Today, in our premiere edition of Poetic Wednesday (PW) Personality of the Week, Elanza News is super delighted to present to you one of the eagles, the lioness and as well as the Queen of PW in person of Maryam Gatawa, a writer and poet, the Welfare Officer of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Kano, and PRO, Poets in Nigeria (PIN) Kano Connect Center.
How do we have a glimpse of Maryam Gatawa?
I hail from Sokoto State, born in Abuja, and grew up in Kano where I stay up to now. I’m the 17th of a happy polygamous family of 26. I’ve BSc Economics from Bayero University Kano. 7 has always been my lucky number.
How can you describe your journey into writing?
Reading has always been my hobby right from childhood, and along the way, words started to fill me, then I began writing. I used to read any readable content I came across, which therefore replenished my enthusiasm for writing. My father also had strong influence on me because he was a voracious reader of books and newspapers. So most of the times he was the one who would give me the papers to read. I wrote short passages about myself, my cat, my home etc. I felt the need to be heard too, I want others to read what I’ve written too. And I saw writing as the most readily way of doing that. Since then, I explored the joy of writing, and have written so many essays and articles, some of which have been published in Leadership newspapers. I’ve poems in African Writer magazine, PIN quaterly journal, Tuck Magazine, and other reputable literary avenues.
What are your thoughts about the achievements of Poetic Wednesday so far?
Poeticwednesday is a place of becoming.It is the best home for aspiring poets, poets who want to put pen to paper and make a difference. Poets that write with rainbows on clear blue skies. PW has achieved so much in a very short time than any literary convergence I know on social media. It gives hope to poets, it builds and supports and recreates creativity. It’s a northern literary movement that has awaken the muses of dozens or should I say hundreds of poets who were in slumber. It has suceeded in inspiring young people who hitherto had no interest in poetry to be part of the train of PW literary journey. It is an indication that literature in this part of the country is raging in its heat and what tomorrow will bring as to the development of literature in the country and Nigeria at large depends also on literary avenues like PW. For it is becoming a fire thats spreading widely, an angry fire raging with intensity, unquenchable, daring lovers of art and literary enthusiasts. So if PW has been able to achieve all these in a year and few months, I wonder what’d happen when more tightly structured, extensively promoted, and accrued more qualitative followership.
How do you think PW can be improved?
I think PW needs a tighter, befitting structure. PW is just a year old baby and all that has been achieved so far has been through the handiwork and commitments of the crew through serendipity and the passion for writing. So if PW is to have a better structure, it won’t just be a literary symbol, but a sophisticated way of expressing national concerns and societal worries thus contributing to creative solutions, awareness, and inculcating stronger sense of belonging and brotherhood to the larger society. So PW, as we are working right now, is to develop it to a giver of moral support for achieving social good.
Who are the three Facebook friends you’d be forever indebted to?
Wow. Okay there’s Amina Lawal for being a sister from another mother and for always being there for me. Sani Gusau for being a good friend that I trust a lot. And Salim Yunusa for creating PW that allows me to have fun with poetry everyweek and for inspiring many to join this art.
How was your growing up like?
(Laughs) It was adorable. Just adorable.
Did you experience any challenges during childhood days?
I had none. My childhood was a free and ofcourse wild one. I had a restless soul even as a kid yet a peaceful one. So I hardly get into trouble often unless someone looked for my trouble (haha). If there is anything I’ll call a “challenge” it would be trekking every morning to school from my home and that was not a very far distance, only that as you know, routine or monotonous activities easily bore. So at a time, I’d feel unhappy everytime I was set to go to school, especially if I remembered that I had to trek there. But I was soon to learn that it was another way of making a strong me.
Do you have any favourite childhood experience?
My childhood was a sweet one. A memorable experience. I grew amidst lots of sisters but spent most time with my brothers. So I became like them – fearless and stubborn. I learnt how to make local catapult which we used then on the small birds that nested on our neighbour’s trees. I also love ‘Boris’ a small wooden locally made car. My brothers would push me while on it on the bare floor of our garage. Those were my treasured moments. Then those times when we would gather round my grandma to listen to traditional Hausa folklores and stories of her time. I remember scaling fence of my house one day when a dog chased me from my primary school just a trekable distance from my home. It was a horrible experience yet the sweetest and memorable.
What were your aspirations as a child?
I have always wanted to be that person that will help the orphans. So I had a lot of humanism in me. I was not one of those kids with dreams of becoming president, governor or medical doctor or lawyer. I love Law as a noble profession and I love Medicine as a profession that has to do with saving lives. All these two are for humanity. And I love things that will help humanity, make inpact in the lives of the needy. So all I knew when I was a kid is I want to build orphanage foundation when I grow up and name it Meegat Orphanage Founder I aspired to be so many things in this life, things that will bring this dream to reality. So today, being an Economist a writer and poet, I say all thanks be to God, for it’s a road for me towards my humanitarian ambition.
What’s your Most Cherished gift and why?
