Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Author Questions & Answers Session With Abdulkareem Abdulkareem⁩

Zakiyyah: ⁨Abdulkareem Abdulkareem⁩ , Good evening and welcome! 

Thank you for accepting this invitation. We are super honoured to have you in our space, and our members are so excited to learn and hear from you.

Abdulkareem: Thank you for having me here. I’m so glad to be here.

It’ll be a pleasure conversing with everyone here.

Zakiyyah: I have ten questions for you today, Mr Abdulkareem. I hope you are excited because we all are happy to have you here today.

Abdulkareem: Definitely, I’m excited to be here. I’ll be happy to answer all your questions.

Zakiyyah: Great!

Tell us briefly about your writing experiences so far.

How has it been? Is it a lot more complicated than it is easy?

Abdulkareem: Thank you for the question, Zakiyyah.

Writing, in its’ entirety, is hard work. That is, to pick up your pen and write something. Or open whatever writing method you use as a writer and create beauty with words. 

And then, you write these words. Create the magic of words only to have someone tell you, ‘It’s not good enough’. That itself is what every writer fears. 

My experiences with writing didn’t begin as kid as every or most writers would. I started writing a few years ago and have been consistent, at least at my own pace.

But consistency only sometimes does it. Because being consistent without creating and connecting, the writer might be down towards the lonely part. Writing has brought me the bitter, the sweet and the in-between.

Zakiyyah: Can you explain what you mean by “consistency doesn’t always do it”?

Abdulkareem: Yes. Yes.

A writer is meant to write, yes. That’s the primary thing. But then, writing every day and every time without a significant connection might have a negative influence, most especially as a poet. The better way to say it is that consistency alone doesn’t always do it. I once connected with someone who told me they’ve been writing for a long time, and it felt like they’ve been the same all these years. By being the same, that is the writing strength, improvement etc. 

A writer improves by writing more, yes. But the improvement would be faster if there’s a community, a writing partner, a mentor and everything that falls under these. When I started writing, I had a friend who told me what to read and who to read. These two things alone that I learnt from him were enough to help.

I wrote poetry for a whole year without significant growth.

The consecutive year after, my connection with him changed me. So that’s why I said consistency only sometimes does it. Or rather, consistency alone doesn’t always do it.

Zakiyyah: Oh! I get your point now. Thanks for taking the time to break it down for us.

Abdulkareem: It’s all my pleasure.

Zakiyyah: To my next question. Talking about making a community through certain connections, what role do you think modern technology and social media play in promoting and connecting writers and artists around the globe?

Abdulkareem: When we talk about one of the advantages of social media, connection is a significant part of it. And this influences every field, which includes writing. 

In 2021, a friend contacted some of us to create a writers’ collective. A literary family, where we are conscious of each other’s growth and the people willing to tell each other the truths about our work, and we started the collective. We have shared opportunities, ones with a lot of positive influences. And the joint is still alive today. 

That was only possible because of the influences of the media. 

In late 2020, I learnt about the possibility of submitting literary works to magazines based abroad in the US, UK, and Other African countries and ahead. This wowed me. We make literary submissions abroad, and they publish these works without us being there. 

Social media is a powerful tool for writers who can use it to their influence.

I’m afraid I can’t agree less; social media allows us to connect and share experiences as we do now. Definitely, and it’s a beautiful one.

Zakiyyah: I’m glad you talked about submissions because it’s one of the reasons I invited you here. Making 

Submissions, following guidelines, and dealing with rejections are essential to succeeding in one’s writing journey. You got one of your poems published in a prestigious magazine, Poetry Magazine. How did you do it? Tell us the story behind this great acceptance.

Abdulkareem: The last sentence of your question is one I have been asked several times. 

I made this Submission to a poetry magazine like every other Submission I make. The funniest thing about this Submission was that I made few minutes into the closing period of the Submission. That’s because submittable to see the hours or minutes when it’s less than 24 hours before the closing time. 

Before my Submission to Poetry Magazine, I submitted this poem to top magazines, and it was rejected, even though I kept improving it. After several rejections, I go through the work and submit it again before Poetry Magazine is finally picked. 

Months after the Submission, I forgot I had made a poetry submission to a poetry magazine. After I received the acceptance, it took me minutes to process the fact Poetry Magazine accepted my work. I was shocked, honestly, because it was unexpected.

Getting into Poetry Magazine isn’t something I can say, “This was how I did it.”. I really can’t. I believe it’s all by His mercy.

Zakiyyah: I understand. Congratulations. It is a big feat.

