22 March 2014


"Only the very weak-minded refuse to be influenced by literature and poetry" ~Cassandra Clare

(Image Credit: Sage Hasson)
The art of spoken word poetry has been around for many centuries. In fact, history tells us that, the ancient Greeks included spoken word poetry in their Olympic games and people usually gathered in theaters to watch poets recite their lines on stage.

Modern spoken word poetry was made popular by the Black American community in the 1960s and platforms like, the Def Poetry Jam have helped to keep the culture alive till today.

The task of a spoken word poet is quite enormous; converting deep, though-provoking lines on the page to a colourful performance on stage is no mean feat, and one poet who has become a master of this art is my guest, Sammy Sage Hasson.

Sammy, popularly called Sage on stage, is the king of spoken word poetry in Nigeria--and one of the leading spoken word poets in Africa. With so many national and continental stage performances; and spoken word albums to his name, Sage is indeed a master of his craft. In course of our stroll we talked about poetry, his career so far, and he shared some advice for young poets around the world. Here is our discussion;

Ebenezar: It's a pleasure having this stroll with you Sage.
Sage: Thanks Wikina, happy to do this with you. 
Ebenezar: For many people around the world when you mention poetry, their minds picture a boring literature class or a set of obscure lines written in King James English; my question is, what is Poetry to you?

Sage: Poetry is all that but poetry is a lot more as well. Poetry is the power of human emotion adeptly expressed in verse, intelligence and panache. Poetry is the tool of the artiste/writer to inform, to rebel, to woo, to love, to bring change, to educate, to pontificate..poetry is the art of the word - the merging of emotion and thought amplified into as many words as to conjure and construct the same-said emotion and sense and sensibility.

(Image Credit: Sage Hasson)
Ebenezar: Okay, the goal of World Poetry day is to encourage linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard and documented. What do you think about writing in our ethnic languages? Is it something we should promote in Nigerian literature?

Sage: I'm in the school that preaches art for art's sake; and I strongly believe that language is but a tool. Cultures will metamorphose, languages will mutate; the world is changing phenomenally and I just want to express and create in whatever language that will do the job. But I still do believe in the preservation of all heritages and yes I support the idea of thinking, writing and composing in any language you find yourself adept in or even compelled to create in.

Ebenezar: Spoken word poetry is fast becoming part of urban culture here in Africa; and that's because of how easy it is to assimilate compared to written poetry. Is this why you chose the path of spoken word poetry in the first place?

Sage: I started writing and performing a form of poetry over 20 years ago..I'm musically inclined but then I am almost a better writer than I am a composer..when I started to take my spoken word public I saw it as a calling and a crusade to save a beautiful art form from imploding. I've always said a book is tomb to a poem but now I know the art lover's passion can be ignited for him/her to become a tomb raider. I didn't choose spoken word because I thought it was easier I chose it because I'm a rebel and I didn't like what academia had turned poetry into, and because like I said, my musical side needed expression as well.

Ebenezar: (haha) Most spoken word poets like that rebel tag. Okay, I've been around so many poets and one recurring complaint I get whenever I interact with them is the fact that poetry isn't paying the bills; Or rolling in the coins as they say it. Do you also experience this challenge as a 'made' spoken word poet?

Sage: I pay my bills with poetry I've been doing it for 9 years or so..

Ebenezar: Wow, that's impressive
Sage: Yes, every poet should be true to themselves and ask; am I good enough to be paid to do this? And stop excusing their failure to be the best poet they can be. Now, we need also be realistic the society is yet to consider poetry a stable and people won't pay for what they don't need. If you want to make money writing poetry please write like hell and/or be innovative with your poetry.

(Image Credit: Sage Hasson)
Ebenezar: Okay, what financial advice do you have for young writers who hope to carve a career in writing--poetry in particular--in the nearest future?

Sage: Financial advice? I think financial advice should be sought from a financial advisor;

Ebenezar: (hahaha) Okay, I meant tips on how to make poetry lucrative...

Sage: Okay, if at all I can give any, I think my last answer provides what I can term 'making money from poetry' - but every poet should not write poetry because they want to make money - that's financial advice.

Ebenezar: Okay, that's great. Did you experience any difficulty in choosing a career for yourself? Because from what I gathered, apart from your University education, you attended the theological seminary at some point right?

Sage: No, I didn't attend a seminary.

Ebenezar: Oh, Sorry...

