Logan February: Poet “In Glorious Bloom”
Logan February’s every bit as beautiful and quirky as their name. Self-described as a happy-ish Nigerian owl who likes pizza & typewriters, Logan is one of the youngest poets of their generation. They published not one but two chapbooks by 2018, receiving adoring reviews by literary giants like Olivia Gatwood and Kaveh Akbar. They’ve been a nominee for Pushcart, Best of the Net and their new collection MANNEQUIN IN THE NUDE was a finalist for the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. Having recently turned 20, Logan February speaks to the Guardian Life about good poets, laughter and dropping books in lakes.
How do you define poetry?
I’m not sure I could put my finger on a singular definition of poetry; it’s so enigmatic, and that’s part of what gives it so much power and allure. But I think poetry is a product of perspective. It is a way of looking at the world, at yourself, at who or what you love, or hate, or are afraid of.
What are the pros and cons of being published?
Publishing makes you realize that your work is bigger than you. The work finds its way to the people who need it the most, and that builds a sort of confidence in a writer’s instincts. The other day, I found out my poems are being taught at Emory University, which is crazy because I myself am an undergraduate student. So publishing makes the work rewarding, which is very cool. But on the flip-side, it can be a little scary for your poems to go into the world all on their own, without you to supervise their reception. And sometimes, readers come away from my poems feeling like they know me well, which is hardly ever true. But I’m grateful for the journey, regardless.
Who is a poet you hated studying in school?
In high school, we had to study Sola Owonibi’s Homeless Not Hopeless as part of the WAEC syllabus. It was not an enjoyable experience! In hindsight, I recognize its value, but it was one of the poems that back then made me feel like I could never be interested in poetry.
What’s the best and worst feedback you’ve ever received?
A reviewer once referred to a poem I wrote about on deeply personal anxiety as “insincere and appropriative.” I thought that was funny and quite ridiculous. But this week, Heather Christle read my manuscript and said: “These are poems in glorious bloom!”
When’s the last time you laughed?
I’m answering this on the day after my twentieth birthday. Yesterday was a wonderful time, and it was full of loving laughter. But I do try to find a reason to laugh each day!
What do you think good poets have in common?
Curiosity. Wit. A sense of wonder. Humanity. A good ear for language and musicality. Attentiveness to the world. Imagination. A sense of responsibility for their words.
Romanticizing mental illness is a common trope in contemporary writing. As someone still on the path to mental health, how do you toe the line in your work and how do you think others can do the same?
Ah, this. As a person who is on the bipolar spectrum, and as a student of psychology, I think it’s incredibly important to create awareness of neurodivergence without resorting to stigma, erasure or sensationalism. Mental illness is never trendy or edgy or cool; it is an illness. It’s a difficult line to toe, and so I find it essential to do the work that needs to be done. I think no one should be writing about mental illness without doing extensive research on whatever subjects are in focus. Writers should also interrogate their motivations for writing mental illness, in order to avoid causing harm through appropriation. Most importantly, we should be open to taking corrections from people who actually live with mental illnesses, and people who have dedicated years to the study of psychopathologies and their treatments, instead of stubbornly insisting that we are always right.
In the age of political correctness, with politics becoming such a popular topic, some people argue art supporting certain political ideals should be labeled propaganda and true art should be neutral. What do you think?
My view is that art should cast a rigorous gaze on social issues, without necessarily becoming preachy. But everything is political, and a good artist has a mandate to be socially aware. Of course, apolitical art has its place and its value, but I think the decision to make apolitical art is, in itself, a political decision.
Would you rather: drop a book in a lake or accidentally set it on fire?
I guess I would go with fire because at least that would be an accident! But then again, I only read some beloved titles after they were severely water-damaged. So maybe I would rather drop it in the lake if I could get it back somehow? I don’t know!
Any advice for aspiring poets?
Read a lot. Read more living poets than dead, read women poets and poets from diverse backgrounds, read other genres of literature. Value your work, and give it a mission. Be generous and give back to your communities. Give your work the patience it deserves, and never take rejection personally.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I would like to leave this world knowing that I helped some people free themselves from mental slavery, that I taught people to value themselves without needing permission, to love more and to be kind, to care for one another, and to put in the work to make this world better for the children who will come after us. I would like to not be forgotten.
What’s your favorite line from a poem?
I will quote Heather Christle’s poem, The Whole Thing is The Hard Part which goes: “you have to live where the house lands on you / what else can you do / your bones are all broken / and somebody loves you / who is it / tell me who loves you / not as much as I do / I mean / I even built you a house / and found you / why won’t you live in it”