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How Abuja marked World Poetry Day

Since 1999, when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) first declared March 21 of every year as World Poetry Day, poets and…

Since 1999, when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) first declared March 21 of every year as World Poetry Day, poets and lovers of arts have found different ways to commemorate the day.
In Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, which is fast garnering a reputation as a haven for poets, several events are held to commemorate the day and this year was no different. One of the events that have become a staple over the last few years has been the annual Korea-Nigeria Poetry Fiesta.
The event organized by the Korea Cultural Centre, Abuja and Arojah Concept, powered by a journalist, Jerry Adesewo, has held over the last four years with winners walking away with prize money and certificates.  An anthology titled “Here to There” featuring all the poems submitted for the first three years of the fiesta was published.
This year’s edition saw the Korean Cultural Centre rolling out the red carpet and strapping on the velvet glove again as the poets came to town. Calls for entries have been made months before and some 500 poems were submitted by 160 poets. Judges have poured over the submissions and World Poetry Day was the occasion for some poets to increase their bank figures.
They came from everywhere: Lagos, Kaduna, Jigawa and other far-flung places. The new Director of the Korean Cultural Centre, Mr. Sungrae Han was on hand to welcome the guests.
Having only assumed office a month before, Mr. Han said: “In the quality and number of poems submitted by Nigerians  from across the country for this feast, it is certain that literature has quite blossomed here and this land will continue to be the home of many renowned writers in the rank of Wole Soyinka. So, I would like to express my heartfelt congratulations and   best wishes to the 17 poets who have been awarded the prizes in recognition of their excellent works of poetry. Also I appreciate the efforts and works of other poets who couldn’t make the list, I am very sure the judges had a tough time in coming up with the best poems.”
And the best poem on the night was adjudged to be Echezonachuwku Nduka’s “Listen”. The London-based Nigerian music scholar stormed his way to the cash prize of N100, 000, beating last year’s winner, Ehi’gozie Iyeomoan to second place.
In the school category, Opeoluwa Nieth came tops beating Igbagbo Emmanuel and Deborah Akpan to second and third places respectively.
Kaduna-based poet, Stephen Adinoyi clinched the Ambassador’s Special Prize. Speaking after receiving his prize, Adinoyi said, “I am truly delighted by this prize as I wasn’t expecting it at all. I am glad that the KCCN and Arojah Concepts have been organizing these events to give poets a chance to showcase their talents and win prizes for it.”
Commenting on the events, Arojah Concepts’ Jerry Adesewo said they have been working hard every year to see that the Korea Nigeria Poetry Fiesta grows and expressed delight at the number and quality of submissions made for this year’s fiesta.
“We are glad to have been able to sustain this event and particularly the competition aspect of it in the last six consecutive editions. Many thanks to the Korean Cultural Centre Management, both past and present,” Adesewo said, adding that “We are also glad that we have been able to improve on the incentive which of course has its effect on the number of participation this year.  The margin compared to last year is over 70%.”
He also expressed joy that the contest was taking an international outlook and look forward to publishing a second anthology of poems next year and hope there would be support from the Nigerian government and businesses for the project.
The day featured poetry renditions from special guests likes Time Bello, Mac Father G and AY the Rhymer, whose faith-inspired rhymes impressed the audience.

…And then ANA too
The evening was far from over though with the Association of Nigerian Authors, (ANA), Abuja chapter staging its own event to commemorate the day at Thought Pyramid Art Centre. The event was a spontaneous battle of poets, seven of them competing for the prize money with a poem they would render at the spot.
This time, Stephen Adinoyi, still basking in his win at the Korea-Nigeria Poetry Fiesta, sat to preside over the fate of other poets as the chief judge.
Budding poet, Rudolph Adidi, impressed him the most and walked away with the first prize, beating six other young poets to the jackpot.
Commenting on the evening, Salamatu Sule, Secretary of ANA Abuja said, “The aim of the event is to give a platform to young poets to express and showcase their talents on the theme of nation building. We thought it was a useful way of using poetry to see how we can build a nation.”
The poems rendered by the budding poets like Eyitoyosi and Eyimofe Adesewo, to Oluwaseun Odukoya and Adesewo Fayaman Bay and many others all demonstrated the reason for commemorating the day as outlined by UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova’s statement:
“By paying tribute to the men and women whose only instrument is free speech, who imagine and act, UNESCO recognizes in poetry its value as a symbol of the human spirit’s creativity. By giving form and words to that which has none – such as the unfathomable beauty that surrounds us, the immense suffering and misery of the world – poetry contributes to the expansion of our common humanity, helping to increase its strength, solidarity and self-awareness.”

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