At Connect Nigeria’s annual Writers’ Conference 2015 held on Saturday 18th April, spoken word poet, Efe Paul Azino answered the question, “Can you really make money from poetry?”
His talk was built around the fact that spoken word poetry is a poet’s best bet for making money in Nigeria today. This doesn’t mean page poetry doesn’t exist: there are many spoken word poets, but there are also page poets who cater to readers. However, when it comes to the business of poetry, spoken word is most lucrative right now. Here are 7 pieces of advice I took to heart as a budding poet:
1. You have to find your voice; that is your product. Without a product there cannot be a business. Your writing voice is not a style, theme or genre; it is a unique identity, a distinct signature. Finding your voice is a long-term endeavour that demands discipline and rigour. You must keep challenging yourself.
2. For writing of any genre, your production is as good as your consumption. Read good literature. You read others not to ape or copy, but to midwife your own voice.
3. You must reach without, and then within. Reach within: mine your heart, your observations, your experiences.
4. Write from your heart; don’t pander to a formula.
5. Don’t depend on the mutual admiration society. Find people who will critique your work objectively.
6. You can make your events a fairly regular occurrence by performing regularly for free up to a certain point. In the early days of his spoken word career, Efe Paul had to beg his way through just to get a chance to perform, but he made his mark, and now earns income from performing his poetry. “You have to do the rounds, be deliberate about staking your claim. Connect to your audience every chance you get,” he says.
7. Know that you can make money from poetry if you excel at it. “There’s an audience out there that consumes poetry,” says Efe Paul, but that’s not the most important thing. “For there to be a business in poetry, there has to be poetry, and a poet in the real sense of the word.”