some chicken out; some embrace the pain and channel it.
As a previously said, a heartbreak was the fire I needed. I was a boy with words but no genuine story to tell. The universe understood that I needed to connect with my art. And pain was the umbilical cord. Therefore, it feed me all the pain it could find. As someone who grew up with the radio as my companion, I was introduced to great songs/songwriters like shade, Luther Vandross, Maxwell, musiq soul child, Mos-Def, LL cool J, Cannibus, Nas amongst many others. These people told stories and they became my mentors.
In my opinion, every poet is an activist. The question now is what are you fighting for?
Now, before that significant heartbreak that loosened the anchor that tied me to shore,and drowned me deep into raw and unfiltered poetry. I had begun writing rhymes as songs but they never connected with me so I did not take the art serious with any intention. It was all fun and games you would say until I went through fire.
Ask most poets what led them on this path of poetry, and you are sure to hear pain. Therefore,the turmoil of falling in and out of love was the burning furnace I needed to experience amongst other minor vain vices. Because after that, I just started to free verse write everything I wanted but could not say. I could have hoarded it or buried it under suppressed memories but life did not let me. I needed a channel of expression.
I never was one to be obvious and upfront with emotions, so writing in plain words did not cut it for me. I craved for whoever was going to read my piece to vicariously feel, think, and empathize and most importantly journey with whatever story I told. So poetry felt like the natural and perfect choice. Therefore, I began to look up on poetry and poets. In my search, I found the movies Poetic Justice, Freedom Writers and the most impactful of them all, Dead Poets’ Society. These movies served as my beginner’s class in the art.
Dead Poets’ Society taught me poetry is not about format or structure. It is about unfiltered truth, rawness and freedom. Freedom Writers instilled in me the understanding that every poet must have a cause. Every time I pick up a pen, I must write as if my life depends on it. I must not compromise. I must fight. Be it love, war or social justice. I also watched Def jam poetry via YouTube and studied the acts, styles and patterns. All these helped me embody both writing and spoken word poetry.
The year 2014 in my journey has earned itself the alias rebirth in the discovery of my poetic side. It was coincidentally my year of graduation from the Redeemers’ university. Over the past few years, I had theoretically learned about poetry. However, was yet to test out my new powers. It took a deliberate push from my then significant other to try it out. However, once I had a bite of the poetic apple, I was in love with the art form.
I began to write about what pains I felt, socially, politically, emotionally and in every way possible. However, I had a challenge. I never was one for long poems. Reading long poems felt like hard work and I felt like if you had to write a long poem, you could as well just write an article. My notion was poetry should be short, intricate and stylish. So, my laziness became my motivation to study micro-poetry. Ironically, my flaw became my greatest advantage.
My intention to scribble short poems out of laziness also motivated me to ensure that every poem had a wow effect. Every line was to be intricate, undiluted, subtle yet elite.
I wrote and wrote until I discovered the power of instapoetry. Instagram that year was becoming a powerful social media community, and I needed a playing field to share my pieces. Especially to strangers, who had no existing bias and so would experience my work and give back honest feedback. So I brokered a deal between my manuscript and Instagram page.
I posted on IG for another 3 years via my handle @farabale_poetry until I discovered I had harnessed a cult following, who were repeatedly asking for a book or anthology. Within those 3 years, I fell in love with specific poets whose pieces opened my mind. Writers like my self-adopted godmother Maya Angelo, Samantha King and her book of collected poems “Born to love, Cursed to feel” and my secret favorite, Tupac Shakur, especially his poem “The rose that grew from concrete”.
The constant request by my new and found cult following on IG spurned me to publish my first poetry collection Thin Line between Love and Hate globally.(You can order a copy either via amazon, directly from the author or The African Writers.)
This is what I know, some writers are born, and some are made while some are divergent. Regardless of how you became one, own your journey.
The journey continues.