Posted in POETRY

Did You Not Know The Man? [A dirge for Kofi Awoonor] By Richard Ali

Did you not know the man you killed as a wildebeest in the press

Of skeltering feet at the Westgate Mall? Was it a flash decision

Reflex running blind through rifle sight to de-humanize

Making stags of men, impersonal, clinical, shooting them down?

 

O mirror likeness of my sorrow, which is the finer sadness—

At the affray of kin or the weaverbird eulogies following?

Or at heirs whose bullets are the bowl balls that toppled

Alchemist Awoonor, mesmersmith, knowing him not?

 

Still now is the chest holding his heart pierced through, full my eyes

Recalling his line – “Dzogbese Lisa has treated me thus” – verse that

Made sterling cause the threads of my harried, desperate Black!

O, cruel Somali brother, did you not know this man you killed?

 

 

Kofi Awoonor, poet and patriarch of African poetry passed on to our memories on September 21st, 2013 in the Westgate Mall Attack in Kenya. Across a new dawn produced here from WSJ Blog was one of his last poems. He remains an inspiration to a whole lot of poets around the world and a personal friend that I never had the good fortune to meet.
Kofi Awoonor, poet and patriarch of African poetry passed on to our memories on September 21st, 2013 in the Westgate Mall Attack in Kenya. He remains an inspiration to a whole lot of poets around the world.

 

 

Richard Ali is the author of  the book, City of Memories (Black Palms, 2012). He is a managing partner at Paressia Books Ltd, and the Public Relations Officer (North) of the Association of Nigerian Authors.

 

 

 

 

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Posted in NAIJA POETRY, POETRY

GIANT OF THE GOLD COAST (a poem for Kofi) by Agatha Aduro

(for Kofi Awoonor)

GIANT. Of the Gold Coast
How shall we write your name? But in gold
Yesterday, your wiki page had no second date
You would not postpone death
Until several mornings after
Thankless errand purchased certain passage
Across the River Styx

 

GIANT. Of the Gold Coast
On what craft? Shall we place your mortal coil
Whom gold pales beside
As your blood glints on Kenyan soil
Announce to the cowardly hooded ones
To screen unworthy eyes
Lest they look upon the spot
On which your mighty person fell

 

GIANT. Of the Black race
With what pen? Shall we inscribe your elegy
Who shall distil for us unwritten words
Locked forever in your silenced mind
While Ewe mourners sing the dirge
And home awaits your return
Towering still in death, as in life…

(22nd September 2013)

 

 

 

Kofi Awoonor, poet and patriarch of African poetry passed on to our memories on September 21st, 2013 in the Westgate Mall Attack in Kenya. Across a new dawn produced here from WSJ Blog was one of his last poems. He remains an inspiration to a whole lot of poets around the world and a personal friend that I never had the good fortune to meet.
Kofi Awoonor, poet and patriarch of African poetry passed on to our memories on September 21st, 2013 in the Westgate Mall Attack in Kenya. He remains an inspiration to a whole lot of poets around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTE:

There’s something about this poem that got to me only after extra reads. There’s a certain deliberate disorderliness to the punctuation as confirmed by the poet later when we spoke. It shows the confusion and disorderliness that the death of the subject has brought. There are allusions here and there with imagery both local and foreign also showing the diplomat (noun) nature of Awoonor when alive. The poem simple as it is reminds one of the dirge which is quite prominent in the poetry of Kofi Awoonor. A lot more can be said but why spoil the thoughts of the poem when you can easily pick your thoughts and not have it distorted by mine? Feel free, please, to share and also drop your thoughts. Would mean a lot. Good morning world, S’

 

 

 

 

Two Poems by Kofi Awoonor (sueddie.wordpress.com)

The Elephants March – Su’eddie Vershima Agema (sueddie.wordpress.com)

Songs of Sorrow by Kofi Awoonor (sevhage.wordpress.com)

African Postman: Death of a poet (petchary.wordpress.com)

Posted in EVENTS, POETRY

GUEST THRILLS AND A TRIBUTE: THE AWF SEPTEMBER GUEST WRITER SESSION by Su’eddie Vershima Agema

