Poetry

A Bride’s Mother’s Cry

By Dami Ajayi


  • Title: Now the World Takes These Breaths
  • Author: Joan Metelerkamp
  • Publisher: Modjaji Books
  • Number of pages: 61
  • Year of publication: 2014
  • Category: Poetry

To the uninitiated, the poetry of Joan Metelerkamp has an unnerving effect. For the reader who comes to her body of work through Now the World Takes These Breaths, her eight collection, it may feel like coming too late to a wedding party, and little is known or reported on the continent about this foremost South African poet, who has been publishing volumes of poetry since 1992. More…

The Life and Times of Lost Poems

By Kwabena Agyare Yeboah


  • Title: The Road to Jamaica: Poems, 1968–1970, and New Poems, 2012–2013
  • Author: Syl Cheney-Coker
  • Publisher: Karantha Publishing House and Sierra Leonean Writers Series
  • Number of pages: 67
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Poetry

In 2014, Richard Oduor Oduku wrote an essay that was essentially a lamentation. He was worried about his old, unpublished poems, about the fact that those poems might not be a good representation of his evolution and current thinking, about the fact that his old voice, which bore witness to a part of history, could be lost to time. At the end of ‘Where Do Old Unpublished Poems (and Stories) Go?’ he asks these questions:

Still, in your own life as a creator, where do your old unpublished poems (and stories) go? Do they acquire a life of their own and live undeterred in the darkness inside box locks or digital backups? Are they historied or they die off and reincarnate as new poems and stories? More…

A Poet That More People Should Know: A Review of A Book of Rooms by Kobus Moolman

By Richard Oduor Oduku


  • Title: A Book of Rooms
  • Author: Kobus Moolman
  • Publisher: Deep South
  • Number of pages: 98
  • Year of publication: 2014
  • Category: Poetry

To get a glimpse of the innermost spaces of A Book of Rooms, one must be cognisant of how creative works come into being. There are works that spring wholly from the poet’s intention to produce a specific result. To achieve this, the poet treats the material, adding to it, subtracting from it, emphasising an effect here, toning an effect there, keenly juggling the laws of form and style, all the while working towards the intended, ultimate end. This is a scenario where the poet is aware and is in control of the creative process. More…

Cruel Bites of Insanity

By Su’eddie Vershima Agema


  • Title: Bites of Insanity
  • Author: Nsah Mala
  • Publisher: Langaa RPCIG
  • Number of pages: 115
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Poetry

The African pen is a weapon of protest against societal ills. Many times, it seems that writers place the passion for their nations above other considerations.

In Bites of Insanity, Nsah Mala, a Cameroonian poet, reveals his fury at the rot of life, at evil and at the dehumanising drama of living in most parts of contemporary Africa. Indeed, he follows in the social commitment tradition of writers like Chinua Achebe, Oswald Mtshali, Servio Gbadamosi, hitting at government, religion, and ‘bad’ people. In the collection, there are tales of betrayal, disturbing tales like that of a boy who beheads his father. There is also a devotion to the environment, philosophy and blows struck at government’s inadequacy. More…

Reassessing African Poetry Fifty Years after Song of Lawino

By Jumoke Verissimo


  • Title: Song of Lawino
  • Author: Okot p’Bitek
  • Publisher: East African Publishing House
  • Number of pages: 216
  • Year of publication: 1966
  • Category: Poetry

It is fifty years since the book Song of Lawino first got published. The volume of poetry by the legendary Ugandan poet was one of the first widely accepted attempts to authenticate African oral tradition in the language of the colonialists. It is also a product of the school of writers who experimented with the concept of mirroring themselves in literature, who grappled with creating conceivable bridges between the traditional oral forms and the acquired language of the colonialist, who would not wipe the stock of images with which they were familiar off the face of the earth but preferred to distort it. This issue of ideological distortion of the African experience, this discourse, the discourse, still hovers above literature written by Africans. More…

