October 12, 2019

Bash and Dami: Songs of a Lunatic in a Woman’s Body


“Our bodies are poems – our scars, aches, wounds, quirks, beauties, ugly bits; our pulse, our textures – a universe of poems.”

Those are the words of Kwame Dawes. Shittu Fowora, an awarding winning poet and literary critique spoke about poems this way too. The other time, Kukogho Iruesiri Samson took us deeper into appreciating structure and style, even in contemporary poetry, at a previous workshop. But these words from Kwame resounded even louder at the intensive poetry workshop titled, “becoming a better poet,” in Maitama, Abuja, 30th – 31st August.

The workshop was facilitated by Dami Ajayi, a medical doctor, poet, and author of ‘Clinical Blues’ and ‘A Woman’s Body is a Country,’ and Bash Amuneni, an architect, performance poet, and author of ‘There is a Lunatic in Every T

Bash and Dami Poetry workshop
Bash Amuneni and Dami Ajayi Poetry workshop

They didn’t waste time to ask participants of a poetry collection they read of recent, or their favourite poem of all times. It was at this time I remembered reading Amirah Al Wassif‘s ‘For those who don’t know Chocolate’ (I published the review on my blog), followed by David Diop’s ‘Hammer Blows.’ I couldn’t afford to forget reading out loud the first stanza of Scott Thomas Outlar’s poem “Of covenants and cauldrons.” It reads:

“And if I write with the blood of my ancestors,
will not these pages be soaked
with both their glory and their sins?”

With Dami Ajayi at the poetry workshop

Dami made us read, analyse, and respond to poems from Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney, Wendell Berry, Natalia Diaz, Phillip B. Williams, Lucille Clifton, and Safiya Sinclair. I was also exposed to “Letters to Poets,” by Rainer Maria Rilker, and “Memos to Poets – a tweet a day,” by Kwame Dawes.

One of the tweets read, “like our children, our poems must eventually find their own way, but the least we can do is give them a fighting chance.” My favourite is “if the poem came from God don’t ask me to edit God.” ?

With Bash Amuneni at the Poetry workshop

At the end of the session with Dami, I picked a lot of lessons but I’d never forget one: poetry is everywhere – flowing, but it is the poet who traps it, and put it in words too sublime.

Should I mention Bash Amuneni? Hell, yea! If anyone resigns from a well-paid job to dedicate himself to the promotion, and the art of performance poetry, is that person not crazy? ??So you should now understand why poetry carries a breathe of its own.

But Bash will keep reminding us about the need for empathy as a performance poet. It is a journey that involves moving from the literature to the performer, from the performer to the audience, and from the audience back to the performance poet. Bash showed us videos of some incredible performance poets like Efe Paul, Bassey Ikpi, Titilope, and co.


Participants at the Bash and Dami Poetry workshop


To young poets, it is my hope that we constantly build our art, and give it the best touch – the kind it deserves. It breaks my heart to see some young poets wallow in social validation that deaden, rather than give life to their poetry. It wrecks my heart to see some young poets refuse to learn from experienced pens – even if it means paying, or taking long distances to do so.

At the end of making these efforts as a young poet, you’d be surprised at the fact that you’ll start making poems that “do not disturb the silence from which it came.”


Dear young poet, make of this epistle what you want…

Basiru and Dami, thank you for the time, and lessons you shared with us, with me…

…the future is here!


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