Graciano Enwerem, a Nigerian poet celebrates twelve years as a poet. I am a poet of not up to ten years (smiles); but I can say it really is a huge struggle as its something that can actually leave you any day. So I invited him to give us a peep into his adventure as a poet in twelve years. But before I go on, I’d stop so you can read his bio; and also, he’s willing to answer any question you might have for him. You can equally drop it on the comment box or via his social media accounts.
Graciano Enwerem is a multiple award-winning poet, writer, teacher, media consultant and a business development enthusiast. He’s the founder of Figures of Speech movement, Africa and the author of SPOKEN WORD POETRY-101, A-Z OF INSTAGRAM, and REAP OFF RIP OFF.
Sir Grrraciano, as you are popularly called; what inspired your name?
My name is Graciano Enwerem. When I started reciting my poems on Rhythm 93.7fm Port Harcourt. I was mandated to pick a nick name. Since my name already looked like a literary nick name, I decided to just play with it. So I chose Grrraciano; but when I started becoming a force to be reckoned with, so long as teaching poetry writing and performance was concerned; a vast majority of my virtual students chose to call me either, ‘Grrrandpa’ or ‘Sir Grrraciano’. I liked the later, so it stuck.
How did you know you could write?
Same way people know they could speak.
Did you write love poems to your crushes in high school? Cos most poets I know started from there (smiles).
No, I didn’t. In high school, I was known more for playing football than for my poetry. I wrote love poems and love letters but for my friends and/or clients.
Wow! You’ve always had the signature hair, what does it imply?
- I don’t like the shape of my head (skull). I think it’s too feminine.
- I’ve always had long hair even as a child. I’m more comfortable with long hair.
- Whenever I cut my hair, I look younger than my age. I fear that a teenager might one day ask me to run errands for him/her if I start keeping my hair short.
(Laughs) The last reason did crack me up so much. How did your parents take it, when they heard you wanted to be a poet?
Like they attacked my football ambitions. They didn’t like the idea one bit and relentlessly showed their disgust. Pops listened to my poems on radio all through but won’t let me know he listened. He attended my event for the first time in 2017; almost 10 years after I went professional. They strongly felt that I should write but thought it should be more like a vocation and not a job. You won’t blame them, as at then, I didn’t even know that poets whose works I read were alive still. I thought that as a poet, you don’t get published and become popular until after you die. Same way we read the Bible knowing that the authors of the books are long dead, was same way I read poems. Until I found out that, Pa (Dr) Gabriel Okara was still alive and kicking. Same as Sly Cheney Coker and numerous others. Then I started meeting other poets. The rest like they say, is history.
Growing in a country as Nigeria; did you really think this art would generate income for you?
Yes. I knew it would and I had it all figured out that very week I started. I knew the money would start flowing when we attempt to make poetry go mainstream. And since mainstream is a game of numbers; we had to first, break new grounds, performing in places where there are lots of people and where poetry ordinarily wouldn’t be accepted and by teaching lots of willing scribblers how to perform poetry professionally. Did it work? I’m sure the answer is obvious now.
What was the first slam competition you competed for?
The first one I entered for was The African Poet in 2012 but because I got there late due to traffic I watched helplessly in tears. So yes, the first one I slammed in, officially, was the War Of Words 3 on the 22nd of June, 2014.
Wow! You are quite the revered slam winner; when you applied for your very first slam, did you feel you’d win it?
Yes. I was almost certain that even if I was robbed, the audience would be mad.
Any word for prospective slam entrants?
Winners of slams are not just the best poets but the best poets who play according to the rules of the particular slam and impress the judges.
At a summit which you were a speaker; I heard you say you cleaned up stage, just to perform. Did you really do that?
Yes, I did it.
Wow! At that point, did you feel there was hope for the ‘poetic industry’?
If I wasn’t so certain, why would I sweep the halls just to perform for free?
What kept you going?
Belief in my poetry and what the future holds for us. Besides, I had nothing else to fall back to. I just dropped out of school, I have lost my leg and could not play football professionally. Poetry was all I had and I knew I was too good at it to back down and start learning something new when I could just create a market for what I already have.
Wow! That was quite some level of belief. Did you have any role model or mentor in poetry that you looked up to?
Yes. I had lots of them but they were all page poets. Aluta UG (Ugochukwu Iwuji) who was two years ahead of me in the English & Literary Studies Department in Imo State University and Professor Isidore Diala were my mentors but I had role models in William Shakespeare, Wole Soyinka, W.B Yeats, Professor Niyi Osundare.
Now within twelve years, you’ve authored three books. The first one SPOKEN WORD POETRY – 101; Did you envisage it being accepted by the poetic community and readers community, despite the fact you are not a professor or so?
I was certain it’d sell but that was not why I published it. I published it so that I won’t die of boredom. I was tired of saying same things to younger poets who seek my help but ask same questions. So I just packaged my answers to all the frequently asked questions from my 10 years of research and teachings and published it. It’s 2 years already and so far, no question(s) have been asked me, whose answers are outside that book. It proves how carefully done it was. It should be a course and I’m working towards it.
Wow! That’s quite a huge feat. Your ‘debut single’ (smiles) Omalicha was adorable for me. Though it sounded more like a serenade for someone you had at heart. Tell me, who was your muse?
It wasn’t my debut single. It’s not even the fifth. I’ve recorded 16 Poems before it, but released just 5 of them before it. And yes, I hate to burst your bubble. There’s no real life story behind the lines. Like I’ve mentioned countless times before now, ‘Omalicha’ is my response to my fans who say I only write serious sociopolitical poems. I had to do something that meshes humor, love and music. I did all I could to be ‘unserious’. I think I scored a little above average.
What would you say have been your achievements so far in the Industry?
Being instrumental in making poetry go almost mainstream by helping lots of poets find their footing. The fulfillment I get when any of my students demand for honorarium with a ‘swagalicious’ smirk on his/her face is very satisfying, orgasmic even. It’s the biggest award for me.
That’s amazing! How would you say the entertainment industry has been to Poetry as a branch of art?
Very receptive. There’s poetry in all facets of entertainment. It behooves on the poets to do all we can, to creatively marry poetry to a more notable ‘branch of the art’ (depending on the audience of the event we’ve been invited to) consciously to win more fans for poetry.
If you had any counsel or you were put at the helm of affairs; what would you do to aid the growth of poetry?
I’d raise more poets by making sure that those who raise poets are rewarded adequately and even more than those who just do it as a quick means to cash out and run to the next best career.
Any word for the upcoming creatives?
Being controversial isn’t same as being troublesome. Don’t inherit enemies, instead volunteer to aid all viable platforms around you. Grow up, don’t jump up!
This is huge! Before I leave, I’m sure some females also would like to know if there’s a a woman behind Sir Grrraciano?
Nope. I have someone I’m considering but I’m still studying her without her notice. I fear, because people live fake lives just to impress people they crush on. Every relationship is like a building. People like keeping their spouses in the sitting room, far from their toilets and backyards. I want to see and be shown the toilets and backyards to be sure it’s something we can deal with for the rest of our lives.
(smiles) Thank you so much, Mr. Graciano Enwerem; It was an awesome time with you!
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