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).
Okay, so, I did my reading at Purple Silver. It was fun. It had been one of those days. As the time drew near, I got my phone remembering one or the other relations or friends who I could have called but didn’t. Well, big deal, abi? I searched all through for what to read. I had planned NOT to read from my collection. Some of my team at the SEVHAGE publishing house said I shouldn’t let people see much of my book, BRING OUR CASKET HOME: Tales one shouldn’t tell till June when it was meant to be released to the public. So, I went through my blog, searched archives, the system and even went digging through forgotten files. There were some new poems I had written, some extempore, some by a lovely lady. Had in mind to read but it seems they all ganged up to hide. I dashed to attend to the obligations of the day which included attending a wedding on behalf of the Old Students of alma mater and also as a friend of the groom. Spent most of the day and came home to continue my search, without success.
Finally, I grabbed what to wear, picked a copy of my book, a love poem I found which had been inspired some time back and dashed for the road. Midway felt the cold and came back for a pull-over and my traditional black and white shawl.
I got to Symbols and quickly apologised to my friend, Joshua Agbo who had come long before time. We went in and had to wait a while before starting. It seemed some people were abiding to the all famous African time. Well, eventually, Anselm Sesugh Ngutsav and Terver Kise the coordinators soon set the motion and we were on.
We had been discussing rape last week and it continued. This was the introductory session for the evening. We read a poem ‘Forever changed’ by Danielle as performed by Anselm.There were varied views on rape. Joy Kika, my guest drew attention to spousal rape. I mentioned the angle of it being more than just ordinary – it had to be psychological and/or religious: ‘It’s the Devil‘ 🙂 One who did it kept on doing it. Joshua brought an academic twist, trying to debunk me. He said rape was largely due to inferiority complex. This was agreed to by Bem… Mya Agu lent her voice to mine in the view of something being wrong with the ‘head’ of the rapist. There were more views from Kenneth I. Apine, Anselm and a few others. When Anselm brought in the angle that men couldn’t be raped as defined by the law and all, there were many more hands wanting to go on and on… Well, there was a reading and a guest writer in the house. The gist had to be postponed or held for a while. Enter yours truly to the stage as my name was read out with a few errors to my role as Secretary of the Association of the Nigerian Authors (Benue Chapter). ‘Vice Chairman‘ a few voices corrected.
I read ‘Let there be light‘ and ‘New Year Tales of Subsidy’ (a poem that I explained. It looks at the entire 2012 Fuel Subsidy struggle focusing on lives lost – the 9 year old in Kano, the man in Ilorin, Lagos, everywhere,… the unborn children who had their lives cut short because the hospitals were on strike and there was no one to shout ‘Push’ out’… the poem ends with hope: ‘There would always be dawn’). Other poems I read include a reworked version of ‘Tales one shouldn’t tell often‘ which is a remixed comic version of the origin of sex as inspired by a certain H., poet and friend. Finally, I took a new poem ‘The moon still shines in its broad smile’ which I am still working on, as in process and the motion of the heart of the subject. Got it from my note pad. ‘The moon still shines in its broad smile’, a love poem that pretty much talks about nature being encompassed in the beautiful essence of the addressed. It starts with the lines of the title and pretty much ends on a similar note:
‘The moon still shines its broad smile
yes my love,
it laughs in your chuckle,
and sparkles in your eyes
In your essence, this dusk would never be dark’
Applause 🙂 (There was some silence during the reading so the applause brought relief. Hee hee hee)
Joshua Agbo, who is a feared critic and author of How Africans Underdeveloped Africa: A Forgotten Truth in History took the first strike. Evoking the subsidy poem, he said the story of the subsidy and its strike was something really sad that truly, one wouldn’t want to remember often. He asked me what had been achieved by the strike. (Well, I had to sigh in relief. Joshua can be a killer when it comes to drilling. Isn’t he an academic and critic!) I responded that the strike had shown that Nigeria was more united than people – including Nigerians – thought they could be. They came together devoid of tribe or tongue, religion or professional difference. It showed that there was courage to the Nigerian spirit and far more than the ‘suffering and smiling’ mentality perpetually labelled on them. This more than anything else was really amazing. I spoke a bit more and all but oh well, you get the point. Mya Agu was interested in ‘Tales one shouldn’t tell often’ and I joked to her that it was the subject that got her tickled. Joy Kika loved the use of ‘Aondo’ (God in Tiv) and a mixture of local languages to spice up ‘Let there be light’. A little more reactions and I was out of the hot seat. Phew! Sometimes it can hot in there 🙂
Anselm announced the way forward for some projects of Purple Silveras well as the grand ceremony which would be held next week, April 27th 2013 with great performances. He also spoke on a few other things. After this, Anselm and Terver (who both did some great coordination of the programme) called for a group shot. It was something really nice with some efizi as I remarked later. We had some chat, some general questions and answers, getting to know each other more less formally outside the confines of the event … Had commendations, smiles and the rest. Some people had to ask when the book was coming out, price and the like. Was nice. JUNE! Well, it was time to go. 21:00 hrs (9:00pm). I had some talk with the Benue State University Writers’ League President, Sewuese Leah Anyo, who had come to the event after an exam, and a few others more.
