A Son of Many Fathers, Speaking Metalects: An Interview with Ndubuisi Martins

Ndubuisi Martins (Aniemeka) is a Nigerian poet and teacher, an emerging literary theorist, scholar-critic, literary conversationalist and an Arsenal fan. He is author of the collection, One Call, Many Answers.

BookRepublic: The idea of voice and indigenous thought is important in your book (the title itself One Call, Many Answers points to these)-I am interested in the implications of communicating the language of indigenous thought in English. In what ways, does it relate to your book’s reflection of many voices and its insistence of crossing boundaries?

  Martins: I am a son of many fathers, but I have a traceable origin, and the implication is that I must reflect that primary constituency, which is simply rooted in Igbuzo. So like Ulli Beier, that strutting German cultural crosser, carries the German unconscious but transports his pristine ideas into English, like Niyi Osundare carries the folk repertoire of Ikere into his poetry; so my tongue evinces the first world – Igbuzo – that opened up to me its artistic splendour. There was much in my background – early and later – that made poetry come with hybrid tones. The Asiama, Oboshi, my village rivers (Ogun River, and Ogunpa, for people who might have grown in the South West); I listened to the music of crickets in that rustic bedstead of nature. I heard the frequent dirgic cry from widows, lost in the lyrics of Ikpohokasom, my great grandmother. Hence, I am a native of that sensibility, having been born in the North, Kano, without even reaching a holophrastic level of Hausa. Ibusa, in Delta State, is my first consciousness.

No writer has a pure sensibility, so that it is hard to chance upon singular socialisation. Creative verbalisation is, first and foremost a call – perhaps an indigenous nudge for people who wake up to heed the call. There is a single call, but not a single sense for answerability. There’s a common unconscious pool for creative but different spheres account for a multiplex of answers. So, what implication is answered in metalects (multiple tongues)? I think that the answer is more related to crossing boundaries, the indigenous to the foreign. It would be impossible not to be so affected by additive consciousness which is incumbent on encountering otherworldly signs and meanings, that every concern triggers my many answers to a call. The tongue tastes many meals; thus, it is crossed by several foods, interpretable as boundaries and so, must report different tasty or sour impressions to the sense that governs all. My writing must first imagine life, take on various experiences, intoned with corresponding emotions, and render this account to the mega voice that reigns in my poetics.

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