Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ake Festival, Nigeria - where kids want to fly in colour

The festival was the brainchild of Lola Shoneyin, who (as described by Olakunle Kasumu) dreamt it, said it, and did it. There are many other festivals in Nigeria, of course, Lagos and Port Harcourt being among the biggest. But none has attracted the international line-up of Ake. Most of us would agree that we were there because of Lola: Binyavanga Wainaina, Eghosa Imasuen, Toni Kan, A Igoni Barrett, Teju Cole, Chibundu Onuzo, Pius Adesanmi, Molara Wood, to name a few.


Friday, November 8, 2013

The Afropolitan Must Go

Marta Tveit is furious about the seeming popularity of the term "Afropolitanism" in African discourses.

"Fronting a constructed group identity such as the ‘Afropolitan’ backs-up a reductive narrative of Africa and the African, which in turn continues to be an important part of neocolonial power structures. As an individual who happens to have one parent from the African continent I am offended by being put in a group and perceived to have certain interests and affiliations because of the nationality of one of my parents."

I love how Ms Tveit plays with the title of Selasi's novel, Ghana Must God. It does appear to me, though, that Tveit has engaged in a reductive, uberfurious, Binyanwangan reading of Selasi's richly nuanced essay. Selasi herself is not brown. She is a mutt - being Yoruba and Ghanaian (excuse my ignorance of her father's ethnicity). There is also a cultural element of Selasi's Afropolitanism that her critics woefully ignore. Anyway, Afropolitanism has come to stay, dear Ms Tveit.


Friday, November 1, 2013

NoViolet Bulawayo: “I Feel Responsible to the Real Stories on the Ground”

"Reflecting on her literary studies, she says she looks up to African writers who "make sense of our space in the literary universe" but she does not feel a strong sense of positioning herself in the canon. "I feel responsible to the real stories on the ground. That’s what I’m doing."

You've got to love this. I think it's time that African writers started telling stories of people they know rather than waste their time reacting to the (imaginary) gaze of the white man.


Oh, see also.

The Caine Prize has been criticised for creating what Helon Habila has called an “African aesthetic of suffering”, for “performing Africa” for the world. What are your thoughts on this?

"I think that’s nonsense. Writers write about what moves them and it’s just a coincidence that the kinds of stories that get told seem to be about one thing. I think there’s also a shallowness in readers reducing stories based on things that they see. I feel like people need to read beyond this. I’m hard-pressed to talk about stories other than my own but Darling, for example, is such a rich character and she shouldn’t be judged by her space; she has so much humanity. Beyond that, I feel like some of these things are simply realities."


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Is NoViolet a victim of West’s propaganda?

Another self-destructive exercise in self-censure?

Stanely Mushava gives the impression that Zimbabwe is the yet to be discovered African paradise. Oh, poor Africa, always misunderstood and misrepresented by the West. Ach, ach. He writes:
“WE NEED NEW NAMES”, NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut novel, which was recently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, excited more international acclaim than any Zimbabwean book in the recent past. Zimbabwe’s literary arena had some rich pickings recently including the overdue comeback of Charles Mungoshi with “Branching Streams Flow in the Dark”, Spiwe Harper’s “Footprints in the Mists of Time” and the most improved Zimbabwe International Book Fair in 


Don't tell African authors what they can and can't write about

Mukoma Wa Ngugi teaches at Cornell University and author of Black Star Nairobi, October 2013
An African literary canon is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because standing on the shoulders of writers such as Chinua Achebe, author of the archetypal African novel Things Fall Apart, and my father, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, I do not have to prove to myself or to the world that Africans can produce culture and philosophy. This is the blessing – the gift of taking so many things for granted.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Decolonizing Ngugi’s Mentality

I don't know what to think of this piece. I don't want to judge it, but, well..

"Ngugi is twenty-seven years late. This is 2013. As the aficionado of African literature, he should continue where Achebe left off. He should help our post-colonial African thinkers to fashion an English compatible with the status quo. He should encourage them to use as much English as possible to spread and show our mastery of African literature. Gone are the days when the African writer wrote about himself as a herd-boy in poetry, drama or fiction. Our children should be free to portray the images of modern Africa in English just like Ngugi’s son Mukoma is doing. Mukoma who today is Assistant Professor of English at Cornell University is a successful poet, and novelist. Why can’t Ngugi afford our children the same opportunity? He can be assured that our languages will not become extinct if he allows our young thinkers to use English and then translate their texts in their respective language and not vice versa. To lend a deaf ear is to be a prophet of doom who gathers no moss."


