Sometimes finding titles to these posts can be a challenge… However, getting titles to publish hasn’t been so much of an issue. We have had a healthy number come in. So, where have we been?
It has been a very busy season for me and all of us at SEVHAGE. We made a call for volunteers last year due to all the work we have and also a desire to spread the literary net at SEVHAGE Reviews. We got a good number of entries – and we wouldn’t mind getting a few more. We are sorting things out and would soon be reaching out to all those who applied so that we can start work in earnest. Our Head of Reviews, the poet, Innocence Silas has been up to task. You can check our ABOUT page and see if you want to catch up with us.
But other than that, we have had a rich season working with some amazing writers and getting their books ready for press. A few weeks back, we received copies of Professor Hyginus Ekwuazi’s One day I will dare to raise my middle finger at the stork and the reaper. First publication was in 2015 and it is amazing to know that we have had to get the full works in print again. The book, Ekwuazi’s fifth book of poetry is a lovely collection of narrative poem that border on the beauty of life and is a blend of verse that would make any reader smile. I wrote the Afterword and I think that it is the sort of book that you would want to read, for any season.
We are also working on two other collections of poetry which are nearly ready for press; Bash Amuneni’s There’s a Lunatic in Every Town and Tope Ogundare’s The Book of Pain. Bash is one of Nigeria’s finest spoken word artistes and his collection is as interesting as he is. We are all looking forward to the book release in March (next month) – that is for the paper back. It would be accompanied with his Freedom audio spoken word collection, for the early birds who would be picking up the collection. You sure wouldn’t want to miss it. Tope, on the other hand, is a doctor and psychologist. You can check some of his fascinating writings featured on his blog at www.zaphnathpaaaneah.com. We will be having the e-copies by the end of the month. So, that is three lovely poetry collections already – what more can one ask for?
It isn’t all poetry. We just went to press with Dul Johnson’s Across the Gulf, one of the most challenging covers we have done. In the end, Eugene Odogwu – our graphics department head – was able to rally the team and bring out something beautiful and we fell in love with the cover, as much as we did with the story. The book will be out in stores early March.
Finally, we are working on two e-books, FOOLS 101 by John Chidi and for tomorrow (Valentine), MOUNT ORGASM by Ehi’zogie Iyeoman. Aha! Yes, there’s a poetry collection brewing up by a friend that has to do with the rain, terra cotta and some other wonderful images as will leave you smiling. I wouldn’t spoil the fun by calling names…
So, you see, there’s just so much work to do. I have decided too that I would be blogging a bit on the wonderful wonderful experience of publishing, its challenges and the backstory to some of the books. Some of the posts will be on my personal blog but most will be on our official SEVHAGE blog. You would be amazed at some of the tales.
In all, the times might be harsh but the works are smiling. Keep a date with me and us, and feel free to pre-order or make orders for any of our books at email@example.com. All the poetry books go for a thousand naira, in some cases, exclusive of courier. We will send account details and we can discuss mode of transportation. If you are in Abuja, Benue or Ibadan, you can be sure you have no challenge.
May this day smile for us all. Cheers!
PS: We are doing some discounts on editing and book vanity publishing deals [yup, we do that too]… You might want to take advantage. Send us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, let’s talk and see how we can get to seeing your works ready in-print or somewhere, online 🙂
PPS: What are you doing for Valentine? Particularly, what new writing have you been up to? So many things happening to make the times bleak but you know you can spark the times with something beautiful, right? Whatever it is you think you can do, get to it and make it worth it. Cheers!
It was the night of the full moon
and we were at supper: that was
when they came for my grandmother.
The birth, they said, was not going too well—and
was it everything the eye saw that the head
carried into the homestead?
In silence, they looked at my grandmother and
my grandmother looked at them in silence: their
wordless communication was like a loud silence—that
kind of silence that comes crashing from the ceiling
when the teacher magically appears in a noisy class.
Grandmother did not ask
to be allowed to finish her meal.
She looked at us with the distant eyes
of a stranger—there was no remembrance
in her eyes of the moonlight story she owed us:
our favourite story of the tortoise:
his journey across seven seas and seven forests
and seven mountains and seven deserts and
the songs he sang over deserts and mountains
and forests and oceans and
the beautiful wife that still eluded him….
Grandmother asked only one question:
‘The grandmother of the child…have you sent for her?’
They nodded—as if all three of them
shared the same head on the same neck.
I found I was holding my breath
as Grandmother followed them
and the moon went with them.