Abuja: 28th September, 2013 Nanet Suites

It was Saturday and four o’clock. I was already shivering in literary thrill as over just the span of two days I had been in three exciting literary events including a book presentation I anchored; a Book Jam at the Silverbird galleria featuring Iquo Abasi et al; attended and had my poem read at the much talked about 2013 edition of Abuja’s 100,000 poets for change. There was the last to crown it all: the Abuja Writers’ Forum monthly Guest Writer session. I have made it a habit not to miss any of these and have been present at the last five or so ones that have included amazing award winners and outstanding artistes from the poet, Musa Idris Okpanachi; the photographer Numero Unoma; the economist Tope Fasua, (I actually read with the last two); the film directors and producers, Ishaya Bako and Kasham Keltuma; Obari Gamba… The audience is always a rich selection of the literati with regulars like the regular Dr. Kabura Zakama, Mike Ekunno.

As I hurried on to Nanet Suites, the festivities started with an unscheduled tribute session to Kofi Awoonor, the slain Ghanaian poet who slumped to Somali terrorist bullets in Kenya in the Westgate shopping mall attack – a true diplomat up to his very last breath. Copies of his poems were shared to the audience. The poet/actor, ALS Book Jam moderator, Jide Attah took the next turn to perform some of Kofi’s amazing famous works, ‘The Cathedral’,  ‘Across a New Dawn’ and ‘Songs of Sorrow.‘ I am particularly fond of ‘The Cathedral’ and the thought of it later, the rendition not met, brought memories but as they say, that’s a post for another time. So, Jide went on to speak on Kofi’s life and times. It was a solemn moment and no one who came in there at that second would have missed the atmosphere declaring a mourning of one of Africa’s versed monarch. He was supported at some point by Tokunbo Edward’s strumming strings.

Tokunbo Edwards, Jide Atta for Kofi...
Tokunbo Edwards, Jide Atta for Kofi…

 Jide’s talk on Kofi was deep and heartfelt. Elvis Iyorngurum describes the talk as one that made even one who might not have known Kofi feel very familiar with him. It was like the talk of one on the demise of an old friend. Yes, Kofi was old, 78, but a friend that we wish might have stayed longer with us all. Award winning poet, Kabura Zakama and one the guest writers for the day, Obemata read their tributes to the slain poet. It was now time for the scheduled business of the moment: the Guest Writer Session.

Like is becoming usual of the sessions, there were three artistes billed for the day; Temi Sode, founder of the fashion label, Veronica’s Closet (VC) – and nope, not related to Victoria’s Secret in anyway; Abdul Mahmud (who writes under the pseudonym Obemata – which we shall refer him to in this piece), poet and activist who was once National Association of Nigerian Students President, an ex housemate of the famous Kirikiri prison; and Peter Michael Egwudah, a member of civil society who was around to make a presentation on efforts done by civil society after the floods of last year in Ibaji, Kogi state. Temi Sode’s did not make the appointment and so, the fashion flavor was not to be had. Sorry ladies! The two others however were set and Obemata took the first swing.

He read from his collection of poems, Triptych published by Sentinel Poetry Movement in the United Kingdom. The lovely poems without titles and with few or no punctuation read with interruptions – sorry, explanations – and notes from the author kept the audience held. After every few lines, Obemata explained the meanings behind certain lines, allusions, metaphors and influences. He drew a connection calling on certain poets in the house including Richard Ali, Gimba Kakanda, Kabura Zakama who shared certain aspects of his work. The style was that of a teacher/philosopher hoping to pass as much information to everyone in as short a period. Well, it would seem Obemata had also been part of the resource people for the just concluded AWF Student course so it made sense. Poem and poem passed on, recited in a very calm and silent voice that was lost on a lot of people behind because of the quietness of the poet. I got a bit impatient with his interruptions and missed certain explanations which mercifully, Elvis got to capture thus:

 Obemata’s recollection of the history that inspired his writing of Triptych revealed the travails of a young man who as the president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), organized the largest students protest in the history of Nigeria, against the plans of the Babangida regime to remove government subsidy for petroleum products. Obemata was arrested and detained in 1991 at the Kirikiri Prisons under the dreaded State Security and Detention of Persons Decree Number 2 of 1984, on account of his opposition to the military dictatorship led by General Ibrahim Babaginda. He was again arrested in 1996 and detained by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) and the State Security Services (SSS), following claims that he knew or participated in the killing of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, the wife of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, Chief Moshood Abiola.

