Olawale Famodum has grown a steady, yet modest reputation, with his passion for literature and the arts for over two decades. He was a prominent member of his high school Dramatic Society, distinguishing himself in roles which included, but not limited to, Aderopo in ‘The Gods are not to blame’ and The Spiritualist in ‘The Corpse’s Comedy’. At the end of his degree course in geology, he collaborated with a dramatic team in the institution to stage a Yoruba play which he had translated to English. The play, ‘Tragedy of Efunsetan Aniwura – Iyalode of Ibadan’ by Professor Akinwunmi Ishola was written in verse drama using the blank verse style. In 1999, he was highly recommended in the BBC African Performance Radio Drama of that year. His interest in short story and flash fiction has made him to associate himself with numerous literary blogs and magazines on the internet which led him to publishing his book Poems Of Redemption with Creative Talents Unleashed. It is with great pleasure that we introduce Author Olawale Famodun to you.
Hi Olawale, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Let’s get started.
Creative Talents Unleashed: Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Olawale: I was born in Lagos, although my father came from the riverine regions of South West Nigeria close to the Niger Delta in a village called Igbotako. He had come with his siblings to Lagos in the early 1960s. They had come to Lagos to start a publishing firm, very interesting indeed. My early education was in Lagos, where I was known in elementary school as the son of a printer and publisher. Then my father would dole out gifts of diaries and books from his company to teachers in my school as well as his friends during the Christmas seasons. I studied geology, not printing technology, at the University of Ibadan. I began a managerial career in the corporate world, even though the dream of a literary career was endearingly latent.
Creative Talents Unleashed: So when did you fall in love with poetry or writing in general, when did you decide this life was for you? Tell us a bit about that discovery process.
Olawale: If you ask me when I fell in love with poetry or writing you are possibly asking me when I fell in love with myself. I have always been in love with myself. There was definitely a beginning of the art of writing for me. I think it is an urge, an urge that remained with me till today. It has never departed from me, and we will obviously remain together forever. Everything I knew about literature and the art were acquired through self education. I don’t have a degree in Literature, but I have knowledge of virtually everything taught up to professorship level. My maternal grandmother will never go unappreciated in my life on becoming a writer. Until about the time I was four years old till the last fifteen years of her life, she was an icon to me. Sarah Tinuola Odusanwo, though with very little education, was highly literate for a grandmother at her time and in comparison with people of her age whom I knew. She sang to me and my siblings the first English hymns we ever heard, raising her voice as the songs stirred her to make her tribal marks more prominent. She told us biblical stories and some stories from Yoruba Mythology. I can also recall seeing her sit by the lantern light at night write to my Uncle who was then an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin. She was consistent in her letters to him, and the correspondence throughout his eight years study there was marvelous. She read and wrote, with her trademark large-lenses spectacle. Even though it was the Yoruba language, she was remarkably fluent in it. Her handwriting was fascinating to me, writing pleasantly as if it were Chinese calligraphy. One other factor which I cannot ignore is my ancestral business, just like the son of a musician or lumberjack would likely become a virtuoso and a sculptor respectively. My father and his two elder brothers and their two younger ones were printers. The five collectively managed a printing and publishing firm in a period spanning nearly three decades from the late 1960s to the mid 1990s when the economic adversity of my native Nigeria made the company to close down regrettably. The company had been flourishing long before my birth. The peculiar scent of paper and printing ink, the delightful sight of printing machines, the enormous sound and books produced may have made an unnoticeable impart on me which I cannot describe forever. I must have risen from the crumble of the company’s glory just as Charles the Hammer rose from the ashes of the Roman Empire. I can still say that my first writing was a poem. It was a poem that I wrote when I was eight years old. I wrote it for a girl in my class. My class teacher and the girl felt that it was a love poem and I got punished. The disciplinary action stopped me from writing anything again although I pretended to a bloated personal opinion of myself when at sixteen years old I wrote excellent prose which on very rare occasions had actually won me respect in secondary school. At fourteen years old I was experimenting with writing nursery rhymes, while an attempt to write in the sonnet form ended woefully with merely seven lines. All along there was no encouragement and nobody ever discovered me. It was something I did in my secrecy. Writing poems seemed to have been a belittling past time which had previously brought me shame, but I could not stop doing it. From seventeen to nineteen I remembered vividly as a period I did no writing. I started practicing writing poems once again when I was twenty. It was a personal literary revival for me which had been on-going for the past two decades now. By the time I was twenty-two, about September 1995, I accidentally entered the philosophy section of the Kenneth Dike Library of my University of Ibadan. I read several philosophy books and I came across philosophers different from Socrates and Plato that I was used to since elementary school. I knew then that there were also Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Hume, Spinoza, Albert Camus and Locke. Hume really captivated me through his thinking on ideas and impressions, this aided my first description of people and what made them feel and do things as they do them. My classmates felt confused as to what I needed philosophy for because I was nearly always carrying a philosophical text than a geology text book. Soon I added psychology, and then books and commentaries on drama and world literature. I began to know writers too. The great Russians fascinated me most- Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Chekov, Anna Akhmatova, Turgenev and many more. Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dryden, Stevenson and others were not unknown to me since my adolescent years, but I began to see them differently as not merely human. I wanted to know about all the writers that had ever lived. The French masters of painting like Cezanne, Monet, Poussin, and the Italian Masters of Renaissance Art filled me with awe. During this period I read so many things, even mystery books. My friends thought I was possessed! Classical music, its successor Romantic Music and the Baroque before them were no exception. I am displeased at my inability to mention other names in this short interview. I recall September 1995 being my REVELATION YEAR. It was from my reading of philosophy in particular that I realized that writing was my calling. Financial constraint was to be the bane that slowed me down until the Harmattan of 2014.
