I feel like a smitten suitor whose proposal has been accepted by poetry itself - Maryam Bappa on winning the PW poetry prize

Maryam Idris Bappa is the winner of the female category prize of the Poetic Wednesday s second anniversary poetry award sponsored by the Arts-Muse Fair blog. Born and bred Zaria, Northern Nigeria, she has had all her education in Zaria where she is currently a Masters student in Architecture at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). In this conversation with Salim Yunusa, she explains the intersection between poetry and Architecture.

As an Architect, how has your profession shaped your poetry?

Right from school, we Architects have been taught to make use of materials available in our locality in designing and constructing buildings. Not only does it save money, time, and energy, but it also creates this perfect scenario on ‘the definition of harmony and comfort’. (Look up Frank Llyod Wright’s Design of Falling) That said, I have also learned that poetry like architecture, is a very flexible art capable of changing with time. As an Architect, I define poetry to be a form of building crafted in different styles within different eras portraying several ideas and identities. Hence, for my poetry to be dynamic and unique, I have devised a means of bringing Architecture into poetry. A way of borrowing terms and terminologies familiar with an era and familiar to my language and intellection, molding it to form bricks in building poetry that matches different styles and ideologies of my choosing.

Poetic Wednesdays just celebrated its second anniversary .Can you tell us what impact being a member has made in your literary journey?

Being a member of Poetic Wednesdays has literally ‘changed my life’. This curious net surfer has by fate, a year ago, trampled upon a pebble of luck called PW, thus tripping fast into and falling unrepentantly hard for poetry. Poetic Wednesdays has taught me poetry in general. It has helped me express a suppressed love for the art and languages. I never believed in the true existence of poetry outside the books of Shakespeare until I began seeing jaw-opening write-ups by great poets in the group. PW has given me a chance to interact with different, excellent poets and different poetry groups constantly learning and picking up styles and ideas until I too started to develop my own unique style and identity in the poetry world. 
What can you say about online Literary Movements and the impacts they are making?

Wow! I can, honestly, say nothing more but encourage not only online, but also offline literary groups, because they are doing an excellent job of shaping youths to become better individuals of tomorrow by giving voices of reason to the hitherto voiceless and like in the case of PW, relating poetry to social issues which will enlighten both readers and writers and serve as an eye opener for self-blinded individuals. For the online literary movements, I can only encourage you to keep doing what you are doing because it is showing the world that there is indeed a beneficial and positive use of the net for youth rather than wasting away precious time falling victims of scams and unproductive pursuits.

You are the female winner of the recently concluded PW second anniversary poetry competition co-sponsored by The Arts Muse Fair blog. How would you describe that moment you were announced as the winner?

You know that feeling on Sallah or Christmas Eve, when you were young and so feverish with excitement that you just couldn’t stop feeling happy? Well I experienced something very similar when I received news that I had emerged winner of the ‘PW second anniversary competition; female category’. We had written on a theme 'For the Love of Poetry', and I just couldn’t help feeling like a smitten and victorious suitor whose proposal had been accepted by poetry itself. For indeed, the love I have for poetry, I am un-exaggeratingly glad ‘she ended up mine’.

PW - What purpose does poetry serve you and what is your idea of an ideal poem?

Poetry is my teacher, companion, and lifelong friend. I write whenever I am happy, sad, angry or hurt. Poetry to me is that mountain that echoes my whispers to the world, yet a cave I huddle in to drown out the noise of the outside world. As long as there is life, there is poetry and as long as there is poetry, there is understanding. To me, an ideal poem is a relatable poem and I define one by its ability to gift one the shoe of the writer, carrying with it, the emotions and dictions in which it was written. Thus the reason I enjoy lyrical poems more than other types.

Gender issues have become hot topics in literary circles over the years; can you share with us your thoughts on how gender influences literature?

True, there has been over the years, miniature discussions and even extremist approaches to gender issues I personally deem a bit over-rated. However, I find it nonetheless disconcerting that it is believed one’s gender should be, or is a measure of the extent of success one can achieve or even more ridiculous, a limit. As far as literature is concerned, gender is not a measure of intellect or creativity. But if one wishes to prove otherwise, then the page is all his/hers. By all means, there is more than enough healthy room here in the literary world. Why don’t you give generations to come something great and tangible to ponder about?

Can you take us through a social issue you are very passionate about and what you think can be done about it?

The issue of ‘Almajiranci’ is a wild thought constantly gnawing at the back of my mind. I have constantly asked myself how we have allowed this to reach a stage where a three-year-old is out on the street, hungry, sick, homeless and at the mercy of the elements. What is Almajiranci and what purpose does it serve the victims? Yes, they are nothing but victims that have fallen to the ill trap of faith. But shall we leave them doomed to a destiny without love, care or support? Abandoned by parents, misguided by guardians, these little, innocent flowers whom have known nothing but hardship and suffering develop a negative attitude towards life and in many cases, wish ill-luck to everyone in it. They grow up to lack empathy for all and sundry. So I sit, ponder and start to wonder, are we really the cause of our woes? Is our nonchalant attitude the water that grows these trees that ignite themselves and burn us all? Until we answer these questions honestly, one cannot fully understand the gravity of ‘Almajiranci’. Therefore, we all must say no to Almajiranci by saying ‘No to illiteracy’, ‘No to child abuse’ and ‘Yes to human rights and charity groups’

What advice do you have for budding writers?

Like I have always and will always remind us, ‘’write whatever you have always wanted written down. Do not let anyone hold you back and never ever say no to yourself’’.