SERVIO GBADAMOSI: The Art of Pitching One’s Tent In A Land Without Gatekeepers

Griggs rightly noted that poets are dying. But Poetry is not.

How to know: Change the lens through which you watch this stage – where the Okigbos, the Okaras, the Clarks, the Osundares and the Ofeimuns played all the roles and owned all the voices in this enduring drama of existence – and engage emerging Poets whose provoking voices connect with preceding generations, within the galaxy of thoughts, ostensibly substantiating the invented sensation captured by Umar Abubakar Sidi as the peninsula of poets.

Almost as an eccentric coincidence, I imagine that Servio Gbadamosi qualifies as a near-befitting portraiture of who a poet is – maybe “…the medicine-man//who cures all maladies with//a dose…” – and what makes poetry, of which in his introduction to Sidi’s The Poet of Sand, Richard Ali stated:

“What makes poetry vibrant is the sense of authenticity of the poet…not the mere technical dexterity in the manipulation of form and history and even language.” 


a-tributary-in-servitude-by-servio-gbadamosiServio Gbadamosi’s A Tributary in Servitude is one with a voice – audible and audacious; a vision – discreet but distinct; a hope – ruined yet renewed; a style – austere and authentic. This meal served by Gbadamosi’s WriteHouse Collective leaves the reader’s taste bud with much longing and questions begging to be left unanswered.

How Servio manages the craft of writing with the business of publishing, is not one of those questions: “I [Servio] think it affords me the opportunity to experience the best of both worlds,” he says, “because as a writer, I get to write about my experiences, my thoughts, my emotions, and get to document all of that. The beautiful thing about publishing is, it opens me up to a lot of new works that are being written largely by members of my own generation.”


In a system that works, considering the attentiveness that creative writing demands, there is usually a business chain that connects the products of creativity. In Nigeria, however, experiments are on-going to verify if writing and publishing can be ‘comfortable bedfellows’. As one wonders what roles the politics of publishing would have played in Servio’s interest, he let out a word:

“Before [it] was published, it went through an editing process that lasted about three years. We have a team of people whose judgement and opinion we trust. It goes to the author, comes back to them [repeatedly] until we have something we are all satisfied with as being a true reflection of the writer’s best. The process was not breached or jumped just because of me. Those people act as gatekeepers.”

The upshot of such gatekeepers:

With A Tributary in Servitude, Gbadamosi, in a non-conforming style that subtly nudges the dampening drift, captures the fragments of hidden realities in a society pretending to be bound in freedom. His work refuses to waver in its search for meaning and whatnot, in the complexities of shared identities – especially when probed through the discernment of histories and geographies.

Do such gatekeepers exist in a society like ours, where democracy shares a garment with despondency? Servio, in Irritations in the Oyster (p.20) and Elegy for Union (p.73), punctuates my question with conclusive lamentations:

Your country wobbles

fumbles, tumbles, rumbles…

this democracy, my brother

leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

The reader easily finds his place in Gbadamosi’s art which somehow – however delicate – responds to matters of heavyweight sociological significance:

“I think there’s a lot that art, (that literature), can achieve in the society that can affect the culture, the mindset, in more ways than we can imagine. Art will not solve all the problems of the society [and in fact, there are instances where art is part of the things responsible for the problems of the society], but art makes bearing those problems and living with them more palatable than they would have been without art.”

But that’s not all!

“For me, literature starts as a mode of expression. I’m trying to express myself in the society and also trying to express the society in me. So there’s a kind of cooperation and inter-relation between me as a writer and my experiences in the society. I sit somewhere at the intersection of that relationship and make art with it. Sometimes it is deliberate, and sometimes it is inspired. But that is where I have chosen to pitch my tent.”

In most Writers’ communities, however, pitching one’s tent is never considered enough. Certain questions just never stop popping up: On what platform is it pitched? Who sees the tent? What reputation does it have among fellow tent-pitchers? Is it recognized by ‘tent-rewarders’?

What does Servio Gbadamosi, whose A Tributary in Servitude has purportedly gained more visibility upon winning the 2015 ANA Poetry Prize, has to say about Prizes?

“I would even say that we don’t have enough of [Prizes] yet. I think that we need more prizes. But should we write for prizes? No. You have no control over what book will win what prizes and when, but the aspect you have control over is the creation and the moulding of the writing. Now, when you give your best to that, whether it wins a prize or not, the work will speak for itself! Books travel and helps you leave a bit of yourself and of your society in the hearts of those who have encounter your work.


“And, of course, prizes are subjective and they have their own ideologies, philosophies and politics. There are things the judges and the body behind the prizes look for. If they find it in your work, you get it. If they don’t find it in your work, you won’t get it, it doesn’t mean your work is necessarily less deserving of winning. Your work doesn’t just have what they want.”

Beyond prizes, many writers have had to result in a residency program to give their craft a worthy dedication or to work on a new project. One of such in Nigeria is the Ebedi International Writers’ Residency where Servio Gbadamosi secreted himself for a significant portion of the last quarter of 2016.

“Oh, there’s a lot of serendipity and tranquility in the environment, of course, away from the hustle and bustle of city life that I’m used to. The greatest benefit of the residency for me would be that it has given me ample time to catch up on my reading; to open up my mind to new influences, new authors, new books, new experiences, and soak them all in, and then see how that imparts my creative process.”

Because most residencies necessitate writers to work on a substantial body of work, readers and critics usually become overnight nannies, expecting new deliveries from residents. To them, Servio says:

a-half_formed-thing“I am working on a new book, and in the months to come, people will begin to see bits and pieces of it. But, then, at the right time, we get to see the entire collection.”

Those bits and pieces are sneaking out of the kitchen already. A Half-Formed Thing, a chapbook Servio Gbadamosi co-authored with fellow residents Ehi’zogie Iyeomoan and Ikechukwu Nwaogu, will for the time engage a ready audience across the literary space.

Could this be his favourite?

Ask Servio, and he will let out a brief laugh, then tell you: “At every point in time, whatever it is I’m working on at the moment excites me, and it becomes my favourite. Tomorrow morning, I might wake up and create something new and that becomes my favourite too.”



[Servio Gbadamosi works with emerging writers across Nigeria providing multiple development and promotional platforms. His first Poetry Collection, A Tributary in Servitude, won the 2015 ANA Poetry Prize. Check here for other editions of THE ART OF THE MATTER.] 


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Adeniruju Adedapo-Treasure
A writer, wishful filmmaker and advocate who breathes and tweets via @TreasureNGA.

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