(From Hyginus Ekwuazi’s One Day I’ll Raise My Middle Finger at the Stork and the Reaper (Makurdi: SEVHAGE, 2015)
Hey guys! Really sorry I have been a bit off… There has been lots of stuff to catch up with. There was an interview I had with the network service of our Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) which I travelled to the capital for… Ah! That was something else. The way it is done, the interviewee usually has to host the session. I guess the idea is to ensure the interviewee is ‘much at home’ with the interview 🙂 Oh well… So, I drove in on that beautiful Tuesday, for the interview. Mehn, you should have seen the traffic. It was the day for the official inauguration of the National Assembly… It seemed all their supporters had to come to Abuja. Well, I got to town and headed straight to my lodgings. When the NTA guys were through rearranging my room, I had to wonder where I was!
Oh well, it was a beautiful interview and I had to answer a set of ten or so questions like three times! Phew! I read a story, ‘Simply Mortal’ from The Bottom of Another Tale, my collection of short stories… three times! Performed three poems including ‘An Anthem of Pain’ (from Home Equals Holes: Tale of an Exile), ‘Awambe Awambe’ (a war poem in Tiv and English), and ‘If the Sun wasn’t so mean’ (the last two from my first collection of poems, Bring our casket home: Tales one shouldn’t tell. It was soooo much fun. And yup, you should have seen me doing the theatrics! Yaaaaaay! The interviewer, Dooshima, was wonderful as was Alex Omanchi (both in the picture above). We kept on talking and cracking jokes in between sessions and all such that I hardly had an idea that about three (or was it four?) hours had gone.
The interview aired on Thursday of the same week. Really cool. Don’t worry, I might get to post the video online at some point. Just remind me to do so 😉
After that, I was able to catch up with a lot of people including Ben Ubiri, TJ Benson, Hymar David and Cece Ireneh, among
other writers. Yes, there were family and friends to meet but why bore you with that talk …
Since then, there has been a million running around and you don’t want to know the half of it. At a point, I thought my butt was going to scrape off. Thank goodness for family, my parents, friends, my lovely sister and yes, the belle.
Now, I was in Ibadan too and met with a million people that I cannot start mentioning! Maybe I should put that in a different post… Ah! What a town! There was the Niyi Osundare event I posted about earlier… At that place, I met everyone – well, nearly everyone. There was Anita Ikhifa who I hadn’t seen since my reading in Ibadan two years ago… There was Peter Akinlabi, Akintunde Aiki, Femi Fairchild Morgan, Servio Gbadamosi, Tosin, Jonah Obajeun…Iya Ibadan too (yeah, I know you don’t know them but Google might help small…that or Facebook. Lovely award winning writers, bloggers and peeps there)…
And the men themselves, Hyginus Ekwuazi and NIYI OSUNDARE! When I was going to perform my poem at the event, the
renowned poet and Professor, Niyi Osundare stood up to greet me and gave me a hug while offering a handshake. Big honour. He said he had read me…and when I completed my performance, he gave good constructive criticism. Same as he did for Richard Anyah, who had performed before me. Prof. Osundare said Servio and I write alike… Hmmm. Strange.
Somehow, I got back with Debbie, beautiful friend/thought stealer and invaluable colleague, who I had been traveling with after sneaking to go pray with my loved ones in Ife. Sometimes life teaches us to always value our health, our loved ones and those we hold dear more in certain periods. Maybe you should thank the heavens for any and every one who you have with you right now. Never take any moment for granted.
Oh well, there’s been much since then. As the Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors, I was able to conduct an inter-secondary school competition in Makurdi, Benue here. Had support from writers like Anselm Ngutsav, Debbie Iorliam (both were judges), Ene Odaba, Tersoo Ayede… Mount St Gabriel’s came first.
Now, I have ranted on and on and on. Bottom line: I am back. Did you miss me? I missed you. I still do. So, do quick, get back and let’s continue with this, yes? Okay. #hugs
Hyginus Ekwuazi is a multiple award-winning poet, playwright and novelist. He has four published poetry collections (countless others thrown away), a couple of plays, screenplays, a novel I’ve miles to walk before I sleep, and countless academic papers. He is a literary
connoisseur and one of the leading contemporary Nigerian voices of poetry. Dr. Ekwuazi teaches Advertising and Media Arts at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He lives in Ibadan with his family, pets and a host of travelling friends.
this memory that, always
ends up in the recycling bin
and recycles itself at whim
the look you normally gave me –
that look that said aloud that
you weren’t too sure I hadn’t been
dropped on the head as a child
that look of the martyred
that look you wore each time
I talked about the children of the poor
and the dogs of the rich
you always wondered –
what hair was it off my chest
if the children of the poor
would gladly swap places
with the dogs of the rich?
and with the dexterity of a
boomerang thrower you would
throw me that rhetorical question:
The poor … don’t the poor have dogs?