Had a walk and some talk with a friend discussing faith, life, decisions and all. Well, that really isn’t part of the reading still so I guess we can leave that as personal 😉 Missed making an important call centred on lunar verses too…Arghhh!
No yawning. I’ve been up since, Sibbyl, tried calling and yup, danced much. Some day it is. Sunday calls. People get to church. The Lord calls. It’s best we answer. We need him more than we know. So, catch you later? Thanks for reading and always being supportive.
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!
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.
I smile to think I have been following Saraba since their very first edition some few years back. It has always proved an interesting read, even when the busyness of life makes reading e-works an issue. Sometimes. I have tried all means with Saraba from reading on my system directly to downloading and printing. The styles of getting to read have changed through the editions as the publishers have kept trying their best to ensure each edition is as readable as possible. I have done different each time and always finished satisfied despite the seeming little editing issues of the first issues to the more refined ones.
I was going through the tenth edition of Saraba Magazine, a literary e-zine and I had to smile. It was edited by some good friends and a few of the contributors were my pals too. I had downloaded it a couple of months back and had promised to read it. The usual sin of procrastination kept pushing it to the list of ‘later.’ Finally, this lazy Saturday, I cancelled it from one of those things I should do penance for.
The beauty of an e-zine like Saraba is that they have the sweet gift of choice. There’s always a singular theme per each issue and then a call made for submissions. From a very large and varied pool, the editors make their pick of some very good pieces from around the country. In this edition, the contributions came in from Nigerians, Indians, Botswanan, and Americans among others.
The piece begins with a humorous memoir from the reviewer, Joseph Omotayo. Titled ‘My Music Timeline’, the author writes on his view of music through the years culminating in his experience in Secondary school. It starts slow and might have a reader leave the piece but picks up fast. The major credit to the piece is the humour and strokes at childish innocence and misadventure that it portrays. At the end of the piece, there is the traditional morale that comes from most African tales.
Agatha Aduro’s ‘Sweet Notes’ is one sweet tale that would get any reader smiling. It talks about a girl whose flirtation with music goes wrong at the expense of her mind. Several people try to help her out of her misery for what selfish reasons they have compounding issues till a certain musician comes by playing a strange tune. It is one tale that would string your thoughts.
‘The Chocolate Torte’ by Andrew Rooney and ‘We Have Known Ironies’ by Donald Molosi are other short stories in Saraba 10. These two short stories, like Agatha’s ‘Sweet Notes’, deal with romance. However, one cannot help but ask where the music theme comes in them. While they are lovely tales (no doubt), you just keep going through again and again, wondering: what did I miss? Perhaps, it is then that the romance inherent is the music, for isn’t love the music of life? Perhaps. Perhaps.
There are several poems in the magazine too. Like the tales, the poems are largely sensual. Ayomide Owoyemi’s ‘The Guitarist’ brings a certain depth to love and music shown through the guitarist who the atmosphere into/a swirl pool of scales, striving/harder to strum home his points.’ Cheedam Nezram’s steals the show with two poems ‘The Piano’ and ‘An old melody’. Her poems are verses of longing: that of a lover, a lover largely lovelorn who wishes that the addressed would love back as fiercely. They are also of a lover hoping despite everything that love would finally win despite every setback.
Michael Lee Johnson’s ‘Picture, Cap and Gown’ gives you that story of a whole life gone captured in the end by only a picture. What? Yes, that deep. You find yourself asking in the end, is our whole life just going to be summarised in a ‘picture?’ Then the question arises again: where is the music in this poem?
A critical essay that catches one’s attention is ‘Naming Hip-Hop and Recalling Abati’ by Akinlabi Peters.. The first is a rejoinder to a piece by Reuben Abati on the identity crises of the Yahoozee generation (the younger generation of this age). Abati’s piece criticises the songs of young musicians seemingly saying most of them lack depth and are copies of Western music. This Akinlabi disagrees with in very strong terms. He backs his disagreement with a very strong argument that would leave any Nigerian of the ‘Yahoozee’ generation quite proud. Lore Adebola’s ‘Between Einstein and Me: Thoughts of Music’ is a short piece that follows the mind of music through the views of Einstein who the writer claims an affinity with. She draws lines that fuse music and science together – how she believes Einstein saw it, and how she appreciates it.
