Throughout his youth, Fisayo Adeyeye hated poetry. Now, he is a graduate student with his own collection of poems, Cradles, published this fall by Nomadic Press.
Adeyeye, a Master of Fine Arts candidate in Creative Writing, had always loved reading and writing, but found poetry to be a bit stale and formal. His views evolved, however, after discovering contemporary, innovative poetry online. He finally understood the potential of the genre.
“I hated poetry for a long time before then because it was really traditional to me, but then I started reading [online] and it was like, ‘Oh, you can make it anything you want,’” Adeyeye says.
“That really got me excited and so I started writing some and they were really bad, but that didn’t matter. … It was just a thing that I could use to express myself.”
sam sax, poet and author of Madness (Penguin Random House), calls Cradles “an absolutely stunning first collection of poems. Each individual lyric in this book swelters and begs and demands and attempts to make sense from the impossible.”
When Adeyeye began writing the poems for Cradles, he was unaware he was writing his first book.
It was not until his second semester at SF State that he noticed the poems “were in conversation with each other” and common concepts were intertwined throughout the pieces. These shared themes of safety, birth and vulnerability culminated in the decision to name the book Cradles.
“Cradles is about feeling safe in a particular place and a particular body,” Adeyeye summarizes.
The oldest son of Nigerian immigrants, Adeyeye changed homes a number of times during his childhood — an experience which he says imbues the book with unique emotion.
“We moved around a lot when I was growing up and so those places kind of stick in my head,” he says, “not even what the places [looked like], but more of what they felt like or what they meant [to me]. I wanted to write and build around these elements.”
‘I can’t not write’
Adeyeye has been writing as long as he can remember. The 27-year-old recalls choosing to spend his free time in elementary school doing self-initiated creative projects.
“We had free periods on Fridays so I would just get a whole bunch of paper, staple it, write a little comic book thing and draw pictures, and I would do that every week,” he says, laughing.
Inspiration usually comes from reading, thinking about concepts or focusing on images, for Adeyeye. His creative discipline entails writing intermittently throughout the day, every day. After dark, he picks through the best of his ideas to explore during the weekend.
“I can’t not write,” Adeyeye says. “I have to be able to write in order to feel like a normal person.”
His poetry’s focus gravitates toward subjects of myth and animals, but the themes vary; he mentions that lately his work surrounds the rage and release “that comes out of being black in America — a place that represents freedom but ignores horrible histories and still actively tries to deny so much to so many people.”
Making the move to SF State
The Bay Area’s energetic art scene has attracted talented creatives from everywhere, and Adeyeye is among them.
After community college, he earned his bachelor’s in English at California State University, Fullerton, before pursuing poetry at SF State — a campus where he feels at home.
“It’s probably the most open campus I’ve been on ever in terms of feeling comfortable moving through the student body and talking with professors,” he says.
Adeyeye finds he learns as much from his fellow M.F.A. students as he does his professors, which creates the ideal learning environment. “I learned about poetry pretty quickly [through these connections] which were invaluable to me because I couldn’t have done that on my own at all.”
Straight after his first book’s release, Adeyeye is already thinking about pursuing new projects and interests. His master’s thesis will be the basis for his next book, which is being reviewed by Assistant Professor Andrew Joron — someone he considers a great mentor.
Adeyeye sees himself expanding into screenwriting and film. The strong visual and narrative freedom of film attracts the creator in him. He names Moonlight, In the Mood for Love and Lady Bird as recent examples of inspiration.
Adeyeye believes all art forms have a single end goal: to create emotional empathy in one another.
“[We make art] to affect people and really create understanding. Because we’re just trying to all connect to each other — it’s why we really do anything. Art is the most extreme version of that because it’s supposed to be spread.”
— Gospel Cruz
Photo and video by Gospel Cruz