Another African statesman and fine gentleman, David Rubadiri, poet, academic and diplomat, has died at the age of 88.
I don’t come here too often but don’t worry, I am still around. So, I will be reading from three of my multiple award winning collections of short stories and poetry at the Abuja Literary Society Book Jam on 31st August 2018. Venue is Sandralia Hotel, Jabi, Abuja.
He heard of her arrival
shouted her to his face
in every place and direction
not enough, she seized signposts
travellers left wary of location
in the forceful paste of her plastic smile
She hugged trees
and adorned walls
her jingle on the radio the new herald of dawn
TVs took over
proclaiming her, the promise of sweet dreams at dusk
He died for her
till she came to town, sirens blaring—
He thought himself her all
and ran to claim her
but found a long line waiting…
She smiled sweetly, melting them,
spoke lovely little nothings,
waved and left.
She came to town
but nowhere in any heart.
(From Home Equals Holes: Tale of an Exile, Makurdi: SEVHAGE, 2014)
Title: Promises on Sand
Author: Amina Aboje
Publisher: Kraft Books
Year of Publication: 2017
Number of Pages: 87
Reviewer: Paul Sawa
Although I write the occasional poem, I do not see myself as a poet. Avid reader that I am, however, I consider myself competent enough to review any form of literature. After all, I am the end user. The myth that only a poet can review poetry has long since been debunked. When all the lights in your house go out, you do not need to be an electrical engineer to realise that something is wrong.
I’ve always appreciated poetry, but have a tendency to be overly censorious of lyrical fluency and the depth thereof in much of what is expected to pass for verse today. The book which I am about to review, not only dependably delivers on both of these criteria, but goes further to embolden the believer, tickle the lover, and reignite any dying embers in the heart of the disillusioned patriot into a blaze.
The anthology, Promises on Sand, is Amina Aboje’s first published work. It is subdivided into four parts.
The first section, “The Glow,” is my favourite. It affords the reader a glimpse into the primary essence of the mime behind the rhyme. The reckless abandon of an unfettered childhood expressed in “Voice of the Wind,” which gives way to the first gentle tugs of young love on the heart strings in “Fusion” and “Never Enough,” is tempered by the idealistic purity of “Stay with me.” As a theist with a deep love and appreciation for nature, I am struck by Amina’s liberal use of natural imagery with occasional glimpses of the Divine revealed in and through the natural world.
The second section, “Of Loss and Hope,” takes on a more sombre note, yet in its entire sobriety, hope is never lost. Amina juxtaposes the reality of death and consequent effusions of grief with the hope of rebirth and reunion. In the six lines of “Except I die,” I see physical rebirth subsequent to death, like the seed in nature; I see spiritual death and rebirth as the hope and joy of the theist; and I see the daily process of dying to self and thereby awakening to another life. Then, of course, Amina has not neglected to highlight the miracle of birth, disappointments, betrayals and the perplexing paradoxes in this pilgrimage of life, for which she asks for direction in “Guiding Rod” – pragmatism garnished with idealism. Did I mention that this section is my favourite?
Section three, “Time Transience and Nature,” takes the cake! The brevity in style (each poem consists of only three lines) goes to reinforce the transience of time. Like a butterfly from flower to flower, Amina flits from one thought to another … universality, diversity, beauty, nature … as if to remind the reader, “Life is brief. Make the most of it.” It is amazing what three lines of poesy can do. This is, without question, my favourite section.
The fourth section, “Pangs of Nationhood,” strikes to the very soul of Nigeria. Despair translates to despondency which then begins to nudge at a realization that births defiance, as in the closing stanza of “Promises in Sand,” where the citizenry rhetorically inquire of the political class, “…how can you think there’ll ever be you without me?” “The Accomplice” sheds light on the dynamics of the corrupt class while “Musings” gives voice to the common man who laments, “How did I become so common?” The senselessness of internal conflict, the gaping chasm between the haves and the have nots, and the shamelessness of treasury looters as expressed in “Mindless Battles” and “Guiltless Shame” is still unable to quench the undercurrent of hope in “Still Green” and “Centennial Bliss.” Patriot that I am, this section is my favorite.
If I were asked to do the impossible by describing this book in two words, I would say … Unalloyed and Revitalizing. Amina Aboje has, in this book – Promises on Sand, somehow connected the profane with the profound and the sacred with the sagacious. It is an excellent read, and I highly recommend it.
(Paul Sawa writes from Abuja, Nigeria. Inquiries on the book as well as requests for interviews and reviews can be got from the author by email email@example.com. Amina Aboje is the winner of the Mandela Day Poetry Prize 2016 and lives in Abuja)
men of song we measure out
our joys and agonies
too, our long, long passion week
in paces of the dance. We have
come to know from surfeit of suffering
that even the Cross need not be
a dead end nor total loss
if we should go to it striding
the dirge of the soulful abia drums. . .
But beware soul brother
of the lures of ascension day
the day of soporific levitation
on high winds of skysong; beware
for others there will be that day
lying in wait leaden-footed, tone-deaf
passionate only for the deep entrails
of our soil; beware of the day
we head truly skyward leaving
that spoil to the long ravenous toot
and talon of their hunger.