I’d smile, I’d always smile–
the way I smile when memories of
the war invade my peaceful day –
I’d smile, I’d always smile
for I’d learnt to wrap my pain in a smile
I’d smile and love you even more –
with a pain that no smile could wrap.
from That other country (Ibadan: Kraft Books, 2010)
Hyginus Ekwuazi is a multiple award winning Nigerian poet. He has also earned several credits for script writing. He lives in Ibadan where he teaches Media Arts (Broadcasting and Film) at the University of Ibadan.
Poetry, Stories and the very best of every art on offer in Ibadan on 17th August 2013.
Guests in focus: Reward Nsirim, Hyginus Ekwuazi, Wemimo AyoDavid and Su’eddie Vershima Agema
The quintessential literature and performance monthly parley, Artmosphere, is out with its August edition. The event curated by WriteHouse Collective, a leading social and creative enterprise is poised to improve the reading culture of the country by creating an enjoyable ambiance for literature and sundry creative discourse.
This edition of Artmosphere, tagged “Fresh Styles” is an exploration of the works of relatively new voices and those who have deliberately chosen news styles to communicate to their audience. It will also feature a discourse on the challenges facing the creative industry in Nigeria. In the spirit of the theme, the event will be a deviation from the norm as we will be hosting three authors from different generations to not only share their works but also discuss what informed their literary development as writers.
Fresh Styles will play host to prolific writer, film critic and AMAA Awards Judge, Hyginus Ekwauzi-an author who has delved into the deep waters of poetry, prose, theatre and film exploring the complex exchanges of each genre. We will gain from his wealth of experience concerning the challenges of literature. The event will also host Reward Nsirim, blogger, public health expert and author of the new collection of satiric short stories, “Fresh Air”. Su’eddie Vershima Agema, a poet and beacon of the arts and reading culture campaigns emerging from the north of Nigeria will also be at the event. Dr. Hyginus Ekwuazi and Su’eddie Agema have been guests at Artmosphere before.
The anchors of the event will also be considering issues of the Nigerian narrative and how streamlined narrative styles and themes may have improved or strangled the followership of literature. Are creative writing schools and workshops important? Do they sieve the shaft of a writer’s skill, or merely make him a mirror of some other writer? Can our books be as “down to earth” as our films without losing its message, its strength and its market value?
The 8th edition of Artmosphere, Fresh Styles, has been made possible by literary and intellectual friends who are drawn to the bright prospects of a more enlightened, and prosperous society. Organizations like sankofa.com.ng, iBridgeHub and IReadHope will also be on ground to provide the event with logistic support.
The August edition of Artmosphere tagged “Fresh Styles” will hold on Saturday, August 17, 2013
Venue: NuStreams Conference Centre, KM 110 Abeokuta road, Alalubosa GRA Extension, Ibadan
ENTRY IS FREE!
Hyginus Ekwauzi is a scholar at the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan. He is also a film critic and the author of award winning children novella, I Have Miles to Walk Before I Go to Sleep, winner of the ANA Cadbury Prize 2010. A highly decorated master of the poetic craft, his published collections include Love Apart (2007); Dawn into Midnight (2008), The Monkey’s Eyes (2009) and That Other Country (2010).
As a famous critic, Dr Ekwauzi has held several positions such as the Managing Executive of the Nigerian Film Council and the Pan-African Film Festival. He has published his critical views of the film, theatre and other genres in both national and international journals. He is an African Movie Academy Awards, AMAA, judge, a position where his critical eye for motion picture is of immense value.
Reward Nsirim was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. He trained in Medicine and Public Health respectively at the University of Port Harcourt and the University of London. He has edited a number of magazines and journals, and has also performed in stage plays. His fiction has been published in Eclectica and Sentinel Nigeria, while his essays can be seen on his blog http://rewardsrhetoric.blogspot.com.
Reward Nsirim’s collection of short stories, Fresh Air has been described as stories which paint graphic pictures of life in Nigeria. His wit and satire envelops his home bred angst that it releases the reader with the laughter of reality. “Fresh Air” was published by Origami, an imprint of Parresia Publishers, a leading publishing firm with a culture of quality content like Abubakar Ibrahim’s The Whispering Trees; the recent Caine Prize nominee.
