Luke Ogar, medical doctor and poet, is the author of First Light: 50 Selected Poems. In this conversation with Su’eddie Vershima Agema and Oko Owoicho, he talks about his craft, his views on literature and more. Excerpts…
Let us into your background. Who is Luke Ogar, when did you start writing and what are the genres you write in?
Luke Ogar is the fourth of five children, born to Dr and Mrs Denis Ogar. After having primary and secondary school education in Makurdi, it was necessary I moved somewhere else. I studied Medicine and Surgery in the University of Ibadan and graduated in 2016. I had always been writing, starting with composing text messages for family members during the festive holidays; but it became fully awakened in 2013 during a very long strike by the academic wing of all public universities. I created a blog to write regularly, but little did I know that I would take it professionally. My primary genre of writing is poetry — I always find pleasure in words that are simple but hold cryptic messages, to be read over and over. I also write short stories. Asides these two, I occasionally try my hands on playwriting as a hobby.
You employ the use of rhyme a lot in your poetry such that some people might be tempted to think that on some occasions you sacrifice meaning for sound. What inspires your fascination with rhyme and do you think it is the most important aspect of poetry?
My fascination for rhyme goes back to those childhood poems we were all taught. They sound musical and yet hold so much meaning. I do take time to see that my writing is a combination of musical rhyme and a profound message to be passed. Honestly, the concept of poetry is that of few selected words which make so much meaning rather than a thousand random words. I believe that any poet’s writing should have a form, whichever he chooses, as something to distinguish him/her from anyone else who only writes down whatever comes to their mind.
When writing, do you usually have any target audience in mind?
I wish everyone could read my works, but I know that not everyone likes poetry. I don’t have a specific target audience. I would like everyone to access my works for consumption and criticism. The best feeling is when people read your poem and become one with it, rather than ask “What does it mean?”
To concentrate on your latest collection, First Light, what inspired this collection and why fifty poems?
First Light is a collection of fifty poems — my first contact with the world through publishing. In a way, it brings to mind the very beginning of my writing, and how I have sought improvement over the years. I look at the book as a “first draft”before anything else. I selected fifty as a round figure, but more importantly for the audience to have a wide variety to read and be at home with. There may be a particular subject that interests the reader, and I’m sure everyone would find theirs from these fifty poems.
Your poems, as particularly seen in First Light, tend to be more eco-centric and nature oriented. What is this fascination with nature and is a part of your general writing or just the focus of this collection?
First Light takes a look at the very common concepts of nature and our environment. It is specifically focused on the little things that make a difference: family, love, childhood, sleep, etc. We should find time to meditate and appreciate these gifts of life.
As a follow up question, do you have any general philosophy that governs your life, on the one hand, and also/or your writing? Can you let us in on this or why there isn’t?
My writings are done to pass a message, but more importantly, for convictions. I won’t call myself a preacher but I believe that all works should be for the good of society, and then for entertainment. My Christian roots direct me along the path of goodness and love, but these are not just religious themes — they are meant for everyone.
As a medical doctor, would you say that your professional life has any impact on your writing? Also, what’s your view of doctors who write?
The pressure of work could make you think of nothing else, but also could give you a broader picture of life. As a medical doctor, I think I understand people better and I’m able to have more empathy. These tools are also important for the writer who places himself in a circumstance, usually in an abstract sense. Medicine helps me appreciate life the more. Doctors who write are typically good managers. The medical life is very demanding, therefore adding the burden of writing is an extra effort done for love of the art. Perhaps, there are fewer doctors into writing than I anticipate, for they have lots of stories left untold.
Let’s talk about influences. Who are your literary influences and what is your view of the impact role models in the life of a writer?
I was influenced by many people but commonly Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, who happen to be from the University of Ibadan. It’s not just because of their writings, but also their dedication to the truth especially during the Nigerian Civil War where writers were in danger of death from both warring sides. Every writer typically has a role model, but it’s important not to be in their shadow, for everyone has a different story to tell, a different style to write.
Who are your favourite authors and who would you be caught reading more often than not?
A tough question. I’ll probably settle for Achebe, but I love the younger generation too: Chimamanda Adichie, Helon Habila, etc.
What your take on contemporary Nigerian writing?
I feel it’s still evolving and we are still in need of identifying ourselves as a people. We have a lot of stories to tell, but we must be careful not to employ entertainment without a message. It would be a thing of joy if our university curriculum contains a thing or two about contemporary Nigerian arts.
What new literary project are you working on and when should the world expect another offering from you?
My next book is Ten Plagues, a monologue about the theme of suffering. Based on the popular story of the plagues in Egypt taught in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the book recounts suffering in our own time, not as divine punishment but inflicted by ourselves. In a few months, the book would be good to go.
As a bonus, in parting, what question would you want asked and what answer would you give?
There’s a common question of why I studied Medicine, and not something related to literary writing. I typically think that we’re so much confined to professions that we often limit ourselves. Every profession has its literature, and every field is linked back to the society. Love and passion can break any barrier.
You can order Luke Ogar’s First Light: 50 Selected Poems by clicking HERE https://okadabooks.com/book/about/first_light_selected_poems/18759