Our ancestors, soul brother, were wiser
than is often made out. Remember
they gave Ala, great goddess
of their earth, sovereignty too over
their arts for they understood
too well those hard-headed
men of departed dance where a man’s
foot must return whatever beauties
it may weave in air, where
it must return for safety
and renewal of strength. Take care
then, mother’s son, lest you become
a dancer disinherited in mid-dance
hanging a lame foot in air like the hen
in a strange unfamiliar compound. Pray
protect this patrimony to which
you must return when the song
is finished and the dancers disperse;
remember also your children
for they in their time will want
a place for their feet when
they come of age and the dance
of the future is born
From Beware Soul Brother by Chinua Achebe (1930-2013). The collection was written during the Nigerian Civil War and won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1972.
A poem starts with a decision…to let one’s heart flow to paper…a bold step to share of the gift of heaven.
You throw fear of rejection and impurities aside then hug courage as you step forward to tell waiting ears of something you are only learning. ..
The bold step…
Let your verse flow.
(after seeing a photograph on Flower Rae Shearer‘s wall, overcome by sadness, for the bench)
a lonely bench sits in a park
waiting for stray bottoms
walking through the woods
of life, to sit and make it warm,
only leaves of fall, sad twigs
and sighs of famished trees
keep it company, touching its
wooden ribs and scarred face
with elegies of coming dusk
amu nnadi is author of four collections of poetry, the fire within, winner of the 2002 ANA Gabriel Okara Prize for Poetry, pilgrim’s passage, shortlisted for the 2005 Nigeria Prize for Literature, and through the window of a sandcastle, winner of the 2013 ANA Poetry Prize, runner-up to the 2013 Nigeria Prize for Literature and winner of the 2014 Glenna Luschei African Poetry Book Prize, and the recently completed a field of echoes, a book of almost 300 new poems.
In addition to all this, he is a close friend, mentor, lovely gentleman and teacher.
Today, in Idoto, a small literary festival is being held in honour of Christopher Okigbo. It is nice to know that poets and artistes find the grace of remembrance. One of the poets there gracing the event isChijioke Amu-nnadi who has kept pouring one new verse after the other on his road to that river, Idoto, self-confessed mother that inspired our Okigbo. I drank of this river, drank of Okigbo, took some amu nnadi too, and a few lines not worthy of any of them came up. Here’s my sharing.
echoes of idoto (a poem)
(inspired on amu nnadi’s wall; a poem in chants for christopher okigbo)
the field grows as sounds bellow
no longer will collected thoughts
stop at few pages
for a lengthening grows
from idoto’s river
as spirits bestride the trove
at heaven’s gate
new verses and old merge
as the rivers flow
testimony to the waters
of that one who now has blessed us all
ending even imagined drought…
there’s a shrill…
the field grows as sounds bellow
the elephants march
silencing every tertrach
there’s an echo…
and our hearts beat the verse
…at midnight You arrived home
wearing Your tiredness like a coat
after a seventeen hour shift
Your eyes met my shivering frame
and motherly instinct undressed Your weariness
to pick Your boy
Your feet became wings to fly us both
to the nearest hospital miles away
we had silence for our companion
and when it became too comfortable
a sob from You or some more clattering from me
we found the home of healing after an eternity of walking;
me on Your back like a rider on a donkey
when the next morning came
i was well enough to smile my way to another day
You simply took your bath and found the road to work again
the chapters roll on quickly and i find myself years away:
our tale has made me a man seeking bread for my mouth
and the boy who took a ride on your back
wears the beard of a goat
walking the streets to seek remnants of a wealth
that hides in the past of a country whose resources
lie in the pocket of few fat fools who live that all else might die
i scratch two notes together and they light a small spark
to quench the cold of my phone’s recharge balance
Your voice sneaks in a whisper on the other side
a laugh only You can conjure appears in my mind
i try to translate it to words
but You cut me short:
hello son… I can’t talk much… the boss is watching
and I have hours to clock before I close…
(published 2015 shutters off: tales in verse)
Su’eddie Vershima Agema is the author of 3 poetry collections and a short story collection. He won the Association of Nigerian Authors Joint Prize for Poetry 2014. He can be reached on Twitter @sueddieagema
So, there are these cool friends of mine, Yemie, Dr. Swag, Zika, etc etc who think me the critic (wrongly) and one day, one of them took me up on a challenge to a small poelogue… It is something like a duel, methinks… But so far, we are testing ourselves with respect but I talk too much… Here we go.
The Critic by Zika Olofin
You judge the merit of our art
You never fail to play your part
For that’s the nature of your art
Not so much of an eyelid bat
Dissect as with a fine-tooth comb
Analyse in minute detail
Scrutinise motives real or not
Dismember each thought that’s expressed
You are of essence that is sure
If you’re not there we’re still uncooked
Our work leaves your refining pot
Then by the world to be embraced
And my reply…
The Commenter by SVA
Names they have called for so long
They have seen me in lights all wrong
I am me, small talker commenting
Dropping thoughts, ranting
At other times tormenting
Getting thee, bloggers, panting
But…forgive when I am cryptic
Or sound like a critic
I am simply just me, small tormenter
Your one and only friendly commenter.