My poetry. I never knew I was a poet 2 years ago. I’d only realised that there is a poet inside me last year March. That was when poetry found me, and I embraced it with everything I have. So my cherished gift is my poetry. It has not been long that I unlocked it but it has become a sacred bowl to me, something I fall back into whenever the word goes left. It’s the way my soul talks. It’s how I paint what’s inside and outside me. It’s my food, it’s my fun, it’s my art, mine alone. And most importantly, I inspire people with it. And that has been the core tenet of my poetry; to lift, to inspire and to use it for a greater good than just for art’s sake.
Favourite fashion accessory?
Well I love glasses and writswatches. My glasses and my poetry are my signatures. If you know me, you associate me with this two. Am not a bag or shoe girl. I like accessories that make me comfortable in them, and ofcourse anything simple and unique that makes me look smart yet gorgeous.
What are the best attributes you admire in people?
Kindness. I am drawn easily to brilliance and refined version of intelligence as well. I love smartness. Big time smartness. But when kindness slays, I choose it over and above these two. As arguable as it may sound but the truth, sometimes, the world doesn’t always need the brains, sometimes what the world needs most are hearts full of kindness and compassion.
What the you think are women’s major challenges?
Low self-esteem. That I cannot do it, or I don’t have what it takes to do it. These statements have killed several initiatives in women even before attempting. True, there is a clear line, to me between what a woman can do and what a man can do. I don’t belong to that modern charade of feminism. My feminism stems from my religious viewpoint. I see women as pure beings with special roles and responsibilities and freedom. I believe that a woman doesn’t have to be equal to a man to be a perfect human and her worth is not to be judged by any male standard. A man should not be a yardstick to measure her intellect, her success, her happiness or her strength. So to me, among the major challenges that women face today is low self esteem. She thinks she cannot do some things, or achieve a certain goal because it’s a male dominated engagement. So I think, as far as what you’re up to, or the initiative you have in mind does not contadict the teachings of the holy book, then YOU CAN DO IT. You can make out of your life whatever you so wish of greatness, you can achieve success in your endeavors without equalizing yourself with man but by trudging on your path with everything you have, because what you are trying to achieve is not against the teachings of your religion and that you are confident, you’re strong, you’re smart, you’re a woman and you can do it.
What book would you love to read again and again?
They are many and here are they: Chike and the River, Without a Silver Spoon, The Sugar Girl, Eze Goes to School, Iliya Dan Mai karfi, Bari Wa Biba.
Who’s your role-model?
Nana Asma’u Fodio. She was a poet, a reformer, a teacher, a writer, scholar, historian and women’s right activist. I want to be like her, and possibly more than her.
What’s the last book you’ve read?
It’s a poetry anthology written by a poet I admire, Jalaluddeen Maradun titled TRANCE.
Meat, date and fruits.
What are your parent’s treasure that keeps you going?
My father’s smile when ever I achieve something great. He wears such a proud smile. An exceptional one that lingers in my mind. Then my mother’s prayers that are always with me, like the ring on my finger.
Favourite day of the week?
Friday. The best of all days.
When free, what do you do?
I read, watch series, play indoor games or meditate especially in the evenings.
Favorite sport or TV show?
Game of Thrones is my favorite TV show. For sports, I love Snooker.
My favorite artist Is my mentor in Haiku Barnabas Ikeoluwa. He has gifted hands for painting. For singer, it’s Katy Perry.
Favourite PW poet and why?
Siraj Sabuke. He is a poet to reckon with only that he is not consistent with submissions but when he submits, it turns out excellent.
Ah! hahaha, I have none yet.
If you are to take a 12 hours walk with any PW member, into a desert, without phone and internet, who would that be?
Sani Ammani, a poet and a humourist. It’s never gonna be a boring walk.
Working on a book?
Yeah! An anthology of my poems and a collection of my ‘Dear Wanderer’ series.
What’s one surprising thing about you only few know?
I very much love horses and I have one.
Do you have any most annoying experience, something you don’t want to remember?
Well, that was when I was newly taken to boarding school. So being a newbie I didn’t know most of my juniors. So as I was on my way to the hostel, one fat girl which I thought was my senior, since I was short then and the smallest I think in my class(SSS1) called me and asked me to kneel down and im my peaceful and obedient nature, I did, thinking she was my senior. Later on, I realised that she was in JSS3, that truly annoyed me and I don’t want to remember, even though she appologised countless times when she got to know that I was her senior.
How far do you see the influence of women in literature, in Nigeria?
They have influenced and inspired many like me into writing. Their efforts and achievements in literature have gone a long way in giving young writers hope and courage to do even better than them. This is a plus to literature. Works of Zainab Alkali and her likes have asserted them as writers per excellence and role models to aspiring writers. They wrote on issues of family, exploring ethnicity, challenges women face by bringing to limelight these social problems and their solutions are also part of their contributions not only to literature in Nigeria but for social good.
Any advice to young writers?
I will advise them to keep the fire burning. Writing is a continous process fuelled by passion and that they should know that there is joy in writing. They should write to inspire, to use the power of their words for the common good. That writing is not only an art for entertainment but can be used to calm greatest of storm and that they can bring peace and unity with their pens. So I strongly advise young writers to go and do wonders with their pens and let positivity gush out from it.
Thanks so much Miss Gatawa. We really appreciate your time.
You are highly welcome.