The chapbook 8 box collection contains:
• Yellow Iris- Janet Kofi-Tsekpo
• Who Are You Looking For – Amy Lukau
• The Wire-Headed Heathen Inua Ellams
• Things We Lost in the Fire Vuyelwa Maluleke
• Mitu’s Spice Tour – Blessing Musariri
• Bird From Africa Viola Allo
• Bearing Heavy Things Liyou Libsekal
• A Pagan Place Peter Akinlabi
Akashic Books (April 28, 2015)
This eight-piece boxed set features the work of seven African poets, with an introduction by Kwame Dawes, APBF series editor, and Chris Abani.
“Kofi-Tsekpo’s collection reveals a poet of tremendous maturity, clarity, and vision. This explains the polish of her work, the deft weave of words and music (tonal and atonal), the assurance of a mature line, and the settling into short forms that turn so much… This collection also reveals an understanding of myth and symbolism that this poet wields with an impressive command but deploys always with a deep faith in the reader’s ability not only to understand the work conceptually but also to also engage and experience it viscerally.”—Chris Abani, Nigerian poet and novelist, PEN Award and Guggenheim winner. (edit)
Noli Me Tangere
In his pink-yellow salmah
he sees her. I see you, she says,
walking here alone. Just like that worm
split by the gardener’s hoe,
spread across the grass,
struggling to be whole
there in the earth’s damp spot.
Don’t touch me, he says.
Her hands are golden fires;
they lick His feet.
“[Lukau’s] is a poetry that endeavors to empathize with those who have faced injustice—whether political or historical—and simultaneously to challenge the systemic fissures inherent in today’s post-colonial, globalized landscape. … Academic affiliations are brought to bear within the work, both stylistically and in terms of a broader sense of hybrid poetics, where the experimental is juxtaposed with a multicultural, woman-centered take on science and theology.”—Karen McCarthy Woolf, British poet, writer, and teacher. (edit)
Thoughts of Isaac
[T]he day i saw you.
They took you
no more talking
i will not be your Sarah
you my Abraham
no defying reality:
offspring will never number the stars
& yet I still hear
absence of your laughter.
THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE | VUYELWA MALULEKE
Too Heavy to Love
How much you hate yourself is muffled
by the lavender foam bath the shop assistant said
would make you feel like Paris arched herself into your tub.
You’d never been to a place whose skies
were bouquets and not smoke.
But even in the water you think:
I am too heavy to love
I am too heavy to love
I am too heavy to love
“Critical of a contemporary life that has placed the material over the ethereal, Ellams reminds the reader of just how central the art of storytelling is to our ability to locate ourselves in the constant transformation that defines our daily lives. Specifically, his poetry articulates a space for contemporary African thinking on and beyond the continent with a striking ability to dip into narratives that are simultaneously reminiscent and deeply edifying.”—Matthew Shenoda, Egyptian-American poet, writer, and professor. (edit)
Ghetto Van Gogh
The night my mother tells the story of the thief I am cross-legged on her lap. Her mouth is inches from my ear. She lets the dusk slip into her voice and whispers about the boy who snatched a mango at the market and ran, becoming the teenager who robbed a shop at gun point, shot the blind cashier, shot him as he fell, shot him once more dead; became the man who stole 36 cars and when apprehended, to be publicly hanged, asked for one wish, his whole lip quivering.
My mother who is inches from my ear, explains his dying wish to speak to his mother. The crowd parted silently, she gathered his bound wrists, kissed his rough skin, her cheeks shimmering in the killing heat. He bent forward, says mother, her mouth even closer, dusky voice hushed, bent towards her cheek as if to kiss goodbye and switched sharply, bit into her ear, strained against the flesh, ripped the thing off and spat / you should have told me mother, what I did was wrong /.
“Although Blessing Musariri is from Zimbabwe and still lives there, the poems in this collection defy any kind of nationalized categorization. They are not rooted in one place but instead have a global reach expressed through localized incidents, experiences and sensations. Her poems range from negotiations of the heart and meditations on loss and home, to the textured landscapes of memory, and the unsettling disquiet of violence, both physical and psychological.”—Bernardine Evaristo, award-winning British poet and writer. (edit)
We cannot be men’s wives
who want a limp weed to hold
through rushing waters
for their watching pleasure,
wondering if we will break
in the swollen current,
debating how tight to hold
and how long.
In the harmony of muddy banks
we are straight and still,
bowing if they bend us,
but careful not to break
BIRD FROM AFRICA | VIOLA ALLO
What to Wear
In my dreams
I’m a girl again
and I return
There’s nothing new
The thing to note:
the same clothes—
black with shoe polish
and my cornflower-blue
“The continuity between life closely observed and the larger lessons it holds gives the poems an intimate and grounded sense of justice. Indeed, one of the great gifts of this collection is the empathy it offers to those who walk innocently into forces they do not understand and which punish them for their lack of power. The poems stand with those whom injustice silences. This is particularly true for women caught in the constrictions of tradition, to whom the speaker offers her compassion and sense of unity.” —Gabeba Baderoon, Professor of Women’s Studies and African-American Studies at Penn State University (edit)
the scent of coffee in cotton foldsshe speaks, and my veins rush
magnetized, urged to break skin
but I, can be toughshe says the stars leaked
and someone sat beneath them
absorbed their heat
she has a voice that makes things festershe throws lifelines
to drain marrow from our bones
and fade from sweet clouds and heavy lidded mornings
“Akinlabi gracefully takes us through varying landscapes of Africa: from his native Nigeria through Ghana, the Congo, and Libya. All the while his interests are less in the physical place and more in the sense of place, perhaps even the psyche of place, of what it means to occupy place as an African in the world… While anchored in an African sensibility, the cartographic is expressed largely through memory and the life of the mind, in a longing for understanding.”
—Matthew Shenoda, Egyptian-American poet, writer, and professor
A Report from Benghazi
The cameras are candid, maintaining
their fidelity with still more souls adrift.
The sky stretches,
an unrevealing omen of clouds.
The red of revolt reveals
his confidence as sketched.
There is no newer neurosis,
but certainly a professed devotion.
The clammy prayer said, the hand
is free, the soul, emblazoned,
unleashed. A grey of grenade
clouds all, and the footage, sterner now,
locates a moist mural of bones and flesh;
and an unclosed eye piercing
the ambling clouds for beatitudes