Lucas was born and raised in a Christian home with his three sisters in Nigeria. As a child, he developed a love for music and lyrical compositions – a habit he picked up watching his late father ceremoniously listen to Bob Marley and Fela Kuti. He has always wanted to be a medical doctor, following the footsteps of his mother who is his biggest source of inspiration Only medicine rivaled his love for art either in the form of poetry or fine art. After completing his medical degree, he began compiling his first collection of poems, and the result is ‘‘…Then I grew wings ’’. Along with writing, Lucas has also displayed his artworks at a number of exhibitions. Thousands of people follow him on Instagram and read his bi-weekly posts.
This interview with Lucas Ogundeyi was conducted by Oyindamola Shoola.
KNOWING THE WRITER
Oyin: How and when did you start writing?
Lucas: This type of question takes me back to the times I spent with my late father. I started writing at a very young age. My dad and I listened to a lot of music together, but I connected with Bob Marley’s music the most. My dad took the time to explain what the songs meant and how clever and important it is to rhyme words to create appealing sound, and hence, forging a good relationship with the listener. So, I paid attention to that and I started writing on my own because I wanted to connect with other people the way Marley did through his music. A few times I helped a lot of my friends and seniors back in school to write love letters to their girlfriends. Later, life happened, I stopped writing for a while, but I always listened to music and paid attention to lyrical content. When my father passed away, I started writing again, this time, with purpose and clarity.
Oyin: Do you remember the first poem that you wrote? What was it about?
Lucas: Officially, the first poem I wrote was about my relationship with my late father. I was in Moscow at the time in a park; I saw a Russian man holding his son while trying to cross the road and something just hit me. I drew inspiration from that scene, and all my feelings turned into words.
Oyin: What do you love most about being a writer?
Lucas: The ability to connect with people through words by recreating old feelings, tackling sensitive issues and most importantly telling the truth.
Oyin: Is writing personal to you and what does it mean to say writing is personal?
Lucas: Writing is personal to me because it’s therapeutic for me. I mean the voices in my head get too loud sometimes, and I need an outlet to release the pressure.
Oyin: How have you combined your academic pursuit in medicine with writing?
Lucas: Being a medical doctor has helped me to understand how people feel and how they process information. One of the most important parts of medicine is anatomy. Studying anatomy helped with imagery. Additionally, to understand people, you need to know psychology, and it’s also a part of medicine. These among other things helped me to find some balance between medicine and writing.
Oyin: What qualities do you possess that contributes to being an excellent writer and particularly, a poet?
Lucas: Empathizing, being a good listener, being a deep thinker, being curious and hardworking.
Oyin: Just for fun: Cat or Dog?
Lucas: Cat and dog.
THE WRITER'S INSPIRATION
Oyin: What inspires you to write?
Lucas: My childhood and upbringing, my parents, and the people around me
Oyin: Which writers have been most influential to your writing?
Lucas: Charles Batowski
Oyin: Who are your favorite Nigerian writers?
Lucas: Niyi Osundare
Oyin: What are your favorite Nigerian books?
Lucas: Astonishing the Gods by Ben Okri
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
A Decade of Tongues by J.P. Clark
Starbook by Ben Okri
Oyin: What challenges have you faced as a writer?
Lucas: As a writer, my most significant challenge has been network and outreach. No matter how good your content is if you can’t get it to the right people it won’t reach the majority of people who need it the most. Unfortunately, most writers who have the best content don’t have a big platform to reach people.
Oyin: How have you challenged yourself as a writer?
Lucas: One thing I have done and I still do to challenge myself as a writer is exercising my God-given ability to connect my life experiences with people’s stories or their present situation. I do this by using metaphors to simplify or explain complicated and sensitive issues. I also do some research on those issues and try to propose a solution from my perspective. However, there are times that I won’t be able to come up with a solution, but I think it’s enough to put it out that there’s a problem. Perhaps someone else knows what the solution is.
Oyin: How has the internet contributed to your success as a writer?
Lucas: The Internet has provided a platform for me to grow as a writer. In addition to linking up with fellow writers on Instagram, it’s like a well of archives. I can do research and find free books online. I just published my book on Amazon, without the Internet that won’t be possible.
