Life is one big contradiction in every field but it is more so when you are a writer—or so I think. You think you are there, you think you have the right words. You are in the moment and you bask as Mother Muse slowly pours herself unto your pages through the medium of creativity.
Depending on the time, you push yourself to the end or just rush it to a stop. Finally, you smile at seeming perfection. Ah! For the conscious writer, something pricks you to note that the work might have flaws here and there. So, you might decide to get editors or throw the work away. If you get the right editors, your headache begins. Have you ever noticed how those folks always seem to find faults here or there? Some of the faults are so obvious you have to hit yourself in the head! Ouch! How could you have missed that? This is the beauty of patience and seeking counsel. (Yes, if you miss the editorial seat, you might miss a lot of good stuff that might have made your work better.)
Anyway, you do your rewrite and maybe feel the work is okay… Or you keep editing till you tire out. I have been known on occasion to keep editing right up to the door of the final proofer and printer doors! Anyway, finally, you push the work out, hoping that someone will like it somehow and it will be the ticket to giving you something good. Some of us, and I am a front man in this group, edit and refine our work tying as many screws as possible.
In most cases, you get your work or book published and the feeling, for most, is indescribable. It is like a baby given to a parent. The looks of wonder at the new you is something the adjectives of the universe will not dare present. You hold that book close… Yes, I know there are a few who would look at their own book with bad eyes especially if it didn’t come out the way they like. Talk of all those parents who discover that their children are disfigured or not of the sex they want! But no, we are not talking of those sorts of parents. We are talking of the proud ones and yes, I didn’t derail. We are still talking about books.
It is easy to find authors who pick their published books and see things they wish could have been done or written differently. Many times have authors been caught reading what they hoped they might have put. Some would take a pen and correct a few lines shortly before reading at a festival or something. Sometimes you begin to see things that might best have been removed or something that might have been added for effect. It gets to the case of seeing your grown child not being the perfect baby you had once viewed. The hope is that with the next book, you will take extra precaution and have your heart more expressed.
Usually, the ideal thing that most writers come to discover is that a work is best left to fallow for three months or maybe a year… just enough time for you to have become a stranger so that you will edit your work through fresh eyes since looking at the same thing over slowly makes it seem perfect. But time is not on the side of anyone and how long can one really take? The changes and all might never be enough and we usually have to just halt. Much like what poet and scholar, Hyginus Ekwuazi says echoing older writers of yore, no true work of art has ever been truly completed. You simply have to get the maturity to let it go, and pray that point was a time worth your imperfection.
So much to writing, so much to reading. Oh well. In the end, who knows what I might want to edit from this piece… I will be mature and let it fly. Wherever your writing and reading takes you this weekend, and in the coming week, make it worth the time. Cheers!
POEMS, SHORT STORIES, CRITICAL ESSAYS, INTERVIEWS, CONFERENCE REPORTS< BOOK REVIEWS, AUTHOR/CRITIC PROFILES, REPORTS FROM BENEFICIARIES OF FELLOWSHIPS/GRANTS AND MISCELLANEA… DEADLINE: 8th August 2013
The Editorial Board of ANA REVIEW, the in-house journal of the Association of Nigerian Authors, invites contributions from writers across the country and in other continents, for publication in the association’s journal. ANA REVIEW will feature original works in any of the following areas: critical essays, short stories, poems, interviews, conference reports, book reviews, author/critic profiles, reports from beneficiaries of fellowships and grants, and miscellanea including evaluation of poetry and dramatic performances.
The following is the range of submissions for editorial consideration:
a] Poetry—No more than three poems per submission.
b] Prose—Short stories or fiction excerpts must be under 3,000 words.
c] Essays—Academic and literary essays on subjects related to literature are welcome; must be
under 5,000 words.
d] Drama—Skits only, under 3,000 words.
All submissions should be sent as attachments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org including brief biodata and telephone number(s).
It was the Open Mic session of the Abuja Literary Society and yup, I had to be there. First people I noticed coming in were ElNathan John and Dike Chukwumerije. Okay, this was going to be fun. Usual hi’s to friends and acquaintances and I got to my seat. Smiling. This was going to be fun. The last time I had been at any ALS event was with Chuma Nwokolo Jnr when he had had his reading. That had proved a most entertaining evening.
After some time we got started with general introductions. I noticed immediately that there were lots of fine voices – trust me to catch that. Also noticed that there was this fine lady beside me who said something about being here in the country for one thing or the other. The MC (the Bookman) started the discussion session. We settled to discuss the topic ‘Excessive Force of the Military in Fighting Boko Haram‘. The talk went far beyond that o… Of course, I wouldn’t be boring you with that, so cool! I can only say that if you want a deep flow on the topic, you can still make out time (if you are in Abuja) to come for the ALS open mic session on 14th June 2013, same venue. We were promised that military experts would come to give their thoughts too so that we don’t keep moving about with our professionally unprofessional analysis… Hee hee hee. Oh well.
