TORROW, Sunday, August 7, 2022, the CORA-The Nigeria Prize for Literature Book Party 2022 will host the entire literary community to a party of books and fine poetry with the 11 longlisted writers leading the show. Moderating the cast of 11 poets will be writer, teacher, and linguist, and publisher of Olongo Africa, Mr. Kola Tubosun. Venue is MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos. Below is the synopsis of the 11 poetry collections and a profile of the poets.
Augusta’s Poodle (Ogaga Ifowodo; Bookcraft Publishing; 2021)
Synopsis: In Augusta’s Poodle, his fifth volume of poetry, Ogaga Ifowodo journeys into the past to thread together the odd and disparate beads of a relatively unusual childhood, rediscovering the sense of awe, wonder and elation of the child. It is divided into three parts – ‘First Residence, which was the Second,’ ‘Second Residence, which was the First’ and ‘Random Recollections’. They combine to evoke the enchantment of flora and fauna, places and faces, rites and rituals, along with those memories and sensations that justify their recollection by surviving the fog of forgetfulness and, ultimately, affirming or renewing allegiance to place.
Profile: Trained originally as a lawyer, Ifowodo has previously published three prize-winning collections: Homeland & Other Poems (1998), which in manuscript won the 1993 Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) poetry prize; Madiba, winner of the ANA/Cadbury poetry prize; The Oil Lamp which won the ANA/Gabriel Okara poetry prize. A Good Mourning, his fourth collection, was shortlisted for the 2018 NLNG prize. His poems have been widely published in several anthologies and literary journals across the world, including Voices from all Over: Poems with Notes and Activities, The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry International, The Massachusetts Review, Crazyhorse, and others. His scholarly study, History, Trauma, and Healing in Postcolonial Narratives was published by Palgrave Macmillan. He is a recipient of the PEN USA Barbara Goldsmith Freedom-to-Write Award and of the Poets of All Nations (Netherlands) “Free Word” Award.
Coming Undone as Stitches Tighten (Iquo DianaAbasi; Sevhage Kikya; 2021)
Synopsis: The collection covers diverse experiences, including love and longing, the environment, culture, music, governance, and death. It is tribute to a nationhood and humanity, evoking emotions that capture the true essence of art. As in her debut collection, Iquo DianaAbasi once more brings to the page the fire for which she is known on stage. This collection is a potpourri of velvety verse that touches on so many things evocative of the Nigerian and African spirit. In this graceful sophomore collection, DianaAbasi’s passion pours on and on in ways that most readers will connect with.
Profile: Storyteller, performance poet and editor, she writes prose, poetry and scripts for radio and screen. She has performed on many stages and is the author of Symphony of Becoming, a collection of poems shortlisted for the Nigeria Literature Prize, the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature and the Association of Nigerian Authors Poetry Prize. She is also the author of the short story collection, Efo Riro and Other Stories. DianaAbasi is known to perform her poems with a touch of Ibibio folklore. She is passionate about the environment and spreads the message of a sustainable environment through various activities with not-for-profit organisations. Coming Undone as Stitches Tightens is her sophomore poetry.
dispossessed (James Eze; Fasihi (Daraja Press); 2019)
Synopsis: This is a long-awaited collection from one of this generation’s most promising poets; here is promise fulfilled. Here is what we all want from great poetry: lyricism, captivating imagery, storytelling, but above all the ability to rouse the emotions to that sublime plane only great poetry knows how to do. There are echoes of Okigbo here, and Eliot, and Yeats, and Neruda, but the alchemy and the magic are all James Eze’s.
Pofile: Pioneer Literary Editor of Sunday Sun, Eze is the curator of ‘Under African Skies’ which hosts A Flutter in the Woods; a yearly evening of poetry and songs in Akwa, Anambra State. He also co-founded The Return to Idoto, a poetry festival in honour of Christopher Okigbo. His poems have appeared in Camouflage: Best of Contemporary Writing from Nigeria. As Head of External Communications at Fidelity Bank, worked in partnership with the novelist Chimamanda Adichie to begin her popular International Creative Writing Workshop series.
Ife Testament (Segun Adekoya; Bookminds Publishers; 2020)
Synopsis: In Ife Testament the poet sounds ominous like a swansong. He bears witness to a broad spectrum of disquieting human experience. The pain and pleasure of death and dream love, the dubiety and elusiveness of truth, the transience and vacuity of life, the beauty and depravity of humanity, the agony bred by neocolonial economy, the venality and shenanigans of the clergy and government, the paradox of nature, the wrathful but rightful vengeance wrought by climate change and global warming, the evil that inheres in capitalist greed and racism, and the perplexing wonder of participating in the complex cosmic orchestra and its accompanying dizzying ontological dance – all jostle for expression.
