Often when we are in a position, we fail to see how far we have come. It is often the case that when a man is climbing a mountain and looks down, he does not appreciate the heights he has attained but is afraid of what would happen if he falls.
Title: Promises on Sand
Author: Amina Aboje
Publisher: Kraft Books
Year of Publication: 2017
Number of Pages: 87
Reviewer: Paul Sawa
Although I write the occasional poem, I do not see myself as a poet. Avid reader that I am, however, I consider myself competent enough to review any form of literature. After all, I am the end user. The myth that only a poet can review poetry has long since been debunked. When all the lights in your house go out, you do not need to be an electrical engineer to realise that something is wrong.
I’ve always appreciated poetry, but have a tendency to be overly censorious of lyrical fluency and the depth thereof in much of what is expected to pass for verse today. The book which I am about to review, not only dependably delivers on both of these criteria, but goes further to embolden the believer, tickle the lover, and reignite any dying embers in the heart of the disillusioned patriot into a blaze.
The anthology, Promises on Sand, is Amina Aboje’s first published work. It is subdivided into four parts.
The first section, “The Glow,” is my favourite. It affords the reader a glimpse into the primary essence of the mime behind the rhyme. The reckless abandon of an unfettered childhood expressed in “Voice of the Wind,” which gives way to the first gentle tugs of young love on the heart strings in “Fusion” and “Never Enough,” is tempered by the idealistic purity of “Stay with me.” As a theist with a deep love and appreciation for nature, I am struck by Amina’s liberal use of natural imagery with occasional glimpses of the Divine revealed in and through the natural world.
The second section, “Of Loss and Hope,” takes on a more sombre note, yet in its entire sobriety, hope is never lost. Amina juxtaposes the reality of death and consequent effusions of grief with the hope of rebirth and reunion. In the six lines of “Except I die,” I see physical rebirth subsequent to death, like the seed in nature; I see spiritual death and rebirth as the hope and joy of the theist; and I see the daily process of dying to self and thereby awakening to another life. Then, of course, Amina has not neglected to highlight the miracle of birth, disappointments, betrayals and the perplexing paradoxes in this pilgrimage of life, for which she asks for direction in “Guiding Rod” – pragmatism garnished with idealism. Did I mention that this section is my favourite?
Section three, “Time Transience and Nature,” takes the cake! The brevity in style (each poem consists of only three lines) goes to reinforce the transience of time. Like a butterfly from flower to flower, Amina flits from one thought to another … universality, diversity, beauty, nature … as if to remind the reader, “Life is brief. Make the most of it.” It is amazing what three lines of poesy can do. This is, without question, my favourite section.
The fourth section, “Pangs of Nationhood,” strikes to the very soul of Nigeria. Despair translates to despondency which then begins to nudge at a realization that births defiance, as in the closing stanza of “Promises in Sand,” where the citizenry rhetorically inquire of the political class, “…how can you think there’ll ever be you without me?” “The Accomplice” sheds light on the dynamics of the corrupt class while “Musings” gives voice to the common man who laments, “How did I become so common?” The senselessness of internal conflict, the gaping chasm between the haves and the have nots, and the shamelessness of treasury looters as expressed in “Mindless Battles” and “Guiltless Shame” is still unable to quench the undercurrent of hope in “Still Green” and “Centennial Bliss.” Patriot that I am, this section is my favorite.
If I were asked to do the impossible by describing this book in two words, I would say … Unalloyed and Revitalizing. Amina Aboje has, in this book – Promises on Sand, somehow connected the profane with the profound and the sacred with the sagacious. It is an excellent read, and I highly recommend it.