The performances started with two performance poets, Alfa and Bolaji who read ‘Black Gold Biva’ and ‘My Pain’ respectively. They were well received with little admonition on how to make their art better. Bolaji was notably more impressive in his ending than start. He seemed to be a poet who gathered air with time. He introduced his poem by saying ‘He was a virgin’… Okay… Now, he stopped there. Had some of us wondering the virginity angle he was coming from: metaphoric? Unlearned in the art of eating the bearded meat? As a performer? 😉 Oh well. Except for some ugly cliches here and there, his delivery was good:
‘Once I befriended fantasy
It was beautiful but I met reality
she defied me and became my pain
pain is gain/no pain no gain
so I rise from this cold floor stronger
to pick my gain’
Next, Azeezat read a short story ‘Apprehension’, set in a town near similar to Jos. Well, Jos came to mind. It was about someone running in a time of crisis, hiding, noticing evils and falling… First draft. Most of us agreed that it could have been better. Adeyemi read ‘Cheeter‘s buzz’, a poem which some people had some time fitting into the right genre. He wasn’t conversant with the poem and it could have been written better, and performed more beautifully. I have a feeling there’s more to that particular piece… Removing some forced rhymes, overt biblical allusions that were plain and the like. Elnathan John commented of the poem that the poet took the name of the Lord in vain! Hee hee hee. Oh well. Enough said.
I read a poem next, ‘Life’. Taken from Bring our casket home, a 9 lined poem that ends (minus one line) thus:
I stayed an eternity with you
But just as my heart counted a second
The night rolled its mat
Before the audience or I knew it, I was sitting again. Wow! Felt good reading that. Some people mentioned that I should join the slammers (performance Kings). I smiled. Well, compliments that would leave anyone fulfilled. The reading continued. A hip-hop poetic performer, Ogo, read ‘Pure’. The banker rhymed on like Jay Z and not a few ladies made catcalls… Na wa o! I need to learn some romantic rhymes too!
The Musicians took over. Afolabi and Isaac came on stage. Isaac was on the guitar, while Afolabi breathed lyrics into the air that had me change my camera from still shots to video mode. The song was ‘Trueness’ and the rendition truly from the soul. It came out lovely. Some people noted that Afolabi held back and could have done better. Left a few people behind me and myself too wondering what they meant… This guy was sooooo it. Wow! You should have heard him. It was fluid and to think it was without effects or anything? C’mon!!
A lady, Kelechi read ‘Sweet Seeder’ (a story/article/narrative/instruction). Suggested that she work on making it one. Material there but too undefined. There was a poem read by Banji and Egbuche Pope read a long undefined piece too, titled ‘Its 4pm’. He was told to rework it. There was a short story read by … Another musical presentation was done by Afolabi and three other friends. Hmm. Need I say more? I respect the guy jare!
The final presentation was a lovely poem ‘Battlefields of the Mind’ written by Busola Sosannya. For some reason she didn’t perform it (shyness abi? 🙂 )… It was performed by ace performer, Dike Chukwumerije. As it moved to closing, I remembered our Makurdi ‘Purple Silver’ group hosted by Anselm Ngutsav. Miss those readings…
It was real late, some long minutes past 21:00hrs or was it closer to 22:00? Several of the people had left. There were talks, catching up and making of new acquaintances. I did some on the spot editing of Busola’s poem and asked a few questions of why the poet had not performed her piece. Lots of more talk and in the end, there was a walk…
Ask me not where to… 😉
Meanwhile, there was a journey of some two hours to get to. Home called and more activities. Oh well.
If you’re interested in poetry, names and African culture, you’ll probably like my interview with poet, Dike Chukwumerije, out today, in the recent issue of Saraba Magazine (Available for free download here)
And if you like freebies and giveaways, you’ll be interested to know that I’ll be giving away 2 autographed copies of his poetry collection, Ahamefula: The Cultural Significance of Names Amongst the Ibos
To participate, all you have to do is:
Follow this blog (Click on the ‘Yes!’ button at the top right hand corner)
Leave a comment on this post telling us your name, its meaning and what language it is derived from
Don’t forget to add your email address so that you can be contacted (This will not be published)
Entries close on Friday, 29th March after which, two lucky winners will be randomly selected and results announced on Monday, 1st April.
