* Poetry-politics mix as departure in this year’s festival
By Godwin Okondo
AS preparations for Lagos International Poetry Festival (LIPF) 2021 heats up, notable writers across the global have been lined to thrill poetry lovers at home in Nigeria and across the globa, who have registered for the poetic feast. Interestingly, this year’s bouquet of events will be hybrid, both virtual and physical, which will give the festival a truly global feel as audiences in far-flung places will be able to participate without leaving their homes or offices.
One distinct aspect on this year’s prgramming is the infusion of politics in a festival of poetry, where poetry and politics share a space, two forces that usually distance themselves from each other as day8 and night. But this departure seems refreshing and a recognition of the fact that poetry mostly bears the brunt of bad politics and there’s a need to also situate politics within poetic discourse and possibly finding a healthy balance between the two otherwise opposing forces. For as Jonas Mekas indelibly reminds us, “In the very end, civilizations perish because they listen to their politicians and not to their poets”, thus suing for a rubbost conversation between the two forces for the health of civilizations.
Two sessions aptly navigate this thin line between politics and poetics: ‘Danfo for Sale: Party Politics as Vehicle for Change’ and ‘The Tools We Have: Civil Society and the Struggle to Save Nigeria’. It is not clear what the festival organiser Efe Paul Azino aims to achieve with this mix of politics and poetry, but a guess can only be harzarded that perhaps more artists are being encouraged to venture into the terrain of politics to bring about the change poets and artists generally endlessly wait for in Godot-fashion.
Among the line of top writers are Nigeria’s Odia Ofeimun, Prof. Femi Osofisan, U.S., New York-based Yusef Komunyakaa, Eloghosa Osunde, Dike Chukwumerije, Richard Ali, Sage Hassan, Aja Monet, Kola Tubosun, among many others from the United Kingdom, Ghana and Kenya.
To deliver the keynote address at the festival’s opening is Yusef Komunyakaa (born James William Brown on April 29, 1941). He is an American poet who teaches at New York University and is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, U.S. Komunyakaa is a recipient of the 1994 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, for Neon Vernacula and the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He also received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Komunyakaa received the 2007 Louisiana Writer Award for his enduring contribution to the poetry world.
His subject matter ranges from the black experience through rural Southern life before the Civil Rights era and his experience as a soldier during the Vietnam War. As an adult, he reclaimed the name Komunyakaa, said to be his grandfather’s African name. He said that his grandfather had reached the United States as a stowaway in a ship from Trinidad. For him “Poetry is a kind of distilled insinuation. It’s a way of expanding and talking around an idea or a question. Sometimes, more actually gets said through such a technique than a full frontal assault.”
Komunyakaa’s keynote address entitled ‘Ancestral Imaginings’ will be delivered virtually @4pm on Thursday, October 21, 2021.
On Day 2 @11am will be in-person poetry workshop with Aja Monet titled ‘Mapping Histories: Writing as Witness’. A virtual session on ‘Danfo for Sale: Party Politics as vehicle Change’ @1pm, featuring Buchi Onyegbule, Ayo Shogunro, Ayisha Asari and Demola Olarewaju. Also, ‘The Tools We Have: Civil Society and the Struggle to Save Nigeria’ @4pm, featuring Abang Mercy, Lyn Aboyeji, Dele Farotimi and Abosede George-Ogan will be held. Then at African Artists’ Foundation (AAF) at Isola Oyekan Close, near Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, there will be ‘Poetry Slam’ @5pm to round off the day.
Day 3 @11am will be in-person Masterclass with Prof. Femi Osofisan, who will teach on ‘Writing for Performance’ and @1pm virtually, it will be ‘The World According to Eloghosa’, a conversation between Eloghosa Osunde and Kola Tubosun “on the range of themes she explores in her work, her forthcoming novel Vagabond and lots more”.
At 3pm Odia Ofeimun: A Literary Life will hold at Terra Kulture, featuring a ducomentary by Sage Hassan “on the life of one of the most enigmatic figures in African cultural history”.
Then @6pm also at Tera Kulture will be ‘Festival Concert’ featuring music, words and fireworks with “some of the most amazing performances from the U.S., Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya including Saul Williams, Johnny Drile, Aja Monet, Femi Leye, Alhanislam, Dike Chukwumerije” among others.
Day 4 will be largely virtual programming that starts @3pm with All Day Long: A Spoken Word Poetry film by Ola Opesan “exploring the life of a struggling spoken word artist and her desire to use her skill to bring change to society”. And @4pm will be ‘Where Will Our Voices Go: The Future of African Stories’ featuring Moky Makura, Kola Tubosun, Elizabeth Johnson, Troy Onyango, with Richard Ali moderating, which session is “a reflection on the challenges of scaling publishing platforms and outlets for African narratives and ideas”.
Also @6pm, a virtually streamed special keynote ‘The Ghost of Sankara: Reforming Leadership and Society in Africa Around an Ethical Core’ will be deliverred by Dr. Akintoye Akindele where he will take his audience through “a historical look on African systems of ethics, its struggle to find exprrssion in contemporary leadership and the socio-economic effect of this across the continengt”.
Day 5 on Sunday, October 24, Lagos Internationa Poetry Festival (LIPFest 2021) will be brought to a close with hFactor session @7pm in what is tagged ‘Poetry After Dark: Poems Apostle Must Not Hear’ that will feature “music, booze, dancing and mnore poetry at the festivals annual party, a silent disco event peppered with spontaneous and raunchy poetry readings”.