Home Page African Writing Online [many literatures, one voice]  
HomeAbout UsNewsinterviewsMemoirsFictionPoetryThe Call to ActionArtReviews

  Abdifatah Shafat
  Abd Al-Hai
  Adaobi Nwaubani
  A. A. Ibrahim
  Amatoritsero Ede
  Ando Yeva
  Arja Salafranca
  D. Mkandawire
  Emman. Sigauke
  F. Madzimbamuto
  Carolyn Ride
  Cecilia Ferreira
  Chuma Nwokolo
  Grace Kim
  Hajira Amla
  Helen Oyeyemi
  Isabella Morris

  Jennifer Makumbi
  Joy Isi Bewaji
  Kangsen Wakai
  Lola Shoneyin
  Marion Grammer
  Mdika Nick Tembo
  Memory Chirere
  Mthulisi Mathuthu
  Mustafa Adam
  Nii Ayikwei Parkes
  Novuyo Tshuma
  Petina Gappah
  Remi Raji
  Rudolf Okonkwo
  Richard U. Ali
  Sola Osofisan
  Tade Ipadeola
  Tayari Jones
  Timothy Spence
  Tola Ositelu
  Tolu Ogunlesi
  Yousif Almahri


Submission Guidelines

African Writing Archives






Globetrotter & Hitler's

Author:           Amatoritsero Ede
Publishers:   Akashic Books
Pages:           106
Price:             US15.95
ISBN:              1933354774

Reviewer:     Ando Yeva

  Globetrotter & Hitler's Children  


Gather my Blood
Rivers of Song

Author:           Remi Raji
Publishers:   Diktaris
Pages:           143
Price:             Not Stated
ISBN:              978 49011 0 9

Reviewer:     Ando Yeva


Gather my Blood Rivers of Song

 Nigerian Poetry and Two Horsemen

                                     I am the drowning man,
the snake may just be my redemptive rope… Remi Raji.

Poetry is many things to many people. For some it is an instrument of war, for others a portal for love. The two poets in this review have known both, but it is Amatoritsero who seems more wed to the notion of the poet as warrior. In his Globetrotter & Hitler’s Children (GHC), Ede begins his war against the neo-liberals of his Germanic exile right from the foreword to the book.

Crusades are a cross that beleaguered poetry is loath to carry and African poetry has done game service in the Negritude season, which produced much poetry of sublime indignation and average art. But it is always the case that in every poem that crusades, the spirit of poetry has to war against verbiage — and the spirit of banner-wielding protest. The skilled poet will of course produce a marriage of poetry and its inspiring passion. The question, is whether Amatoritsero Ede and Remi Raji have managed this marriage.

GHC is Ede’s exilic offering. The poems are spare and whittled down: two lyric sequences acrostically titled a-z with an extra helping of five stand-alone poems.  The poetry of these pages have the texture of vignettes from a writer's notebook. The hint is in the title, Globetrotter.

Some writer. Some notebook. The first poem, Globetrotter, is both a paean to his current domicile in Canada as well as an advice manual on how to graft new branches onto the maple tree (p.30). Toronto is likened to Prague without her anchoring of narrow streets, narrow sky/ and/ virgin tight apartment blocks. The visual style of GHC is as graphic as the poet’s imagination. Style and substance blends well from the first line of Globetrotter:

toronto is
           adrift at sea

the message, the versification – such that remains – is pared down almost to inarticulacy. The result of this compression though, is that the book delivers line after line of relentless imagery. The lyricism is compressed, in consistently enjambed lines, but it flowers when read aloud. Sometimes, though, as in [as spring-spruced statues sparkle] despite the sumptuous sibilants the poetics seem a trifle indulgent. Raji is not immune to this indulgence. In one of his most effective poems, Words can heal (p.99), he ends, Woman, wear the wind like the winsome night.

Raji has his own Toronto poem, but the subject of his Song of Toronto is the fake degree saga that embroiled the Nigerian House of Representatives several years ago. In this collision of the Torontos, the difference between the poets is unmistakable. Ede, spare and driven by the bare raft of images, Raji, voluptuously raging against the hapless object of his verse. But the sum of their poetry cannot be boiled down to the coincidence in poem subjects.  For an example of the surprise in Raji’s poetry, The  carpenter of Campbell Street (p.44) will do. Because it ploughs a well-worn path (the undertaker’s glee in the season of death), the poem is all the more successful if not for novelty, for the ease of the images and the effortless change in rhythm from the first to the second verse. The tame third verse does not take away from the beauty of the poem.

for two hearses he gives an extra shroud
for three hearses he gives a rosary
and for four and more he rents a crowd

The second ‘hearses’ in an Ede audition may well not have made the cut. Raji’s next adventure down well-worn paths may not be as successful for he boldly titles a poem, Abiku (p.34), thereby inviting comparisons among others, with Wole Soyinka’s poem of the same title. In this critic’s estimation, the Nobel laureate’s offering remains on its perch, but these Raji lines remain:

Whatever I did at birth must have been whispered to the stream
Whatever I told the stream must have been sold to the river
Whatever the river knows is in the sea’s bosom, the ocean’s belly.