***Please note that, for logistic reasons, this giveaway is limited to people resident in Nigeria.
INTRODUCTION: Dr. Hyginus Ekwuazi is a lecturer with the Theatre Arts Department in the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria. He is also a notable behind-the-scenes name in the Nigerian movie industry, Nollywood as well as the founding Director-General of the National Film Institute, Jos, Plateau. What is not so popular about him is his writing prowess despite his four collections of poems consisting of the trilogy Love Apart (2007); Dawn into moonlight: All around me dawning (2008); and Monkey Eyes (2009) alongside That Other Country (2010). These collections earned him the ANA/Cadbury Poetry Prize (2007); and ANA/NDDC-Gabriel OkaraPoetry Prize (2007); ANA/NDDC-Gabriel Okara Poetry Prize (2008) ANA/Cadbury Poetry Prize (2010).
He also has to his credit a children’s novel, I’ve got miles to walk before I sleep and several plays including Morning yet on creation day. His major brush with literary fame came in 2009 in the now popular NLNG Award issue where none of the featured poets was offered the prize. In this interview with Su’eddie Vershima Agema [me of course!] at the University of Ibadan in June 2011, he talks on his poetry among other things, the interview starting with a strong statement…
I lost a lot of my poetry because I would write and just give out.
You would just write and give out. How?
I would write a poem and just give it out. If I collect all the poems that I gave out, it would be more than a collection. I would write and give to friends just like that. I wrote a lot of poems and would not [keep it], you know what I am trying to say. I was just writing, there was no thought of publishing them. I was just writing….
I wrote many like that. I would give to colleagues and give to friends. When I was in Jos, I wrote many like that, I would just write and give out. I edited the Idoto magazine in UI [University of Ibadan] as an undergraduate.
Wow! I never knew. What year was that?
That was ’79… [No] I graduated in 78… So, I edited it in my 200 level. I know that I published one or two articles in Idoto which was understandable but as a collection, it just didn’t work.
Are there extant copies of Idoto?
Yes, I think I saw… One time I went to the library and I saw some. Strange enough, the ones I saw were not the ones I edited but I saw some of my poems in an earlier collection. You know, Idoto died for a long time and then it was resurrected. One copy was published, then the next one was the one I published but I didn’t see that in the library. Sorry, the one I edited, not published but the other one I saw in the library and my poems were there.
So, there is no shop where anybody can get them again?
But you know the country that you are talking about.
Oh yes, oh yes. I think it is very sad.
Yes it is. I wish I could lay my hands on my earlier poems. They are not masterpieces, you know but I would have liked to…
See where it all started?
Yeah, see where it all started, you know. I had a lot of them. If I hadn’t done a lot like that, there is no way the lecturer in charge of Idoto could have made me the Editor. It means he already knew of my poetry somehow.
And was probably impressed.
Yes, otherwise, he wouldn’t have picked me to edit the magazine.
How does your composition of poetry come about? Is there a particular mode to it?
Anytime I write, I usually need to have a structure. Sometimes, I have the work complete but I need the structure. I need a structure with which to render it. Sometimes, I need to have a vehicle with which to move the poems. It was the same thing with Love Apart and Dawning [into moonlight, all around me dawning].
When you wrote Love Apart, did you have it in mind that you were going to turn it into a trilogy or the idea for a trilogy came later?
It came later. When I started it, like I told you I always need a structure. So, when I had the idea for the second one, I discovered that I had a structure. So I said, ‘why don’t I build it?’ So, that is how it came because I had found a structure and part of the structure was to be in the same persona. You know, it came after.
And eventually Monkey Eyes had to follow the same pattern?
Monkey Eyes seems to be a very sad and sick book, very sad and unlike the others…
Monkey Eyes was written at a very bleak period in the country. Nothing seemed to be moving. I had something in my head but I didn’t have a structure. I can’t work without a structure. Then it hit me: sick country, sick President. Where do sick people stay? So, I got my poetic protagonist to stay in the hospital and everything was set. I thought to myself, I already have a structure. So, I took the structure and constructed it in that light.
You know, I had the inspiration for that book a long while. I was looking for the structure for it and the work came. So the work was affected by time.
So, when you were writing Dawn into Moonlight, all around me dawning, you didn’t have any idea that the third book would complete the trilogy or…?
I thought I would have exhausted a connection with just two booksbut again when I started looking for a structure, I found I had a structure in this and to use this, this is what I was talking about separation and other things. I could actually use this person’s view.
So, let’s exploit the good old [persona of] Love Apart?
Yes, but I have rested that for now.
For now, I just hope we don’t get any addition.
No, because otherwise this one [his fourth poetry collection] has nothing to do with it.
You know, what I thought about is what is poetry but memory? So, I saw it like a giveaway; Memory on a dark night, memory on this… there are many poems that are titled memory. So, I said let me use that as a line that would be something else.
So, you named it That other country?
Yes, because memory is that other country.
More like that other planet.
Yeah, and I thought I had so much on the Civil War. So, I wanted to write a collection on the Civil War. I think I would write a whole collection totally on the Civil War; everything.
It [the civil war] really took lots of space [in your collection, That other country].