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Pledged to the Republic of Imagination

Great words.

Derek Walcott and Paul Muldoon are still the ones I read most. I have since discovered Ian Duhig, Rachel Boast, Joel Toledo, Gen Asenjo, Gihan Omar, Rethabile Masilo, Lisa Combrinck, Chiedu Ezeanah, Niran Okewole, Biyi Olusolape, Michelle McGrane, Gebinyo Ogbowei and Amatoritsero Ede. There is a special poet who takes an opposite approach to my own who I really admire, Afam Akeh. Indeed, I couldn’t resist taking an epigraph for my own work from him. What Afam Akeh writes largely captures my conception of poetry. It is a form of mastery that is rendered with simplicity. It is really the height of sophistication, when you come to think of it.

Derek Walcott and Paul Muldoon are still the ones I read most. I have since discovered Ian Duhig, Rachel Boast, Joel Toledo, Gen Asenjo, Gihan Omar, Rethabile Masilo, Lisa Combrinck, Chiedu Ezeanah, Niran Okewole, Biyi Olusolape, Michelle McGrane, Gebinyo Ogbowei and Amatoritsero Ede. There is a special poet who takes an opposite approach to my own who I really admire, Afam Akeh. Indeed, I couldn’t resist taking an epigraph for my own work from him. What Afam Akeh writes largely captures my conception of poetry. It is a form of mastery that is rendered with simplicity. It is really the height of sophistication, when you come to think of it. - See more at:

Q&A: Uche Peter Umez interviews poet Afam Akeh

Insightful, Insightful

"Memory is not always friendly. I carry my immigrant travel guilt with me always – not in any disabling way, but in the sense that I am frequently reminded of it by daily encounters.  I am acutely aware that I am not alone in these paths taken, but have also committed my children and possibly their children. I frequently consider the consequences and possibilities, positives and negatives of this choice that was forced on me. The immigrant life is engaged with questions of home, land and country."

Monday, September 9, 2013

We Need New Names: Bulawayo’s Love Song for Zimbabwe

James Eze has a good review of NoViolet Bulawayo's novel.

There are some writers for whom storytelling seems almost effortless. NoViolet Bulawayo is one of them. We first encountered her in her Caine Prize winning short story, Hitting Budapest, an amazing tale of dispossession and longing, told through the eyes of six Zimbabwean children brought together by internal dislocation and grinding poverty. In We Need New Names, Bulawayo continues this narrative with loads of ironies and startling craftsmanship."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tribute to Chinua Achebe

"My name is Chibundu Onuzo and I'm a Nigerian author/writer/history undergrad. My first novel, The Spider King's Daughter, will be published by Faber and Faber in March 2012 by God's grace. Hopefully this year you'll see me in shops. Hopefully you'll buy my book. Hopefully I won't have returned to relaxer."
And here is my tribute to Chinua Achebe.

".... I salute Chinua Achebe, for what he meant and will mean to the world. For when those readers who understood the context of his times are long dead and when their children are long dead, there will still be those who will delight in the throwing of Amalinze and weep for the death of Ikemefuna.


Friday, June 21, 2013

At 52, Not Too Old for a Debut Novel

Among the many things I wasn’t prepared for after publishing my first novel at the age of 52 was the question I’m asked most often. I’ve heard it at book tour events in England, Germany, and here in the United States. The wording and language vary, but the gist of the question is the same: “Aren’t you too old for this?”

I love this line: "I had crossed a threshold, too old to imitate anyone."


Thursday, June 13, 2013

We Need New Names, By NoViolet Bulawayo

Adjusting to adolescent life in the US inevitably brings cultural collisions and awakenings, including a palpable loss of innocence when she is drawn into watching unspeakable internet porn. At points, the story could be read as a case-study in alienation and assimilation. Nevertheless, most affecting of all is the early intimate depiction of Darling and her sub-teen gang, with their speaking eyes and quick-witted banter - a wonderfully original set of characters whom Bulawayo allows a convincing combination of innocence and knowingness. Their indomitable energy, spirit and hope, often in the face of truly painful odds, are just memorable.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Teju Cole’s Open City Wins the International Literature Award

The Award Winner of 2013
The International Literature Award – Haus der Kulturen der Welt 2013 goes to the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole for his novel Open City (Suhrkamp 2012) and to Christine Richter-Nilsson for the book’s first translation into German.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Here is my review of Afam Akeh's book of poems. I hope you enjoy it.