Obemata performing
Obemata performing

Everyone tried to get a copy of the book which is also finely produced with off-white pages. The copies were limited and so most of the audience had to get to write their names so that as soon as copies come in, they would have them sent. I couldn’t wait. I collected a copy from Kabura Zakama and read as many of the poems that I could. I was instantly caught up almost forgetting the presence of the reciting poet in front. I wrote two of the poems on a page (the author graciously signed them later). The poems in Triptych have a certain sadness and longing to them. Well, naturally, that should be as they are of exile and as the poet explained, inspired by his travails fighting for his country in several ways, his frustrations, deep love, never ending faith and hope in his fatherland – Nigeria.

Obemata had to give way. There was a brief musical interlude by David Adzer who with strung tunes with his guitar in praise to Aondo in a Tiv song that found translation much later in a different verse. He sang another and had Dr. Emman Shehu do

David Adzer singing...Dr. Emman Shehu backup vocals and shakes ;)
David Adzer singing…Dr. Emman Shehu backup vocals and shakes 😉

backup singing in a feminine role that saw the latter both dancing and dropping backup notes to the amusement of the audience. You couldn’t have missed the voice even if it was funny. I looked around and took in buddies and fellow writers: Kukogho Iruesiri Samson (author of What can words do? and curator, Word Rhymes and Rhythm) Gimba Kakanda, Richard Ali, Kabura Zakama, my companion, the lovely Dr. Agatha Aduro, the grey Jim Pressman, the musician Tokunbo Edwards (who performed at some point with a violinist and David Adzer), Dr. Emman Shehu (of course, AWF President and organizer – who would be there if not him?), Elvis Iorngurum… wow! Okay, back to the business of the day…

 

Peter Michael Egwudah lit the room that had its light switched off after David’s singing with a short documentary on efforts of the Civil Society Coalition for Poverty Eradication (CISCOPE) and the United States of  America based International Rescue Commission (IRC) in Ibaji local government of Kogi state to bring succor to that community after the floods. The latter had invested a huge sum for the project – One Million Euros – partnering with CISCOPE and the results were evident. The government of Kogi weren’t too happy about the development wondering why the intervention had not come through them. Well, who cared? The

Peter Michael Egwudah
Peter Michael Egwudah

results were showing. The documentary and explanations later by Egwudah highlighted the Nigerian Meteorological Agency 2011 warning of the floods. The government at all levels did nothing to avert the floods. The floods came eventually and we are all witnesses to the devastation. The government once more did little or nothing in the aftermath. There were broadcasts here and there, relief talk and all but what was on ground amounted to little. CISCOPE got the grant from IRC after sending a proposal and set to work immediately. Government were reluctant to work with the organization at first but eventually … The testimonies were evident and it was lovely to see the appreciation all written on the faces of the people of Ibaji.

 

Yup, there was the question and answer session… we have spoken much already and included the talk in the spirit of the piece so mind we jump? Certificates were presented to students of the AWF Creative Writing Workshop. Obemata, Jide Atta and previous Guest at the AWF monthly session, film maker, Kasham Keltuma were on hand to present these. Oluchi Agbanyim, an AWF member and alumni of the just ended AWF September creative writing workshop thanked the forum for her efforts which have been nothing short of great, creating platforms for the honing of skills of writers and giving them a chance to be far better.

 

Next there were the prizes for winners of the AWF monthly writing challenge. A prompt is given for writers to work on. The best in the different genres get different awards. The general aim is to exercise the brains of the writers and give them more to add to their writing vault as well as sharpen their skills to respond to prompts more easily in future.

