Wednesday, November 12, 2008

JUMOKE VERISSIMO: Her sweet fart at Lagos Book Festival

. Jumoke performing Ajani at the festival

. Jumoke with guests (Her Mum, Sister, and another poet, Ambassador) at the LABAF presentation

By Akeem Lasisi

Each time some of her friends want to make a mischievous poem of her surname, Verismo, they pronounce it as ‘very-small‘. Actor and culture activist, Ropo Ewenla, is particularly guilty of this. What they play upon whenever they pronounce the name so is the modest frame of the Lagos-based writer, Jumoke Verisimo, who is also a copywriter with a Lagos-based advertising agency.

Despite such a joke, however, many people know that in her is the promise of a good poet, one of those who should shape the future of literature in Nigeria.

After about 10 years of active poetry writing and performance, Verisimo had a great day in Lagos on Saturday, when the just-concluded Lagos Book and Art Festival featured her as reading poet of the moment. The fact is that apart from providing an avenue to celebrate books, LABAF, organised by the Committee for Relevant Arts, promotes virtually all areas of the arts. This is one of the factors that differentiate it from other book fairs. Amidst inspiring talks on the art and science of Lagos – where popular writer and activist, Odia Ofeimun, participated and Crown Troupe of Africa performed – LABAF had mounted the stage to announce to the world the arrival of her first collection of poem, I am Memory, from where she read a couple of poems.

Among such was Ajani, the only love poem in the collection. Verisimo confesses that the man she addresses in the poem had, truly been a lover of hers. Yet, she will not want the reader to be carried away in terms of how close poetry is with love.

”My position on what poetry is and what it is not, is primarily subject to emotional interpretation. Poetry could as well be the food of hate, emotion, whatever it is prompts the reader to dig deeper than he‘d normally do on an average, unfeeling day. The passion which could generate a poem on love could also bring one on hate,” she says.

.Jumoke's mum at the LABAF presentation.. Joy of a Mother

Verisimo got into poetry through a little unusual way. According to her, she did not start out to write poetry in the beginning. She just wanted to spill out things she felt inside her. She says, ”I developed this flair for writing from reading, parents, school, teachers, environment, and I just began to write. I just started to write something and at the time, I couldn‘t have called it poetry per se. But now, I‘ll say poetry for me is not simply about lines in metrical forms, it is about a sigh. It is dramatic, and living. You know the way we‘ll say that there‘s poetry on the streets, I‘ll say, writing something that evokes genuine feeling that someone else can feel is poetry for me. At the moment, I am working on a novel.”

On what her focus is as a poet, she notes that she writes about whatever things that get close to her nerves. ”I am emotive,” she says, ”so, my writing is usually about things I feel strongly about, and many times these things are what the average mind would say is inexplicable. To me, it starts out as beyond me, but I question and question it. For me, poetry is a living thing. It is all around me, and it is always new to me.”

At the LABAF show, where her mother was present to celebrate with her, the lady who read English at Lagos State University also rendered a poem for which she is mostly known, “Mo fe so – a Yoruba statement that translates as I want to fart.” It is a poem that has beaten the audience for years.

.Jumoke performing from I'Memory

She says, “Mo fe so questions my plight as a Nigerian youth. It confronts my insecurity and frustration, and my desire to show my contempt for the problems faced. I didn‘t set out that Mo fe so, should be a poem, and I still won‘t call it a poem. “I‘ll say it is a performance of frustration. I‘m still pissed at certain quarters, but like many youths, I have learnt that our society teaches independence, and how you achieve that independence is not subject to questions. I am a very angry young woman, because I have seen a lot of fantastic minds depraved of opportunities, and others are snuffed so their chances of survival takes them from who they set out to be. I still want to fart, into the faces of those in high places. I‘ll like to fart and ease my pain.”

Published by Designs, Agency and Dreams, I am Memory started out as a poem on reparation. But, according to Verisimo, ‘maturity‘ and reading made her to understand that reparation is not all about slavery and the likes.




ADDRESS: CORA HOUSE Plot 95, Bode Thomas Street, Surulere, Lagos. Nigeria. Tel: 00234 (1) 6653587.,,

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