"To me, Akeh comes to life most in “Biafran Nights.” In it, one feels the weight of history and of a people nearly decimated by genocide and the war that should have been avoided. In “Biafran Nights,” Akeh returns to the Nerudean lyricism that distinguished the “Letter Home.” It is a style of noble lyricism that seeks to marry heaven and earth in a single breath. In this poem, memory becomes a “master griot” that is “stubborn with tales.” And, as if to warn us that those who ignore their history are bound to repeat its mistakes, or perhaps that we cannot wish away our past, the ultimate griot reminds us of our “network of neglected moments.” It is all about a “land imperiled imploding like a myth.”


Friday, May 31, 2013

Ghana Poetry Prize

Poetry Foundation Ghana announces its inaugural (2013) GHANA POETRY PRIZE. This will be an award of Gh ₵ 2,000 (equivalent to $ 1,000). This is built on the hugely successful 2012 Online Competition which was done under the name Ghana Poetry Awards.
The aim of this prize is to support younger emerging poets. The Prize is sponsored by Poetry Foundation Ghana and we hope to increase our Prize when we have enough funds from other sources. People with interest in poetry are invited to help in this direction and we will be grateful for your sponsorship.


And good luck.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

That makes Americanah a new kind of migration story, one that reflects a political shift and suggests a literary one. It’s one of the better novels I’ve read about life in contemporary America, but I’m not tempted to call it a Great American Novel. Instead, it strikes me as an early, imperfect, admirable stab at something new: a Great Global Novel. Ifemelu was well on her way to becoming an American—that promise dangled before, and coveted by, so much of the world for so long. She chooses, instead, to become an Americanah: an identity predicated on experience rather than nationality, trajectory rather than place. It’s an open question whether identities like that will change the world for the better. But, in Adichie, they have already done so for literature.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Of Rising, and the Home-based Nigerian Writer - Ukamaka Olisakwe

Writing. I had never loved literature. I grew up in a place where Arts students were called ‘unserious’ while the Science students were praised for their serious-mindedness. And being a teenager who always felt she had something to prove, I joined the Science class. Later I would go on to study Computer Science. But I lost all that seriousness and consciousness that Science required. Perhaps I began to see Science as one large menacing figure, ambling around me, striping me of my emotions. Life is created from one’s thought. Our thoughts give rise to actions that make or break a people. Once, I had imagined life was me dreaming and the world and everyone in it existed only in my subconscious. Again, it seemed my stories were made manifest in an alternate universe, creating and disrupting lives, changing destinies. It was a defining point in my life and there was joy in finding my place and deriving joy in a craft that came to me like breathing. I had finally realized who I was meant to be and who I will always be: a storyteller."

Why Soyinka’s Sahara Reporters Interview is Disappointing - Ainehi Edoro

On Saturday, Soyinka gave a rather revealing account of his relationship with Achebe and his sense of Achebe’s work within the context of the African literary tradition. It was in the form an interview done by Sahara Reporters, who as we all know are very skilled at making interviewees respond to controversial questions. I find the interview to be a strange document.
First of all, I find it odd that the first substantial set of reflections that Soyinka shares about Achebe after his death should take the form of an interview that, for all its aspiration to honesty, comes across as bitter and smug"

Saturday, May 18, 2013

SaharaReporters Interview Exclusive: Achebe A Celebrated Storyteller, But No Father Of African Literature, Says Soyinka

"In a wide-ranging interview with SaharaReporters, Soyinka paid tribute to the late novelist who died on March 21, 2013 at 82. Soyinka, who won the 1986 Nobel Prize for literature, also spoke on his personal relationship with Achebe and other Nigerian writers; his regrets about Achebe’s last book, There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra; and his attempt to talk the late Biafran leader, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, out of fighting a war. Soyinka also answered questions about Heinemann’s African Writers Series and scolded “clannish” and “opportunistic hagiographers” fixated on the fact that Achebe never won the Nobel Prize."


Thursday, May 2, 2013

To Be Vulnerable and Fearless: An Interview with Writer Warsan Shire

"I still feel very homeless. I live in London and have been here nearly my whole life, but it is a difficult city to connect to. I have travelled around and found my body making more sense elsewhere. But I have started to understand what it feels like to belong, so I look forward to exploring different countries and seeing how fully I can feel at home in a place, that at the end of the day, isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before. "

Insightful interview. Great words.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

THE WINNER - The Brunel University African Poetry Prize

Congratulations, Warsan!