(Paul Sawa writes from Abuja, Nigeria. Inquiries on the book as well as requests for interviews and reviews can be got from the author by email email@example.com. Amina Aboje is the winner of the Mandela Day Poetry Prize 2016 and lives in Abuja)
It is here again; the popular ANA Literary Prizes. For a time to claim serious bragging rights, join a league of awesome hall of famers (that I am a part of, whoop whoop!), here are the details that you should either pass along or use. Note that the time to act starts NOW! Okay, here we go:
The Association of Nigerian Authors [ANA] hereby announces a range of prizes for its 2017 literary competitions. The prizes are:
1. ANA Prize for Poetry (published & unpublished) – N 100,000
2. ANA Prize for Prose Fiction (published & unpublished) – N 100,000
3. ANA Prize for Drama (published & unpublished) – N 100,000
4. ANA Prize for Children’s Literature- 7-13 years age range (Published works only and open to all categories of authors )- N100,0000
5. ANA/ Abubakar Gimba Prize for Fiction (Short Stories Collection-Published) – N200, 000.
6. ANA/Maria Ajima Prize for Literary Criticism (Focus on criticism of emergent Nigerian Literature) – N100, 000
Nigerian writers, at home and abroad, desirous of entering their works for the Annual Literary Prizes, may now do so. Works entered should have been published between March 2016 and March 2017.
1. An entry fee of N3, 000 (per entry) is required for all the prizes except the Teen Authors Prize. The fee is to be paid by the author or the publisher in favour of the:
ACCOUNT NAME: Association of Nigerian Authors(ANA)
BANK: Zenith Bank of Nigeria Plc
ACCOUNT NO: 1014606745
[a] The entry fee is for the purpose of prize administration only.
[b] A photocopy of the appropriate Deposit Slip[s] MUST accompany Requirement #2 below.
2. Six copies (6) of the book or manuscript to be entered, specifying the Prize being entered for, alongside a covering letter and the photocopy of the Deposit Slip used in Requirement 1 above, should be sent by post to:
The General Secretary,
Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA),
Entrance B, Suite 63
National Theatre Complex,
The covering letter should contain accurate contact details of the writer or/and publisher of the work, including email and surface mail addresses and telephone numbers.
Please, note also that:
[a] The Association will NOT take responsibility for entries sent by post nor will it claim registered parcels in cases where it has to pay for such entries or parcels.
[b] Multiple entries, where applicable, are allowed but a work must not have been entered for the same prize prior to the present entry and it must have been published between 2016 and 2017.
The works that are to be submitted in all categories should be original and not recast(s) of already existing works. All submissions are subjected to copyright laws of Nigeria as authors should note that they retain full responsibility for any sort of infringement. Works entered into for ANA prizes are expected to be of the highest language and literary quality.
(b) Maria Ajima Prize for Literary Criticism (published works only)
Length: Not more than 15 pages of A4 paper size following format of academic essays.
1. Type double spaced using MS Word. Use Times New Roman Type face 12 point font size.
2. The essay, if published in a journal, newspaper, books or as electronic text on-line, must be within the valid dates indicated on this call for submissions.
3. Referencing style is either the latest MLA or APA style.
4. Five hard copies as loose sheets or as a bound monograph are to be submitted to ANA, plus a soft copy sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
6. The essay should not be a generalized survey but should rather be focused on specific texts (in any of the genres) of selected authors at a time.
7. The essay should state where the texts or performance analysed can be accessed or located and where it (essay) has been published.
8. All entries in this category should be accompanied by a letter affirming the originality of the essay and authorial authenticity.
9. In addition, all other rules covering ANA competitions are applicable.
Copyright: The copyright to every winning entry is to be held by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Maria Ajima Trust, and the author of the work. The winning entry will be published in subsequent ANA Reviews.
Deadline for the receipt of ALL entries is Friday, May 19th, 2017(there will be no extension of this deadline). A shortlist will be announced in September, 2017. Winners of the prizes will be announced by the judges at the Awards Dinner during the 36th Anniversary International Annual Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors in October, 2017.
Ofonime Inyang, PhD
BEST OF LUCK!
