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…

Botched Crossings

By Tunji Olalere

  • TitleFor Broken Men Who Cross Often
  • Author: Efe Paul Azino
  • Publisher: Kachifo Limited
  • Number of pages: 70
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Poetry

‘This is for broken men who cross often,
fallen soldiers born on the narrow path,
with fire in their bellies now clients of the broad way
who don drooping shoulders and scatter
their treasures on the streets of good intentions’.

The spoken word poet, Efe Paul Azino, recently published his debut collection of poems. He also tucked an audio recording of eight of the poems into a pocket on the book’s inner back cover. For Broken Men Who Cross Often is a bold attempt to straddle two dizzying spheres of poetic expression in one squat. Expectedly, one or two tendons groan and tear. More…

American English Writer Preferred: A Review of Clifton Gachagua’s Madman at Kilifi

By Dami Ajayi

  • Title: Madman at Kilifi
  • Author: Clifton Gachagua
  • Publisher: Amalion Publishing
  • Number of pages: 60
  • Year of publication: 2014
  • Category: Poetry

Madman at Kilifi, Clifton Gachagua’s first collection of poems, won the inaugural Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets in 2013, in manuscript form. This was quickly followed by its publication as the first book of the African Poetry Book Series by the Senegal-based Amalion Publishing.

Before this laudable initiative launched by the African Poetry Book Fund, African poets were at the mercy of the traditional publishing process. This largely meant that putting out a book-length collection of poems was as easy as a camel’s passage through the eye of a needle. More…

I Am Not Ashamed of Tears

By Richard Oduor Oduku

  • Title: Let’s rain
  • Author: Fatiha Morchid
  • Publisher: Marsam
  • Number of pages: 86
  • Year of publication: 2014
  • Category: Poetry

Fatiha Morchid’s Let’s rain is a volume of meditative and aphoristic poems about ecstasy, longing, love and pain. Morchid is a poet, writer, and a paediatrician. She is the winner of the 2010 Moroccan Poetry Prize. The poems in Let’s rain were originally written in Arabic and have been translated into English by Norddine Zouitni. From the first poem, ‘Let’s rain’, to the last poem, ‘Things of essence’, the feeling is one of free-flow. With simplicity and directness, the poet ensures that the actuality of poetry is not lost in a mass of intellectual abstractions. The poems speak to the reader in a voice that is soft, elastic, and rubbery – an intoxication one struggles to break away from.


Rhetoric of Pain and Other Resources

By Tomiwa Ilori

  • Title: A Nation in Labour
  • Author: Harriet Anena
  • Publisher: Millenium Press Ltd
  • Number of pages: 79
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Poetry

Pain sells. It is from it that the most beautiful expressions are fashioned to last in time and memory. There has been an attempt to explore the poetics of pain, anguish and feeling in a world where the economy is deception and its currency is ‘fakeness’. That attempt is Harriet Anena’s A Nation in Labour. A Nation in Labour is a four-part treatise that uses elevated language to tell of horror. Anena’s collection of poetry warns society about its warped value system through a disciplined use of satiric responses that resonate. Each part of the treatise soaks our dessicated humanity in fluid cadences. More…

Christine Coates’ Homegrown is an Alcove of Memory and History: A Review

By Richard Oduor Oduku

  • Title: Homegrown
  • Author: Christine Coates
  • Publisher: Modjaji Books
  • Number of pages: 69
  • Year of publication: 2014
  • Category: Poetry

Homegrown is a delicate intertwining of personal memory and national history. Memory has always been regarded a high art, even a sacred one, closely akin to the arts of divination and inspiration. In Homegrown, the emotions of daily life litter the pages with acute specificity. Coates uses narrative and everyday conversational language to weave personal experiences and memory as a way of investigating universal themes. The straightforward verse style and colloquial tone and simplicity radiates nostalgia so pervasive, yet so entrancing, in its effort to hold your hand and walk you through all the spaces the poet has passed through. Indeed, the poet sings, ‘I love to go a-wandering – in the dusty town of Africa’. More…