Abdulkareem: Thank you once again. It shook me too. 😅

Zakiyyah: What can you tell aspiring writers about submitting to national and international magazines? What are the basics they are supposed to know, what should they expect, and how should they deal with rejections constantly?

Abdulkareem: The first significant thing I always love to discuss is rejection. Rejection is always bound to happen. It is inescapable. Rejections can get so much to an extent, but then, I want them to know it’s normal. 

As a coincidence, I went through my rejection lists earlier tonight and have received 122 rejections since January until today. That means I have received 122 rejections so far in 2023. But all these rejections won’t stop me. Even though there are days it’s hard reading through those bulk of rejection emails.

The truth is we are humans and are not immune to vulnerability, as rejection rejections can break us and do much damage. But my significant and utmost advice is that rejection should never stop us from writing and submitting.

Another essential piece of advice I always advise about is making submissions.

A common mistake most writers must correct when submitting is submitting to the wrong magazines.

Zakiyyah: The rejection slip is proof of our efforts; it attests to the fact that we made an effort by submitting, and that, too, isn’t easy.

Abdulkareem: Yes. Yes. I love the “proof of effort.”

I’ll use a poet as an example. Imagine a poet who just started learning poetry and making submissions. Then this post goes on to submit to Palette Poetry, Frontier Poetry, Trumpet, Georgia Review etc. 

Every single of these submissions is 99.9 going to be a rejection.

My earlier magazine acceptances were Artmosterrific, Kalahari Review, Ngiga Review, Second Chance Lit, Kissing Dynamite etc.

Even though I was a bit very budding, I had a good chance of acceptance into these magazines. And the acceptance I got from them kept me writing, even though I won’t return to those works for my future projects. But then, these acceptances were significant to my career.

It could be better if all the submissions were to very high magazines at the early stage.

Zakiyyah: Absolutely.

Abdulkareem: Yes. Yes 

Zakiyyah: How do you maintain your creative energy and motivation when inspiration is scarce?

Abdulkareem: For me, there are different ways around it. Sometimes I have an idea, but the words need to come. In these situations, I jot down the ideas. I know I’d write to them someday. 

The second one is when I know I want to write, or I probably have deadlines, and I need more motivation to write. 

I increase my level of reading during this period. I read so widely when it comes to poetry. So I know the poets whose works always call me to write when I read them. In short, I extend my reading arms during this period.

Zakiyyah: This is great. 

Now that you’re talking about the powers of reading, please emphasise the significance of reading and how it dramatically impacts one’s growth in writing and personal evolution.

Abdulkareem: Reading is a significant influence on growth. I always say that a writer who does not read is not a writer. 

I mentioned earlier about a friend who told me what to read and what people to read when I was introduced to contemporary poetry. After he gave me these two things, I kept to them. I read these people. I studied them too. And It continued, and all the influences showed in my writing. 

Even though there’s something to be conscious of while reading specific people, ensure you are not sound like them. That’s because this 

happens when a writer reads a particular writer so much and they are not conscious. It could lead to this. 

The primary key to growing is writing. When people tell me to teach them how to write, I always share books and names of poets they should read. With consistency and guidance, they are going to be influenced positively.

Zakiyyah: I can’t agree less; if one wants to write well, one must read. No other way other than this.

Abdulkareem: Yes. Yes. There’s no other way.

Zakiyyah: As a poet myself, I’m so tired of the cliche definitions of poetry to be a spontaneous floor for expressing emotions😂

As a poet, please give us an elaborate description and explanation of what poetry is generally and what it means to you.

Abdulkareem: 😅😅😅

I couldn’t agree less with this.

Every poet is bound to say this because we all write due to something around this circle.

There’s a description I always give. This is a fact. Poetry, for me, is the gentle breeze that brushes through an open wound. There’s something this air is supposed to do, and that’s what poetry does for me. A favourite writer, Kaveh Akbar, once said, “Poetry was the life raft; poetry was the star I followed. It’s given me everything I have in my life right now.”

For some people, poetry can be like a father patting his only daughter or son. It could also be a mother placing her children under warmth. I search for a home at the threshold of every line of poetry I write.

Zakiyyah: Now, this is what I call a definitive answer. Thank you for this.

Abdulkareem: Thank you.

Zakiyyah: Could you give us a glimpse into your writing process? How do you go from an idea to a finished piece?

Abdulkareem: There’s a flexible process for me. I’ve written using different methods. I write when I read at times. I also write due to a natural inspiration. I don’t have a ‘write today’ or ‘write by this time’ method. 

Sometimes I place myself on a rigid writing process, probably because of a deadline or something related. 