There is a splintered street
Where dreams die at dawn
The gurgle of laughter stilled
In the unlikeliest of throats
There is a nascent irascibility that sends
Youth hurtling off the edge of this precipice
Called life. Death is not painful
For the dead. Only for the unfortunate
Living who sift through memories
Like voyeurs. Searching for something
Elusive – trying to wring warmth
From a blanket left in the sun
This street brings a schizophrenic wish
For voices that are not there
It breeds fluttering ghosts that
Flap wings in rib cages
Today, one generator and a television
Were taken away from someone
Light and hope was stolen from that home
He lost his head and swore to get someone else’s
Today, a man was caught
Who stole a generator and television
He was the thief of someone else’s vision
Seeking means to fight Hades who called to his mother
Today, a mob roasted a man
With a generator and television
While his mother died waiting for funds
To get drugs Chemist costed at one thousand
(©Su’eddie Vershima Agema, 2016)
Abuja is king when it comes to literary fun… Yes, and we are not doing comparisons before you start calling Lagos and Makurdi 😉 The Guest Writer Session put up by the Abuja Writers’ Forum held at Aso Hall, Nanet Suites, Central Business District, Abuja is one of the most consistent literary events in the country. No contest. Each event brings together amazing authors and talents from different fields that leave you smiling. Past authors who have graced the event include award winning authors like Musa Idris Okpanachi, Kasham Keltuma, Gimba Kakanda, Tanure Ojaide, Halima Aliyu, Dul Johnson, E. E. Sule, Elnathan John, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Hajo Isa, Lois Otse Adams and even Chimamanda Adichie (well, hers was for a workshop)! Two months back we screened a movie by Ishaya Bako called Henia. I wrote a post on that. Read here. I had a reading there too with the beautiful painter Numero Unoma and the economist, Tope Fasua. There was also that fantastic time when they brought Satan to town! Hee hee hee, I am kidding. They brought Obinna Udenwe, the author of Satans and Shaitans along with his publisher and colleagues from Minna. The event always has lovely music and a great audience that includes writers, readers and fun seekers alike. The truth is it is always fun and you really wouldn’t want to miss the event if you are in town. It is a monthly event that holds every last Saturday of the month at the Aso Hall, Nanet Suites, Central Business District, Abuja, down the road from Eagle Square if you are coming from Area 11 and/or Asokoro and on the road to Transcorp Hilton/Millennium Park if you are going farther. Time is usually 4:00pm on the dot.
Who did they have the last time? That was June 25th 2016 (the event is for every last Saturday of the month). There were three guest artistes. The poet, G’Ebinyo Ogbowei who in addition to other awards has also been shortlisted (more than once!) for the NLNG Prize in poetry. He read from his book, Marsh Boy and other poems. Now, the fun part is Mr. Ogbowei is a lecturer and a pastor. However, when he started reading his poems, everyone forgot that part. Like the typical Niger-Deltan, most of the poems in the collection – and those he read – were about the troubles in the Niger-Delta. He also spoke about the agitations in the land, recalling a childhood of beauty that is now only a footnote of history. The pain was apparent. There was another side of him shown though… The lover man. He read some love poems that had people smiling. Mr. Ogbowei is an elderly man who has this commanding presence and when he reads, ahhhhh, it seems he is in a new world. Word after word just drop flowing, captivating the willing listener…
The last edition also had Edify Yakusak who read After they left, a thriller that focuses on the killings in the middle belt. Edify’s narrative is gripping and explores a part of us many of us wish never was. She read, deeply concentrating on her text as everyone watched, thinking of the graphic images and frustrations she conjured from her imagination. The other person on the list of performers was Sidney Okwoche, a final year student of the Federal University of Technology, Makurdi studying Forestry. Sidney thrilled us to some fine music. The songs were largely environmental issue based. Not a few of us had a rethink on a lot of issues. Sidney uses his music to protest injustice, particularly those against the environment and humanity. Interestingly, he only had a guitar and his voice. Nothing else. But, he did great justice. After the performances, there was a raffle draw for books and other gifts which a lot of people won. I was there with Aondosoo Labe and Aidee Erhime but none of us won anything. Better luck next time, abi? We gisted with a lot of people after the event and resurrected creative passions. These events can really inspire one…
So, who’s next and what’s to be expected? I thought you’d never ask!
