Nnadi Samuel (he/him/his) holds a B.A. in English & literature from the University of Benin. His works have been previously published in Suburban Review, Seventh Wave Magazine, North Dakota Quarterly, Quarterly West, Blood Orange Review, Uncanny Magazine, PORT Magazine, The Cordite Poetry Review, Gordon Square Review, Trampset, Beestung Magazine, Rigorous Magazine, Blue Nib journal, Kaleidoscope Magazine, Stonecrop Review, The Elephant Magazine, Birmingham Arts Journal, Lunaris Review, Inverse Journal, Canyon Voices, Journal Nine, Liquid Imagination, Silver Blade Journal, Star*Line Science Fiction & Poetry, Zoetic Press, Subterranean blue poetry, The Quills, Eunoia Review & elsewhere. Winner of the Miracle Monocle Award for Ambitious Student Writers 2021, and Canadian Open Drawer contest 2020. He won the Splendor of Dawn Poetry Contest April 2020, won the Bkpw Poetry Workshop Contest 2021, got shortlisted in the annual Poet’s Choice award & was the second-prize winner of the EOPP 2019 contest. A finalist of the Lumiere Contest 2021, Quarterly West’s Inaugural Contest 2020, NSPP 2020 prize, Hollins University Literary Festival Awards, Zocalo Poetry Competition 2021 & Pushcart Nominee. He is the author of “Reopening of Wounds” & “Subject Lessons” (forthcoming). He reads for U-Right Magazine. He tweets @Samuelsamba10.
How does your environment influence your work?
I’d say the ever changing nature of my environment has a lot to do with my work. Being a person of colour, it’s extremely normal to have something political, economical or social to write about. We almost never run out of these things. However, this overtime became our stereotype: the grief & how we’re born with the wailing of each other. Of recent, I choose only to content myself with what’s littered on the page, all of its wielded context— shutting out whatever seems my reality. This I would say is one major aspect you’d find in my forthcoming chapbook “Subject Lessons”.
Which themes and emotions do you find yourself artistically/poetically drawn to? Why?
Grief sells best where I’m from. That being said, I find myself drawn to experimental pieces, because anything & everything happens right there. This has cost me quite a lot, but dang! it’s also brought some luck too. Like, there’s just too many surprises & so much to be in awe of here.
What makes you feel awe?
I guess the use of language in a poem. Anything that deviates totally from the norm, has me in awe. When writing, I also try a lot to surprise myself first before the reader(s).
And, as Danusha Laméris proposed in her poem “Small Kindnesses” about “the way people pull in their legs to let you by. Or how strangers still say bless you when someone sneezes”. Because mostly, we don’t want to harm each other. We only want to say “Here, have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”
This small charity here & there keeps me in awe.
What brings you joy?
Music, a lot of it. Innovative ideas. Seeing a poem blossom before my eyes. And, of course, getting paid too. That part of the job is orgasmic in itself.
What are the qualities you look for in a friend?
Before now I’d want a drop dead gorgeous pal to myself. Anything on physiognomy did it at the time. Right now I’m all about drive, passion. Are you thirsty for something? Do your deeds motivate me? how well do you scream the least of my wins when I’m not paying attention? These questions come first.
“how well do you scream the least of my wins when I’m not paying attention?”
Would you please say more about why this question is important to you, and what “well” in this context means to you?
Yes, this phrase proves very important, bringing to mind your previous question. On days I’m not hopeful, I tend to be so inconsistent in almost everything. That way, I’m neither paying attention to my work or craft. It’s one of those days I crave a reminder for my small wins— which ironically is not known to anyone since I don’t spill it out.
But, somehow those who often have me in mind share/retweet my work(s) or pitch my piece to a loved one, tell someone something nice about what I do, or hype me right before their audience. This is how “well” we’ve grown to know each other— by communicating in our subconscious, & just having our way of knowing when one of us is down and how best to reach out.
What does hope mean to you?
Hope to me is our stubborn crime. A borrowed morpheme. It is what’s held unlawfully in our mental grasp, till we own the physical form of it. It is all our choiceless thirst ram back to fend from. Hope is guts, by which I mean defying all odds to pitch those eager poems to the editor— aiming for acceptance or not. Hope is affirmative in every sense of that word.
What do you tell yourself when you do not feel hopeful?
This is just me at the moment. And, forgive me if I do not do so much to break free from these thoughts. But, I try retrospect on my little achievements within the limited time, & say to myself “Boy, if you could birth this in such toxic space, what is this leisure you cannot make something of ?”
I also get inspired a lot from the wins of my folks, which is why I’m learning to surround myself with those hungry as I like to think I am.
What does nuance mean to you?
Nuance I’d say means redefining the smallest of details, parts that elude our daily scrutiny of this world. It means spotting a gash from the seemingly obscure, making out a white stain from the blinding dark. Nuance tilts towards shapeshift. The slight difference between our lifestyles & all other entities.
Where, when, and why do you write?
I write more from home, when I’m a bit more settled & content with my digest for the day. I labour myself to reading at least one piece a day, and equate that energy on a blank page. Most times, I fall short of target, but I do it anyway. I write for satisfaction— to fill the void in me. There’s always something amiss when I don’t write, no matter how badly the draft turns out.
How do you know when a poem/piece is done?
I don’t think we ever get to know when a piece is done, just as we never know our best poems, until applauded. Or maybe, I haven’t experienced it yet. I’m a sulker for rhythm, wordplays & implied meaning running across lines. I try to mime every phrase in my head, soften the noise from my lips till they come clean as buttered bone. I almost never revisit a poem when It’s done. So, I give it the much needed attention at the time.
How would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered as one who dreamt of a thing in his prime, & it came to pass with real work. It is awfully terrifying these days to be seen as a brand of nonachievement.