top of page

The Flapper Press Poetry Café Welcomes the Nigerian Poet of Memory, Prosper Ìféányí

By Annie Newcomer:


The Flapper Press Poetry Café is honored to interview poets from all over the globe and share their beautiful poetry. This week, we feature the work of poet Prosper Ìféányí.


Prosper Ìféányí

Prosper Ìféányí writes from Lagos, Nigeria. His works are featured or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, New Delta Review, Salt Hill, The Offing, Indianapolis Review, South Dakota Review, Magma Poetry, and elsewhere.


We reached out to Prosper to ask him about his passion for poetry and what inspires him to write.


Please meet Prosper Ìféányí!



 

Annie Newcomer: Welcome, Prosper. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Prosper Ìféányí: I am Prosper Ìféányí, a poet from Nigeria. I am a graduate of English and Literary Studies from Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria. Aside from writing poetry, I write essays and, occasionally, short stories. As far as my memory serves me, I have been writing since I was little.


I come from a long line of very articulate and sharp-witted people who would say just about anything to get anything done. This, for me, wasn't my strong suit. Writing—other than orally speaking—for me, gave me that ample time to carve a niche of expression for myself in black and white.


AN: Prosper, I love that you have such good insight as to the best way you share your skills.

Sometimes I have trouble saying no and yet understand that we cannot be everything to everybody. I admire you for your inner wisdom and clear direction. So with this in mind, expound further on why you write.


PÌ: Sometimes, as humans, we underestimate the power of being heard. Being heard is presumed to be the ultimate hallmark for actual existence, and this is the foremost reason why I write. Kim Addonizio submits that the writing and the creative process is "a continuing engagement with being alive." Coupled with the fact that I have been accused a score of times by my parents of being afraid and too timid to speak to others, I inadvertently took to writing as a carapace to shield myself from the infinite piercing of social slurs and juggernauts.


AN: The way you quote established poets and then use their words to craft a personal meaning in such a beautiful way is lovely. Tell us more.

PÌ: I started writing at a very tender age, when I discovered the world of numbers and mathematics couldn't accommodate me or my mind, I took to letters and words. Charles Bukowski in his poem "so you want to be a writer?," which provides the reader with a long list of things to not do, clearly steers me to the reasons why I write. He says, "if it's hard work just thinking about doing it, / don't do it." Never for once have I seen or perceived writing to be an arduous task but merely as an integral part of myself.


AN: Memory holds a key place in the art of poetry and the key element you used to describe your collection of work. How do you describe "memory," this beautifully aesthetic term?


PÌ: When I talk of memory, I just mean that receptacle which holds my thoughts and ideas together. Memory is where I go to find respite as a poet, and this can feature as a motif in the kinds of poetry I write. The idea of memory should not be misconstrued as a theme—it is mainly, for me, a vehicle through which my words are able to travel as far as it (my memory) permits.


AN: Prosper, thank you for joining us here in the Poetry Café. We hope that you will keep us updated on your journey in poetry and join us in our feature series, ACT TWO, in the future. Now we look forward to reading the three poems you submitted with their backstories.


PÌ: Thank you to Elizabeth Gracen at Flapper Press and you, Annie.


 

I wrote this poem after thinking about the construct of feminism and women revolting against the hurdles of patriarchy. Just after reading Ariel by Sylvia Plath, I felt this sort of connectedness with the women folk. I had to talk to my mother about the concept of betrothed marriages and if there was any room for women to actually do what they love. The sadness and grief women experience during these marriages place them in a box. Pigeonholing them [into] a category. In the end, the only way to navigate the darkling times for women is encouragement from other women folk.


Summarised Women


Where I come from, women have their mouths

tucked under their skin. For them, life is a tortuous

journey, and every stop, a new departure. I know

of women whose feet are bloody lakes. Women

who wish their husbands choked on seaweeds

and hemlocks. Their roots growing at the end of

an imagined sky. My grandmother teaches me

a summary of her life. She says: you lose so many

things in that lonely shrubbery. One day, you are

a little girl holding a water pot over a tiny-throated

vase. The next, you are landed in such a place where

everything is strange. Where you must start all over.

You feel like a child who has only just begun to talk.