The next session of the Guest Writer Session comes up on the 30th of July, 2016 at the Aso Hall of Nanet Suites, Central Business District, Abuja. It is themed around Nelson Mandela, whose day was celebrated earlier this month. Contemporary South African literature will be brought alive through talks, music, and other works of literature. But it doesn’t stop there… There will be four artistes to thrill; Kukogho Iruesiri Samson (KIS), Nwemneme Andy Chukwunonye, Margaret Hepworth and Dave Adzer.
Again, I think it is going to be worth the thrill. So, if you are in town, why don’t you drop by? It is always fun! If you have any enquiries about the Abuja Writers’ Forum (AWF), the Guest Writer Session You can send AWF questions to Edith Yassin on 08051614969 or send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the AWF website at www.abujawriters.com.
I have made peace with myself
I may never find you
who completes my story
Countless words I’ve curved
Sent on the wings of the travelling winds
I have tried to breathe again
Hoping to have you with me in time
Not while I’m dead to the silent world…
To feel the breath of your life
To be lost in the charms of your beauty
A thousand miles I have trekked
Searching for mine
A thousand injuries I have nursed
Your heart searching for mine
Look, my love, look at all these many scars
The summary of tales I’m dying to tell
While we lie side by side in petals
Staring deeply into eyes that only love can light
I want to count all my dying heartbeats
But I do not even know what numbers are
And that is how I know I need you here soon
That is how I know I miss you with all that I am
Let my whispered words caress your ears today
Reach out your palms and touch me, smoother…
One moment within your embrace is better than
A million kisses where my heart finds no home
I have made a resolution
If I never find you, I’d never hold another
I want the world to know this.
(for our lost ones…and elvis iyorngurum)
the night fires are no longer for fun tales
they are for the wake
of several deaths
not for the dead gone…
but the living with lives long worn
out like winds sapped from souls
theories fly from diverse lands
rubbing sand into our eyes
even as we keep these fires
are you a figment of our thoughts
a political statement
a stunt to destroy our famed luck?
the cold slaps us
as things get worse
hash tags fly but realities remain grounded
the days are still counting
yet the fires still crackle
as we wait at the wake
His voice was not what one should listen to, at least not when he was singing. But as he traced her sides with his fingers and picked words from Asa’s songs, he sounded less horrible.
They had found this place by chance; a spot in the community park that no one knew. They had since colonized the scenery and turned it to their getaway. The grass was greener and a big dogonyaro tree sat majestically with its branches forming a canopy to shield them. They had found each other by chance too, on too many occasions. Their first encounter was some ten years ago. She was fifteen and he was thirty. She had known at that age that he would be hers. The way around that was what she hadn’t figured then. She had walked into his office with her mother and he had smiled at her.
“Hello, I like your teeth,” she had said to him.
He had laughed. And she fell hard, but he didn’t. Then she went to India and from there, they changed location. She didn’t see him again.
But he was here, now, and all was in place. She snuggled closer into his embrace with the poor imitation of Asa’s ‘Tomorrow’ coming from somewhere in his throat, into her ears. He was perfect; except for the singing, he was perfect. Around them, the meadow stretched into the horizon. Except for a few birds chirping and his persistent singing, all was quiet. There was their rhythmic breathing and the gentle beating from the rise and fall of their hearts; but all was quiet.
He felt her move in closer yet. His wandering hands decided to form a cocoon around her. He stopped singing, “Cold?”
She shook her head but clung to him like a baby at a nipple. He took one palm in his and rubbed gently, sending soothing waves down her spine. He felt her relax in his arms. Then he cleared his throat, preparing to resume singing.
“We should leave. It’s late.”