Sage: but I pastored a student church in the university. I've never had a problem choosing a career - I don't have a career, I don't do career I do calling. I've never done anything in life other than write, speak, teach and music. If I had any issues, it would be how to bring all these together I managed that now..and now I give all my various abilities platforms - from poetry, to prose - fiction and non-fiction, to teaching, to philosophy to music I just express myself and pay no mind to the one-track culture that insists on boxing a man's creativity. I am going to be all I am made to be whether people understand or not.

Ebenezar: Yeah, I think I understand. So, you've recorded many Spoken Word albums--in fact I've got a couple in my library as we speak--but it was a bit new to hear about a book from you. What inspired you to write the 'Dream Maker'?

Sage: I was writing before I was performing. But we live in a myopic system where people assume they know your capacity based on what you have achieved. 

Ebenezar: (haha) Okay?

Sage: People grow and increase and a book is a natural progression for a writer, even pop singers write books so I don't see how sage the poet writing a book is surprising. In my opinion I expect people to say its long overdue, as it is. And the natural progression for a real poet is to philosophy, thought and for some science. Poetry grows the mind and my mind has increased to the above-mention disciplines.

Ebenezar: In an interview you granted late last year, you said you're retiring from doing shows and stage performances. So what will you be up to from now on?

Sage: I thought you just mentioned my book? Isn't that a slight departure? Well, I want to write more, I want to speak and teach more, and I still perform I just don't it valued as much. And I want to go on break. I want to do more television, some radio, a lot of writing and even film, I currently consult for a top music video producer as creative content producer.

Ebenezar: Okay. Once again I'd like to offer my condolence on the passing away of your mum--who has been laid to rest I believe? May her soul rest in peace. What can you say about her and her contribution in making you who you are today?

Sage: My mother was an amazingly strong woman and she thought me that - strength. I'm not as strong as she was but her strength and fortitude is an inspiration to me. She was my anchor and hardest critic and greatest supporter. She likes poetry and recited when she was in school, she sowed the seed of storytelling in me by her dexterous ability to tell a tale. I miss her. And losing her was like losing my essence. She was the first editor and critic of dream maker and it was her advice and suggestions that made me rewrite it to what was finally published.

Ebenezar: Wow, that's really great. I pray God gives you grace to bear the loss. It's really being an honour having this stroll with you Sage, I hope to get your autograph on my copy of 'The Dream Maker' soon.

Sage: Yes. I'm sure you will get it soon. Thank you for the stroll. Bless, its time to make dreams.


For more about Sage, follow him on twitter @SageBaba

The beauty of poetry, is the ability to say so many things with few words. Today I'll do a major shift from my usual style of ending strolls by ending with a few verses of a poem I wrote sometime ago to celebrate poetry. It is entitled, 'Poetry is Boring'. Till my next stroll; on March 24th, World Tuberculosis day; when I'll be talking with Joshua Ihejiamaizu--a Nigerian youth tech entrepreneur doing great things in the medical field; Jesus Loves you. Here's the poem;

this is poetry
that good old boring poetry
but before you shut your nose and your eyes start snoring
i just want to remind you that, poetry is still boring

poetry is boring;boring,boring boring.

so with your ears as Collateral

I'm borrowing a few words from oxford
to catch your Interest with lines you've never seen
like an ox, driving a Ford

you better take your cycle of friends to the stadium and market square

stay there and grab a chair
because ,just like Oil mill and Oshodi market day
many people are struggling to see poets recite here
poetry is boring starting another renaissance
its now Ptv-base as music gives way for this reappearance

poetry is glossy, its on everybody's lip

they like her figure eight of speech like every lady's hip
like a drill in a wall
like a nail entering your skull

poetry is boring deep,deep,deep into entertainment

but if you think i said;
poetry is(yawns)boring
then you don't know what i meant. 

NB: Oshodi and Oil Mill Markets, are names of popular markets in Nigeria which are  usually crowded.
                                                                                                    Ebenezar Wikina

"My thoughts are filled with beautiful words for the king, and I will use my voice as a writer will use pen and ink." (Psalm 45v1, Contemporary English Version)

A Stroll with Kukogho Iruesiri (For writer's day)
A Stroll with Merit Gogo Fyn face (For World Book Day)
A Stroll with Lizzy Attree (For World AIDS Day)
A Stroll with Tope Folarin (For World Philosophy Day)
A Stroll with Tade Ipadeola (For Day of the Imprisoned Writer)

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