“Lagos is full of stories to be told. You only need to look out of your window to catch a story that wants to be told.”
Dami Ajayi is an ardent poet and writer living and working in Lagos. He studied medicine and surgery at the University of Ile – Ife where he started out as a writer and co-founder of Saraba Magazine. Recently, he published his first collection of poems “Clinical Blues” to a laudable acceptance and critique and already started writing another book to be published soon.
If Dami Ajayi borrows you any of his John Irving’s or Steinbeck’s books, you must be special! Find out why in the interview.
How do you balance practising as a doctor with being a writer?
I don’t balance it; sometimes I am a doctor, sometimes I am a writer. Many times, I have to abandon one for the other especially when I begin to feel that one is being neglected for too long. Usually, my pocket detects this first.
With this occasional need to abandon one work for the other, how long did it take you to write Clinical Blues and what inspired some of the poems?
Four years. But not actively, I just gathered the poems over this time, so that the writing, or better still the collation, of the work was passive. I bat my eyelids and the book is suddenly there. Publishing the book however was a different kettle of fish. It took another three years to find it a home. The book is really a triptych about coming of age, or my loss of innocence through my experience in the departments of love, medicine and bar respectively.
If Clinical Blues was ‘the coming of age’, what led to writing your chapbook, Daybreak and Other Poems?
Daybreak was born and bred in Amaokpala during my service year when I was writing more prose and trying my hands on a different kind of poetry. I like to think that every form of writing is biographical but I am not writing out my life in full. I am synthesizing, every fresh account tinkers with the true narrative, so you can’t say my poems are completely my experiences, they sometimes borrow from it in measured quantum.
Interesting. What are the most treasured books in your collection and how long have you had them?
Almost every book on my shelf is treasured, if not I would have given it away; I rarely lend people books but, of course, some books always stand out. My John Irving’s (The Cider Houses Rule, The World According to Garp, Setting Free the Bears and A Prayer for Owen Meaning), John Steinbeck’s ( Cannery Row, Pastures of Heaven, Grapes of Wrath) and my tome of Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems. I acquired them all during my undergraduate years at Ife.
What were your earliest influences as a writer?
American modern and post-modern literature. Because that was what I was reading when the urge to pick the pen became irresistible.
With your writing experience across different genres, which is your most preferred?
I don’t have preferences, I think ideas pick their vehicles, the genres; what I would say will be my most preferred will be a hybrid of all the genres in a piece of formidable work that has not been written. Thankfully, I won’t write it because, as it is, I am more involved in another kind of writing, the one that pays the bills, writing prescriptions.
The last part of your response was quite funny but more importantly, you have raised a topic we would leave for discussion another time. So, what are you working on presently?
A short novel about contemporary Lagos.
While we wait for that, how will you describe Lagos and the impact of living in Lagos as a writer?
Lagos is a chaotic city on a perpetual fast forward. Lagos is full of stories to be told. You only need to look out of your window to catch a story that wants to be told.
Do you have a schedule of reading or event this year people can attend?
There will be readings in Lagos, Ife, Ibadan and other places before the end of the first quarter of 2015. Later in the year, readings in Kenya and Uganda and other African countries, if Jesus draws back his second coming.
Clinical Blues by Dami Ajayi is a cross pollination of his medical encounters, experiences on love and sex, an exploration of the mind with a large influx of medical terminologies describing his subjects and issues raised. You can buy Clinical Blues at Patabah book stores in Surulere, Dada book stores at Freedom Park, Terra Kulture, Victoria Island and online from Konga.com.
We will post details of his reading events in Lagos soon.