The Book and the Writing Process
Oyin: At what point do you decide to write or collate Then I Grew Wings?
Lucas: Well, I decided to write “...Then I grew wings” after I had a long conversation with my big brother Lanre. I’ve received messages on Instagram before about writing a book, but he was more persuasive. His advice helped me when I was writing the book. Frankly, I had a plan to put out a book before we got acquainted, but his influence definitely sped up the timeline.
Oyin: What was the book assembling process like?
Lucas: Agonising and challenging for the most part. I had shifts in the hospital and some art projects, so there was little time for the book. I would say I love the fact that it was tasking and it revealed a new part of me I didn’t know existed.
Oyin: You had certain styles in many of your works such as, the imageries, selective use of punctuation, and writing poems in a prosaic manner. Besides distinguishing yourself as a writer, what other intentions did you have while using these styles?
Lucas: I wanted the book to be relatable, open to different conclusions in the reader’s mind, and most importantly, I wanted to maintain my identity as a doctor. So anatomy helped with the imagery. Psychology helped with the philosophical aspect of the book. There are a lot of medical terms and metaphors in the book as well, so that’s like a new flavour added to your favourite cake. I’d say I prefer long poems to short ones. Most writers would argue that people don’t like to read long poems, but I believe if I can keep my content interesting my readers won’t notice how much time they’ve spent reading the book. About punctuation, I wanted some poems to be read like music and some to be consumed between breaths. I hope that makes sense 😃.
Oyin: What did Then I Grew Wings make you learn about yourself?
Lucas: Simply put, I can do anything if I put my mind and heart into it. And I have a new enemy. His name is Time.
Oyin: How did you know or decide where to end Then I Grew Wings?
Lucas: That wasn’t easy. I wanted to end the book when I felt like I have put in words, everything I wanted to say. It turned out that I had a lot to say. Also, while writing the book, new ideas spurted from old ones. However, I knew I wanted to end the book on a reflective note, and I believe the poem “Polaris” among others did just that.
Oyin: What is your favorite poem from the book: Then I Grew Wings?
Lucas: My favourite poems from the book are; Transition, Kaleidoscope, Hotel Room service, Putrefaction, and all the poems about my family. These are the poems that came to my mind when I read the question, so the list isn’t all that reliable 😆.
Oyin: What criticism did you or do you have about Then I Grew Wings?
Lucas: I think I should find a way to make the poems shorter for my next project. Till date, no reader has said anything negative about the book. Not even something to criticize the book. I guess they love the book so much that they didn’t care about the loopholes.
Oyin: What challenges and breakthroughs did you have while writing Then I Grew Wings?
Lucas: Well, I had to stay up for a few hours at night to write some poems because during the day I was working as an intern. Also, ending and editing the book was tough. It was hard to meet the release date because of my other engagements. The breakthrough was when I had 2 weeks holiday. It gave me enough time to arrange the poems and complete the book.
Oyin: What plans do you have in the future with your writings and what impact do you hope that your works make?
Lucas: I hope to get the book to people who are connected so I can reach a larger audience because I believe the book is for everyone. Presently, I’m working on my second book, and I’ll publish it next year by God’s grace. I want my readers to connect with the book intensely. I can’t guarantee that it’ll solve all their problems, but it’ll answer most, and the ones that can’t be resolved will be viewed as the thread that connects us all as flawed human beings.
Oyin: What is the best advice that you have gotten as a writer?
Lucas: Publish your book.
Oyin: What advice would you give to writers that read this interview?
Lucas: Keep writing and don’t give up on your dreams.
Oyin: Thank you very much for you time to answer these questions, Lucas.
Oyindamola Shoola is a writer, book reviewer, feminist, and blogger. She is also the Co-founder of Sprinng Literary Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to curating, revitalizing, and transforming the New Nigerian Generation in writing and literature. She is the author of Heartbeat and To Bee a Honey.
In 2017, she was named one of Nigerian Writers Award (NWA) most influential writer under the age of 40.
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