Need I mention that there was the photograph session…

Everyone
Everyone or some of them…

Before the prize session, I had had to find space to sneak out. The event had lived up to its beat. It was time to think soberly on all the happenings especially the documentary. Come to think of it, with the inclusion of more of other artistes – musicians, film makers, development practitioners, economists and the rest, isn’t it about time the AWF stopped limiting the extent of the beauty of the event to just a ‘Guest WRITER Session’? Is October knocking already? Who’s next on the list AWF? For those of you who haven’t had the chance, the AWF Guest Writer Session is a monthly event that hold on the last Saturday of every month at Nanet Suites (beside the Federal Secretariat), Central Business Area, Abuja. Start time is always 1600 hrs (4:00 pm). Well, as I rounded my sneaking, these weren’t the thoughts on my mind. That too is a post…for another day 🙂 Cheerio!

 

 

 

 

All pictures courtesy Kabura Zakama. Find full collection here
With additional notes from Elvis Iyorngurum’s Thrilling Awoonor Tribute as AWF Hosts Obemata and Egwuda 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in LIFE, POETRY

TWO POEMS by Kofi Awoonor (The Cathedral and Across A New Dawn)

THE CATHEDRAL

cathedral of the holy spirit AccraOn this dirty patch
A tree once stood
Shedding incense on the infant corn:
Its bough stretched across a heaven
Brightened by the last fires of a tribe.
They brought surveyors and builders
Who cut that tree
Planting in its place
A huge senseless cathedral of doom

 

 

 

 

ACROSS A NEW DAWN

Sometimes, we read the

lines in the green leaf

run our fingers over the

smooth of the precious wood

from our ancient trees;

Sometimes, even the sunset

puzzles, as we look

for the lines that propel the clouds,

the colour scheme

with the multiple designs

that the first artist put together

There is dancing in the streets again

the laughter of children rings

through the house

On the seaside, the ruins recent

from the latest storms

remind of ancestral wealth

pillaged purloined pawned

by an unthinking grandfather

who lived the life of a lord

and drove coming generations to

despair and ruin

 

*

But who says our time is up

that the box maker and the digger

are in conference

or that the preachers have aired their robes

and the choir and the drummers

are in rehearsal?

No; where the worm eats

a grain grows.

the consultant deities

have measured the time

with long winded

arguments of eternity

And death, when he comes

to the door with his own

inimitable calling card

shall find a homestead

resurrected with laughter and dance

and the festival of the meat

of the young lamb and the red porridge

of the new corn

 

*

We are the celebrants

whose fields were

overrun by rogues

and other bad men who

interrupted our dance

with obscene songs and bad gestures

Someone said an ailing fish

swam up our lagoon

seeking a place to lay its load

in consonance with the Original Plan

Master, if you can be the oarsman

for our boat

please do it, do it.

I asked you before

once upon a shore

at home, where the

seafront has narrowed

to the brief space of childhood

We welcome the travelers

come home on the new boat

fresh from the upright tree

 

Kofi Awoonor, poet and patriarch of African poetry passed on to our memories on September 21st, 2013 in the Westgate Mall Attack in Kenya. Across a new dawn produced here from WSJ Blog was one of his last poems. He remains an inspiration to a whole lot of poets around the world and a personal friend that I never the good fortune to meet.
Kofi Awoonor, poet and patriarch of African poetry, passed on to our memories on September 21st, 2013 in the Westgate Mall Attack in Kenya. Across a new dawn produced here from WSJ Blog was one of his last poems. He remains an inspiration to a whole lot of poets around the world and a personal friend that I never had the good fortune to meet.

Kofi Awoonor, poet and patriarch of African poetry passed on to our memories on September 21st, 2013 in the Westgate Mall Attack in Kenya. Across a new dawn produced here from WSJ Blog was one of his last poems. He remains an inspiration to a whole lot of poets around the world and a personal friend that I never had the good fortune to meet.

Posted in BOOKS, EVENTS, LITERARY MISSIONARY, POETRY

THE OFFICIAL UNVEILING OF KUKOGHO SAMSON IRUESIRI’S WHAT CAN WORDS DO? (FULL DOSE)

Introduction
The Main Event
Afterword
Pictures

 

1

You are going to be the MC!’