Su’eddie Vershima Agema is a writer a culture development enthusiast and a publisher. For a lot of literary watchers, Su’eddie is a beacon of openness and intelligence whose drive is to see a well-educated and transparent society. He has a great interest in African and Post-Colonial Writings and has published some research on some of his keen observations.
Su’eddie grew up under the culture of midnight stories which his father took to heart and passed on to his children, while his mother trained them with one hand of mores, language and culture and other the hand , a regular, healthy dose of the African Writer’s Series, AWS. He is the Vice Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors (Benue Chapter) and the author of the poetry collection, Bring Our Casket Home: Tales one shouldn’t tell. He blogs at https://sueddie.wordpress.com.
There would be books on sale from the authors:
Fresh Air (short stories) by Reward Nsirim is N1,200
Bring our casket home: tales one shouldn’t tell by Su’eddie Vershima Agema is N800
The various collections of Hyginus Ekwuazi are going for N600 a copy.
Each of these books are far worth more than their price tag. Plus, each book bought qualifies you for a raffle with prizes to be won… How good can it get? See you there!
Osofisan recounts this incident about how Okigbo took him to Mbari club one night to work. He was barely out of the secondary school and Okigbo was mentoring him. How for a few hours he managed to bang away at the typewriter before falling asleep. How in his sleep the smell of the midnight oil mingled with the aroma of tobacco as Okigbo hammered and chiselled the night away. How in the morning, Okigbo showed him the outcome of the long night of creativity: a sheet of paper with some four lines of poetry. Bewildered, he watched as Okigbo read the four lines, crumpled the paper – and threw it into the wastepaper basket…
This incident flows into my mind as I examine the new edition of Okigbo’s Labyrinths, issued by Apex Books (2008). The cover – a picture of a sitting, long-sleeved, youngish looking Okigbo contemplatively lighting a pipe – is a ‘sunny’ departure from the sombre density of the earlier edition(s).
The edition was issued by Heinemann as number 62 of the African Writer’s Series in 1971 and reprinted in 1975. A solid phalanx of over a decade separates the Heinemann reprint from this new edition. Within this time, a lot of waters has gone under the bridge and left the sands thoroughly ruffled. The poems have spawned countless imitations, more often than not, poorly; sometimes, with remarkable success. They have featured in essays, theses/dissertations and symposia: they have been subjected to all manners of criticism, including post-modernism. Icons from the universe of the poems now dot our literary landscape: one quick example – the Ibadan Department of English journal is called Idoto… Okigbo has since become the quintessential study of the making of a classic – in the context of a generation whose posturing indicates that it is more difficult to read poetry than to write it. Anyway, I find it significant that this slim volume of 72 pages has since transformed into the vertebra of African poetry. No wonder the Heinemann edition has since become a collector’s item.
Okigbo is a mantra; a roadmap and a marching song; he is the cultural property of all (would be) poets, critics and lovers of good poetry. He is, therefore, sacrosanct – like a holy book. And no publisher alters a holy book. He may tone up the colours; illustrate; annotate – but the body must remain inviolate. “The versions here,” Okigbo had noted somewhat presciently, “are final”: and his death set them in marble. What I’m leading up to is this: I can’t fathom why this new edition has been titled Labyrinths & Path of Thunder – though it contains all the five poems (‘Heavensgate’, ‘Limits’, ‘Silences’, ‘Distances’ and ‘Path of Thunder’) which together constitute Labyrinths – the title of the Heinemann editions. The other remarkable difference in the new edition is the insightful foreword – the 1994 toast of the poet by his elder brother, Pius.
Perhaps it is the picture of Okigbo on the cover page but as I thumb through this edition and wonder at his enduring legacy, kaleidoscopic fragments of his life mingle with lines from his poems… The Okigbo in the maelstrom of controversy for his unapologetic assertion that he does not write his poems to non-poets… The Okigbo that turns down the Langston Hughes Prize for African poetry on the grounds that there is nothing like African poetry: there is good poetry; and bad poetry… What memory, I wonder, has Labyrinths of this controversy?
From the opening strophe of ‘The Passage’, to the forlorn final notes of ‘Elegy for Alto’, the stock of references are intimidatingly global: Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek; Eliot, Hopkins, Melville, Tagore, etc are interwoven with haunting references to the oilbean, the funerary ram, kepkanly: the fauna, flora and human life of the poet’s world – deftly turning them into “globules of anguish strung together on memory” and, thereby, hanging them on that sublime height “to which all imperishable cries must aspire.” Indeed, good poetry by any standard; and it only happens to be African. Ben Okri, is, therefore, right: ‘Labyrinths…is a meditation on everything from our origins to our obscure destinies. It should be read by everyone in every country.’