But it isn’t only tales and poems about music alone. It isn’t just the critique of its piece. Music finds its way into the piece too in the notes and line arrangement. Enter Ikeogu Oke and Jude Nwankwo. Ikeogu gives some songs (music and lyrics) that is accompanied with arrangements by Jude Nwankwo. So, for those of you who know how to read the sol-fa notes, the adventurous ones, you just might want to get through to this and get yourself humming or playing (whatever instrument you use) these fine ones.
In the end, one notices that all the pieces are short and to the point. The short stories are really short. The poems, songs and critiques are same. This gives each piece a crispness that allows the reader to breeze through. With the fifty-five pages of the whole work, you might, like Dickens’ Oliver or even I, ask for more.
You discover in the end that whether you want to read about music or read music, there is something for you. From the lyrical flow of the pieces to the appreciation of beauty in its great wave, there’s a certain beauty that you get. There is a true cadence (in every word) that you flow with through it all. It is definitely an issue worth reading and after it all, perhaps you might be moved like me to write your mind on it; to hail friends who you didn’t know wrote this well (Donald Molosi, wait till I get to you!); or to simply smile at the marvel that is music… And if at any time, you are moved – if you can’t dance, simply tap your feet.
Chuma Nwokolo’s Diaries of a Dead African is a good post-colonial text that weaves a story across two generations, that of two brothers and their father. It depicts a story of poverty, affluence, anger, bitterness, the Nigerian society of today and over all, the struggle to live or die. It is centred on Meme Jumai and his two sons, Calamatus and Abel. It is told in a unique diary style that sees the hands of the writing move from father to son, to brother and in the end, you – the reader. It is so to say, a three-piece diary. The entries are deep and totally different due to the various circumstances that the characters find themselves in. Well, that is not the mention the obvious differences that would come from point of view of the type of character, persona, age and the like. But to get to the point…
Enter chronicler one, Meme Jumai, a forty-nine year old farmer, father and husband in Ikerre-oti who loses his wife to a ‘vulcaniser.’ She leaves with all the yams that he has, leaving him with simply three tubers which he trains himself to treasure, beginning to cook it by inch. Hunger spills forth through his notes as he struggles on waiting for harvest which is a few days away. Meanwhile, Meme also tends to his pregnant goat in the hope that it would soon give birth to kids that would take his pains away. Unfortunately, the goat dies from a serpent bite. The man who didn’t cry at his wife’s departure, cries at his goat’s passage. He tries to hide a part of the goat so that he can eat it. To test to see if the meat is not poisoned, we later get to discover that a part of the goat is given to a neighbour’s dog which dies. Meme throws the meat away in fear and cries more than before! He comes to discover later that the dog was actually hit by a car! He swallows hard at this bit of sad information but is man enough this time to eat his sorrow silently. The rest of his days are spent trying to dodge the pangs of hunger while trying to be as dignified and sometimes, not so dignified. Meme begs different people for just a little to survive, all to no avail. The village laughs at him making him the new idiot while his children get to suffer from the aftermath of his goat episode: His son, Abel is sent away from a place where he goes to ask for the hand of his pregnant girlfriend, Patie, in marriage. The courageous Meme continues his struggle through life with little, hoping to get to harvest when he would get his rich yield and become fulfilled. When it seems all is lost and he would die, harvest comes! With the strength of determination, our chronicler goes to the farm despite the faces of the fellow villagers to note that the village yields have been attacked by pests that bore holes into the very fabrics of every yam. The yam farmer has spent all his sorrow and tears which leaves him with little indifference. He goes back to home, takes the gun that he inherited from his father, and goes for the men who could have changed it with a little… He is not going down alone…
Chronicler two is Calamatus ‘Calamity’ Jumai, conman and second son of Jumai. He comes back with a vengeance, and some money. He uses his money on the villagers making monkeys of everyone from the Igwe to the least in the land. In a society that worships money more than anything else, there is little that he needs to do to make them all do his bidding except throw a few wads which he does. Meanwhile, he cons a particular American, Billy Barber and rips him of a lot of money. Calamatus builds a storey building in the stead of his father’s ramshackle building. He is a proud man whose major vex in life is that he does not have the gift of a penis due to a mistake that a nurse made when he was being circumcised: a simple cough and the razor turned a circumcision into a castration. His ambition is to finish the person who did the big error, if only he could find out who. Calamatus restores his family pride by taking revenge on the entire village for all they did to his father. He gives them all have diarrhoea when he throws a big occasion for them. They accost him as