Yeah, it is something that has always been. Anytime I remember the Civil War, I get angry because do you know the number of people that died? I am not talking of those who were shot in the war o! I am talking of those who died behind lines and then, that one was very avoidable, very very avoidable. And everything that happened at that time, my God, you begin to wonder.
I think it was a foolish war.
It was a very foolish war, the provocation and everything. Look at the massacre in the North. Like I said, my family, we were all in the North so we saw all those things. If any family were touched by the hand of miracle, we were because somehow we all came home. WE didn’t really lose anybody in the Civil War or anything. My father was in the army. My father was in the State House, Ojukwu’s State House during the war.
I am about to say something; You want to guess who said this?
No, I am not good at quotes.
ONCE WITHIN THE GATES OF ROME, YOU’RE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE EMPEROR. Once within the gates of Rome, you’re in the presence of the Emperor. Who said that?
Ah, I am very bad. If you told me my quotes, I wouldn’t know it. Well, I would say Bernard Shaw…
* * *
Okay. Nice. You know what one of my teachers taught me?
He said no poem has ever been finished. You abandon it at one stage or another. Sooner or later, you abandon it and hope that you abandoned it at a good…eh…
At a good enough stage…
Yeah, but [usually] when you go back to it, you say ‘I should have done this.’
On retirement, what are your thoughts on it? Any hope to retire soon?
I noticed that when one retires and goes home to rest, they go home finally to rest. I signed many retirement cheques at the Film Institute and those who went home to rest died, and we went for their burials. Those who stayed behind doing one thing or the other grew stronger and stronger. It is like that even in the military. People are retired compulsorily. So, imagine being active all your life and being made to do nothing at all. My father got home and discovered there was a need for a motor park in the village. So he decided to construct a private and commercial one. My mother complained and then the elder sisters came and also quarrelled him.
My mother told me to see the madness that my father was doing. That if the people needed a park, what was his business? His [Dad’s] elder sisters said the same thing and said that I should call him back to order as he had refused to listen to them. I told my father that this is what they had said. He told me that didn’t I notice that with the park project, when he woke up, he had something to do. He would go out and come back, tired and ready to sleep. Did I expect him to just wake up and stay idle all day? So, I became a big supporter of my father building the park. He built it without receiving one single kobo.
That spells my view on retirement.
That Other Country was originally scripted as Memories Caught on a fly (in which form I first saw and worked on) but was changed later along with a great part of its content, part of which Ekwuazi explains soon.
For more on Hyginus Ekwuazi from this blog, you can visit:
A new collection of poetry seeks to celebrate Jahman Anikulapo at 50! We welcome poems from any writer who has been touched or inspired by the dedication of Mr Anikulapo to the Arts…
Okay, actually if you think you have a nice work previously unpublished work of poetry that addresses the issues of selfless service and Love of country, you can send it to the Editors:
(1) Toni Kan (email@example.com)
(2) Nkechi Nwosu-Igbo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Deadline is February 14, 2013
Just so you know, Jahman Anikulapo is a writer and big time Editor 🙂 He is the Editor, The Guardian (Nigerian) on Sunday Newspaper; and Programme Chairman at COMMITTEE FOR RELEVANT ART, CORA. I could write some really long thing but c’mon, why should I run Google out of business… 🙂 Best wishes everyone… Have a great Sunday!
You know the value of books. The process of making them intrigues you. You want your name on the front cover of a book and, like an earthworm inches through dirt into the ground, you want to make your way into people’s homes, heads and hearts. I am here to help you achieve that.
First, you must look the part. It is important to look like an African writer. Find multi-coloured kampala fabric and use it to sew shirts which you’ll wear to all writers’ events. Or an old t-shirt. You shouldn’t look like a model or banker. Your precious time is spent thinking of plot and theme and words, not on dress and grooming. Your hair needs to be unkempt. However, nothing says authentic-tortured-African-writer like dreadlocks. Please, note that in Nigeria there is a difference between dreadlocks and ‘dada’. Dada is less refined, naturally matted coils of hair due to superstitious neglect. Dada is uncool. Dreadlocks are deliberate. They are cool. They make you look wildly creative. If someone asks; no, you are not a Rastafarian. You are an African writer.
As a writer, you must flaunt your vices. You need to show that you are a flawed character. If you drink, drink too much. If you smoke, do it at inappropriate times. Show up at an event reeking of booze. People will understand. Vices are a tool of the trade.
Now, you have the basic tools: a multi-coloured kampala shirt, cool dreadlocks, and vices. You must set about the business of writing.
You do not need to read a lot to be a Nigerian writer. In fact, as a Nigerian writer you can make shameless statements like “I don’t really read much”, in public. All you need is a burning desire to write. It is sufficient to have read Shakespeare and Achebe, and maybe a little of Chimamanda Adichie for contemporary reading. The only thing you need to really study is a dictionary or thesaurus.
