I Love Poems That Make Me Feel.

Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu in Conversation with Hauwa Saleh

This interview was conducted in May, 2019.

“She told me that I had softness in me. I should use it to my advantage.”


Ayamba: I remember once in Kaduna, after a most electric, amazing literary evening at YELF, Muhammad Gulani (Creative Director, ABUFEST) showed me a clip on his phone. It was of you reciting a poem at the 2018 edition of ABUFEST. I do not quite remember the words of the poem, what I do remember is that watching you recite it was so beautiful it filled my body with goosebumps. How did you learn to read so beautifully, Hauwa?
Hauwa Saleh: Okay, I picked an interest in performance poetry after I started watching poetry videos on YouTube. It fascinated me, but I never thought I could do it. The poets always seemed so different for me. But the longer I watched, the more interested I became. So one day, I decided to try. I sent an audio to my friend Angela Umoru, but I wasn’t true to myself. I was trying to imitate what I saw on the internet. She told me that I had softness in me. I should use it to my advantage.
So I decided to try performing in public. To be honest, my first performances were terrible. I didn’t know how to manage my nervousness and always read too fast, and being a recluse, I found it difficult to put emotions in my performances, so it always flopped. But eventually, I learnt to control it. And here we are.
Ayamba: That’s quite interesting and inspiring. I am glad that your friend was able to tell you that your softness while performing was beautiful, because it’s what in my opinion has set you apart from other performance poets; the way you say the words so tenderly, as though you were holding a baby in your arms.
What inspires you to write?
Hauwa Saleh: This is always a tough question to answer for me. There is no particular thing that inspires me to write. Sometimes boredom is my inspiration, or things happening around me, or something I read in a book or some writing prompts. And sometimes I try to find inspiration and it doesn’t come, so I try to force the words out but that doesn’t always work out.
Ayamba: True, forced writing never turns out well. Which books or writers would you say have changed your life or shaped you as a human?
Hauwa Saleh: Oh, that question. I think almost every book you pick has something to teach you, especially childhood stories. So it’s hard to say. But my most memorable stories are J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter, Zaynab Alkali’s The Virtuous Woman (in fact, it influenced me so much that I ‘borrowed’ a few lines for my first attempted ‘novel’ when I was in Junior secondary ), Khalid Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and A Secret Garden (can’t remember the author) and many others.
Ayamba: Zainab Alkali is a fave, as is Khaled Hosseini. Let’s talk about poetry. What makes a poem for you?
Hauwa Saleh: Hmm, I guess I love poems that make me feel. It doesn’t have to be something major. Describe the sun to me, write about a butterfly, or your first love or the thing you fear the most. I love poems that speak about vulnerability, let me see that part you think is weak. Poetry for me is seeing the world through someone’s eyes, for a second I am breathing in your skin .
Ayamba: So are you working on a book currently?
Hauwa Saleh: I already have a completed novel. I am currently working on two. I haven’t touched one in about two years so I don’t know if it counts. I started writing the other one on Wattpad, but it is still incomplete. Unfortunately, I haven’t touched it in a while too but I hope to complete it this year .
Ayamba: That’s amazing! No collection of poetry yet?
Hauwa Saleh: I do have an unpublished ‘collection’ if that counts.
Ayamba: That sounds good. We’re rounding up now so please teach us how to say I love you in your dialect
Hauwa Saleh: Mi yidi ma.
Ayamba: What language is it?
Hauwa Saleh: Fufulde
Hauwa: Oh great. Thank you for your time, namesake.
Hauwa Saleh: Thanks for the great interview.

Hauwa Saleh Abubakar is a law student currently at the Nigerian Law School. She had her nursery and primary education at Turaki International school and secondary school at Uncle Bado Memorial college, Kaduna. She then proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University where she studied civil law. You will find her ranting about feminism or scribbling down poems and stories. She is into performance poetry/spoken word even though she says she is still working on the performance part. When asked what she writes, she usually tells you in this order: poetry, stories, and will sometimes say she is ‘experimenting ‘ with creative nonfiction. She was shortlisted twice for the Nigerian Students Poetry prize and her works have appeared in a few publications. She aims to make people feel ‘something’ with her work.

The interviewer, Hauwa Nuhu Shaffii has her bio in the members’ profile section.

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