This lyrical, expansive poetry takes the reader back and forth and back again: from the war in Biafra, to a life in exile; from the intimate, to the worldly; and always back to "Here, among the coconut smell, the thatched synagogues, the swollen hands of God gathering the faithfulHere, where the river washes her palm in the open." In Obi Nwakanmas first collection of poetry published in the US, we have the voice of the traveler, navigating the divide, and the soul of a mystic, rooted in the vibrant culture of his people. This poetry bucks the minimalism of the present western aesthetic in favor of a syncretic, universal lyric, with impressive linguistic reach.
"Okigbo comes alive here, in searing strains that resound through passages of love and death, no less than of the urgent problems of contemporary society, especially the Africa of this poet's birth and growth. There is a freshness here, grounded nonetheless in the confident idioms of Nwakanma's poetic forebears. Even more, there is solid promise of tomorrow's harvest."
This volume of poems is remarkable for its mix of styles and themes. More remarkable, though, in this age than the range of moods--desire, lamentation, tenderness, cynicism, outrage--is the maze of vibrant word-pictures: the incarnation and embodying, as it were, of deities, people, and places in unforgettable (almost classic) particularity of images. For this reader, the principal beauty of these poems lies in the haunting capacity for sometimes spurious, more often clever, tender and stellar enchantment.
This is a myth-making poet in an age of prose and manifesto-poetry. Here is a painter's dream of poetry palpable in color and detail, whether of deities or scavengers; poetry fiercely alive with Agwü, Eke and Afö; but still a fantasy world of catacombs and junipers, a world haunted by the clatter of hooves on the stoned-paved medieval streets of this improbable fatherland.
There are omens here of a greater poet in the making.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
OBI NWAKANMA was awarded the Gerald Moore Prize for writing at the University of Jos. He has worked as a journalist in Nigeria, as the literary editor of one of Nigerias leading national newspapers, the "Vanguard" in Lagos. He also worked as an international correspondent in Lagos for "Newsweek," the South African "Independent," and the "Neue Zurcher Zeitung of Zurich." In 1996, Nwakanma received the ANA/Cadbury Prize, for his first collection of poetry, The Roped Urn. He was guest poet at the International Poetry Festival in Rotterdam. He received an MFA in creative writing from Washington University in St. Louis. While at Washington University, he edited "Ars Poetica," the writing programs publication. He now teaches at Saint Louis University, Missouri.