he calls the person who he gave the food contract to. She swears by everything she knows with repercussions of death on her and her daughter that she did not poison the rice that they all ate. She decides to twist the same swear into a curse on the people of the village if indeed she did not poison the rice but the people quickly tell her it is okay and go off, satisfied at least with her explanation – their ailment remaining. It turns out that the poison was in the goat – did she lie? Calamatus also organises a traditional wedding for his brother, Abel and has the in-laws pay back for disgracing his brother earlier on by refusing him on grounds that his family were eaters of dead animals. A bat head is found in the soup offered by the in-laws! Patie, Abel’s girlfriend does not find this funny and does not forgive him. Calamatus gives Abel a carton of money and also shows him an old letter of their mother that vexes Abel, who travels back to his town only to have an accident. Abel’s companion, Tendu loses his leg. Calamatus continues expanding and making monumental strides in his business becoming a greater man clashing with traditional authorities while finding his way out with money and making monkeys out of the same people who did same to his father. Then, in a burst of anger one of his ‘monkeys,’ reveals the secret of why he would never marry. It is a revelation that also entails that the man’s wife, a nurse, must have been responsible for his ‘calamity.’ There remains little to be done other than to fulfil the promise of his life to end the cause of his greatest problem. He carries his father’s gun, but can’t get bullets as none of his boys help him. He decides the way of inferno, for better for worse…
Abel Meme-Jumai takes the last part of the ever continuing Jumai diary, flowing from where his brother stopped. He is an aspiring fiction writer but near accomplished pen for hire with a past filled with secrets, including being an ex-con. He is determined to live a very long and near boring life. Patie refuses to come back. He tries to compensate Sikira, Tendu’s girlfriend. The girl takes the money and flees to Lagos while giving her parents a better life. Tendu does not forgive Abel. Meanwhile, Calamatus’s boys try to con Abel out of his brother’s huge estate left in an account that he was now a signatory to as administrator. He calls their bluff as he gets a call from a publisher to get his work published. He stands up to his mother who curses him. He gets a contract from the publisher and a politician to write a book against another politician, who is a fellow ex-con. As he goes back to the publisher, he discovers that his genius is not really of matter to anyone. It is just a ploy of the publisher and fellow cohorts to swindle him (Abel) of Calamatus’s money in the bank. Like the boys, he calls their bluff. At home, Tendu comes to beg him early in the morning to kill him. He goes for a walk and decides to give Tendu a change with money. When he gets back, he discovers Tendu is dead and their co-tenants calling for blood, the murderer’s blood – Abel’s blood. A lynching awaits. While Abel wonders who would have done it, Tendu or someone seeking his blood, common sense tells him to run. He does so, picking all he can and the remnants of the money Calamatus gave him.
There’s so much more, including a meeting with Billy Barber. What happens next? Would he go the way of those before him? How does it all end? The outcome is sure suspense-filled and unexpected. It creates ground for more thoughts and several behind the scene looks. The book flows on leaving the story at a height that is both thought provoking and inspiring…
In all, the book is a complete post-colonial novel, connecting the various realities of present day Nigeria in a lovely weaved tale. It goes from the perspective of the illiterate old father in the village with the full traditional value replete with the wisdom and proverbs of yore to the semi-literate con son, Calamatus who doesn’t need an education for respect or comfort. Money does it all as he shows the side of the Nigerian hustler while showing the 419 view. Abel takes the rear, the true picture of the hustling intellectual who hopes to make things work against all odds with chances playing dirty tricks on. Between them, gaps are filled and the tapestry properly weaved showing the entire Nigerian tale. In this way, there is something for everybody, from the traditional lovers or Achebeic type to those of rather trendy narration. So to say, there are basically three distinct voices, unique and captivating in every light that anybody can identify with. In a way, the author seems to seam popular fiction with literary writing creating something unique and not without beauty at all.
The language used by the author is simple and near elementary. He employs ample use of humour to spice up his tale, making you to laugh at cases that would ordinarily seem dreary. In the book, Nwokolo creates a realistic tale which is totally believable and conceivable. He also finds a way to create empathy for his characters. Furthermore, through the use of the diary form, he makes the reader to feel as if they are the ones in the situation. The reader is made to look at things from the perspective of the major actors, feel their pains and in that light, make an informed judgment. The use of other writers to review what had been said by others passed also allows the reader to have varied thoughts while sharing the sentiments of whoever is in charge of narration at any point.