Please, note that all Nigerian characters are Africans who act the same: children are respectful of elders; parents are always responsible, wise individuals teaching children valuable lessons of life. Characters do not use cuss words or talk about sex, even when in the company of peers. Nobody’s mother smokes and we have no homosexuals in Nigeria.
Use big words instead of small words; ‘Discombobulate’ instead of ‘confuse’. How can you write like a layman when you are an African writer? It doesn’t matter how many people read or understand you. What matters is that you impress those who do.
Use many words. It is always better to err on the side of verbosity than to err on the side of brevity.
Protect your work fiercely and always insist that people give you constructive criticism. Anyone who points out, rightly or otherwise, that your writing isn’t quite there yet, is evil and an enemy of your hustle. You must believe that there is nothing like bad writing. After all, you were inspired by the spirits before you began writing – what do critics know?
Do not waste your time or money on editors. Editors are failed writers whose life ambition is to frustrate the hustle of real writers like you. Show your friends your work. But only the ones who are not jealous of your hustle, and who remind you that your writing is the best thing since point-and-kill. Find some popular person from your village who will write you a foreword without actually reading your book. Then, go to press.
Go to Ibadan or Lagos. Find a cheap printer who can print 1,000 copies without ink smearing on the pages coming out lopsided. Arrange for a transporter to bring your book home.
A book is not complete without a book launch. In Nigeria, a book launch is a fund-raising ceremony. It is not important to have writers at this event. Well, maybe the book reviewer. You need your state governor (who may not come but will send a representative with a cheque or a pledge); your Local Government chairman; your Pastor or Imam to bless the event; and any minister, senator or rich person that you know. It is important to find a Chief Launcher who will encourage others to donate to your hustle. Do not leave it to chance or the discretion of the Chief Launcher, unless you are sure of his capabilities. In Nigeria, nobody is allowed to embarrass the Chief Launcher by giving more money. So, if you can, gently hint that you know he will set the bar high for others to follow. That is the job of the Chief Launcher – setting the bar as high as possible.
You do not need a marketer, publicist or publisher. These people eat into your profit margin. If you have a car, carry a few hundred copies in the trunk at all times. Be your own marketer. Steer conversation toward your book and tell them you have written this really cool book. Someone will ask for it and you will tell them to hold on for a minute while you get it from your car. If you don’t have a car, have a big bag that can carry at least 10 copies. Do not be ashamed to carry your books to public gatherings. Book by book, God blessing your hustle, you may end up selling off the 1,000 copies your printer produced, and maybe even go for a reprint.
Get an award. It doesn’t matter what. It may be from your church bulletin which you have been writing for since you were in secondary school or your old boy’s association newsletter. You can even have friends get together to organise and award you the ‘Roforofo Prize for African Fiction’. Then, you can have on your book, ‘Award Winning Author’. No need to state what award it is. An award-winning writer is a good writer.
It is my hope that you make it as a writer and have many successful books in the market. And with well organised book launchings, you can be sure that God will bless your hustle.
The name Hyginus Ekwuazi is no longer strange in poetic circles. He has made a mark on the Nigerian poetry scene with more than three books of poetry published already. A notable fact is that each of his books has a theme, symbol or idea that all the poems reflect. Mercifully, the poet always carries this dominant image or theme in his title. Perhaps he does this in the true knowledge that Literature in whatever form, is different from Mathematics and seeks to entertain, not ‘punish.’ Hence, the readers do not have to do a puzzle and look for the common denominator in all the poems. And for those who still do not get it in the title, he takes his time to explain or rather, explore this idea in a preface given a particular title, and subtitled “In lieu of preface…” In Dawn into moonlight: all around me dawning, the idea is that of the moon and twilight. So, all the issues discussed therein are shown in relation to this. A person might quickly jump to the conclusion that all the poems would be monotonous or plain boring since they are all tied around the same thing. This is where Ekwuazi delights in showing that person wrong. Ekwuazi with the thoughts and imaginations of a million tales simply weaves them up in fine verse describing different situations, events, feelings, people and the like in poems that are simply related to, but not confined to the already mentioned dominant vehicle, memories.
It is in this light that we find varying themes in each of his work ranging from love to betrayal, missings, national consciousness, Biafra, and the like… but kept organized by that one denominator, which we are introduced to even before the first poem.