“Just a little longer,” he urged, disappointed at the interruption. He buried his head in her clean, scanty hair.
“They would start to worry.” She disentangled herself from him and began to pick the empty plates into the basket lying in the corner. “And it might rain.”
He glanced at the sky, “Not for a while.”
“… a while. How have you been, Kyakkyawa?”
“I have been alive.”
“You look well, are you staying a while?”
“I can’t stay.”
“Only a while. Please.”
At that time, he had a conference in Lagos. She was heading to Awka. They had met at the airport in Abuja and they spent five days together in Lagos. Then she ran away; again.
Thunder clapped in jealousy above them. He looked up to the changed skies and sighed, then smiled.
“Have you ever danced in the rain?” She shook her head and he continued in the same breath: “Is it not one of those things that you always dreamed of?”
“… more than you can even dream of. All you need do is heal and you would have new ones. We would raise the money.”
“What if I don’t want new ones? Can I just heal and live?”
“Well yes, but so that you would look….”
She was sixteen then and had lost both breasts to cancer. She had shown bravery even in her frail state. He had visited her in India. He didn’t have to but he did. Not many doctors followed their patients abroad. He had started to fall and she was to return to him in Kano.
She had convinced her mother she wanted a new environment. She escaped to Awka. He was supposed to forget her. He didn’t.
She shivered from the sudden pick of the wind. He knelt beside her to help fasten the process, his scent assaulting her again and she thought of how wrong she was for him. She closed her eyes briefly, then opened it and smiled sweetly at him.
“I love you.”
“If you change your mind about marrying this old man, we could have a wedding in a month.”
She thought about his beautiful wife at home, his three children and their smiles and laughter. She felt guilty for taking him from them.
“That’s if you don’t mind being a second wife.”
When she was twenty, he had asked her the same question. They had spent some days at a guest inn. His wife thought he was away at a conference. They spent days reading novels, eating and singing. He didn’t touch her; she liked him for it. She felt she had to preserve all they stood for. She left when he stepped out in the evening. They met again only after a year.
“Let me sleep on it.”
They stood at the same time. He walked her to her car.
“Would I see you tomorrow?”
“Yes,” she nodded and started the car.
“Good bye dear. See you tomorrow.”
The car began its slow journey home. She turned up the stereo; Asa’s Tomorrow was closing.
No one knows
No one knows
No one knows tomorrow
“See you tomorrow.”
And she had run away to Egypt for a year; something about being a cancer ambassador. She pledged not to return but she did.
So when I die someday
Will I be in heavenly places
“See you soon.”
And she had hid in Paris; learning French, or so she convinced herself in an effort to stay away from him. But she came back, didn’t she?
As tomorrow slowly passes
No one knows
But now she had to go. Nothing was more convincing than the confirmation of her brain tumor. She pictured the test result on her desk, in her room. It was decided then, she could not bear to see him see her forget him. She would go somewhere and probably die someplace. She stepped out of her car and looked up to the sight of the moon hanging in the sky, peeping through the branches of a tree.
This story talks about cancer and the anguish of love. It’s style is slightly different as memory and thoughts of the heroine are fused into the progressive narrative of the tale in addition to the infusion of the song, ‘Tomorrow’ by Asa. It is the kind of story that makes more meaning on a second reading. There are a lot of things we take for granted in life. Maybe, we should take time out today and smile at the sun. Really, no one knows tomorrow. Su’eddie
Did I tell you that I now do reviews for that lovely website, http://wawabookreview.com? I do, and they are great guys there. Somehow, Belle got to be reviewing after getting the contract from the editor, the deeply intellectual Biyi Olusolape. I decided to join the train and it has been fun. My first book of review was The Road to Mogador. I named the review there ‘Of Transitions, Agendas and Bad Balls.’ You can go take a look.
