U.K based Nigerian writer, Tolu Akinyemi is a seasoned writer with over 10 years in the global literary scene. He has healdlined multiple shows and served his audience great performances at spoken word events, poetry slams and other top literary events that inspire his huge following in the United Kingdom.
With two poetry collection to further stamp his presence in the literary space “Dead Dogs Don’t Bark” and “Dead Lions Don’t Roar”, Tolu Akinyemi has embarked on a virtual book tour to not just verify his presence online amongst literature lovers but also to enlighten people about the gems in his poetry collections.
Since the tour closes its curtain on Linorajj, we decided to talk not just about the books but also about his experience as a Nigerian writer in the diaspora and how he deals with the challenges that comes with this responsibility.
Before we delve into the interview, let’s take a look at his profile culled from syncityng.com, a literary online space where he was also interviewed during the tour.
“Tolu Akinyemi was born in Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria and currently lives in the United Kingdom. Tolu Akinyemi is an exceptional talent, out-of-the-box creative thinker, a change management agent and a leader par excellence. Tolu is a business analyst and financial crime consultant as well as a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS) with extensive experience working with leading Investment banks and Consultancy Firms.
Tolu is also a personal development and career coach and a prolific writer with more than 10 years’ writing experience; he is a mentor to hundreds of young people. He worked as an Associate mentor in St Mary’s School, Cheshunt and as an Inclusion Mentor in Barnwell School, Stevenage in the United Kingdom, helping students raise their aspirations, standards of performance and helping them cope with transitions from one educational stage to another.
Tolu has headlined and featured in various Open Slam, Poetry Slam, Spoken Word and Open Mic events in the United Kingdom. He also inspires large audiences through spoken word performances, he has appeared as a keynote speaker in major forums and events in the United Kingdom and facilitates creative writing masterclasses to all types of audiences.
In March 2018 he was endorsed by the Arts Council England as an ‘Exceptional Talent’.”
Linorajj: What’s your creative process like?
Tolu Akinyemi: My creative process is spontaneity, getting an idea and documenting it, when I am in my elements with my creative juices on full flow, I am an idea bank, doing what I love to do the most which is writing.
L: Interesting, what inspired the titles of both your works?
T.A: The titles were inspired by the need for us to find our unique roar, bark and spark as humans, find what makes you happy and keep doing it.
L: I see that most of your poems are more concerned about rhymes, so which is more important to you, rhymes or meaning?
T.A: I was not so much into rhymes in Dead Lions Don’t Roar my first Poetry Collection, however I evolved in my second collection “Dead Dogs Don’t Bark”, having a mix and match sort of poems, some with rhymes and some others without rhymes. The meaning of the poems is more important to me and if the rhymes can add substance to it, the better.
L: Do you have any poem in each of the collections that are personal to you or do you have a preference/favourite?
T.A : I have quite a handful of poems that are personal to me, however my best poem in Dead Lions Don’t Roar is the poem titled “Dead Lions Don’t roar” and the best so far in Dead Dogs Don’t Bark is “Yes you Can” as these poems talks about finding your unique voice and roar.
L: Which of the poems were the most difficult?
T.A: The poems that talked about my vulnerability, my battles and victory, they were written from a place of pain and joy, however I wanted people to also know that life is not always a bed of roses, we are all on a learning curve and the earlier we realise that, the better.
L: As a writer, what would you say are some of those challenges you face?
T.A: As a writer and self-published author, I think the major challenges are the limitations of getting my books to a wider audience, however everyday is another chance to keep pushing towards those lofty goals and ambitions.
L: Did you know these poems are eventually going to be collections when you started writing?
T.A: I always had plans to write the poems as collections, however I never knew Dead Dogs Don’t Bark would be released very soon after Dead Lions Don’t Roar. I am currently writing Dead Cats Don’t meow with a Book launch scheduled to take place in Lagos, Newcastle, Manchester and London starting from April 2019.
L: Do you think being a Nigerian writer makes your challenge any different from the challenges of any other writer from other parts of the world?
T.A: All writers the world over faces the same challenge from marketing to distribution, to fighting for the reader’s attention in a market where so many books are published daily. I think being a Nigerian writer has helped me so much as the Nigerian fighting spirit has helped to ensure that I never settle for mediocrity and I keep striving to be the best in all that I do.
L: When did you decide that writing is what you want to take this serious?
T.A: I am a part time writer at the moment, however I am very prolific, rugged and dogged. I have a fledging career with very great prospects hence writing would always be on a part time basis till that time when writing can be a major source of revenue for me.