This is what he does in all his books and centralizes as theme in That Other Country, his latest collection. The amount of poems in this collection boasts thirty-nine poems which begin on the Dedication page, to the Preface right into the main section of verse…
That Other Country is a collection of several memories, that true definer of man, which the poet defines and explores from different views in lovely flowing verse. In an illuminating preface, the poet describes memory as the best gift to man and its meaning to him (the poet). He goes ahead to define memory in the first poem of the collection, ‘Memory is’ (9). In it, the persona explains memory as another country, “that other country/of a trillion trifles time has tossed aside.” It is not, (s)he explains, a graveyard but something moving- “A life already lived/& a journey already made.” With this definition, one understands the reason for the poem being the first in the collection, and indeed, this review. In the very next poem, the poet defines memories as “…bats/that are hanging upside down/in the cave of the mind…” Indeed, bats are creatures of the night who like memories come out in full force in the dark. They, memories, cling upside down in the cave of our minds in the day but take over in our private and quiet times – our darkness. We try to shoo them off severally but like the bats, they never go extinct, flying evermore in our hearts, drowning us in emotions and thoughts.
In ‘Today is Father’s day’ (33) we ‘see’ a father who fought on fields and lost, but won at home. The war of the fields is probably the Biafran war – which we get to see a lot as the collection progresses. From another perspective, it can be looked at as the various wars that life places before man – wars of catering for one’s self and family, wars of want, wars of social stance, wars of a failed country, career and all. However, this father wins the home war, perhaps the greatest of them all. There is an allusion to the bible (Isaac and Abraham) which gives humor to this otherwise grim remembrance. Also there are hints at the prodigal son that bring deep thoughts. In this poem though, he arrives a day too late to see the final mound of his father. There is a longing expressed in the thoughts of the persona that slowly begged to be shared, and spent on another father. This poem which is multi-themed calls for deep introspection and reexamination of values.
There is the recurring symbol of the half of a yellow sun, the symbol of Biafra. There is nostalgia for this nation that died before its birth cries could be heard fully. Ekwuazi brings into contemporary poetry all the several showings that we are now getting accustomed to in prose as best exemplified by Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (which reawakened interest in that literature). Several poems concerning this symbol in full are evident while there are others that show an allusion. The poet uses varied personas to show that the memories of Biafra are very much alive and living. ‘The Pied Piper sang of a home he didn’t know’ (64) is concerned with children affected by the war who are taken to a camp. They are forced to see the horrors of their family killed and in the camp. ‘A dear frank’s letter’ (69) is the most obvious of the Biafran poems as all devices are thrown with a vivid and direct tale told. Okigbo is recalled in nostalgia, Biafra and Nigeria spoken to. The persona recalls Frank, a dear friend, with whom many a drink and poem was shared. It is shared into six sections. There is the memory of an “evening of/drinks and readings at the British Council” the persona and Frank have a swell time. The lines run-on (literally too) and soon we find that Frank is dead. We are then introduced to a book that Frank had written on the several people killed in Asaba during the war; a planned pilgrimage to Opi junction (where Okigbo fell); plaques that might have been put there (at Opi); … Then, the poem comes back to where it started, at the British council. A disagreement drank away is remembered and in the final lines, the persona expresses a deep missing of Frank. (It is worthy of note that this same Frank – Frank Mowah, appears in Love Apart–Ekwuazi’s first poetry collection) and is the person to whom That Other Country is dedicated to.)
Biafra also comes alive in ‘I shed lava-hot tears for/both halves of the yellow sun’ (17) where the persona talks of the feelings that he has at the remembrance of the several evils that befell the people. ‘…why the sea is boiling hot’ (20) and several others follow the theme.
A feminist leaning comes in ‘Isn’t Biology destiny?’ where the poet through his persona looks at how the maturity and the institution of marriage limit women and changes their lives, downwards. There are the usual love poems Ekwuazi is known for (though most told with pain); parenting tales and some nationalist verses. Major Nzeogwu finds space in the pages of this work and is honored in a poem ‘It isn’t only mystics who wear their sadness like a halo’ (102).
For those who love long poems, there is a lot in store here as there are a lot of them in this collection. The longest poem is the book is ‘Memories linked one to another like Stations of the Cross’ (51) which span six pages of a hundred and fifty eight lines. It is also one of the few poems in the collection that a reader might find a bit difficult to understand at first glance. The poem revolves around traffic lights and memories that they evoke in the mind of the persona as he awaits the green, on red. The memories become like the Stations of the Cross. The headings for these stations are emboldened and tell three different but difficult to completely decipher stories that might leave a searching reader puzzled. There is hardly any link between the three of them but come to the mind of the persona as the memories are laid in the sepulcher of the mind (another section of the poem). At this moment, the persona comes back to himself in time to see the lights change, “signaling not so much the end/as the beginning to every memory…” He drives off into a day, “over-burdened with memories.”
