Guest Writer Sessions / POETRY


by Su’eddie Vershima Agema

It was fun as SEVHAGE in collaboration with the Writers’ League of the Benue State University and the poetry group, Purple Silver hosted the poet, Dr. Musa Idris Okpanachi to a reading at the Benue State University, Makurdi on the 29th of May, 2013. The time was 4pm and the audience were seated as the multiple award winning versatile writer, lecturer and deep thinker came into the hall. The lecturer and authority in Stylistics who teaches at the Federal University in Dutse smiled as he took in his audience. Some thirty plus number of people looked on, wondering what lay ahead… I did too. Hmm.

I moderated the session introducing all of us. Before long, Dr. Okpanachi took the podium reading from his first collection, The Eaters of the Living (ANA 2008 Poetry Prize clincher, also nominated for the 2009 NLNG Prize).

Dr. Okpanachi reading...

Dr. Okpanachi reading…

He read the title poem from the collection in order to a few more. There was no need to prod for applause as they poured more after each rendition. ‘I want to marry’ (a poem narrated by a persona want to marry the most ugly, unseemly and unlikely lady possible).  Okpanachi explained much lady that it was a deeply ironic poem that speaks on top of his head as the poet – opposed to the persona – would rather marry one who was the very opposite of that. But that, as we all know is simply surface light sentiments taking the casual reader from the depth of the expressed, which can be looked at as the increasing decaying values of people who are glued to the worst things in life, clinging to them and wanting them more. As he read, his voice rose in varying pitches to suit the mood of each verse. It was largely a near Arabian voice cooing on, picking strength at some points, quavering and loosening at others. A few eyes closed to flow with the evocative voice echoing on to the cadence of verse pouring forth…The poet continued. From the margins of Paradise (published 2012) was the next book read from. Some of the poems read included ‘My Dove’, ‘Half a poem’ (‘…a half poem/Because the verses are not beautiful enough/To splash the secret/ Code of your beauty/ On the canvass of my pen…’

The largely love collection had most of the people in the audience grinning. Not a few of them would have left that venue better lovers – well, that’s a whole different story. He ended the performance with ‘Laughter’ – a poem o!

The next section had Joshua Agbo, author of How Africans underdeveloped AfricaA forgotten truth in history and Beyond the dark clouds and Sewuese Leah Anyo, President of the Writers’ League engage with the guest author on his work. Dr. Okpanachi smiled as he took each question answering easily. It seemed like it had been prearranged. Yup, he answered the questions that easily. If I didn’t know better…

Joshua moderated the general questions and answers session that showed the teaching prowess of Okpanachi. Answering a question on the language of sophistication versus simplicity in verse as asked by Emmanuel Igyer, Dr. Okpanachi answered that the time for such elitist work was up. ‘The role of language is to communicate.’ He went on to advise on the simplicity of language – which isn’t the same thing as being plain or bland. ‘Mix philosophy with it and you would have something deep as I have done in the introductory lines to sections in From the margins of Paradise.’  More questions rolled as the poet defined poetry – foregrounding and tautness. He explained the reason for the low quality of education in the Nigerian system with emphasis on the university (lecturers wanting to be more materialistic than knowledgeable). On the inspiration for his beautiful love verses, Okpanachi casually said he had been around long. And yes, you could note it immediately.

Stephen Aba (a former student of Dr. Okpanachi’s and recently published poet) presented his work, Live and let laugh to his former teacher to the applause of everyone. It was a proud teacher who hugged his student. Stephen thanked Okpanachi for all the teaching and moulding into what he has become. Next, he asked Okpanachi his literary influences since it was noticeable that those who one looked unto, one became like. The older poet smiled and answered cooly that he didn’t read one particular poet and had his interests more in the works of the Middle East, Italian and confessed a deep love for Arabian love poems. He explained the background to some of his writing.

Well, there was far more talk and teachings but summary is after that, we all gave the poet an unending applause that had to be quietened eventually. The next session was that of the SEVHAGE Give A Book. We had two books to offer, BOFAK ILLUSION by Tanimu Sule and the Caine Prize Nominated WHISPERING TREES by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. The mode of selection was simple. We had two attendance lists. Our guest poet took a number from each. The first number was Number 5 – that of Ojama Sunday who jumped wide eyed as he took his Bofak Illusion. The second winning number on list 2 was Number 1, Pever X who took away Whispering Trees.

Anselm Sesugh Ngutsav, the Coordinator of Purple Silver took the Vote of Thanks while Ekere, the Vice President of the Writers’ League (who said the opening prayer) said the closing prayers bringing the readings to an end. Yes, we had the book signing session next.

Pictures, further questions, smiles and laughs, discussions on the book and asides… Well, more talk and more gist… More poetry and some of us had to go practice the latter part of what Okpanachi had taught. Muaaaah!

Hoping for our next reading… Meanwhile, thanks to everyone who came and all those keep supporting us. For now, oh…Already said what next is on some of our minds. 🙂


  1. Pingback: ANA 2013 Prizes: Longlist ANNOUNCED!!! | Su'eddie in Life n Literature

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