Even though while creating a poem, I’m now so conscious of some things. After what I perceive to be the last line, it’s not ready when I complete the draft of a poem. I leave it for weeks, then come back to it. Sometimes, I shuffle the lines, including starting the poem with the proposed last line in the first draft. Then I read. I also look for unclear expressions before sharing it with anyone I want to share it with for a beta reading. 

Even though there are times some poems are only ready if they are accepted. Those poems could have been edited once again if they weren’t edited. Even though there are times I’m always so rigid with some poems because I believe they’ve said what I want in the best way.

Zakiyyah: Interesting!

My last question, Every writer has come across this question. Who do you write? For yourself or a category of people?

Abdulkareem: I’m trying to remember a particular line. Even though this is an alternation of the original line, I can’t remember the writer who said it, but the alternation goes thus: there’s someone out there with a wound in the shape of yours.

I write for everyone who finds themselves in the shape of whatever my poems say.

Zakiyyah: Wow. I like how this ended. Thank you so much for your time Abdulkareem Abdulkareem. I enjoyed conversing with you. 

I’m looking forward to watching you break boundaries. Thank you once again.

Questions and contributions can come from the members.

Abdulkareem: It was nice having this chat with you,

Zakiyyah. It’s a beautiful one.

Zakiyyah: I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Abdulkareem: I did. Thank you.

  • Good evening!

I’m a bit bothered by this statement 

“consistency doesn’t always do it”.

Because I read somewhere that, a writer should 

Write and rewrite until he| or she can write right.

Now your statement is giving me doubts.

Please shed more light on that statement.

Abdulkareem: Oh, thank you for the question. I’m going to borrow from my earlier statement. I meant consistency alone doesn’t matter because writing for years doesn’t guarantee growth in writing. I’ve met people who have talked about writing for 5 or 6 years and have yet to major or significant growth in their writing. And by development, I don’t mean acceptance. I mean the improvement in their writing. Consistency is essential or better when there’s a writer friend, mentor, writing community or anything related to guide the writer. Or else one can be stuck within a phase for a long time despite all the writing consistency.

  • Abdulkareem, are you also planning to leave Nigeria to enable you to attain the fullness of your art? What’s your take on the recent claim that new Nigerian poets go out to answer the call of foreign poetry dictations?

Abdulkareem: Two significant things influence that. The first one is the limited opportunities for locally-based writers. The 

the second one is purely the state of writing in the country. 

Opportunities are limited for writers based in Nigeria, and many Nigerian writers wish to take writing to the next level, whereas being in Nigeria will take a lot of work.

The state of writing in the county is also part of this. There are limited opportunities from the government, like writing grants etc. Writing is taken with levity hands in Nigeria and Africa, which is a significant reason we have limited options.

Even though there are a few associations like Hill Top and SprinNG, I can barely think of anyone anymore.

Wow! I like this session. I enjoyed it. Thank you so much, Zakiyyah, for the excellent moderation, Abdulkareem Abdulkareem for your intellectual response, and NWF for holding such a session.

  • I have one question:

For young writers, especially poets, poetic license often makes them disregard punctuation. What are the implications of that on their journey?

Abdulkareem: They are two different things. Poetic license only allows the writer in the process of the creation of metaphors or the usage of language. 

But punctuation is a different thing. Even though punctuation is not compulsory in a poem, it’s advisable and vital. If a writer decides on ‘no punctuation’ in a 

poem, it has to be written in a way that makes it readable without punctuation. A writer like Safia Elhillo writes many poems without punctuations, only using the lineation of empty spaces.

Zakiyyah: Abdulkareem Abdulkareem, to round this up, can you share the poem published in Poetry Magazine or any other piece of your choice? 

Abdulkareem: https://poetrywales.co.uk/abdulkareem-abdulkareem-how-i-wrote-august-third/

This is my most recent online publication. It also has a short interview.


Abdulkareem Abdulkareem (he/him) Frontier III is a Nigerian writer and linguist. He holds a BA in Linguistics from the University of Ilorin. He won the University of Ilorin Students Union Writers Competition (Poetry Category), shortlisted for the Vallum Poetry Award, 2022 and longlisted for the Palette Poetry Previously Published Poetry Prize, 2023. He also receives the Hill Top Creative Writing Award for Excellence 2023. His works appear and are forthcoming in the National Museum of Language, POETRY, Transition Magazine, Waxwing, Poetry Wales, SAND, MIZNA, Nat Brut, West Trade Review, LOLWE, Southern Humanities Review, Isele, Qwerty Magazine, Shallow Tales Review, Nigeria News Direct, & elsewhere. He reads for Frontier Poetry.

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