The Kenyan-born Somali poet WARSAN SHIRE has been announced as the first ever winner of the Brunel University African Poetry Prize.
The prize of £3,000 is funded by Brunel University, Commonwealth Writers and The Africa Centre.
Warsan Shire is a 24 year old Kenyan-born Somali poet and writer, based in London. Born in 1988, she has read her work all over Britain as well as in South Africa, Italy, Germany, Canada, North America and Kenya.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Opinion: Don’t be deceived – Chimamanda Adichie is no Achebe

Has Adichie stolen Achebe's legacy? Okezie J. S. Nwoka seems to believe so. Question for Okezie J.S. Nwoka: When did Achebe patent his legacy? Well, it does appear that his arguments need some more support. Anyway, read:

"I humbly submit that Adichie has stolen the legacy of a literary giant for the sake of her own personal self-advancement.  Adichie has hijacked the literary memory of Chinua Achebe.  She has done this through the construction of a parasitic Achebe Complex that is made evident through her words and through her work.  From the onset, Adichie has claimed to have a special connection with Achebe, yet a critical analysis of her writing tells a different story.  She finds significance in the fact that she once lived in the same home that Achebe did.  However, what good is that fact when her work continually misses the mark— the mark set by Achebe’s high standards?"


Friday, April 19, 2013

Love of a Fat Woman

Chika Unigwe has a new short story.

"When Godwin came home with his wife, his sisters hid their faces behind their hands and laughed. They said hello to their new sister-in-law and told her they were happy to meet her but he could see the laughter bubbling underneath like a boil about to burst. Godwin had told them on the phone that she was not beautiful, but he had said nothing about her corpulence or that she smoked like a man and had teeth that looked like fingernails."


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chinua Achebe: A Writer And A Half And More

A nice one by my friend, Akin.

"A phone call from Lagos woke me to the rumor of Achebe’s death early in the morning of March 22. The caller, journalist and author Kunle Ajibade, was not sure, and he wanted me to call Nigerian friends to confirm or dismiss the news. I left several voice messages, and the one person who picked my call said something very significant, moments after we had come to terms with the news. Chika Okeke-Agulu, an artist and art historian said, after listening to my view of the writer’s personal account of the war, that Biafra, not literature, was the defining ideal for Achebe.  That is a point of supreme importance. With it as a point of reference, it would not be difficult to understand why a writer of Achebe’s status continued to use the expression, “my people the Igbo,” and why he would describe Awolowo as a politician fighting for “his Yoruba people.” It stands to reason."

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Metal on concrete jars my drink lobes

This is a must read for writers, or aspiring ones.

"Nigerians are in love with language, though meaning is not always a priority - C Don Adinuba hacks through the thickets.

"‘I never perused the inner anatomy of the female homo sapiens,” the eminent historian Emmanuel Ayandele once announced to his bewildered students. This was the former vice­chancellor’s way of confiding that he had remained chaste throughout his undergraduate programme.
Maybe he had, but his romance with words is clearly torrid. In his infatuation he is not alone, for Africans are great lovers of language"


Friday, March 29, 2013

Adewale Maja-Pearce does to Achebe's literary immortality what ought to be done to all producers of ideas. I like his piece, which seeks to judge Chinua Achebe as a human being, not a god. This, I understand, does not detract from his respect of Achebe.

"Things Fall Apart, is widely considered a twentieth-century classic. It was to his great credit that he recognised the privilege for what it was, which perhaps accounted for his famous humility, a much-praised quality in Nigeria – hardly an obituary fails to attribute such to the dearly departed – precisely because it is so rare, at any rate amongst those whose chi cracked their nuts for them.

I was never a fan. I have always considered Things Fall Apart a bad book, although its suffocating sentimentality about a vanished kingdom where men were men and women virtuous – the past is always a better place, in Nigeria no less than elsewhere – presumably accounts for its 10 million readers in 50 languages who evidently like their literature to be uplifting, in this case that Africans once had cultures of great depth and beauty."


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tade Ipadeola: Chinua Achebe, Storyteller In Excelsis

A good one by our own Tade:

"World literature acknowledges an immortal in the transition of Chinua Achebe whose quiet dignity brought unprecedented attention to African literature written in English, translated into more modern world languages than any other African writer before him and studied in every notable institution of learning around the world. As Aretino said upon the death of Michelangelo, the world has many kings but only one Michelangelo. I acknowledge that the world has many potentates but only one Achebe. He was the tree that made a forest, the one voice that travelled beyond the seven seas."