Profile: Segun Adekoya teaches oral and written literature at the Department of English Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The first Chairman of the Osun State Chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors and the Author (ANA) of the widely acclaimed book, The Inner Eye: An Oriel on Wole Soyinka’s Poetry; Ife Testament is his fifth collection of poems.
Memory and the Call of Waters (S. Su’eddie Vershima Agema; Sevhage Kikya; 2021)
Synopsis: The collection interrogates personal and collective memory juxtaposed with current realities woven into diverse facets from love, family, culture, politics, and depression, to survival, hope and redemption. Written in mixed styles, it is an unpretentious collection that will remain with readers long after its last page is read.
Profile: Multiple award-winning writer, development worker, cultural enthusiast and editor, Agema blogs at http://sueddie.wordpress.com and is @sueddieagema on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram.
Nomad (Romeo Oriogun; Griots Lounge Publishing; 2021)
Synopsis: Romeo Oriogun’s poetry explores alterity and displacements-of location, of intimate physical spaces, of colour/race, the remnant music of Caliban. He does this with a deft hand and an instinctive feel for the cadences of the lyric.
Profile: Author of Sacrament of Bodies, which was a finalist for the Lambda Award for Gay Poetry, Oriogun has received fellowships and support from Ebedi International Writers Residency, Harvard University, Hutchins Centre for African and African American Research, Oregon Institute for Creative Research, and the HE-Artist Protection Fund. Winner of the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize and an alumnus of the lowa Writers’ Workshop, he currently lives in Ames where he is a postdoctoral Research Associate at lowa State University.
The Lilt of the Rebel (Obari Gomba; Hornbill House of the Arts; 2021)
Synopsis: Published in 2021 by Hornbill House, Obari Gomba’s The Lilt of the Rebel comprises of 108 poems, divided into eight parts. It is a rich collection of poems on diverse issues, bold, candid, and unafraid of controversy. Gomba’s aesthetics is surefooted as expected of a poet who has earned his place as one of the best across the generations. In poem after poem, the personae radically re-think their existence and offer positions against shopworn orthodoxy or calcification of thought. Art and creativity, life and mortality, faith and divinity, power and pestilence, resistance and social engagement, local and global politics are all themes that will resonate with readers everywhere in the globe. It won the PAWA Prize for African Poetry (2022).
Profile: A multiple award-winning writer, Gomba is an Honorary Fellow in Writing of the University of lowa [U.S.]. He has been Torch Global South Visiting Professor and visiting Professor and Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, University of Oxford [UK]. He is presently the Associate Dean of Humanities at the University of Port-Harcourt. His poetry is limpid…fresh and uncluttered, and assured like the voice of an early morning stream.”
The Love Canticles (Amu Nnadi; Griots Lounge; 2020)
Synopsis: The Love Canticles is an alchemical phenomenon; a project which attempts to achieve a purity of vision of life’s richness, by seeing it through a vantage of love and the point of view it affords. Through this masterful work, Amu Nnadi demonstrates what the poet, W.S. Merwin meant when he once said “Poetry is seeing the world with fresh eyes.” The poet portrays familiar experiences, rendered in fresh language, as though he sees things anew, aided by an eureka moment of gaiety, and of loneliness, sadness and love. The carefulness of amu nnadi’s craft, the vividness of his vision, the embodiment and range of his metaphors, as well as acuity of his imageries, are a reflection and characteristic of a gifted poet whose art has passed through the alchemical crucible of long-suffering and devotion over the decades.
Profile: An honours graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he was the best graduating student, is an award-winning poet whose books include: the fire within (2002), winner of the inaugural ANA/NDDC Gabriel Okara Poetry Prize in 2002; pilgrim’s passage (2004), listed for the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2005; through the window of a sandcastle (2013), shortlisted for The Nigeria Prize for Literature and winner the ANA Poetry Prize, both in 2013, as well as winner of the inaugural Glenna Luschei African Poetry Book Prize in 2014; ihejuruonu (2015); a river’s journey (2016); a field of echoes (2016), and the love canticles (2020). amu nnadi is currently pioneering work on an album of songs, titled everything beautiful, created from his poetry. A sixteen-track album, he is releasing a single every month, leading to a schedule album release by the end of the 2022. He is the resident Poet of the Port Harcourt Literary Society.