We had had a full meeting in the day and now…
That was Samson’s good night call on Friday. Say what? Why hadn’t I seen this coming? It had been some time since I had worn that garb and coming out of some small forced retreat, I wondered what the event would entail. Well, first thing to do was clear wardrobe issues. I had ordered some fresh wear for this author and when I had them delivered, I couldn’t help smiling at the choice of black or ash trousers, to accompany my black shirt. I decided to do a suit too so that meant simply that the corresponding black pants won the show. I searched around for my anger – the Tiv black and white muffler you would find me with every time. It occurred to me it had been a parting present a week earlier. I hit my head in the ‘Oh no!’ fashion of remembrance.

Well, I got into a bus with my main bro, Gabriel, by some 10:00. I had it in mind to go spend the night in town somewhere special so I packed a bag. There was the indecision of where to put this or that, what to leave or take… That was some exercise. In the end, though, like I said by some 10:00am we were moving to town for an event that was meant to start by 11:00. Of all days, Abuja decided to have its traffic jam in full – groan! With each stop, each trudge and each slowing turn, I groaned once more wondering aloud like in many movies: ‘Are we there yet?’ Choi! Samson had told me the event would start on the dot and I was shaking… Then our bus hit a small car and I silently began to question the evils of my forefathers who were bent on making me lose face and perhaps, friendship. Meanwhile, my phone had gone off of its own volition, I guess, 😉 … Samson kept calling Gabriel… Eventually, though, we arrived Area 3 and met Samson himself who came to usher us in. Can you beat that? Being ushered in by the celebrant himself! You don’t get that everyday. Well, he looked a bit concerned and relieved almost as if he had thought we weren’t going to come again. There was no anger which made me note one thing: the event was far from starting. I went to the hall and discovered a trickle of people. I went to pay my compliments to Dike Chukwumerije, poetic performing wonder and Chinelo Chikelu, Abuja Literary Society secretary. Mr. Eriata Oribhabor, Chairman of the Abuja Association of Nigerian Authors soon came in. There was Mr. Kaniko Uduagbon representing Denja Abdullahi, the Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, and standing in for the Chairman of the occasion, Femi Fani-Kayode whose break lights we didn’t see, somehow…

There were a few more things to set right which we did. After that, we set the event in top gear.

(Working final details...Myself writing, Samson in the centre and Eriata Oribhabor - Lead Presenter)
(Working final details…Myself writing, Samson in the centre and Eriata Oribhabor – Lead Presenter)

 

 

2 MAIN EVENT…

12:30 and lots of spaces empty, guests still trickling in. Barrister Ahmed Maiwada came in, looking his usual self with his grey suit, dark shirt and the dark glasses… I got the mic and called everyone forward. I forced a shy Ms. Chikelu to say the opening prayer. She started with the first sign of the cross but somehow forgot to close her prayer with same… National anthem and then, the dignitaries were called to the high table. Mr. Kaniko gave a brief speech which helped us move fast… Prof. Gbenga Ibileye of the Federal University, Lokoja gave a beautiful review of the book. The review went round the power of poets and poetry in changing society and creating a beauty through their words and acts. Naturally, Kofi Awoonor got into the conversation. Ibileye confessed that he hadn’t opened the parcel with the book till after some calls by the author. He expected some rubbish or roadside thing, the don continued, but was shocked to find out the top quality that the Origami published book had… Reading through was the second shocker. What can words do? Much and far more. When put right, when crafted in such a way as to delight and raise the weary, when structured and garbed in rhythm to sing easy notes understood by even the simple, words can do a lot and far more. ‘The collection might have been written by a small man in stature but it is Samsonic in might… This is aesthetically profound.’

The review went on and on, almost as if the good Prof was trying to write his own book J … it was fun though. It brought to mind the difference between prose and poetry. In trying to explain some little poetry, so much prose flew. Well, we came to the end of that and the Prof sat to some applause which I had to re-echo.