Kwame Anthony Appiah on Achebe

Achebe, who died Thursday at the age of 82, had absorbed a wide range of literature in English, both poetry and prose: the King James Bible and the English hymnal; realist and modernist novels; Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Dickens, Conrad, Buchan, Greene and, of course, Yeats, who gave him the title of his first book.
And from this treasury he drew a variety of forms of diction: one, for example, to represent the voices of people speaking Igbo; another, for the language in which he described their world. From the traditions of oral literature that he heard growing up, in turn, he drew the proverbs with which the novel is peppered, the tales of gods and heroes and heroines that hover behind his narrative. The result was a way of talking about Africa in the colonial language that allowed his characters to live for us as richly specific human beings, located in a particular time and place, while at the same time resonating with readers across the planet and across generations.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Taiye Selasi on discovering her pride in her African roots

There I was, heartily lauding Ghana in all of its peace-loving, hard-working glory, only to spiral out at one comment about my Ghanaian father. I was passionate about Africa, yes, but wasn't proud. I couldn't be. My tie to Africa – my African father – was standing in the way. Ileane was right. What I'd felt in Jamaica was shame about my family saga: the poverty, polygamy, one stereotype of African dysfunction after another. It had always seemed a matter of mere politesse to skip these sordid details when describing to a stranger who I was. But my grief at Percy's (spot-on) guess suggested something else at work: a need to obscure both where and who I came from. Intellectually, I perceived myself as a product and champion of modern west Africa. Emotionally, I perceived myself as a west African polygamist's daughter. What I needed was some other way to know myself as African, apart from as heir to my parents' hurts.
For this, I had to go home.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Africa’s Leading Novelist Chinua Achebe Dies At 82

Sad news. But we celebrate his life and achievements. We celebrate his immortality.
"Professor Chinua Achebe, one of the world’s most celebrated writers and author of the classic novel Things Fall Apart, is dead.
SaharaReporters learned that Achebe, who was the David and Mariana Fisher Professor of Literature at Brown University, died last night in a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Professor Achebe had been sick for some time. He was 82 years old."

Read here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Losing my voice

"When I left Nigeria for Belgium, I made my husband’s home my own. But homesickness lodged like a stone inside me.
The year I graduated from the university, I married a man, J, whom I had known for two years. Some of my friends thought it was too soon, especially as he was not ‘from here’. My father wondered if I had thought it through, marrying a foreigner. I said I had. When J wanted to go home to Belgium not long after we got married, it did not devastate me. I did not spend days trying to convince him to change his mind, or negotiating how often we would have to return to Nigeria on holiday. I did not once doubt that I would go with him."

A good piece by Chika Unigwe.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Chika Oduah: Where The “V” Counts

Well, this is not exactly literature in the conventional sense, but it's worth reading.

"Nigerian men sit in stuffy airplanes for hours, coming from Belgium, London, Australia and New York, coming home to Nigeria. And in those planes, one imagines the freshness of the unspoiled village lady who will become his wife. He has never met her face-to-face, only in photographs did he see her and in fleeting phone conversations, he heard her homely voice. The Nigerian ladies abroad have all gone wild, so Nigerian men go to their home towns for a dewy-faced, high school graduate who cooks the best vegetable soup in town. Best of all, she is unspoiled. The joy of wedding an unspoiled woman can only be experienced. So the guy’s friends request vacation time from their jobs and venture to Nigeria to experience it, too."


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Chika Unigwe on a Quest to Build a Writers’ Village in Anambra, Nigeria

Winner of the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature, Chika Unigwe, dreams of a writers’ village in  Anambra State, CHUX OHAI reports.

No matter how much she is prodded, she refuses to tell but hints that it is something to do with a writers’ village somewhere in her home state, Anambra.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Situation is Critical!

An interesting piece by Jeremy Weate, philosopher and publisher of Cassava Republic, a publishing outfit based in Nigeria.
He critiques African writers, who believe that their success as writers rests largely on either living in the West, or being packaged there. They, the African writers in the West, end up producing exotic narratives about Africa.
 See excerpts:

"There has surely been too much war and violence in the stories African men have chosen to write of late. I think back to last year’s Measuring Time, by Helon Habila, and of course, to Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone."

... and ...