Wanderer Cantos (Remi Raji; Noirledge Limited; 2021)
Synopsis: “The poetic eloquence and social tenor, the intimate tone and tender rhythm make Wanderer Cantos a significant booster to a Rajian aesthetics long marked by heightened sensitivity to the contradictions of life. As in his earlier collections, Wanderer Cantos marries the public and the private in measured craft that renders poetry more human than we ever thought.”
Profile: Remi Raji (Aderemi Raji-Oyelade) was the chairperson of the Oyo State Chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors (1997-2000) and editor of the 2000 edition of ANA Review. He was the official Guest Poet to the City of Stockholm, Sweden in 2005. A former General Secretary of the Nigerian Centre of PEN International, and the first Coordinator of PEN African Centres [PAN]. Raji served as the President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (2011-2015). His poems have appeared in both local and international journals and anthologies including Voices from the Fringe, The Guardian, The Nigerian Tribune, Times Review, For Ken, For Nigeria, 25 New Nigerian Poets, Sou’Wester Literary Journal, and Rochford Street Review, among others. He has read and performed his works in different parts of Africa, Europe, and the U.S. Raji lectures in the Department of English, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Wanderer Cantos is his seventh book of poetry.
Yawn and Belches (Joe Ushie; Kraftgriots (Kraft Books Limited; 2018)
Synopsis: In Yawns and Belches, Joe demonstrates a sustained proclivity in presenting the “social-political” themes of his world with a stylistic signature reminiscent of Niyi Osundare, Susan Kiguli and Eaman Grennan. Oscillating like a pendulum between hopefulness and hopelessness, the collection addresses failure in leadership as manifested in a democracy that has elected to remain infantile. It illuminates the poet’s continuous strengthening of his craftsmanship and poetic vision.
Profile: Professor of English and the current Vice-Dean, Postgraduate School, University of Uyo, his poetry has been widely studied and read to audiences both in the country and around the world. He is a year 2000 recipients of the Distinguished ELSALITE Award of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University if Calabar, and a 2010/2011 honouree of the Academia Awards ‘Education Ambassador’ of Akwa Ibom State. He is an editorial consultant to many scholarly journals and magazines both within and outside the country, a foreign examiner to about 10 universities in India and an external examiner to many universities and other tertiary institutions in Nigeria. He is a co-editor of the 2009 ANA publication, Themes Fall Apart But the Centre Holds, and of its successor-volume, Arrows or Gods? Critical Essays on the Leadership Question in Achebe’s Arrow of God. He has participated in academic events in many countries.
Your Crib, My Qibla (Saddiq Dzukogi; University of Nebraska Press; 2021)
Synopsis: Shortlisted for the Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry shortlist, the collection interrogates loss, the death of a child, and a father’s pursuit of language able to articulate grief. In these poems, the language of memory functions as a space of mourning, connecting the dead with the world of the living. Culminating in an imagined dialogue between the father and his deceased daughter in the intricate space of the family, Your Crib, My Qibla explores grief, the fleeting nature of healing, and the constant obsession of memory as a language to reach the dead.
Profile: A 2017 finalist of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, he is the author of Inside the Flower Room, selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the New Generation African Poets Chapbook series. Dzukogi’s poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review, Prairie Scooner, Gulf Coast, World Literature Today, New Orleans Review, Oxford Poetry, African American Review, Best American Experimental Writing, and elsewhere. He holds a degree in mass communication from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, and is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, U.S.
Moderator: Kola Tubosun
Writer, teacher, and linguist, and publisher of Olongo Africa, Tubosun is the author of two collections of poetry, Edwardsville by Heart (2018) and Ìgbà Èwe (2021), a Yorùbá dictionary of names at YorubaName.com, and several works in translation between English and Yorùbá. He is a Fulbright Scholar (2009) and, until recently, a Chevening Research Fellow at the British Library in London (2019/2020). His work has been published in African Writer, Aké Review, Brittle Paper, International Literary Quarterly, Enkare Review, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, PEN Transmissions, Jalada, Popula, Saraba Magazine, The Guardian (Nigerian and UK), among others. His work in language advocacy earned him the Premio Ostana Special Prize in Italy in 2016. He’s currently the African co-editor of The Best Translations Anthology. He lives in Lagos and at www.kolatubosun.com.