In the Spotlight interview with Ernest Ogunyemi for Lucent Dreaming

Ernest O. Ògúnyemí in the Spotlight

Ernest O. Ògúnyemí, whose story ‘The Days that came before the Days that took all that was Beautiful’ is published in issue 6 of Lucent Dreaming, is an eighteen-year old writer from Nigeria. His short stories and poems have appeared/ are forthcoming in: Kalahari Review, Agbowó, Litro ‘Comedy’ Issue, Erotic Africa: The Sex Anthology, Ink in Thirds, Canvas Lit Journal, Low Light magazine, and elsewhere. He is working on his first novel.

So, what inspired your piece ‘The Days that came before the Days that took all that was Beautiful’? Can you tell us a little more about what it’s about?

This story came to me in 2018. I was sitting alone when I heard the first paragraph in my head. Before that, I had been reading about the Rwandan Genocide; I even wrote a story about it at the time. The story was titled “Garuka, Please Come Back”. It got published in mid-2018. However, unlike “Garuka”, which is a love story, I wanted a story that was about two boys (friends) living in the late pre-Genocide Rwanda, and I wanted the story to flow into the 100 Days. In earlier drafts of “The Days that Came Before the Days that Took All that Was Beautiful”, the story ends when Gahiji hugged Bisangwa and they said their goodbyes, a day or so before the 100 Days. I sent it out that way and it got rejected. I returned to it and pushed it to where it now ends. With this version of the story, I wanted to show the lives of these boys (Bisangwa and Gahiji) in late pre-Genocide Rwanda and after. 

So, the story is, first of all, about friendship, and then: what war (in this case the Rwandan Genocide) can do to the fabric of friendship.

What are some of your favourite books and art (including shows, videos, music) – of all time or more recently. Why are they favourites?

I love Junot Diaz’s stories. His collection This Is How You Lose Her is one of my favourite books. Also, Alice Munro’s stories. Always. Lesley Nneka Arimah’s collection, What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky, is one of my favourite books too. I just finished Aracelis Girmay’s collection of poems, Kingdom Animalia, and I love it so much. I also love Anne Enright’s The Gathering

I love Junot Diaz’s stories for their energetic beauty; Alice Munro for her keen ability to make miracles out of ordinary lives and stories; and Lesley Nneka Arimah for the grace with which she writes those stories that won’t leave you, her characters that stick to the mind like pinned photographs. Anne Enright’s The Gathering is the kind of book I want to write. Lol. The subtle plainness of her prose, the seemingly effortless power of the stories that she weaves into one beautiful portrait of a family, and the vastness and gorgeousness of her imagination. I can’t love that book less. Aracelis Girmay’s Kingdom Animalia is a wonder. I don’t have a mouth polished enough to tell you how good it is.

I’m binge-watching Miracle in Cell No. 7. I love it already. I also love these movies: A Man Called Ove and Capernaum. Music: I have been listening to the Nigerian artiste Barry Jhay, and a good number of the songs in Brymo’s new album, Yellow

What, if anything, are you looking forward to right now and what writing/creative projects are you currently working on?

I’m not really looking forward to anything. Yes, school. If things go well, I should be in college early next year. 

Writing projects. I just finished curating The Fire That Is Dreamed of: The Young African Poets Anthology, which was published a few weeks ago by Agbowó. I am slowly working on a collection of interlinked stories, and a collection of poems (I still don’t know if the collection will be a full-length collection or a chapbook). For now, that’s all.

Can you tell us about how you got into writing and art? Is there anyone whose support or encouragement really inspired or motivated you?

Solitude. Or is it loneliness?

I had moved from Lagos to Abeokuta to stay with my dad and my stepmom. Abeokuta is a very quiet place, so I was always with myself. It didn’t take long before I started writing bad poems and stories. 

With the help of a teacher, Mr. Adeeko Olamilekan, and at the suggestion of an older poet, Ayoola Goodness, I started submitting to mags in 2017/18. In 2019, I got into the Goethe Institute Afro YA Workshop in Lagos, where I met the writers that are now my favourite people in the world. I also found the community of writers on Twitter. They have been very supportive and encouraging.

Where can people see more of you and your work?

I have a short story forthcoming in Down River Road Review. I also have some poems forthcoming in Yemassee, 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary African Poetry III, and Tinderbox. Recent works have appeared in The Indianapolis Review, Glass, 34 Orchards, Memento: An Anthology of Contemporary Nigerian Poetry (ed. by Adedayo Agarau), and The Fire That Is Dreamed of: The Young African Poets Anthology. I have a tiny book of poems, my mother died & I became_______, forthcoming in the Ghost City Press Summer Series.

You can also find some of my work here. I am on Twitter @ErnestOgunyemi.

Lucent Dreaming is an independent creative writing magazine publishing beautiful, imaginative and surreal short stories, poetry and artwork from emerging authors and artists worldwide. Our aim is to encourage creativity and to help writers reach publication! Subscribe to Lucent Dreaming now, support us on Patreon and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

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