‘Constellations’ gave me the power to arrange my own stars” – Abdulrazaq Salihu
In recognition of the finest and latest African authors from around the world, 10Q is Eboquills’ special feature series dedicated to appreciating the hard work of authors. Today, we speak with Abdulrazaq Salihu, author and Poetry Reader (intern) at Eboquills. He talks to our editors about his newly published book; “Constellations“ which won the Nigerian Prize for Teen Authors 2021.
EBOQUILLS: Tell us a bit about yourself
AS: Good day, thank you so much for having me. I’m Abdulrazaq Salihu, a writer from Nigeria, a member of The Poetic Collective as well as the hilltop creative arts foundation. I’ve written and published a couple of my poems in literary journals and magazines within and outside the country. I’ve also won some literary awards nationally and internationally like the Splendors of Dawn poetry contest and not limited to the Poetry Archive poetry contest. I’m an empathetic poet, the empathy in my writing is my purpose, I have come to fulfill it.
EBOQUILLS: Can you tell us a bit about your book and what inspired you to write it?
AS: My chapbook, Constellations is a book of poems. It was primarily written to be submitted for the Nigerian prize for teen authors. I felt it was finally time to collect the poems into a chapbook and follow the path of the wind. In constellations I was trying so hard to explore as many themes as the universe contained, I was trying to write about all the things I knew, all the things I could know, and all the things I’d never know. It was a moment of discovery for me, the process was quite hectic but it was worth it. Constellations, I would say, was inspired by two people: Fatima Salihu and Zakiyyah Dzukogi. By inspired I do not mean themes of poems or context, it’s the energy these two women put into the world and their poetry that moved me to write Constellations. In that pursuit for energy and light, Constellations gave me something even better: power to arrange my own stars, to my odd, and tag them my constellations.
EBOQUILLS: How long did it take you to write the book?
AS: Hehehehe…, it literally took me six months to nurture the idea and funnily, two months of physical writing. From the beginning of 2021, I knew I had to write a chapbook, I knew I had to because it would be my last year in secondary school and the Nigerian Prize for teen authors is strictly for secondary school students. So I used two months to finally write six-month plus ideas. It was a beautiful journey as well as an intense one for me.
EBOQUILLS: What is your writing process like?
AS: My process of writing poetry has changed over the years. First, I started poetry with so much passion and rush, I was writing about anything and everything, every single day, I would wake up and write ten poems and I would never feel drained. Then came the second phase, the conscious phase, I was still writing plenty poems but this time I was becoming conscious of the kind of poems I wanted to write and this reduced the number. Then came the subconsciously-conscious process phase, I would house an idea for as long as two weeks, subconsciously the idea would be merging with necessary natural and artificial metaphors then on the day of the oozing, the poem would be birthed.
Generally, poetry has always been simple for me, I hardly write half poems, when I start writing, I must end it, I don’t believe in “some lines would not always come together at once” as much as I do not believe in writers’ block. Most, if not all the poems I’ve written come complete, most times with titles missing, and I love my titles so much because I believe titles should always be as beautiful as the poems themselves… situations where I read a title and the poem fails to fulfill its purpose oftentimes disappoints me. Generally, my poems come to me easy, it’s like someone else is doing the hard work of creating them and pouring them to me, the only hard part of my poetry is the intentionality I seek to pursue in metaphor, punctuations, and rhythms, and most importantly in editing the entire poem. Editing is the only hard part of my poetry, compared to doing the writing itself and I’m enjoying every bit of it—the writing I mean.
EBOQUILLS: Are there any authors or books that have greatly influenced your writing?
AS: Yes, yes, yes, there are plenty of writers that have influenced my writing not just with their writing but even with their energy and vibes.
Writers like Fatima Salihu (author of sketches), Zakiyyah Dzukogi (carved & winters and summers), Hauwa Shaffi Nuhu (sister), Romeo Oriogun ( burnt men), Ojo Olumide Emmanuel, Abu Bkr Saddiq (spec king) Zainab Ilyasu Bobi, RMG, Michael Imossan, Samuel Adeyemi, Safia Elhillo, Franny Choi, Sunday Saheed, Salim Yakubu Akko, Pacella, Saddiq Dzukogi (your crib my qibla) and countless others. These people have inspired me in different ways all positively and I appreciate that.
EBOQUILLS: How do you feel now that your book is published and available to readers?
AS: Phewwwww!, I’m literally numb. The joy of knowing it’d be published is bigger than finally having them published I do not know why. Now I don’t even know how or what to feel, I’d just look at it and remind myself that it’s not a mistake, that truly, God did. It’s a really beautiful feeling to write poems, it’s a whole new world of beauty when you hold unto your writing in print. It’s as beautiful as it’d always be, I feel proud of myself.
EBOQUILLS: Can you tell us about any particularly challenging or rewarding moments during the writing or publishing process?
AS: why don’t I tell you both?
I’d say one of the most challenging moments during the writing of Constellations was the overconsumption of poetry. I read so much that I started getting depressed, it was not funny, it was crazy, I was so moody and lost and deprived of joy. Yes, poetry is beautiful, but sincerely, too much of it can also kill as much as too much of every other thing can. Then the editing phase, since I’m not always a fan of editing and I knew I had to on this one, it was pretty challenging but by Allah, we came through.
The most rewarding moment was getting firstly when the book I had primarily written for a prize, won the prize, I don’t know what more I can say than to be thankful to God. Then getting a bunch of reviews, positive beautiful reviews for the poems in the collection was another rewarding moment for me, Alhamdulilah we’ve come this far, Alhamdulilah!!
EBOQUILLS: How do you hope readers will respond to your book?
AS: How do “I HOPE”. Well, it’d be every author’s dream for people to love his/her book. My hopes are that this book finds a way to never leave it readers’ minds, emphasis on NEVER. Because I find beauty and fulfillment in remembrance. It would be my biggest hope to see people understanding and holding unto the stars in my constellations with passion and pristine joy. All I ask for is that it does to them, what they need to be done to them.
EBOQUILLS: Are you working on any new writing projects currently?
AS: Yes yes yes, after finally finding a purpose, I feel it’s time to dedicate my next chapbook to a strict theme of purpose and flow. It’s already cooking but definitely no spoilers for now, hahaha.
EBOQUILLS: What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?
AS: writing is for everyone as much as it’s not. If you feel you can be a writer, then you definitely can, but remember and remember, do what’s right. All the corner-cutting might take you somewhere, but it’d definitely also leave you somewhere —lost and lost. Writing takes courage, be courageous. Know this, there are so many rejections in writing, expect one acceptance after 100 rejections and I believe your mental health and expectation level would be fine. Write as much as you read, I do not feel any is superior to the other, there exists a balance between both, find it and find your purpose, write your story, write your destiny.
10Q is Eboquills special feature for newly published authors to share their writing and publishing journey with our editors and audience. If you are a recently published author of any genre, we would be excited to have you share your story with us. Contact the Editor in Chief via email @ firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured on 10Q or to use our suite of writing support services.