David Ishaya Osu is a poet and photographer
David Ishaya Osu’s poem “Playthings” was published in Issue 31 of The Puritan, in autumn 2015. The Town Crier is pleased to present this brief interview about the poem’s composition.
Town Crier: Does your poem have an interesting origin story/compositional history you’d like to share? This could include interesting factoids or bits of research that informed the poems or the story.
David Ishaya Osu: Of course, the poem does have an interesting origin—for poetry comes as a beam that contains the various wavelengths of living: darkness, purity. Strangely, the compositional history of this poem is one I barely can go back into as much as I am expected to. I have realized that, often times, my recollection of the factoids that influenced a poem is erratic. For me, it does appear that anything and everything happening during the making of a poem wants to enter or come out from the poem—from arm-pit smell to bell-rings to stray sentences to body-shifts to the subconscious. There are no calculations; but rather the visceral process of providing written telephonic details of soul. What I do remember about this poem is that there were raindrops outside the room, and I was seduced to say “ask / this rain / if she has / a director”. This representation felt like a note to me on the free flow nature of the universe, as a contrast to man’s maneuvers.
TC: What was it influenced by? (i.e., were you listening/watching something when you began to write? Were you in a meeting or class at the time? Was it after a film, art show, concert?)
DIO: The location of this poem for sure was my bed. The majority of the poems I have written are children of bedrooms. It’s very crazy the atmosphere that’s in session in my bed—in short, my bed is a holy place of worship. I am, at this moment, compelled to see my bed as a metaphor or say it is a body that is privileged to carry my body that is carrying thousands of trances. A body in a body filming and watching, and filming other bodies. Still, in my making of poems (and even pictures) I am always in conflict and concert with multiplicity—films, mindscapes, bodyscapes, songs, bulbs, balls, wallprints, hairdos, questions and answers, and other bare sides. There’s another location that keeps me welcoming poems: under a full moon. But, really, anywhere is a location for my mind.
TC: Tell us the best thing you’ve read lately, or a poet/fiction writer you’re jealous of, or a story/short story collection you wish you wrote.
DIO: I do have quite a list of artists I admire—Uche Nduka, Ocean Vuong, Jumoke Verissimo, Michael Ondaatje, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath. Recently, I have had wonderful experiences reading The Chronology of Water. While reading, I kept hearing myself humming Fela: “Water e no get enemy, water no get enemy, water e no get enemy.” I’ve yet to get a conclusion on my emotions. Lidia is simply succour. I’m also on her new novel, The Small Backs of Children.
TC: Because we are running various blog posts on music, we have a question on song lyrics. Did music lyrics have anything to do with the pieces we’re publishing? Were any particular lyrics important to you in your development as a writer? Is there any recent lyricist you’ve been digging, and why? Is there any piece of writing, by you or someone else, that you would like see turned into a song? Why?
… I have read poems that made me laugh, scream, punch the wall, punch my pubes, pause my pulse, and even run, literally.
DIO: I am not in the habit of storing lyrics and even lines in my head, though they keep thousands of effects in me that last as long as the length of a river. However, a strike of notes or voices can evoke the spirits of a particular song or songs and their lyrics. Asa, Bez, Jeremiah Gyang, woodwinds, moods, guitars, and talking drums have been instrumental in my development as a being and listener of beings. For instance, the words of a bird, a blue moon, the words of a water body, the words of a butterfly making love with a flower, or the words of my sister; there’s just something somewhere making a sound and poetry comes as an embodiment of these things, to me. I’d love to see Saddiq Dzukogi’s poems turned to songs. For Uche Nduka, I’d love to have his poems chanted in a room thick with Jazz and percussion. I also want the poems of Nandini Dhar and Ocean Vuong as mantras. My reason is that, embedded in these poems are millions of vibrations for the human body—I mean, I have read poems that made me laugh, scream, punch the wall, punch my pubes, pause my pulse, and even run, literally. I mean, it is both easy (and difficult) to see that we are all a response to something, whether visible or intangible, going on in a poem, in food, a speech, a sight, a secret, or a song. You know, there are songs that you listen to and you instantly begin to feel like an aircraft; others make your belly turn inside out. There are songs for the ears, songs for the eyes, and even songs for private parts. In summary, I’d say that pieces of writings are already themselves song cycles; there’s rather just a variety of tempos and a variety of bodily responses to these tempos.
TC: In your practice, what would you say is the balance between silliness and seriousness?
DIO: This is a tricky question, because “silly” is one word that has undergone multiple semantic transformations—from blessed to happy, foolish, innocent, pitiable, weak, and so on. Also, I am an ever-silly boy who feels that my daily life is that of a nine-year-old girl who is forever obsessed with pictures, poems, plays, and people. Silly is impulse, contentment, flaw, fluid, flame, and pain. Seriousness is itself silliness and vice versa. Well, for an explanation, I feel that the balance is in my being blessed with a body— the chance of gaining, losing, and cycling sensations, and then translating them into legible letters. This is not a business for only poets, it’s a human thing. I often ask if “silliness” is aware it is silliness or if “seriousness” is aware it is seriousness. Does “David” know that “David” is “David”? Things are simply what they are and whatever we name them, if we fall for the temptation. Perhaps this is a way of interpreting our memories, moments, and motives, within and across the borders of perceptions and language. I agreed with what Matthew Burnside said: “I’m a firm believer in the necessity of silliness in a world so racked with misery.” Silliness is a therapist.
David Ishaya Osu (b. 1991) is a Nigerian poet. His poetry has been published in Ann Arbor Review, Porter Gulch Review, Akitsu Quarterly, Birmingham Arts Journal, Acumen, The Missing Slate, and Atlas Poetica: A Journal of World Tanka, among others. David is a board member of the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, and he is currently working on his debut poetry book.