* ‘Ojaide’s poetry as therapy’
By Godwin Okondo
NIGERIAN poet and academic, Prof. Tanure Ojaide of the University of North Caroline at Charlotte, U.S., on Saturday, October 16, 2021, launched his latest collection of poetry titled Narrow Escape: A Poetic Diary of the Coronavirus Pandemic. It contains 237 poems in which he expresses thoughts, feelings and emotions and how he coped during the raging period of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The event was held on the Zoom Meeting app, and simultaneously streamed live on Facebook, and it had a large audience participating, with Mathias Oshero as host. The launch also included a poetry reading session, as well as a quiz session, with the winners receiving prizes.
Among those present were Cameroonian poet and creative writer, Joyce Ashuntantang, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Development Practice at Regis University, Denver, U.S., Dr. Jude Fokwang, Global poet, dramatist, linguist, and literary critic, Prof. Niyi Osundare, Prof. Mabel Ewrierhoma, and writer, Prof. Mark West.
The programme began with Ashuntantang reading the biography of Prof. Tanure Ojajide. The Head of Department of the English and Literary Studies, Delta State University, Abraka, Dr. Enajite Ojaruega, who read aloud the poem ‘We Are All Casualties,’ said, “I chose this poem because the poet has dealt with responses in this period of crisis, and on a personal note, the poet’s articulation is impressive.
“The pandemic affected everyone regardless of their societal status, which I find very pragmatic. Reading this, we also find echoes of our individual fears. The poem is very simple, yet philosophical. I want to thank the poet for the opportunity to look at this poem, and also encourage everyone to read this, because this is a perfect example of poetry as therapy.”
The second reading was delivered by West, who read ‘Sting,’ and ‘The Sins of the Children’ and said, “I’m pleased to be here. I was privileged to read the earlier version of the book and I was very impressed by the poems, especially the personal poems where he talked about his own family.”
The third reading was by Ashuntantang, who read ‘This Coronavirus Sef,’ while Ojaide too read “Not the Common Chinese Brand.’
Osundare congratulated the poet, noting, “Tanure, you’ve been around for so long and this is my joy, too. Thank you for your resilience. One of the attributes of a writer is to make some people never forget and I have always seen that in your works. It’s wonderful how you’ve been able to put this together.”
Fokwang also commended Ojaide for his newest to the world of poetry, saying, “Thank you Ojaide for planning this. Congratulations to you, and I hope this will be an award-winning book and I look forward to celebrating with you when the awards start coming in.”
While delivering of the vote of thanks, Ojaide said, “I appreciate your presence here; it’s a great honour to me. This is to spread word about the book so it can be read. I thank the publisher and everyone involved in this programme, as well as those who saw the poems in the making. I also want to thank my family for giving comfort and inspiration to write. And to everyone here, I’m honoured by your presence. Thank you very much. We’re passed the dark era of the coronavirus, but there are still more poems to come.”
Copies will be available in Nigeria from early December, according to Ojaide.