Dike-ogu Chukwumerije took the stage next with a performance. It was part of a deal both of us had reached – either perform or sit on the high table. I have to think of better bargains in the future to get people do more… Well, Dike performed a short piece in his usual captivating style and though the audience sure looked like they would have expected more, he took a bow to get to his seat. I guess he didn’t want to steal the show or something. It was enough to raise the mood in the hall. At this point, some other writers had strolled in from their offices; Mrs. Chinyere Obi-Obasi (who tries to be there always for us writers once we are in her town), Gimba Kakanda, Salamatu Sule, Oye Ololade…

It was time to unveil the book. I must confess I was a little confused here… Unveiling a book, what does that entail? (I had always missed this part at book presentations, including my very own book launch. I think I had only come in after my book was unveiled and joined in the pictures! If only I had watched the video of the occasion – ouch! Well, no one was going to shame me). The dignitaries came down and all stood by while I asked the author and his mother, Mrs. Victoria Kukogho – yeah, she was there. Sorry, I didn’t mention earlier. They opened it and showed to the public. With that, I declared sales open at the cost of one thousand naira, though the smart business poet-author of the book had been long selling his book and had done off with a whole lot of copies before the event.

Mr. Eriata Oribhabor, the Lead Presenter made his presentation speaking on the dedication of the author and his being an inspiration to many including himself. He moved to go back to his seat but trust me na, I asked him to drop something. He smiled and apologised and properly presented the book with something. The rest of the high table did their bit from Mallam Haruna Haruspice publisher, DCP Ojukwu, Mrs. … , Kaniko on behalf of Denja Abdullahi and Fani-Kayode, and even the reviewer. I was touched when the reviewer made his own contribution. We got a seat at the front for the author and had him recite three poems. After the recitation, just for the fun of it, we did an auction of five copies of the book – the first to be autographed by the author and the main ones for the occasion. We had fun trying to get them to one person. The offers kept pouring in from the first Three Thousand Naira I staked. Of course, I wanted the books too so I had to put in my money at some point. Imagine the high table people oh! After contributing at different points and losing my bucks, they – Mr. Oribhabor – mainly, told me that I was the anchor and wasn’t meant to be part of the game. The rest of the group supported him. Indeed! I asked if my money could be given back to me. The resounding ‘No!’ could really have brought down the roof. Grrrrrr! Well, the auction went well on to ten minutes and was continuing. Everyone wanted that collection of five copies and the stake for it was tempting. Add a simple amount, maybe just a thousand or even a hundred naira and get the five books. There was the video and historic aspect. In addition, I had said I would make the author do a chicken dance for the winner of the books. Thirty thousand naira going… going… someone else there raising a hand up. Thirty-one thousand naira! Thirty-one thousand, forty naira. Thirty-one thousand four hundred and forty naira. Thirty… Thirty-three thousand naira… And on and on and on… I had to be begged by the author to close it in at Thirty-six. Well, if he was okay with the bucks, who was I? After all, he had been saying I stop since before Twenty. Hmmm. Kai… Oh well.

The next segment was an interview session with the author that I had anchored. This was meant to be my only part in the original plan before I became the impromptu anchor – fortunate that I do it as a hobby. Well, we did the interview and he answered well narrating how he was inspired to put the collection together emphasising that he was not inspired to write ‘the book’ but rather the poems within. Each poem had its story. He spoke mainly on ‘Beggar without a choice’, a poem he had written after a discussion we had had earlier in the year. The poem talks about that person staying on in an abusive relationship. That amazing beauty that man, nature and divinity admires who stoops to be a slave to someone unworthy. It turns out that a friend of his had read the poem on Facebook soon as it came out and confronted him. That friend was in a beer parlour (bar) and called the author to say that he was drinking to go and give his fiancée a proper beating.  Turns out said fiancée had been caught by her man in bed with another. The poem had eventually given him a rethink. Talks by the author and the mother of the fiancé also put sense. Eventually, the marriage held. The power of words. Holding on to his first comments, I asked Samson if he was an advocate of divorce. He said he wasn’t but that in the event of someone being bashed with no hope of change, and in a situation where the children would be adversely affected either psychologically, physically, or any way, then the partner being hurt had to leave. In a relationship before marriage, there’s no bargain. The person being bashed should leave. I asked about his near overt rhyming [in his book] wondering if it didn’t distort meaning in some poems, the choice of sound over meaning. I personally think that in some poems, poets lose the beauty of what would have come in an insistence on rhyme. The author said it wasn’t all his poems that had that touch. Some were left without rhyme. He however put rhyme in a lot so as to appeal more to people’s appreciation of the art. He always strived to ensure that the rhymes weren’t cosmetic but on point which made his writing difficult sometimes as he had to find an apt replacement. He

