A few years back at a poetry meet-up of some of the most interesting poets in Nigeria, Loudthotz; http://loudthotzpoetry.blogspot.com.ng/ I met a pleasantly mental stimulating fellow who is one of the many that inspired me to start this blog. He is Dr. Ode Eyeoyibo, I call him Dr. Ode.
I asked him to give a personal brief on the importance of reading for every creative mind or “art maker” and he did!
Reading up on him (when I say reading up I literarily mean using google), I found that he wrote a book called; A basket of flavours; Reflections on the road to transformation. (I really need to get that book!)
He has done so many things really, that probably shouldn’t surprise me anymore. He is also a great mentor on poetry, writing, speaking, art and so on.
Did I also mention he’s a clergy man for the Ezra House? Whoop whoop!
Let me how you feel on this. Have you practiced reading to improve your art? Share with us in the comment section below as we watch you grow.
THE ARTIST/ARTISTE AS READER
I am the proverbial house that books built. I am a reader (not I hasten to add, an Associate Professor in an American University) but a reader of books of all styles and genre. I am what is known as an eclectic reader.
This is important to state at the outset, because it is based on all the reading and rereading that I have done all my life, that I have become a writer. I have written and still continue to write poems. I write essays on spiritual and inspirational matters. I am a writer of wisdom literature. I lecture on political, economic and social issues. I am a preacher of sermons and you better believe that that too is an art form. I have not at this time written a novel or a short story or drama piece. I am neither a painter nor a sculptor. I once developed an interest in Photography but that was very short lived and transient.
Just as you cannot lead if you do not read (I do not mean that you cannot be rigged into office whether you are a Dubya or a Nigerian) in the same way you cannot develop your craft and grow your art, no matter your art form if you are not a reader and a student of all that has gone before in your particular field. Genius (that is what you have and that is not very likely in any case since only about one percent of us qualify for that particular appellation), still needs to be honed and sharpened and awakened as it were. And the only way that is done is by reading, training and a form of apprenticeship.
I know of great writers who have learnt to write by copying out reams and reams of writings by other writers. By doing that they were learning about form, structure, order and the right use of words. They did not do this in order to become copy cats or full on plagiarists but as a means of sharpening their own craft.
In my case I learnt how to write poems by purchasing and reading over 600 volumes of poetry. I read poems, read critical commentaries on poems, read interviews with poets, read the biographies and autobiographies of poets, read the philosophical and other writings of poets. I modelled two poets in particular- Csezlaw Milosz and Raymond Carver who incidentally is much better and wider known as a short story writer. In my quest for learning and development I also read his short stories. I became a disciple, a student, an apprentice to these great masters. I wrote poems riffing off and answering their own poems; I wrote poems suggested by reading their own and as I kept on writing I found my own poetic voice and style.
In all the areas of my writing and speaking interest I have followed the same procedure. As the ultimate good book says, if you want to gain approval with and in your particular craft you have to study.
Let me end with the words of the English Philosopher Francis Bacon- some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy and extracts made of them by others. Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man and writing an exact man. Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle; natural philosophy, deep; moral instruction, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.
As an artist or artiste, you must study your craft. Read well; read wide; read deeply; read wisely. But whatever you do, read. That is the only way you gain approval!
DR ODE ANDREW EYEOYIBO