L: What are some heights you’ve attained as a writer aside publishing your own book?
TA: I think being able to support good causes from the sale of my books was one of those happy moments. I also have a scheduled interview on the Voice of America on the Tony D’Urso show planned for next year. In a few weeks, I will be travelling to Italy to speak at a School event to inspire the generation next, these are enviable achievements which has made my writing journey worthwhile. I have also been a speaker at the North- East Expo in the autumn and spring edition which held this year, speaking to the business community. These are platforms, I would never ever have mounted were it not for my writing journey.
L: In “Opinions” Part 2, you talked about your reaction to reviews. Is that just a poem or you don’t care about people’s review however truthful they are about your work?
T.A: That is a poem elaborating the subjectivity of opinions, always remember the popular cliché that one man’s food is another man’s poison. Reviews are there to help us get better, write better and churn out more quality work. I have read reviews where reviewers have said a book was not good enough however on the Amazon Page, there were so many 5-stars verified reviews. Also, I have had a reviewer that posted a review that she did not connect with my work, I still posted this on my website as my life’s philosophy is all about sharing both my victories and vulnerability, so others can learn from it. We can’t be good to everyone has people have differing tastes and interests.
L: Who are some of the writers that influence your work?
T.A: In the very past, I have connected with Authors not just in the Poetry genre but their books have had a profound effect on my life, and they include Stephen Covey, Robert H. Schuller, TD Jakes and Ben Carson, I read their books at a point in my life that I needed direction and they were worthy companions.
L: What’s the best literary piece you’ve ever read? When did you read it and why is it your best piece?
T.A: I would say Ogboju ode ninu igbo olodumare by D.O Fagunwa which was later translated by Wole Soyinka, there were some punchlines from the book my Dad used to read to us while growing up, it is a book of mystery. Some of those words have helped me in my life up till this very moment, so this was the best literary piece that has been read to me. And I would say Williams Shakespeare has been an inspiration to me, and I have his collection of works, he was phenomenal and controversial, and his shoes are difficult to fill in this modern era.
L: What are some of the things you look at to say a book is good?
T.A: For me, a well written book must have a message, a key take-away, it should not be just about writing a book, however there must be learning points and that for me is very important.
L: What’s your favorite literary technique you use?
T.A: I would say my poetry collections are metaphorical in nature, hence using metaphors to pass my message across has been very apt. I use allusions to tell a story and I always try and use “diction” so that words with deeper connotations can be used to convey my message.
L: What are some of the themes you prefer to explore with your works?
T.A: Empowerment, Sharing, Loving, Giving, Confidence, Mentoring, Relationships and general societal issues and the major themes are topics that can inspire my readers.
L: Since the release of these collections, how has the feedback been like?
T.A: The feedback has been very good, from Tynemouth Market to the online buyers, to friends and unknown fans the World over. I have received so many messages of support and that is very endearing to note in my author Journey.
L: What would you say you’ve learnt as a writer?
T.A: I have learnt to have a clear focus, to be a doer and not a dreamer and I have learnt that you can only achieve your writing goals if you are focused on writing in your private spaces rather than for social media or looking for validation from people.
L: If you could do something differently in your writing career, what would that be?
T.A: Take ownership from day one, probably investing in areas that could have helped to take my book to a global audience. I invested so much in the beginning however those funds would have been better channelled to more productive use, looking back now.
L: If writing doesn’t work out, what other thing would you occupy that time with? What are your options?
T.A: Writing has worked out as it is, and I mean it has worked out by the number of lives I have touched positively. I also have a day job working within the Financial Crime Compliance unit of a Global Investment Bank hence there is always something to fall back on, however the dream is to make an impact, and be renowned for good works.
L: If you would describe Nigeria in a short poem, what would that be?
T.A: Thanks for inspiring the piece below, it will be published in my next collection “Dead Cats Don’t Meow” and I will thank you for the inspiration. I wish it could be very short but too bad I have so many things to say.
Nigeria was the greatest
The most populous
We have been led by the most ridiculous
Nigeria is the castrated dog
Stationary like a wall paper art
the mincemeat of the rogues
we call leaders
Nigeria is an aberration
We are united in our dysfunctional state
We pray and pray
Yet tomorrow still brings the same
Our PEPs are notorious
They bleed the coffers
And in truth have nothing to offer
Nigeria was the beautiful bride
Whose lot was an abusive groom
Nigeria is the giant
We hope someday our flags will be held aloft in pride
Our nation the most desirable
To live on earth.