The problems one might find with That Other Country, like those with most works of poetry, are specific to picky readers. The first would come in the length of poems. Like in his previous collections, there exist a lot of long poems (like ‘Memories linked one to another like Stations of the Cross’ explained above) which span several pages and lines. His exploration of Biafra in several poems might also not sit well with a lot of readers who might not take his side or others who believe that this particular theme has been ‘over explored’ in diverse genres would out rightly oppose its appearance. The major preoccupation with pain that form a huge part of the tale behind the collection is another issue that some readers would not like. Furthermore, one notices a great sense of Christianity shown in the general body of the work through biblical allusions (this is particularly evident in the poem, ‘Today is fathers’ day’ (33) and a specific title that even has ‘Stations of the Cross’ in it!) The romantic musings of some of the poems would also pose trouble to some readers who would have wanted a thorough political work telling of the issues of the land, either challenging or proffering solutions. His usual style of simple diction and verse would also pose a challenge to critics who prefer hard to understand, ‘poet’s only’ poetry. Then, there is the presence of a few typos (poetry’s worst distorter) that might go unnoticed…
Like in all his collections, Ekwuazi proffers solutions as best as he can to sooth these seeming problems. He takes more time on the longer poems so as to enrich them and make a reader get lost in the thickness of theme and depth of it making the length disappear. Indeed, a reader might be caught asking for more after coming to the end of such poems. There is no excuse for Biafra but sincerity that is used to weave its lines so that it is not a mere re-rendering of the overtly told tale but a new twist in a new tongue that sings a melody that gives honor to the Nation, child died in death while embracing Nigeria, ever mother. It is the words of a patriot longing for a country he knows would never live, devastated by the murder yet loving still, his forced country in a unity that he wishes would have been merciful in leaving. One notices that there isn’t much Christian imagery that one can hold firmly to in the collection except in ‘Today is father’s day.’ Most of the romantic musings have an undertone to them that when properly evaluated show diverse themes that in some cases, centre on issues of state. The love of country and politics is also shown clearly in some poems. ‘The almanac’ (81) for instance, talks of the various military coups that have occurred in Nigeria (and Africa too) and what might have been if they did not occur. The simple diction used in the poems is a façade to very rich imagery. Ample uses of devices that stem through the entire collection further make the simplicity colorful. This deceptive simplicity is something that Ekwuazi thrives in and is evident in the several themes in each of the poems and the confusion that some readers might find in deciphering some poems.
In the end, one discovers that That Other Country is centered on memories – majorly, painful memories. The memories of lost ones, loss, longing, disappointment, death, Biafra, bitter happenings, among others, are dominant. This might be the reason why memory is compared to the bat whose time of abode is the night. Memory, like the bat, is hidden away in the day as we all rush to do different things. In the night, with nothing but our thoughts for company, our memories like the bats fly out, soaring the skies, taking over. These poems, very personal ones, tell the tales of a poet – a man, through diverse personas, who has harbored a lot of painful memories that he wants to get rid of, but must tell the world before shutting the gates evermore. This might also be why Ekwuazi in the preface says that the gift of forgetting is God’s greatest gift to man. In this collection, there is no hiding under the sweetness of words to show emotions as the lovers’ tale of other collections. He speaks in clear terms of his heart wrench as occasioned in the various crises that have beset the two countries of his love, Nigeria and Biafra. The pain of the continuous persona in the loss of friends, loved ones, and family among others are part of the conclusions that the pain bring. Somewhere, one finds the misplaced cherry thought (like ‘Memories that tear cheerfully through my day’ (57), a poem of parenting and pride in one’s offspring). There is also the sprinkled humor in most of the poems that the poet brings to bare in most of the poems to give soft bedding.
The beauty of Ekwuazi’s poems lie neither in the powerful and vivid imagery used nor the musicality of his lyrics that leave a reader tapping in enjoyment, alone. These ones stand strong on their own, but can be found easily elsewhere. The basic strength behind his verse is the tales that lie behind each poem. For in each poem, one notices a pretty tale replete with all characteristics. This is the magic that he wands into his latest collection, That Other Country where with the vehicle of memories, he uses all the freedom of theme, to navigate to the best of tales and renditions in a delight one cannot – wouldn’t want to miss for anything else. Indeed, within the covers one finds worthy memories that the few kobos and moments used on the book would get justified.
The floods came differently for several people around the world. In Nigeria, it was unusual as the country had never experienced something like this before. So, do you have reflections, thoughts, lessons on the floods?
Do you have any poem or short story on the flood? Do send it in!!
SEVHAGE calls for them!
A maximum of four poems per poet or two short stories for each short story writer.
Maximum length is 35 lines for poems and 2000 words for short stories.
Closing date of entry is 4th December, 2012.
Expected date of publication is first quarter of 2013.
Publication would be electronic with hard copies done later.
Each submission should be accompanied by a sixty word bio of the poet/writer.
Note that at the close of collection of entries, a selection process would be done and the best entries selected.
