Tuesday, December 05, 2023

 bill berry, jr.

Publisher and CEO, aaduna &
Member, Rockford Kingsley's Advisory Board
Timothy Ogene


"When a piece of art is displayed, the artist looses control of how his work is viewed and interpreted. The rough edges and unintentional strokes are accorded deep or shallow meanings outside the artist’s original intentions. That is the way of the world. We see what we want to see, say what we want to say, and interpret things the way we want. And that is how I would describe the ekphrastic process; a conscious and subjective interpretation of arts using poetry as a medium of expression." 



Visit aaduna's Web Site

and Read

Timothy Ogene's Poem 

Which Appeared In

 Summer 2012 Issue 








Interview With Timothy Ogene 
bill berry, jr.
Mr. Ogene was born in Oyibgo, outside Port Harcourt in Southern Nigeria.  He is 28 years old, single and enjoys walking, playing chess and listening to music from the early 1900’s through the early Seventies.  He is the Program Guide for the Strongheart Fellows Program in the United States.  He speaks more English than any local Nigerian language even though he is fluent in Ukwuani and Igbo. Tim enjoys experimenting with new and unknown foods and refrains from dishes with shellfish. At some point, he wants to visit India.  Mr. Ogene continues to write and explore complexities of the world and humankind through poetry. 



Mr. Ogene, it is a pleasure to chat with you and thank you for taking the time for this conversation.  I surmise that you had an interesting childhood.  Did you know your grandparents; where were they from and what were they like?  What were the most important lessons that your parents taught you that you still follow today and describe what your childhood was like?  And do you prefer Tim or Timothy? 
Thanks for this opportunity.  To be honest, Bill, I do not enjoy interviews.  Let me put it differently, I am not good at answering questions.  Besides, interviews sort of kick me off balance, forcing me into a new realm of self-consciousness, like someone is probing into the deepest parts me, without my permission, pulling out secrets that I would rather leave hidden.  And there is the question of how sincere one’s answer should be. Is it not more convenient to coat the facts with pseudo-facts?  To sound all sweet and rosy when instead of dropping heavy-to-hear, bitter-to-taste truths?  In other to avoid these fancy fronting, I tip-toe around interviews.  But then there comes a time when one must step out no matter whose conscience is whipped or whose hat gets blown away by the wind of truth.  However, there is one thing you should worry about.  I jet off in multiple directions at the same time – an attempt to answer a simple question with what I consider a simple-appropriate answer.  I will keep myself in check. Hopefully.
Tim or Timothy, use both freely.  I was not Timothy until one Tuesday evening in 1999 when my pastor’s wife thought Friday was not Christian enough.  She suggested Timothy, and since my father’s first name is Paul, I picked Timothy.
Back to your questions.  I never had a solid relationship with my grandparents, three of whom have walked from this side of life to the next.  They were all from the same small town in Delta State, Nigeria.  From my paternal grandfather’s homestead in Ogbagu-Ogume, you could see my maternal grandfather’s homestead.  They knew each other. But the former was the older.  My paternal grandfather was one of the first people the erect a brick and mortar house in the village.  As you can guess, it was a big deal. My father still talks about it with pride. Imagine a village with mud hutments and thatched roofs.  Then one drop of brick building with corrugated zinc roof.  A wealthy farmer, he was known for his rubber plantation and yam farm.  According to my father, who is his father’s number one oral-biographer, he was also famous for his temper.  Like Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, he was an iron-fisted ruler of his household.  I met him once in the early 90’s.  He was about a hundred at that time and had lost his sight.  I was a child and did not understand why he kept repeating my name, more to himself, and holding my hands.  He would say prayers to several white and clay-colored figures that populated a quarter of his room.  I remember his strange mutterings to things and people no one knew.  Years later, my dad said he was talking to his dead friends.  My father’s mother was his second wife.  She passed away when my father was still a child.
I grew up in an urban slum outside Port Harcourt.  I had the type of childhood that is better written about than experienced.  So you know, I do not think there is any virtue in poverty.  Meaning, maybe, yes.  To think that poverty makes one stronger or wiser is a terrible judgment to make.  If one chooses to poverty as the golden path to enlightenment, fine.  But when extreme poverty and lack result from the interplay of forces outside one’s reach and control, it sucks.  For every out-of-Africa rag-to-riches story, there are thousands of dreams crushed by the brutal blow of poverty.  I know of kids (now adults) who ended up broken and traumatized for life.
We lived in the middle of extreme poverty and disease.  Not as affluent observers, but as one with the sad reality.  My parents had seven children, which did not help matters.  I was the sixth, which did not also help, because the older ones had the lion share of everything.  Don’t have more kids than your wallet can handle.  My dad, who, before I was born had gone through several public service jobs, went through several phases of depression.  Of course he did not know that he was depressed, neither did we. He came home drunk, angry and withdrawn.  As a child, I did not understand what went on in his head.
On the other hand, my mother – the most resilient human on earth – held the family together.  She attended our school programs and raised funds to pay fees.  Her inner strength was an inspiration. In a culture where women were considered weak and voiceless, she made me think otherwise.  That is the greatest gift she gave me.  Today, I cannot stand anyone who is biased towards women.
About seven years ago, my father had some grand epiphany and converted to Christianity.  It was the best thing that had ever happened to my family.  He became a changed man.  But it was too late; I was already gone and independent.
I appreciate the fact that you have decided to move past your previous apprehensions and talk to me.  In light of your upbringing and familial and parental influences, how would you describe your current personality especially those traits that you consider to be your strong points and then those weak ones, which I suspect you try to keep hidden from public scrutiny?