The audience had their chance to talk and ask questions. There were compliments here and there. Someone asked the author if he wasn’t deterred by the ‘fact that Nigerians don’t read’. Dr. Emman Shehu, President of the Abuja Writers’ Forum took that guest on stating that Nigerians read and that largely we have a problem of book distribution in the country amongst other publishing inadequacies. About his mentors, the author mentioned people like Shakespeare, Hardy (for prose) among others. His leaning towards foreign writers doesn’t really take out the African component of his writing (I know this for sure). It was simply due to a childhood exposure to largely foreign literature. The reviewer, Prof Ibileye asked if some of the poems were autobiographical. What do you expect? Of course!

Okay…

We had to leave so I called on Kukogho Elijah, the author’s uncle who gave the vote of thanks. I added something, I think, something about letting everybody know that the books were still available and would be in bookshops nationwide soonest. Support can be made to the author who can be reached very easily on Facebook. To get a feel of his poetry, you can Google his name, check on Naijastories, Facebook, Word Rhyme and Rhythm blog (which he curates) and so. You can spread word of the book or simply, send word to show you support his writing.

 

3 ENDING…

We all recited the National Pledge and soon after that, had Mama Author, Mrs. Kukogho say the closing prayer which was offered traditionally. To the sweet presentation, the goodwill of everyone present, the good health of those that would eventually read a long post on the launch and all… We could only answer traditionally too; Ise.

Thanks to Victoria Bamas, Dorcas Bitrus, Tonia Jessica Okefe, Sarah Opara, Opeyemi Kehinde, Moses Opara and the entire supporting team that made the event a success. To those behind the scenes and everyone who said a prayer, well done. May the future be kind and life, give you far more than you can ever hope for. To those of you who read, or who have supported this Kukogho, myself and us all writers here and everywhere; thank you. May the future be kind.

 

4 PICTURES

Find a full gallery of events here

What can words do?
What can words do?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in POETRY

THE ELEPHANTS MARCH

(inspired by Agatha Aduro)

 

The elephants march

Blowing the trumpets of one who sang their song

We echo the blasts in something that went wrong

The East blasts the West: the cry is for a patriarch

 

Today my girl sings your praise

I join as we our voices raise

More bullets will fly

But we pray we find the grace not to sigh

 

Or cry more to the death of ours

While we tick the hours

Of hearts beating in frenzied dance to maniac drums

Wielded and played to by psychotic bums!

 

Here we are

Praying for you, our departed star

Greet Chinuamologu and shine on us all

Kofi, your sl..p was never a fall.

 

 

In loving memory

Kofi Awoonor (1935-2013 - on)
Kofi Awoonor (1935-2013 – on)
Posted in ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS

ARTS AND ITS UNIVERSALITY: A CONVERSATION [1]

Senghor visiting Frankfurt am Main in 1961.
Senghor visiting Frankfurt am Main in 1961. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Conversants: Ada Agada and Su’eddie Vershima Agema

 

