A poet in my society is as relevant as the age-long town-crier: An online interview with Torty Abasi Tortivie
Torty Abasi Tortivie: Poet, Lives in Nigeria
Dupur MItra: Why do you write poetry?
Torty Abasi Tortivie: I write poetry because it comes on me like a reflex action. I can’t stop blinking, I have to close my eyes from at short intervals and that’s exactly how writing poems is to me. Response to reflex action.
Dupur MItra: Do you think poetry plays a role in your society?
Torty Abasi Tortivie: Yes, I think so. A poet in my society is as relevant as the age-long town-crier. He diseminates information, creates awareness, reverberates our dos and don’ts; sometimes with humour, sometimes he spices the bit with little ‘pepper and salt.’ children and adults all want to hear him. So when the metal gong sounds, they run out to receive his message.
Dupur MItra: Who are your major influences as a poet?
Torty Abasi Tortivie: Locally, I first read J. P Clarke, Wole Soyinka, Gabriel Okara, and a few others. It was during my study in the university that I became attracted to beautiful souls like E.E cummings, Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spencer, Rudyard Kipling, William Shakespeare (of course I’d read him earlier), some more indigenous poets, and a host of others. I find it hard to prefer only one.
Dupur MItra: What does being a poet mean to you?
Torty Abasi Tortivie: (laughs) It means being alive and relevant. It means being that beloved town-crier. It means rising to my responsibilities—first to my immediate environment and then to the universal community. It means being a watchdog for all you care about.
Dupur MItra: What is poetry?
Torty Abasi Tortivie: Poetry is life.
Dupur MItra: What are your observations about trending of world poetry?
Torty Abasi Tortivie: It should be a good development. I think, it does not run contrary to the dynamics of poetry, such as individualism.
Dupur MItra: Can poetry movement improve poetry?
Torty Abasi Tortivie: Yes. Over the ages we are introduced to various poetry movements. We had the Ancient Greek poets who contributed in being the first to reduce poetry to written form, and who wrote the first dramatic poems and initiated almost all the classic forms—ode, epic, tragedy, etc. The Elizabethan era brought in the narrative poem, ballad, and sonnet. The era also triggered the introduction of literary studies into educational systems, and also humanistic subjects in poetry. Other poetic movements like the Metaphysical poets, Romantic poets, Provencal Literature Movement, the American Transcendentalists and other movements also left their milestones and corner-turning theories in the history of poetry. Most of what happens today is a fussion of their forms to produce hybrids.
Dupur MItra: What is your opinion about today’s world poetry movement?
Torty Abasi Tortivie: The World Poetry Movement headquartered at Medellin, Colombia, is a kind of poetic ecumenism, and ecumenism has its strengths and weaknesses. But if it can sustain its organisation, and programmes, and of course unity, it’s fine. After all, its goals are bordered on the advancement of poetry from across the world. It’s beautiful and fine, by me. Thank you.