The treating of gender in the book makes for good postcolonial discussion. There are no particular women on the protagonist list. Most of them are given the traditional roles we know; as wives and the like. Some critics might look at the author’s handling of women as a big downer. Manism would be the right word to use for Chuma Nwokolo’s approach to Diaries of a Dead African and why not? For a very long time, it is always women taking the top burner when it comes to every literary works. Nwokolo shows that most of the problems that come to man in one way or the other can be linked to women. He shows men who love or try to accommodate their wives in the best way possible exemplified by Meme Jumai, Tendu and Abel but have their hearts broken, souls crushed and lives sapped. In a way, he is being philosophical and showing that women play vital roles in the lives of man and in a great way determine the direction of their destiny. In the end one notices that Nwokolo is not trying to castigate women but to show them that they are very important and can bring about a complete turn-around in the life of any man. Note: Women do not really take central roles in the work but seem their actions largely – more than anything else – determine the outcome of the men’s lives.In essence, rather than being manist or chauvinist, Nwokolo seems to be showing that the carefree nature of a woman or a simple mistake such as a sneeze during the circumcision of a child can have adverse effects that can be fatal. If only they would listen.
The absence of a dominant Christian religion as is evident in several Nigerian societies would also form an issue to some people. This seems to be replaced in the book with the great religion of money worship which anyone would readily identify with!
The book concentrates on the hypocrisy of people; the tradition of worship of money as the overall and basic denominator of all things; the important role of women in the scheme of lives of men and the direction of destiny that their actions or inactions can point one to; the world of corruption; politics; poverty; among several others. Above all, it is about survival and a struggle to live well and for a reason.
In concluding, one would advise that for the book to be enjoyed as the lovely piece that is, it is best read with an open mind (whatever that means!) Who knows you might just be inspired or get a new view to death, living, Africa, Africans, all of them, or simply just start your own generation of Diaries of …
 Published: Lagos; Villager House, 2003. The author’s name, Chuma Nwokolo, Jnr is also the Editor and Publisher of African Writing. he blogs at African Writing.
Anthologies are usually highly anticipated. There is a constant hunger for more collections to submit, and even read, that would showcase variant writings as opposed to the single authored books.
We have been blessed with several anthologies particularly electronic like Saraba, Naija Short Stories, Sentinel and the like. In print, ANA (National) recently published an anthology in commemoration of their 29th Convention, while ANA Benue produced a fine volume of poetry titled Bridge for Birds. But the toast of this piece is not these but Dugwe: An Anthology of New Writing: A Journal of Writing, Criticism and Art.
No doubt, there was a careful selection for the pieces that constitute Dugwe. The collectionsboasts pieces from award winners like Unoma Azuah, Jumoke Verissimo, Kabura Zakama and Bose Ayeni-Tsevende for poetry; Tunji Ajiibade, Uche Peter Umez, A. Igoni Barrett, Sylva Nze Ifedigbo on the fiction lane. Now, it is easy to note that this is not a complete list of the award winners featured in the collection– for most of the writing featured are worth awards.
The tales and verses in Dugwe are as varied as the several writers whose different voices bring a different view and take readers to varied places in thoughts, style, genre and direction – all flowing and in some cases, interweaving. They move from realism to fantasy, the absurd, modern to traditional, religion to love, politics, corruption and the like. There is a desire to cover every aspect of Nigerian writing – for the collection is made up of Nigerian writers writing mainly on stories from their milieu, differing and sometimes, conforming to convention.
A few problems are however noticeable with Dugwe. Most of them are editorial. There are misspellings here and there, evident from start with the wrong spellings of names of contributors on the very first page of the book – Judith Ralph (Rapu), Jumoke Verrssmo (Verissimo), Kabara Zakama (Kabura)… Within the book, one notices typos and some grammatical errors that really shouldn’t have found their way into a book of such worth.
Considering that the anthology is described on the front as a journal of ‘writing, criticism and art’, one might have hoped to find a few essays on criticism too. It was absent. Perhaps there were no entries sent to cover this. Furthermore, there are a few pieces that need some reworking. Stories like ‘Umma Hani’s Spittle of Anger’ would really get a better shaping after a round at AWF’s reading and critique session.
On the whole, Dugwe offers a very beautiful read and gives the clichéd saying “Variety is the spice of life” substance. While the Abuja Writers’ Forum can justly be proud of this effort, there’s more to be done especially in the aspect of editing. Knowing the AWF standard – each edition of their every effort being better than the former, one can’t help but bite fingers in anticipation (coincidently, at advent now) of the second coming of Dugwe.