Poetry

Unrealistic Optimism in Hyginus Ekwuazi’s One Day I’ll Dare to Raise My Middle Finger at the Stork and the Reaper.

By Uchenna Ekweremadu 


  • Title: One Day I’ll Dare to Raise My Middle Finger at the Stork and the Reaper
  • Author: Hyginus Ekwuazi
  • Publisher: SEVHAGE Publishers
  • Number of pages: 98
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Poetry

This slim volume of thirty-three poems, which was longlisted for the Nigeria NLNG Prize for Literature in 2017, is bound thematically by the three-ply cord of death, gloom and positive self-deception. Peering through the anguished eyes of the persona in the poems, the reader finds a world smeared with melancholy. And since such reality can be daunting, a reasonable diversion is to set up an alternative reality, even one that is unrealistically optimistic. More…

The Primacy of Life: A Review of Ikeogu Oke’s The Heresiad

By Uchenna Ekweremadu


  • Title: The Heresiad 
  • Author: Ikeogu Oke
  • Publisher: Kraft Books Ltd
  • Number of pages: 105
  • Year of publication: 2017
  • Category: Poetry

‘I felt my standpoint shaken
In the universal crises.
But with one step backward taken
I saved myself from going’ – Robert Frost, ‘One Step Backward Taken’

The poet’s mind jumps about from the important to the trivial, from the savoury to the unsavoury, gathering ingredients, the type that T S Eliot refers to as ‘disparate experiences’. These ingredients, when collected proportionately and blended, result in honey. This analogy is reinforced in Ikeogu Oke’s The Heresiad where the discerning reader finds sufficient traces of the classics, history, religion and myth.

More…

The Animist Swath

By Tade Ipadeola


  • Title: Animist Chants and Memorials 
  • Author: Harry Garuba
  • Publisher: Kraft Books Ltd
  • Number of pages: 79
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Category: Poetry

‘Can we ever again shred the drapery of the word

and return to the fullness of the spell and the chant?’ – Harry Garuba, ‘In the House of the Tongue’

‘What heart is large enough to store a question so long

it troubles every answer that history trades and analysts provide’ – Harry Garuba, ‘Girl and the Dancing Hoop’

The poet Harry Garuba has now published two volumes of poetry 35 years apart. The first of the volumes came from a 24-year-old mind and the second a 59-year-old consciousness, if consciousness can be reckoned by the calendar. Again, installing an eskhatos of any sort to benchmark the poetic output of Harry Garuba may not be a terribly useful undertaking because, like Rilke, even when Harry Garuba is washing his hands, he cannot help being a poet. In the annals of African poetry, the two events matter all the same because they touch – tangentially at first and then emphatically, on a way of seeing, and a way of reckoning and rendering reality that is closer to the geologic than it is to the chronologic – on ‘modern’ temper. More…

A Tale of New Beginnings

By Kemi Falodun


  • Title: Unlikely
  • Author: Colleen Crawford Cousins 
  • Publisher: Modjaji Books
  • Number of pages: 63
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Poetry

Different people make different demands of poetry and so it is wise that in this collection Colleen Crawford Cousins writes as one who is free of any pressure to meet everybody’s demands. What more could a poet ask for than a self-selecting audience that thinks it worthwhile to make the effort to connect with the poet’s words? Having already published two books, one co-authored, Unlikely presents an intimate blend of surrender and reinvention of self. More…

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…