It was March 31, 2012, the place was Chrysalis Place, an exclusive restaurant in Old Bodija while the event was the ‘Artmosphere’: an avant-garde literary event with the March theme ‘City of Words’. The event started with general introductions by everyone. To get things rolling, co-anchor, Olukayode Servio Gbadamosi (a performance poet) read from the opening passage of Amos Tutuola’s The Palmwine Drinkard much to the amusement of the audience.
The first performance came from Haastrup, an English student and poet of the University of Ibadan. He read his poems, which though laden with much thoughts and seemed deep was belied by the reading of the poet.
Hyginus Ekwuazi, film critic, scholar, multiple-award winning poet and writer was the star of the event. He was accompanied by his friend and fellow poet, Su’eddie Vershima Agema who offered a poetry rendition of four captivating poems; ‘Tales One Shouldn’t Tell Often’, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Wrinkled Star’, ‘Bring Our Casket Home’and‘Let there be Light’. Su’eddie who is the Vice Chairman of the Benue State Chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors was lauded by the audience for his ability to present his poems in simple, realistic and emphatic words. Agema is also a development practitioner with a strong online presence and has been published in several anthologies, both online and print.
Ayokunle Emoruwa, author of Living in the Restaurant noted that she observes and tries to understand contemporary issues, “I try to break complex issues to simpler ones, and it just flows out unconsciously. I don’t write poems but I write, when I think about society, I try to simplify trends and it flows out unconsciously”. She read her notes, ‘Dear Parents Teach Us, Our Mother Tongue’, for her “native language removes from limitations in the future-for language makes you understand the heart of the native”. She also read “Love in the Nursery”. Ayokunle usually creates vivid imageries that can be harnessed for children’s understanding of the issues happening around them. She relates different ideas in a familiar way.
‘Debisi ‘Degbohun, a fiction writer and poet presented an elegiac poem, ‘Akogun Okunrin-Ogun’, about a warrior who died for his society. Debisi who is also a business consultant informed the audience that he is still learning the ropes and that a writer must not assume “he has arrived”. ‘Debisi has read his poems at several literary and music events in Ibadan, alongside folk music act, Babatunde, Afrofolk musician, Beautiful Nubia, and the late performing poet and writer, Ify Omalicha.
Popular and dynamic, alternative music act, Dtone Martins performed several of the songs in his upcoming album. The anchor described him as “one of Nigeria’s finest alternative musicians”. Dtone, a AfricSoul artist, noted that his music is motivated by “things I see around, books I read and my friends”. Dtone has performed at several art exhibitions, literary events and other events. He performed his soulful songs, Kati Kati and Kosia san(‘there is no illness’).
It was time for the star to take his throne. Hyginus Ekwuazi praised the organizers for putting the event together. He gave copies of each of his titles to all the members of the audience. He noted that it was only right for readers to follow the reading if it was to make sense. (Adjunct Associate) Professor Ekwuazi is the author of four collections of poetry, three plays and a coming of age novel, I’ve miles to walk before I sleep. He has won the ANA-Cadbury Poetry Prize twice and also the ANA-NDDC/Gabriel Okara Poetry Prize twice. He was shortlisted for the NLNG Literature prize in 1999.
Ekwuazi spoke about his poems explaining that “You have a trilogy in Love Apart, Dawn into Moonlight and The Monkey’s Eyes. You have the same persona, the same worldview-its like a trilogy”. He noted some influence from Okigbo in his Love Apart: “In Love Apart, you have a persona who is separated from the lover, the title itself is gotten from some amous lines of Okigbo”. However “given the period it was written,…we have some kind of social realism that this lover who is away, critiques his society in meeting his lover, like you have in Dennis Brutus’ Letters to Martha”. These books juxtapose the imageries of love and life with the seemingly distant realities of politics and economics.
Furthermore, some of Ekwuazi’s poems present a recollection of universal memories and a celebration of words that birth the philosophy of living. He also talked about the spate of violence, the social awareness of the society-questioning and revealing the innards of hypocrisy of society. His book That Other Country is a collection on the Biafrian civil war.
Ekwuazi read a few poems from Love Apart and recommended other poems from his other collections for the audience who seemed engrossed with his reading to go ahead and read.
The audience also spoke about Osundare’s Katrina experience in relation to personal disasters experienced of other poets.
Artmosphere is an avant-garde literary development initiative based in Ibadan. It was an opportunity for literary enthusiasts and writers to connect, interact and synergise ideas. It was also leverage for those who only knew themselves through the mirage of social media and have never met themselves before to connect with full validity. There was poetry, music, and good food with drinks to match and make the March edition tagged ‘City of Words’ a fun-filled event. The event was co-anchored by Olukayode Servio Gbadamosi and Femi Fairchild Morgan, spoken word poets. The audience who were at the event was mostly bankers, business development experts, publishers, doctors, intellectuals and literary enthusiasts from all works of life.