I would describe myself as an extroverted introvert.  You need to be around me for a week to know this.  In my extrovert moments I am outgoing and outspoken.  When the introvert is awake, I crawl inside and observe things from a distance.  Knowing that too much observation and thinking without action is not the best, I attempt a balance between the both strong sides of me.  Like in every case of equally appealing sides, I take sides.  I prefer the introvert in me, and try to nurture it more.

My parents, especially my father, did not like my quiet side.  According to him, it was a sign of weakness.

So Tim, how did writing filter into your personality equation.  Did your embryonic stages of writing manifest from the extrovert or the introvert?   How has your professional career reflected this duality that is you?  
I write because I need it.  If I do not find a way to offload the content of my constant observations and musings, I will implode.  I mean… when my mind is saturated with random thoughts, I get all restless until I put those thoughts on paper.  The worst time to be around me is when I have a mind full of ready words, waiting to be put on paper.  I would pace up and down, distracted from any task at hand, stay up all night until I empty it on paper.  Yes, on paper.  I still scribble on paper, the old fashion way.  Recently, I had a moment like that on an airplane.  I kept calling for more napkins to write on.  The guy next to me could not hide his panic.  He was visibly uncomfortable with this African frantically scribbling on napkins, like his whole life depended on it.  If I were him, I would be worried as well.  At one point he offered me some sheets of paper.  I declined politely.  I had already connected with the napkins and would not break the flow.
Writing came naturally as an outlet for what goes on inside my head. When I see a piece of art or listen to good music, I attempt a poetic representation or interpretation. I would close my eyes and run a few offhanded lines in my head for the fun. Sometimes, these offhanded lines become real, publishable poems.  “Back To Ash,” for instance, was inspired by Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black”. I have also written a few ekphrastic poems inspired by some of Van Gogh’s pieces.  I write to immortalize what I see and imagine.  I believe our imagination, the way we mentally interpret what we see, have the right to live forever.
I do not write for writing sake. I write to stay in touch with the introvert inside, to share my side of the story with the world, knowing that I am just a channel.

In a post 9/11 world of fear, apprehension and panic, I am surprised your airplane seatmate did not call for a fight attendant who would have alerted the onboard sky marshal or flight captain who would have…prompted an incident…and then…

I do like that connection to the napkins versus paper. Moving on…aadunarecently presented a contributing poet/writer at a reading in Rochester, NY and she read two ekphrastic poems. I am not sure how many readers are familiar with that process/technique.   How would you describe that particular poetic pathway?

When a piece of art is displayed, the artist looses control of how his work is viewed and interpreted.  The rough edges and unintentional strokes are accorded deep or shallow meanings outside the artist’s original intentions.  That is the way of the world.  We see what we want to see, say what we want to say, and interpret things the way we want.  And that is how I would describe the ekphrastic process; a conscious and subjective interpretation of arts using poetry as a medium of expression.

Thank you.  I know that all conversations, no matter how enjoyable, come to an end at some point.  Before I let you go, please share the status of your manuscript and the process of identifying an appropriate press that may want to publish your work. 

My first book-length manuscript is a mosaic of deep thoughts and simple observations.  Each poem is rich in imagery, inviting the reader to see what the poet sees. The process of identifying an appropriate press is the most difficult part of one's life as a writer.  Here is what I suggest: submit to journals, magazines and contests; look up presses that have published poets who appear in journals that accept your work; read their guidelines, and if what they say works for you, go ahead and submit.

Great advice.  Well, it is closure time.  I want to thank you for taking the time to
chat with me and for your sharing.  It is a tradition, for me to ask for some wisdom, suggestions or advice that you want to pass on to the RK readership.  Feel free to share.  

Read poetry like your life depended on it.  That is the gateway to enlightenment.  As corny as it might sound, there is sense in it. I have never met a faithful follower of poetry that is not deep and grounded.




Copyright 2015 by Rockford Kingsley Ltd.