Now, I was given two books to review for December and yes, don’t envy me. It was Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday and A. Igoni Barrett’s Blackass. I have known ElJo since the early Abuja days and he has remained one writer that leaves me smiling, always – whether he’s criticising, lashing his satire or just writing. Only problem with my affection for him came in the person of Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, another talented writer who has come to be a friend and troublemaker who I respect and honour. Abubakar and ElJo write alike such that sometimes when I read one, I feel like I have read the other. Their lives also seem to be going in the same circles. Any surprise that they have been to a lot of workshops together? Okay, you didn’t know that one, abi? How come they were first shortlisted
for the Caine Prize in the same year? And read the Caine collection, A Memory This Size and tell me where one’s story starts and the other ends. Any surprise now that Born on a Tuesday and Season of Crimson Blossoms came out at the same time? Wait for the next one. Cassava Republic is also publishing the UK version of Abubakar’s books. Ah! But let me not talk much about their similarities; a scholarly paper will be better than this my plenty grammar abi? Na you know. Sha, the thing is, when I read Abubakar first – and I get to do that usually, him being closer and all, then I get to read something similar in ElJo’s hands, I feel like I have read the tale before, so it feels one kain. That’s the feeling I got with ‘Bayan Layi’, the Caine 2013 shortlisted tale. My friend, Pever X, wouldn’t let me be because of the tale. He was head over heels for that tale. I like it, but I had read a similar one in Abubakar’s book. There are times when I am lucky to read Elnathan John first and wow! If you have read him, you know… but…
Now, Bayan Layi has been turned into a book and I have been forced to review it! Chai! What do I do?
I started reading the book with some fear… There was no need for the fear! It is as if, finding its spirit into a book, Bayan Layi transformed into something else. I enjoyed it this time around. By the time I got to Chapter Two of the book, the stress of the road overcame me. I was on the sixth leg of my journey. I had gone for the ANA convention in Kaduna, then gone to Nasarawa, then Abuja, Lagos and to Abeokuta for the Ake festival with Belle. We were on our way to Benin from Ibadan. There was road stress, work stress, and they played with my emotions too. 😉 I decided not to let the book waste. Haba, such a fine book. Oh! I should mention that at the festival El Jo and Abubakar were given 200k for their books alongside three other fine Northern female writers.
At some point, I decided to pick Blackass after an encounter with Igoni, the author at Ake. The guy is cool sha. I didn’t like his other book, Love is Power or Something Like It (a collection of short stories) which most people especially Belle think is all that. So, I was wondering what lay behind the covers of this new one. When the book sold out thrice at Ake, I had to go like ‘Wow! Okay o!’
Long story short, I read the book and I can say it is one of the quickest books I have read. The 300 or so pages melted away as my thumb pushed one page over the other in sharp succession. I laughed and laughed and laughed.
Summary of the story is this: a dude, Furo Wariboko wakes up on the day of his interview to discover that he is now a white man. He has some adventures and gets to meet Igoni (the author o!) and a lovely lady who takes him in and discovers his black bumbum. A lot of adventures happen and we see Naija proper. Igoni takes us on a tour of Lagos through the eyes of a white man who has a Nigerian soul. We see the way Nigerians behave towards their fellow blackies and to the whites. A lot of people have this set view that we all behave in one way towards the fair skinned guys but going through this book gives you an idea of how it really goes. Igoni also takes us to Abuja and gives us a tour. In several instances, we are introduced to certain aspects of our culture gaining grounds that we might not readily read or know about: transgender, the use of whites to our whims, the feeling of helplessness that lies within a lot of people who we think great and the like.
I will be reviewing the book shortly and yes, I will share the link. With this tale, I think Igoni has found a space in my heart. I will try to read past those few ten pages of that Love is Power book again. Whatever feeling I get from there, I know that the guy is truly gifted. If you get the book, please read it. It is one I will recommend over and over again. How many books can take your mind away from your boo? Okay, don’t answer that. Even your boo geti boo! Hee hee hee.
Have a lovely week ahead and in all you do, make every second count.