How to Enjoy Poetry without Understanding It: A Review of The Hate Artist by Niran Okewole

By Richard Oduor Oduku


  • Title: The Hate Artist
  • Author: Niran Okewole
  • Publisher: Khalam Editions
  • Number of pages: 67
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Poetry

Reading Charles Bernstein’s essay on ‘The Difficult Poem’ is instructive before one begins interacting with The Hate Artist by Niran Okewole. ‘All of us from time to time encounter a difficult poem’. It may be from a friend, a family member, and sometimes it is a poem we have written ourselves’. As the author and frequent reader of difficult poems, Bernstein explores ways of making the reader’s experience with the difficult poem more rewarding and recommends strategies for coping with such poems. More…

A Marriage of Inconvenience

By Dami Ajayi


  • Title: Nuptials at Vespers & Other Strains
  • Author: John Ngong Kum Ngong
  • Publisher: Langaa RPCIG
  • Number of pages: 84
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Poetry

John Ngong Kum Ngong is one of the prolific Anglophone Cameroonian poets working today. With seven poetry collections already, Nuptial at Vespers & Other Strains is his eighth, and it has forty-four interconnected poems that dwell, as the title would indicate, on a kind of marriage. To the reader with a mind already primed by the delights of heterosexual love and attraction, the title of the collection might evoke images of a church wedding. However, four poems into the collection and the title poem will disabuse the reader of any notions of typical, white weddings (think Philip Larkin’s ‘The Whitsun Weddings’). The image of a wedding where the officiating minister, a gawky Mayor, ‘smiles at the thought of loot’, is put forward instead. More…

The Promise of Hope: A Review

By Dami Ajayi


  • Title: The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems, 1964–2013
  • Author: Kofi Awoonor
  • Publisher: Amalion Publishing
  • Number of pages: 297
  • Year of publication: 2014
  • Category: Poetry

On 21 September 2013, one of Ghana’s illustrious poets, Kofi Awoonor, was shot dead by gunmen of the Al-Shabaab terrorist group at the Westgate Shopping Mall. He was in Nairobi, attending Kenya’s biggest book festival, the Storymoja Festival. He was a father, an academic, a diplomat and a poet, with a practice of more than fifty years. A few days before his death, he held an advance copy of the book that was to become his last, The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems, 1964–2013, and was said to have remarked on its beauty. More…

Fifty Poems of a Nigerian Century

By Su’eddie Vershima Agema


  • Title: Poems for a CenturyAn Anthology on Nigeria
  • Editor: Tope Omoniyi
  • Publisher: Amalion Publishing
  • Number of pages: 79
  • Year of publication: 2014
  • Category: Poetry

Anthologies of diverse works by different writers are published every once in a while to celebrate one event or the other. Sometimes, they are for causes. The most popular of these anthologies collect essays, short stories, or poetry. Recent anthologies include the SEVHAGE flood publications, The Promise This Time Was Not a Flood and The Rainbow Lied, poetry and short stories respectively. Both anthologies feature artistic responses to the 2011 flood in Nigeria. More…

The Poet and Her People

By Kwabena Agyare Yeboah


  • Title: The Birth of Illusion
  • Author: Jumoke Verissimo
  • Publisher: Fullpoint Publications and Communications
  • Number of pages: 83
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Poetry

‘Once upon a time in one’s land not far not near

Pigs ruled men and ate their carcass for lunch

Men became pigs and ate themselves for dinner

And then pain designed poetry into gelatin brains

To conjure feelings in the stitched spines of papers’

The quotation above is from Jumoke Verissimo’s poem, ‘The Birth of Poets’, which appears in the collection The Birth of Illusion. The quoted lines set up what the collection concerns itself with. It paints the idea that the world is full of absurdity. And, that is why there is poetry and poets. Poetry is for the people and the poet is one of the people. She, the poet, should speak to power. She should unsettle. She should interrogate the establishment. She should be an enquirer of the human soul. More…