Creative Talents Unleashed: Why do you write, what is it that you’re trying to communicate through your work?
Olawale: I see everything I have written as an experiment, which is a reaction to my readings. How things are, what I think life is all about and what life may not be about are very essential. The countless reflections of the fleeting life must be captured. The numerous outcomes of my personal experience and that of the people of the world, the entire humanity, are of great significance. A compendium of our communal experience and knowledge must be celebrated. What life can turn out to be is also important.
Creative Talents Unleashed: Where does your inspiration come from, what might inspire you at any moment to write a story or poem?
Olawale: Communication is the key that opens the door into the understanding. What I feel, see, hear, think, know and do is noteworthy. What other people feel, see, hear, think, know is a smashing trailer.
Creative Talents Unleashed: What was the hardest thing about writing your book?
Olawale: The main poetic themes and verse in Poems of Redemption were conceived and written between 2009 and 2011. There was financial constraint for me, but I was never deterred. The spirit of perseverance was to assist me in my triumph. Then in late 2014 I had to edit the main collection. The process involved the addition of older ones and newer poems. About five longer poems were removed from the original manuscript primarily due to technical considerations and not that they did not fit into the overall theme.
Creative Talents Unleashed: What was the easiest thing about writing your book?
Olawale: The passion to write was unconquerable, not even by my sadistic human nature. The force that moved me to action was unstoppable. The inner joy and well-being I got writing my book cannot even be described. Creative Talents Unleashed was able to make me realize that my dream was indeed possible.
Creative Talents Unleashed: There are many authors who say that in the process of writing a book you learn things about yourself. Did you learn anything in your book writing process about yourself, if so what?
Olawale: I believe that is true. When you write fiction there is no way certain aspects of your life would not find their way into it. It is absolutely unconscious, and so is the art. Every book reveals the personality of the author, no matter how deliberate you try to keep them away. I learned that I was sort of a prophet, and that I have the poetic means to free myself and the world from every form of adversity. It is a mantra derived from poetry and I am the medium. The dire human conditions are henceforth redeemable.
Creative Talents Unleashed: What in your view is the role or responsibility of a writer or poet, if there is any?
Olawale: The artist is a free agent. The greatest responsibility of the writer is the recognition of his freedom. The writer must see herself or himself as a reporter of human experience. The writer must see self as the custodian of human values, norms and culture, not only of his own immediate community, but all of humanity. The writer must develop his or her art with these thoughts always in mind. The poet is a legislator, and he or she must use impartiality as the most potent weapon and tool when documenting the history and mannerism of humanity and life in poetic symbols.
Creative Talents Unleashed: What are your ambitions as a writer, where do you hope to see yourself in say 5 years?
Olawale: In the next five years I expect to have written more books, poetry, short stories, flash fiction and children books. I think I should not be envied because I will be very busy, and it is not going to be as simple as making everything touched turn gold like Midas’ hands. There would be more research for me, and this would take its toll of my reading vociferously. I will also be writing several forms of the drama. I won’t shy away from writing biographies and memoirs too. It would be an inexhaustible fun following every trend in the literary world and keeping myself in form, updating myself on established standards in literature. Two books, which are collections of over 200 each of lyrical poems and a sonnet form that merged the Italian with the Elizabethan in a very interesting pattern are not yet published though long completed before Poems of Redemption was ever conceived. There are also the jazz poems. I still want to show the world what Yoruba Drama could do in collaboration with other genres of literature. I will be coming out soon with another book of poetry which exploits the beauty of a verse style that has been in vogue for over nine hundred years. The full length novels will also come. There are some other things I don’t know currently, but that may come up to my interest within these five years. The whole world is just opening up on its secrets and beauty, and I am absorbed in the happiness it is giving out to me.
Creative Talents Unleashed: Who is your favorite writer or poet? Perhaps you have a favorite quote from them that you would like to share.
Olawale: I am sorry to say that I don’t have a favorite writer. It would be bias on me to mention a person where I know so many with everyone’s influence recorded in my efforts as I deem to acknowledge them. I get inspired on a regular basis, even from budding writers. The three greatest influences on me are surprisingly not writers. I want to mention them here as Albert Einstein, Fela Kuti and Madonna. However, if I am obliged to choose just anyone then I imagine myself blindfolded to pick from a big bowl with over a hundred small balls the first ball my hand initially come into contact with. Let us envisage that I have done that and I have picked Jack Kerouac who said, ‘I hope it is true that a man can die and yet not only live in others but give them life, and not only life, but that great consciousness of life.’
Creative Talents Unleashed: What advice would you give to aspiring writers who have dreams of publishing or making writing a career choice?
Olawale: Writing is a lifestyle. A writer is a superstar. Writers have existed for generations in almost all cultures and this will remain so forever. The world will always need writers so keep the dream alive by writing. There will always be trying moments, but they are bittersweet experience like chewing the bitter kola. As for me, reading and research is ninety-nine per cent, while writing is one per cent. The discipline of the writer is perseverance, and this will be tested at every journey from aspiring authors to fully established ones.
A poem from his book “Poems Of Redemption”
The Rains Have Fallen
The rains have fallen;
The avalanche itself has fallen;
gripped by chilliness,
has fallen feverishly;
The shooting stars,
paranoid of the ground,
have all fallen;
The air in burka of mist,
The icy ashes of the comets have fallen to the corners of the universe;
The presence of Evil has fallen to the presence of Good;
The wiry leaves all fallen down the dell;
While I have fallen in love.
© Olawale Famodun
Please Visit Olawale’s Author Page for more details: http://www.ctupublishinggroup.com/olawale-famodun.html
Also Available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Poems-Redemption-Olawale-Famodun/dp/0990500977
Categories: Creative Talents Unleashed