"What is to be done? How does one ensure one’s dutifully collected shelf of African books is not ever more replete with child soldiers, AK47s and rapists? There are, I think, two parts to the answer: First, African writers should realise that there is a price to pay for a suburban existence in a sedated part of the world. Situation is critical. To engage with the world in writing, it is seldom enough to read of a world from afar. Even the most meticulous research will miss out on the subterranean processes that are continuously at work in a society; the gaps and tensions in speech and behaviour that point to unmet desires and a world in transition. It is the work of the writer to bring these silences to voice; it is an almost impossible task when the only source of information is internet news sites, visitors from home and the occasional trip back to the motherland."

I love the piece. His recommendation, however, appears to ignore the temporal and aesthetic distance between observation and narration. Living close to where things happen doesn't assure an accurate, authentic rendition of the events in stories.
But I take to heart his concern that most African writers tend to be overly interested in portraying exotic images of Africa. War. Violence. Inhumanity. As if love had no place on that continent.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Brunel University African Poetry Prize - Shortlist

PRESS RELEASE                                                                         31st January 2013

The Brunel University African Poetry Prize is a major new poetry prize of £3000 aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa. The prize is sponsored by Brunel University and partnered by Commonwealth Writers, the Africa Centre UK, and the African Poetry Book Fund USA.
The judges of the Prize have now decided on a shortlist for the prize which is for immediate release.

Good luck to the shortlisted poets. I know, and hope, this is just the beginning of your career even if you don't end up being the winner.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Clifton Gachagua is the winner of the 2013 Sillerman First Book Prize.

"The winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets for 2013 is Clifton Gachagua for his manuscript Madman at Kilifi. He will receive a USD $1,000 prize and publication by the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal."

The famous Ghanaian-born Jamaican-American poet, Kwame Dawes, praises the manuscript thus:
"I believe this is an original voice. This manuscript achieves what is necessary in African poetry: it feels as African as Africanness can be, and wholly contemporary and in our moment.”
Congratulations to you, Clifton.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets

Those who entered for the 2012 The Sillerman First Book for African Poets must have by now received an email informing them of the winner of the prize: Clifton Gachugua. In their email, they must have read that Mr. Gachugua's manuscript: " achieves what is necessary in African poetry: it feels as African as Africanness can be, and wholly contemporary and in our moment."

Here is the reaction of one of my fellow losers to Clifton Gachuga, Joe Mgani.
"This information came to me in an email from The Sillerman First Book for African Poets informing me that I had not won the poetry prize for which I had submitted my poems, that I had lost it to Clifton Gachagua and they went ahead to heap lots of praise to his collection saying  those things that poetry critics say about poetry collections that are as cryptic as the poems themselves and that do very little to explain the poems to a poetry layman and that create a delighting confusion in heads like mine."


Thursday, January 17, 2013


What is poetry? How does it work?

"One morning, I cut my fingernails and left the parings on the centre table in the sitting room and went into my bedroom briefly to return my manicure set to its usual place. She had been in her room while I cut the nails and had obviously come into the sitting room while I was in my room. As I returned to the sitting room she approached me, exultant, with one of the parings between her right thumb and forefinger, holding up the cut fingernail, and declared: “Daddy, this is the moon!”
“That is not the moon!” I interjected. “It is my fingernail paring.”
“No! It is the moon.” She insisted, raising the paring toward my face as if to show me the shape of the moon in case I did not know."

Ikeogu Oke provides some helpful insights.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Jeyifo: First, There Was A Country; Then There Wasn’t: Reflections On Achebe’s New Book (2)

 An interesting take on Chinua Achebe's memoir of the Nigerian Civil war, "There Was a Country," by Professor Biodun Jeyifo of Harvard University.

"IF in There Was A Country “a Nigerian ruling class” only appears in the narratives and reflections of the author in the final fourth part of the book, this is only the most stunning aspect of the general intellectual and discursive architecture of the book. This “architecture”, this “grammar” is none other than the fact that for nearly all other parts of the book with the exception of that concluding fourth part, all of Achebe’s “explanations”, all of his speculations in the book are relentlessly driven by ethnicity, and a very curious conception of ethnicity for that matter. Logically, inevitably, the corollary to this is that “explanations” and speculations based on class, and more specifically on intra-class and inter-class factors, are either completely ignored or even deliberately excluded. As I shall presently demonstrate, this is a remarkable departure from virtually all of Achebe’s writings prior to this recently published book. For now, let me illustrate this startling matter of the complete subsumption of class into ethnicity in There Was A Country with two particularly telling examples out of innumerable other instances in the book."