We spoke to Creative Writing graduate, David Ishaya Osu, to find out what he’s been up to since leaving Kent.
What are you doing now?
I am writing as fiercely as ever, and even more. Experimenting with forms, disjointing artistic impulses into other aspects of my private life. In addition to my street photography, I am learning how to operate video cameras. I am making random film footages, documenting unscripted occurrences. Somehow, my creative instinct is driving me into cinematising flows of thoughts in correspondence with the street.
I recently joined the Canadian literary magazine, Plenitude, where I am serving as an associate poetry editor; it is always a pleasure, and an honour reading works from new quarters.
I am also trying my best to learn new dances springing up in Nigeria every day. Heaven, so many wonderful dance steps; I wish I can wake up one morning doing all the sways (laughs).
What attracted you to your course, and to Kent? Where did you study prior?
As one restless mind, I am always reaching out for adventures, existences new to me. Like a tree sending its roots to new surfaces. Places, psyches, purposes, known and unknown. I like to think this reflects in my writing.
I studied Urban and Regional Planning at the Federal University of Technology Minna and abandoned it. And then I made up my mind to write fulltime, to devote myself fully to the arts. While researching a place to study in the UK, Kent really appealed to me. I went through past modules, read the overview, read about graduates from the school. I dug deep into the research/creative interests of faculty members and was fascinated by how my writing interest intersected with theirs at cool angles. I was never going to be limited or held back by the fact that I left a Nigerian university without a degree; so, I sent in my application for a master’s. I had faith in my creativity, had a poetry/prose/journalism portfolio of several years to show. The passion for poetry was driving me into the wilds. One other factor that influenced my decision for Kent was Kent as a county—Kent as a place. I had read about writers who lived in Kent and was fascinated by their stories. And I thought to myself: why not go see the Garden of England for yourself? The history of Canterbury drew me in. The Cathedral, the architecture of the city; I wanted to experience for myself. I wanted to allow my writing new portals of inspiration.
Which aspects of your degree did you enjoy the most, and why?
The first aspect was psychological; I fed off the bliss of being in a place primarily for creative writing. I am one happy butterfly who just wants to touch down at every flower row as possible. I do not remember an aspect or session of my master’s that I did not enjoy. I enrolled with an enthusiasm that would last the whole journey and beyond. I was in for the nectars, and nectars alone.
This may sound silly, but it gave me great joy each time I went up and down the steps in Rutherford College, going for a class or returning. I have a thing for stairs—something to do with walking, covering distances, and in this case, a psychological flight. I greatly enjoyed all the one-on-one sessions with lecturers: discussing the progress of work; reviewing assignment and dissertation plans; book recommendations; it was a kind of communion listening to a fellow writer share creative thoughts that were not only helpful to my work but inspired me as a person. I should mention the proficiency in general conducts; it was not a phenomenon I witnessed as a student back in Nigeria. Coming from a dysfunctional university background, I felt at home in Kent.
The weekly creative writing seminars and series were such bundles of pleasure: getting to meet authors from different spheres, listen to them, engage their works.
Another one: Keynes College bus stop was a source of enjoyment for me. Those waits, those thoughts that flowered in the mind as I psychically called forth buses; checking bus apps, checking arrivals and departures. The bus stop also gave an elevated view of the city; Canterbury at night was such an appeal from that spot.
How has your time at Kent helped you in your career so far?
Kent is now family, home. My time at the university boosted my aspiration to teach. I got a new confidence. I enjoyed the poetry workshops, nonfiction workshops. My passion for poetry expanded beyond myself. I want to teach creative writing for some time.
Simply being in an atmosphere of poetry and poets puts me in a trance. Poetry is my default setting.
I should also say this: I wrote a full manuscript from my one year in Kent. The manuscript has received two beautiful rejections from UK publishers, and is waiting for more.
Were you actively involved in any research centres or projects?
There were interesting projects to get involved with, and I did check out a few. But I was particular about going into myself at the time solely for creativeness. As a matter of fact, the degree was not my focus. I just wanted to immerse myself into wandering, exploring and writing.
What impressed you most about our academic staff?
Wild creativity was what I saw in their bios and works before arriving England, and when I met them in the flesh, I confirmed it. Passionate, innovative, generous, they genuinely embody a contagious drive for art. They are no longer just my teachers or supervisors, they are now my good friends.
Are you still in touch with any of your friends from University?
Oh, yes, we are still in touch. We follow each other on social media and get to chat time to time. I would really love to meet with them again, a kind of reunion; read poetry over wine and good laughs.
Did you undertake any work experience whilst at Kent? What did you do? Did you find it was helpful in your studies and has it benefited your career to date?
I wandered around streets and took my street photography seriously. This was helpful to my studies, as I was (and am still) very keen on psychogeography. Exploring spaces. I did side jobs editing manuscripts for some persons as well as working for my magazine, where I am the poetry editor.
Could you describe a typical day in your current role?
Because I work from home, my typical day is having good naps and blasting songs in between reading poems and typing and post-processing photographs. Another typical day is doing nothing at all but letting the day to go its way. I believe in meaninglessness, and always go with my flows. I do not force plans or schedules. Some days require me to just play music, dance and sweat and doze off. Other days inspire me to wander. Some days are for watching pictures of buildings, technology and designs, architectural videos, documentaries, comedy, extreme sports etc. on YouTube. My days are always flexible.
What are your future plans/aspirations?
To never lose my freedom of being; to be my truest self forever. I want to continue making art till the day I die. At the centre of my soul is a faith in humanity; love your neighbour as you love yourself. Listing things, I want to go: swimming, biking, skating, hiking, photographing, be very close to water bodies as frequently as possible. I recently went Kayaking in Abuja, so that is a yes to water sports. Play the saxophone. More road trips. I want to have a camper van. I want to build a home in the countryside near a lake.
Some community art projects I cannot disclose now. Another reason I need to become a billionaire: to fund art projects. Dreams and fantasies, love and live. I believe dreams come true.
Are you currently working, or have you recently worked on any interesting projects that you would like to tell us a bit more about?
Last year I published two poetry pamphlets online: When I’m Eighteen & Once in a Blue Life. I am currently working on collections of my street photographs, on a collection of hybrids, a book of prose, two new poetry manuscripts. I pitched my first poetry collection to some agents and publishers and got some sweet rejection letters; I shall still send it out to other publishers. Fingers crossed.
I started a weekly newsletter titled The Twelve Tribes of Ishaya, where I write about random subjects. I shall resume my interview series, speaking with creatives about their practices and artistic matters arising; to be published on my website.
Something for the near future: I envision prints and frames of my photographs, and exhibitions.
For research projects, I want to slot those into my PhD. I cannot wait for travel restrictions to be lifted.
What is your favourite memory of Kent?
It was my first reading in England, just a few weeks upon arriving the country. Reading in The Parrot, the oldest pub in Canterbury and one of the oldest buildings in the city. Thanks to Eleanor Perry and Juha Virtanen for inviting me to read. Also added to this memory: a stranger paid for my beer; I only remember her name.
What advice would you give to somebody thinking of coming to Kent?
Are you ambitious? Kent is the place to nurture those dreams. And if they are interested in creative writing, they are well at home. Make great use of the library; borrow more books than I did.
How would you describe your time at Kent in three words?
Curious, inspiring, rewarding.
Take a look at David’s release, Once in a Blue Life.