Or sometimes you are like an old woman, like this,

finding a voice you know you once had. You cannot

be a woman and call everything beautiful, because

beauty is yanked before your own very eyes. I have

lived from loss to loss, and just when I thought I

had found my footing, the lilacs in the thorny field

had become briars. In that short time, so much is

lost in servitude to your husband. You promise to

stop talking about suffering because sufferings are

never equal. For a woman, the only thing ever picked

was a choice of exile—even that couldn't happen

in peace. So one day, you will sit on a wooden crane

and this will be the only lesson parting your lips to

your daughters. That they will know of a wilting rose

dying away, and untuck their mouths from their skins


 

This is a personal poem. Written in the quiet hours, before the narrowing of light. I have always had a not-too-great relationship with my father, but this poem tries to revalidate and reconstruct that claim. Here, I limn the activities that strengthen a father and son through the purview of single parenthood and how a father's relationship can churn out with a son even in that period of absence of a mother.


My Father


The cough thundered in his chest with all its hands.

Pummelling and pummelling. His skull

was a hard helmet worn to pray. My father is yelling

somewhere at a broken spigot: come out, you fuck!

When winter was broken and he was staggering

his way home, he would stop by the payphone

to take a leak. Through static

my mother’s voice stayed calm. The city of mist

rising in her head never again flickering with light.

I talked to your mom tonight, he’d say.

His breath venom. He would drag himself

from the kitchen floor into his room sequined with disco lights.

He would nestle on his Lazy-Boy recliner,

face down; cocked shotgun with double-zero mouths

facing his chin (whose pellets he let escape into the body

of night owls and nightingales).

My father never taught me to woo a woman.

He only taught me his carpentry trade.

Once, when I held him staggering home,

we stopped to crane up a building and trace the frames

of windows falling away in rows. When we finished,

we sat by the lawn, watching a broken pipe leak water

all over the place.

The only thing I remember after that day

was my father, having briefly run a worn

oval of soap round his head, and dancing unclad

in the fizzling water, withdrawing into a patrol police car.

I couldn’t run after him. Couldn’t drop his

tool box strung over my neck.

And then I remember a woman, who was my mother,

come take me away in a shawl which smelt

like daisies and

boredom.


 

Sometime last month, I read the poetry collection of Tawanda Mulalu entitled Please make me pretty, I do not want to die (Princeton University Press, 2023), and the poems therein inspired me to write this poem. The poems in the collection to me are very tender, urgent, and this can be evidently seen in the fact that the collection is a finalist for the 2022 Derek Walcott Poetry Prize. "Love Is a Doing Word" is my attempt to navigate love in a world of materialism. The number of let downs and heartbreaks we try to escape as humans can be overwhelming and, for some, not worth the stress. This is what this poem hopes to accomplish.


Love Is a Doing Word

"Like any lover, I'm into failed experiments."


There is an hierarchy in the way I love.

When she says: I love you. I say, which car?


She says it, and it feels like a croak

ascending once more from the depths of filth.


I prefer, I burger you. That way, I know

she wants to eat something inside of me.


A dying flower; a failing heart. A shut crypt.

All I want, these days, is to watch the chirping birds


flock around my window with their muchness.

Winter bleeds, I still mistake love for depression.


There's this rotary class I am attending.

Teaching me to be a better person. Teaching

me that love is kind and patient. Touching

myself in the dark corners of my body to


find some light. They say, exchange flowers

and watch the other person light up with joy.


I did it once. She loved me for it. I brush

my teeth and arise to so many sunflowers.

This girl is image-making home. This is nice

but not what I imagined. Her eyes singing wetly.


I am just not cut out for this. Leave my window.

Shut the blinds. I don't wish to wash my clammy feet.


Love is too much of a routine. Like a wish some

boy wished for while his father slept—facedown.


 

Annie Klier Newcomer founded a not-for-profit, Kansas City Spirit, that served children in metropolitan Kansas for a decade. Annie volunteers in chess and poetry after-school programs in Kansas City, Missouri. She and her husband, David, and the staff of the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens are working to develop The Emily Dickinson Garden in hopes of bringing art and poetry educational programs to their community. Annie helms the Flapper Press Poetry Café—dedicated to celebrating poets from around the world and to encouraging everyone to both read and write poetry!


If you enjoyed this Flash Poet interview, we invite you to explore more here!



Presenting a wide range of poetry with a mission to promote a love and understanding of poetry for all. We welcome submissions for compelling poetry and look forward to publishing and supporting your creative endeavors. Submissions may also be considered for the Pushcart Prize. Please review our Guidelines before submitting!



71 views0 comments
bottom of page