“Fanfare of drums, wooden bells; iron chapters: / And our dividing airs are gathered home…/” Finally home across the Niger, among a people traumatised by the events of 1966, Okigbo divorces his wife on the other side …over the telephone… “Grown are the ears of the secret!” But Labyrinths, published posthumously a year after the war, is dedicated to “Safinat and Ibrahimat/mother and child”: a dedication that pulls at the reader’s heartstrings; and that has since been turned into a formula and recycled to death.
And his untimely death. “The wailing is for the fields of men/for the barren wedded ones/for perishing children…” Sporting the emblem of half a yellow sun on his sleeves and on his shoulders, the lone eagle of a major, he was among the Biafran troops that fought to the last man to hold Opi Junction. Had the outcome of the war been different, I’m sure a sagacious Biafran directorate of national orientation would have placed a plaque there exhorting any passer-by: Stranger, go tell Biafra Okigbolies here in obedience to her command. A romantic death – though contentious. Thus we find Ali Mazrui (The Trial of Christopher Okigbo) condemning him for wasting his life on the altar of sectionalism; and Odia Ofeimun insisting that when all else fails, it behoves the poet to take up arms and fight for a poet’s vision of the world. I stand with Odia.
Like Byron, Okigbo was a romantic: the evidence is strewn all over the poems, especially in ‘Silences’, ‘Distances’ and ‘Path of Thunder’: a swashbuckling cavalier who’d fight for liberty – his, or anyone else’s. Biafra only chanced by, and his roots happened to be there. The Okigbo so vitally alive in Labyrinths and in the retold tales of his friends would have found enough casus belli in the Niger Delta: “The wailing is for the great river; / Her pot-bellied watchers/Despoil her…” and we can imagine him “Riding with the angry stars/Toward the great sunshine.”
Okigbo saw only too clearly, the abyss into which Nigeria was plunging: “The smell of blood already floats in the lavender-mist of the afternoon. / The death sentence lies in ambush along the corridors of power; / And a great fearful thing already tugs at the cables of the open air, / A nebula immense and immeasurable, a night of deep waters – / An iron dream unnamed and unprintable, a path of stone.” The time was really out of joint; and like all romantics, he felt he had been born to set it right. Living in a state of emergency, he knew the perils of talking in the wrong company: “If I don’t learn to shut my mouth, I’ll soon go to hell, / I, Okigbo, town-crier, together with my iron bell”; and the intimations of morality was heavy on him: “So we must go, even mist on shoulders, / Sun’s dust of combat / With band end burning out at hand-and.” When Okigbo penned those words (“The version here… are final”) on his manuscripts, it is not unlikely that he was seeing through a grave darkly: “And the horn may now paw the air howling goodbye…”
I like to think that I was a witness to the canonisation of Okigbo – “The mythmaker accompanies us…/ Okigbo accompanies us the oracle enkindles us.” Obumselu, Anozie, Azuonye, etc: their works have been in inestimable in the Okigbo cause. Besides, to be published under the Heinemann African Writers Series was a much coveted prize. To my mind, however, the apotheosis of Okigbo was done in Echeruo’s Poets, Prophets and Professors, his inaugural lecture at Ibadan. The title, I believe, must have been cribbed from Okigbo’s ‘Heavensgate’: “Screen your bedchamber thoughts/with sunglasses/ who could jump your eye/ your mind-window/ And I said: / The prophet only the poet/ And he said: Logistics/ (which is what poetry is)…” Echeruo’s inaugural, in effect, rifled the contents of Okigbo’s ‘logistics’ and scattered the contents every which way. Scholars and would-be scholars of Okigbo are still picking up the contents. It was only after that inaugural that Okigbo started figuring prominently on reading lists in our universities.
The enduring legacy of Labyrinths can be traced to a number of reasons. The romance of the poet’s life and death. Also, the uncontainable and uncontaminable passion of Okigbo lovers. But in the main – and this is the point – because, in the words of one of his protégés, “Okigbo wrote damn good poetry.” “O mother mother Earth, unbind me; let this be/The ram’s hidden wish to the sword the sword’s/secret prayer to the scabbard.” In other words, we have in Okigbo that vintage poetry that makes “broadcast with/eunuch-horn of seven valves”: the poetry that remains evergreen.
This vintage poetry will be encountered less through secondary sources. That, for me, is the value of this new edition of Labyrinths by Apex Books.
Dr. Hyginus Ekwuazi, multiple award winning poet and writer is a lecturer in the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan, Oyo, NIGERIA.