Archive for March, 2014

It’s always a joy to hear from a reader of this blog either by comment, by tweet, by email or by a guest post. This is the first guest post I am hosting and I commend A. Gonzaga fom Finland for sending this very well-written review of a Nigerian-originated book of poems he has read. Here goes:

Edoheart III              jesusofallniggerscover-thumb

Pic: Edoheart and the cover of Jesus of All Niggers

I respect art by the artist who does not try to conform—the fear of being seen as different being the number one danger facing the young artist of today. Eseohe Arhebamen, known perhaps more popularly as Edoheart, is not a young artist, though. She’s a young woman whose mature music and poetry I have fallen in love with—something I rarely let happen to me, being a happy perfectionist. Poetry is for me the art of depth and beauty and nothing more, really—and so I view it like I view maidens, and choose a book of poems like I choose a maiden with whom to try to carry out something serious or meaningful, depending. A good poem should therefore be self-renewable, so that its keeper can cuddle it tirelessly and, instead of become eventually bored with it, continue to discover its richness at every meeting. So far, only three modern poets have delivered the goodies the way I like it: the brilliant Paul Hostovsky, the great William Hathaway, and the fearless Eseohe Arhebamen with her audaciously titled ‘Jesus of All Niggers’—upon which this concise review is centred as it must.

“…Winter is a cruel time.

Even when sleeping,

the faces don’t smile

and their dreams are frozen

stuck. Sometimes heads pop off

when I pull.

There is science to this…”

—page 38

“…I am eight.

this is what I live:

we double-dutch and fuck young

shake ass like zing zing zing

I ain’t nevah owned a washing machine &

the only way out is up.”

—page 10

“…America will you be mine too?

I will disclose first that I’m black

before we crawl into bed

and even worse, I’m African

I promise I don’t use drugs

and I don’t have AIDS

so you can use my blood…”

—page 42

Attempting to define ‘a great book’, a certain wise article I happened upon had noted that, although it is difficult to get everyone to agree on what ‘the best book’ among equals is, there is usually an easy agreement between judges of awards that certain books are not in the running. I tend to pit literary creations against each other to see which ones rise to the occasion, but that’s after first shaking them, I must say, to see if anything shakes. Then I marry the best achievements, and let them eternally inspire me. And that’s exactly what I have done apropos the poetry of Eseohe Arhebamen—marry them—for, at a time when artists admire their mentors so much they forget that the most vital lesson to draw from their mentor’s success is the priceless importance of being oneself, as nobody ever became truly great without putting their uniquely personal attributes at the forefront of their work, there come the original poems of ‘Jesus of All Niggers’—all striking and mature and powerful and exceptionally beautiful.

“If not but I loved food

how I’d stop eating

sculpt my belly concave,

many meals wheeled by but I’d

shake my head, No thanks…”

—page 32

“…how will the organism survive

if it continues to conquer and divide

itself?

you are not black.

you are not white.

you are not left wing.

you are not right.

eliminate racial separations

gender specifications

democratic manipulations

because such conceptions

keep you in a cell…”

—page 17

“Nothing beautiful

comes out

anymore the pen

farts feeling

incites laughter

really, or a shun

How to be pissed

or display a prick

and say it bled

for days- but nicely-

don’t you wish you

had loved me…”

—page 36

But I can’t go for that cup of honeyed camomile without mentioning, of course, that the language of this book is lucid and therefore accessible to the literary and lay mind alike. On top of the good surprise of the book design being top-notch, the good lover of exceptional poetry and art will additionally find that ‘Jesus of All Niggers’—still available, I hope, from Laughing Mouse Press—is also stylishly ornamented with a few image poems, for Edoheart is similarly an accomplished painter. I have never seen a book quite as attractive. A collector will find it an irresistible masterwork.

  

Shoes

combing thoughts with my therapist
i find i cannot distinguish
my anger from ambition
the bitter from bite-
size. when was it i became
jesus of all niggers
dedicated to reclaiming the clown?
thorny headed child am i
that cannot run for kicking the road
blaming it that so
many white people have got
shoes

—page 27

 

 Publisher’s link: http://laughingmouse.net/books/jesus-of-all-niggers/

                                   A. Gonzaga is a Finland-based wordsmith—writing poetry, prose, and lyrics.

Kofi Awoonor

Kofi Awoonor

The smart professionals in three piece
Sweating away their humanity in dribblets
And wiping the blood from their brow

I was among the very first people who heard the news of his passing, I should suppose, because when I did, nobody on my twitter timeline had tweeted it. I waited for confirmation and watched a few government and official feeds but found nothing. Finally I read it again from one very trusted source and that was it. Kofi Awoonor was dead.

We have found a new land
This side of eternity
Where our blackness does not matter
And our songs are dying on our lips

Today, he would have been 79. I will be celebrating him in a series of tweets and posts along with Kinna of Kinnareads. The hashtag to use is #Awoonor79.

Standing at hell-gate you watch those who seek admission
Still the familiar faces that watched and gave you up
As the one who had let the side down,
“Come on, old boy, you cannot dress like that”
And tears well in my eyes for them
Those who want to be seen in the best company
Have abjured the magic of being themselves
And in the new land we have found
The water is drying from the towel
Our songs are dead and we sell them dead to the other side

He was a fighter who took on life in the most activist of ways. In this poem, Kofi Awoonor tells of a period when the African identity was gradually stolen. Those ‘smart professionals’ (line 1), the elite, gave up their tie and dye for ‘three piece’(line 1) suits, while wiping the blood of their essence from their brows (line 3). They copied the whiteness of their colonizers, in a usurped ploy ‘Where our blackness does not matter’ (line 6). He calls them candidates at ‘hell-gate’ (line 8) seeking passage to this death, while ridiculing the ‘magic of being themselves’ (line14). He cries for them (line 12).

But from line 15, Awoonor sympathizes with the guilty and now says, ‘the new land we have found’ (line 15). He makes himself a part of the redemption because he concludes:

Reaching for the Stars we stop at the house of the Moon
And pause to relearn the wisdom of our fathers.

In those two lines, Awoonor talks about Rediscovery of a true self that he joins his brothers to pursue, “relearn[ing] the wisdom” (line 19) of the generations that went before.

His death has been a great loss and we shall tell of his legacy till we ourselves are gone. Happy Birthday, Kofi.