Raji’s previous collections include A Harvest of Laughters (1997), Webs of Remembrance (2001), Shuttlesongs America: A Poetic Guided Tour (2003) and Lovesong for my Wasteland (2005).

Apart from its form, the unity of Ede’s long poems are maintained by his carefully calibrated refrains of not in love and how did it transpire, which speak of different things when they recur in successive poems. Occasionally, the refrain is neatly upended (as in not in lust p.94). The entire poem is neatly summed up in the final canto, z, how did it transpire /that empires/ do expire! (p. 96). Individual poems themselves adopt peculiar refrains, like ajantala (monkey no fine im mama like am p.81), which is a fair example of a balanced Ede political poem which spares its incisively delivered propaganda payload for the final couplet. The monster-baby, democracy is described thus:

It drinks milk and blood in equal quarts
             not from bottles
                         but direct from the battered breasts

shrieking at mom for more blood
after that first mammary meat

Raji is an observer and aesthete. With one foot in mythology and the other in everyday street , his omnivorous collection is a ‘journalist-poet’s‘ whose notebook collects mementoes. He writes to fellow poets (Odia, Osundare…), and cities (Stockholm, St. Louis...). He writes into situations, making the ubiquitous and frustrating check-point policemen into a subject of his own scathing poem. In Ode to torch bearers (p/45) he pours restrained vituperation,

I know you’re kitted like the tattered rat
But you behave still like one, …

When next my daughter wonders
why your pocket bursts with your victim’s sweat
I will tell her the tale of torchbearers

In Raji's poem for Word Aids Day, (p/84)

‘the mark of the virus slits the streets
Like defiant swords
The virus is eager
the virus is eager
waiting upon the wings
of lyrical groins’

Once again, this is poetry that provokes a quickening, excitement. The language is sinuous and twining, the images, surprising. Although widely anthologized, this is Amatoritsero Ede’s second collection, following the award-winning Caribbean Blues; A Writer's Pains (authored as Godwin Ede). At the end of the book comes five short poems. Anike (p.97) is taut with erotic suggestion and the swagger and dash of The Crescent and the Cross, (p.98) is a literate indictment of the organized irony of religion that is shaped for love and for war

        hate is in your eyes   
             rage in your blood
swords on your walls   

In these days of acerbic religion purveyed in the evangelism of terrorism, lines like death sheathed in prayer will have added pungency.  Inevitably, for a device that is retained throughout the collection, the graphic affectation of Ede’s verse is distracting. But by and large, as a stylistic convention, the poet has made it his own, and the peripatetic subject of his poetry is well-suited to the free-flying structure of his verse on the page.

those motes flying around the electric bulb
        now crowd around my mocked head
                             like chirst’s sad bitter crown (p100)

Poetry, in the hands of both poets is a politicized weapon, but it is also a personal calling card, a canine creature leaving traces on the haunts he has inhabited. It is a poet singing nostalgia, as much as a nostalgia calling out to the poet. In  Rust, whose dedication reads ‘for Nathalie Desverschere’, Ede ends this way:

         your going has exacted a riot
the clock has stopped
             between my legs
              It can no more mark the seconds and minutes
of the breathing-in and the breathing-out of your thighs

   knowing that the winter shall be an unbearable weight

        come back or I’ll desverschere!

In Amatoritsero Ede and Remi Raji, Nigeria has two quite different poets who bring different aesthetics to bear on their preoccupations.  In vain does Olive Senior in the blurb of Ede’s book claim the poet for Canada as ‘a startling new voice in Canadian letters’. Both poets are indelibly marked with the country of their engagement, enlisted in Nigeria’s literary cavalry. Even Ede’s preoccupation with Hitler’s children is after all on behalf of Africa’s children, among others. Gather my Blood Rivers of Song is a sizeable 143-page collection arranged in 7 swathes of poems. These poems, uniformly ambitious, are not uniformly accomplished; yet, although disqualified from Nigeria’s controversial NLNG 2009 Literary Prize for still unclear reasons, in this critic’s estimation, it was that country’s loss.

Copyright © African Writing Ltd & respective copyright owners. Enquiries to permissions@african-writing.com.