An interview with poet, Esther Edoho

Moonflower (reviewed here), Esther Edoho’s new chapbook is a collection of poems exploring the intricacies of love and life and celebrating the mundane. I recently interviewed the author again (she’d previously done a BOOK’D interview here) about the collection, the power of introspection and writing.  She talks about what inspired her, what she almost called the chapbook and writing from sadness.

1. I know you’ve been writing for a long time now. Why did you finally decide it was time to create this chapbook?

One fine day in July (I think), I received an email from my friend, Tomi Olugbemi asking that I help edit his chapbook – Love is not a tempest. I was so inspired by the poems in his collection and by the fact that he had dared to create something so beautiful that it pushed me to create something of my own. I have always struggled with self-doubt as most writers do but Tomi’s Love is not a Tempest woke me up to the possibility of my own work. (Everyone should read his chapbook. I loved it.)

Tomi’s Love is not a Tempest woke me up to the possibility of my own work. - @missedoho Click To Tweet

Prior to this, my boyfriend had been giving me pep talks almost every week about how I needed to have the audacity to go after the things I want. And why I must write. And what an amazing writer he thought I was. So, slowly, I got back into writing (after a self imposed hiatus) and decided to put this book together. It was time. I had all these poems I had written but never shared so it was time to make something of it.

2. Why the name “moonflower”?

I would like to start by saying that I am terrible at naming things so when it came time to pick a name for this book, it was a struggle. However, I like flowers and this book is about opening and unfolding even in your darkest moments. I thought about calling it “The Unfolding” but my boyfriend said, “you like flowers, maybe try finding a flower that opens up at night time.” So I googled it and the first thing that came up was Moonflower and it was love at first sight.

3. How long did it take you to write moonflower?

Moonflower was written over the course of two years. Most of the poems were written in 2015 and it took about four and a half months to put it all together.

Moonflower was written over the course of two years. Click To Tweet

4. There are a number of poems about heartbreak, sadness and nostalgia for old love in this book. Would you say, personally, that sadness/trauma produce the best poetry?

I hate to admit this but yes, I think sadness and trauma produce some of the best poetry. Pain is captivating and like a child, demands all your attention. It forces you to closely examine yourself in a way that happiness does not. I find it almost impossible to move past a hurtful experience if I do not attend to my pain and myself. For me, attending is putting words to my emotions and writing until it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Pain is captivating and like a child, demands all your attention. - @missedoho Click To Tweet

5. In the poem, stubborn love, you write about trying to forget old love feeling like burying a living thing. Did you find writing the poems in this book therapeutic to do?

Oh absolutely. It was extremely therapeutic. I would be worried about my mental state if I did not write these poems. They were written at a time when I desperately needed an outlet. I didn’t look at some of them again until this year and reading them was so revealing. I’m so glad I wrote it all out. I wish I could give that girl a hug and tell her, “Things are going get so good, and it will feel like a dream.”

I find it almost impossible to move past a hurtful experience if I do not attend to my pain and myself. Click To Tweet

6. Which poems in moonflower are your personal favorites?

This is the part where I say “all of them”, right? Lol. Really, all of them are pretty great.

Ok seriously, I have a bunch of favorites and I’ll tell you why.

Sour: I am very proud of the diction in this poem, I like that it is rooted in questions and it presents my desire and confusion in a way that is tangible.

Stubborn love: I love the spacing, line breaks and the way it ends. The structure of this poem is one of my favorites.

We could be lovers: It is so earnest and every time I read it, It is almost an out of body experience for me. Also the person who is the subject of the poem is one of my best friends, so that helps ☺

Eight Minutes: This poem is laced with love and tenderness and it was one of the hardest poems to write but I think is so beautiful and says what I wanted it to (finally).

Part-time Love: So vulnerable. The best kinds always are.

At least not yet: Love the way it ends. Tells the story just like it is. I wrote this poem the day Adele’s Hello came out and as you can imagine, it was an emotional one. I wrote it all in one sitting. It just flowed.

Summer puts a stamp on my heart: makes me warm and fuzzy inside. It is a happy poem and those don’t come by often. It makes me want to lay in the sun and live my best life (while I still can) and I just love it.

Of the whitest Christmas: is such a special/intimate poem. It makes me want to curl up with my love. We always have the best time together and this poem is proof.

7. ‘Introspection’ is a very quiet, necessary poem. Do you consider yourself introspective?

Yes, very much so. A lot of my poems are birthed from introspection. I am always curious about how I feel and why I feel the way I do. It gives me room to know myself deeply and provides clarity on how to respond in situations that might be beyond my control.

8. ‘Lifeboat’ is probably the only poem I’m not completely sure I understand fully. Could you tell more about the inspiration behind that?

Lifeboat is about a person making poor life choices and not caring what the consequences are. Freedom is a tricky thing. Sometimes, when a person moves from a regulated environment to a place without any rules, adjusting can be tough and freedom can be abused. It can be hard to accept help or advice from people when you feel they do not understand you and that was the case with the subject of this poem.

9. Who do you hope will read ‘moonflower’?

Everyone, as cliché as it sounds.

Moonflower is very relatable and easy to understand. If your heart has been broken at some point, this book is for you. There’s new love, which is so wonderful and lovely to read about. And then there’s the mundane everyday love and life as it unfolds. I try to capture it all as well as I can. I think if you’re looking for a short read that you can connect with, this is for you. ☺

This book is also for people who appreciate poetry or are looking to read more poetry or are curious about it.

Take the time to hone your craft. Don’t put out work prematurely. - @missedoho Click To Tweet

10. We know that writing and self publishing can be quite the task. Still what would you tell other poets who want to put work out there?

Take the time to hone your craft. Don’t put out work prematurely. I tried to put together a chapbook a couple years ago and it didn’t work. In the process of creating Moonflower, I found the manuscript from my first attempt and it was awful. Definitely not work that I would have been proud of, if I had published it.

Don’t wait for anyone’s approval. I spent a lot of time wanting my favorite literary people to acknowledge and appreciate my work but this year, I decided that I was good enough. While external validation is great, internal validation is even better so I started mentoring myself by reading more poetry and studying my favorite poets and poems.

Do the work. Just do it. There are no rules. You deserve to be heard. Be kind to your fear and self-doubt. Trust the timing of your life.

Do the work. Just do it. There are no rules... Trust the timing of your life. - @missedoho Click To Tweet

Buy Moonflower on amazon.

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Buy Moonflower on Okadabooks.

PS: Esther is giving away a free copy of Moonflower to one of my readers! If you’d like to win, simply:

1. Comment below the best thing (or one of the best things) that’s happened to you in 2017. Let’s celebrate with you ❤️

2. Follow @moonflowerbook on instagram.

Giveaway winner will be announced tomorrow morning on @afomaumesi Instagram!

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