Ada AGADA: I promised this piece on Su’eddie’s prodding. Let me start by saying I believe in the universality of art, in the structured unity of the human mind regardless of race and cultural plurality. I will define universality simply as the transformation of the particular by lofty thinking and lofty sentiments into a transcedent mode everywhere recognizable as a creation and achievement of the human spirit. While the particular remains time-bound the universal escapes time. It becomes timeless. This means that the universal is present in every author. The problem then is whether this presence has become a transcendence. Shying away from social themes which my friend thinks is peculiarly characteristic of Western literature (and I disagree even with the average in consideration) does not guarantee universality, as surely as writing about so-called universal themes like love, hatred, death, and marriage fails to satisfy the universalist conditions in the absence of loftiness of thoughts and feelings. It is the human intellect, uniform in its structure, that organizes these lofty thoughts and feelings. The universality success rests substantially on the quality and advancement of a writer’s brain. This is not to say the writer should write a textbook that will send you to sleep from page one. Here the intellect serves the interest of art, not of thought. Why is L.S. Senghor greater as a poet than Christopher Okigbo, a great poet in his own right? It is because Senghor is more universal, more elevated in his thinking, more expansive. So the question is not whether one writer is universal and the other is not but why one writer is said to be universal even though all writers reflect universal concerns in their writings. I have answered this question. Now I will proceed to illustrate my point with concrete references to two magnificent writers in the second part of my submission – the English Thomas Hardy and the Nigerian Chinua Achebe. Keep a date with me.

Su’eddie Vershima Agema: When I mentioned that we would be having this conversation long, I knew it would be so. Hmm.
Since this is a conversation aimed directly, I take it head on.
I start by correcting that faulty line of Senghor being greater than Okigbo… M zambe [please] my brother, check that properly. Okigbo is seen as one of the best poets of African extraction &no one contests… Check. Literary tradition, the critics, connoisseurs &even readers have long done the coronation… Check.
Now to the talk on this all…

I believe that writing should not always be consigned to the way you put it my brother. The art should have more than the philosophy… it should have ‘art’. What then is art? It has been described by many people to mean different things but I hold it to be an expression of an innermost feelings. It captures our entirety through a rendition of all there is within us. Now, any work that carries this &does so fully wins us. It needs a little sprinkling of finesse to give it that extra crunch plus…

Some editing &proper carriage put in a way that is easily carried gives it that grace that is the universal. So in this way, it transcends just philosophy stated &other such things told to be a story of one &all that can be accepted everywhere, adopted &claimed for each one’s own. This forms the heart of my argument which I continue on the thread of the second part to your talk.

 

Ada Agada: @S’. I only read that Okigbo is the most exciting poet from English-speaking Africa. He is the most musical of the black poets but is surpassed by Senghor in magnificence and originality. Kofi Awoonor also noted this point of Okigbo’s heavy borrowing especially from Eliot. Those who rate Okigbo higher have not read much of Senghor who wrote in French. I have read the best poems of both. @S’. I don’t mean philosophy per se but thoughts, elevated thoughts.

Su’eddie Vershima Agema: I still think you should do your views on Okigbo are not so concrete. I have read much on him to know that above his ‘borrowing’ and the ‘musicality’, there’s a depth to him that is beyond words to express at this second. Talking of originality, what do you say of his own moulding of tradition into the fabrics of his poetry? Of course, I know Leopold Senghor and have read on him, his works extensively. What you have raised is a big argument but oh well, several scholars have gone on and on in several arguments on the greatness of who is greater – their loves or someone else.

NOTE now that I am not just saying that ‘I read’ that Okigbo is something. I have read enough of both him and others to know that he is worth the honour of his crown as one of the very best that black Africa has produced…

When it comes to our concepts of universality again, I think of it in this way: you being a philosopher look more towards it in terms of elevated thoughts. I being just a lay man look at it from the view of expression – an expression that can be felt and owned by people everywhere. Our very stands are created based on our personas, learnings, and thinking. Would we ever agree? I wonder. We would argue based on our various thoughts and leanings… We have read much to support our stance and would easily argue to that effect. Would we reach a compromise? Can we agree to disagree?

 

Ada Agada: @S’. I think we have already reached a compromise although our core beliefs stand. The agreement is that there can be no universal without the particular. We only disagree about the dimensions of universality. In fact I suspect you are a particularist, one who believes the universality thing is superflous.

 

The discussion continues here…

 

Ada Agada is the author of the novel, The Anxious Life (Aboki Publishers, 2011). He is also a poet. He holds a Masters in Philosophy from the University of Nsukka, Nigeria.

NOTE: This conversation was extempore and is largely based on direct talks between the two conversants.

English: Christopher Okigbo photo
English: Christopher Okigbo photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)