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Q&A with poet Nnadi Samuel

This week, we're publishing a new poem – "Missionary" – by Nnadi Samuel, a poem our team loved for its beautiful, rich imagery and pace.


Nnadi Samuel (he/him/his) holds a B.A in English & literature from the University of Benin. Author of 'Nature knows a little about Slave Trade' selected by Tate N. Oquendo (Sundress Publication, 2023). A 3x Best of the Net, and 7x Pushcart Nominee. He won the River Heron Editor's Prize 2022, Bronze prize for the Creative Future Writer's Award 2022, UK London, the Betsy Colquitt Poetry Annual Award, 2022 (Texas Christian University), the Virginia Tech Center for Refugee, Migrants & Displacement Studies Annual Award, 2023, the 2023 Stacy Doris Memorial Award (Fourteen Hills) San Francisco State University Review, the John Newlove Poetry Annual Awards (Ottawa, Canada), 2023 and recently won the Vera Manuel Poetry Awards, 2023 Surrey Muse Art Society (Vancouver, Canada). His third chapbook is forthcoming @Bywords Publication (Ottawa CA) in 2024.


Recently our editor-in-chief Julian Kanagy talked with Nnadi Samuel about the new poem and how his poetry helps him make sense of the world. Below is their conversation in its entirety.


Julian Kanagy: Our editors found "Missionary" to be delightfully fast-paced and packed with imagery and allusion. I would love to begin by asking about this piece's origins; what inspired and informed it?


Nnadi Samuel: I wrote this poem thinking of the moral decadence that has ravaged the missionary boarding schools—which ought to be custodians of chastity & the bedrock for our ethical judgment. Alas, it's all virtue signalling (both on the part of administration and its ward) at the end of the day, and doesn't take so long to come to light. I grew up with the argument of day school and boarding house missionary students fighting over who was better, and the latter always seem to win. Which made me quite inquisitive to know what makes them superior over others. The answer to this, however, came much later in adulthood.


JK: Is "Missionary" part of a larger body of themed work, or does it stand alone? How do you feel about the process of collecting and curating your poetry, such as your chapbook 'Nature knows a little about Slave Trade'?  Do you envision "Missionary" finding a place in a themed collection?


NS: Yes, "Missionary" is part of a larger body of work titled "Biblical Invasion" which is my third chapbook, forthcoming @Bywords (Canada) in 2024.


The process of curating & collecting poems for a body of work I would say, is mindboggling, and I am always astounded by the endless stream of possibilities it could attaint over time. It always seems a brand new discovery, to see a line, a theme, a poem, a character flow into the other and then the next, till it becomes a cohesive whole. Each day opens you to a different portal, in which you could emerge from the other end unscathed or otherwise. Either way, with so much more meaning than you ever started out with. You get to meet the work this time, with a fresh eyes for sound, language, plot, innovation & newness. The feeling is best experienced than described.


JK: When writing pieces informed by trauma or societal commentary, do you feel as though you have a responsibility to write or to write a certain way? How does your poetry allow you to affect or differently understand the world?


NS: As much as we write for ourselves, we also write for the society in one way or another. I write first, because I write & not for a responsibility of sounding a particular way or tailoring my work to fit societal standard.We all share the burden of the society, while at it(this writing). Most of my works have always been a way to amplify marginalized groups in the society, which was how my second chapbook "Nature Knows a Little About Slave Trade" was borne. So, it comes natural to me to  always circle it back to the trauma and things happening in  the society, albeit in my own.How I do that remains arbitrary to me, and is not dictated by what is generally acceptable.


JK: What role do religion, belief, and religious language play in your poetry, and especially "Missionary?" Many of your descriptors have heavy religious connotation, and I'd love to get a sense of the poet's perspective. In particular, the use of the word "confess" in the first stanza stands out as a distinct choice of word for the situation. Would you like to speak to that choice, or to your thoughts on the process in general?


NS: I was raised in a Christian background, and while growing up I witnessed both the good and bad side of religion. This raised a lot of question in me, and is the reason for my third chapbook. The body work as a whole, is embedded with religious terms, characters, word play, anecdote to make sense of the actual events that happened in the Bible today. If they were all imaginations, half-truths by anointed men, or accounted for as they were.





 

Poet Nnadi Samuel
Nnadi Samuel

Nnadi Samuel (he/him/his) holds a B.A in English & literature from the University of Benin. Author of 'Nature knows a little about Slave Trade' selected by Tate N. Oquendo (Sundress Publication, 2023). A 3x Best of the Net, and 7x Pushcart Nominee. He won the River Heron Editor's Prize 2022, Bronze prize for the Creative Future Writer's Award 2022, UK London, the Betsy Colquitt Poetry Annual Award, 2022 (Texas Christian University), the Virginia Tech Center for Refugee, Migrants & Displacement Studies Annual Award, 2023, the 2023 Stacy Doris Memorial Award (Fourteen Hills) San Francisco State University Review, the John Newlove Poetry Annual Awards (Ottawa, Canada), 2023 and recently won the Vera Manuel Poetry Awards, 2023 Surrey Muse Art Society (Vancouver, Canada). His third chapbook is forthcoming @Bywords Publication (Ottawa CA) in 2024.



Our editor in chief Julian Kanagy
Julian Kanagy

Julian Kanagy is a Chicago-based poet and editor. His poetry samples a Midwestern upbringing peppered with loss and abandonment, thrives both in the confines of formal structure and the simplicity of its absence, and expands into an ongoing search for the beauty in everyday life when it seems to be hiding. He started Heirlock Magazine to amplify underrepresented voices and The Wild Umbrella to celebrate writing for writing's sake; both as an editor and in his own work, Julian follows the advice of a mentor: “find the poems that nobody else could have written.”


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