Tatu. 2016

Eight New-Generation African Poets

with cover art by Victor Ehikhamenor

The box set contains nine individual chapbooks:
• New Generation African Poets, Tatu: An Introduction in Two Movements by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani
In Praise of Our Absent Father by D.M. Aderibigbe
The Painter of Water by Gbenga Adesina
The Color of James Brown’s Scream by Kayombo Chigonyi
Asmarani by Safia Elhillo
Survival Kit by Chielozona Eze
Paper Dolls by Lydia Nyachiro Kasese
Dagoretti Corner by Ngwatilo Mawiyoo
The Leaving by Hope Wabuke

The newest in the series, Tatu, produced in continuing collaboration with Akashic Books, is a stunning nine-piece boxed set, featuring eight more individual chapbooks of new work from emerging African poets, each with a preface from another working poet.

Above all, what we hope for is a poetics that is more African than it has ever been, but we are in the business of trusting the African poet to discover what this Africanness means. It may well emerge as something quite specific, something located with a particular tribe, ethnic group, neighborhood, or community, or it may grow out some visionary insight into the ways in which Africa as a continent is changing.” –Kwame Dawes, in the introduction

Forthcoming Spring 2016 ($22.46).




<h3>The Leaving | Hope Wabuke</h3>

send me home
grandmother says

after one year in america.
i miss the orphans

the children of
my children

disappeared in the war
send me home.

grandmother says
i do not want to die

in a foreign land.
send me home.

from “if the center is to hold (lamentations)”

Hope Wabuke’s The Leaving is a powerful examination of the African experience through the eyes of a new generation of African women poets living in the Diaspora. With her carefully arranged lyrical verse in vivid images, she tells the story of her life as a child, born in exile, and forced to live an exiled existence against the backdrop of biblical images of another exiled people. As if these were the stories again of the exodus of God’s people from slavery in search of the promised land, her strong, sometimes narrative voice is both haunting and engaging.” Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

<h3>Dagoretti Corner | Ngwatilo Mawiyoo</h3>

I learn that my body is not for sex
when I stand in that lake's shallows
soap in hand, beside another woman.

I follow her lead, how she stands knee deep
so the current won't get in the way of her scrubbing,
the gleam she demands of her machine.

  from “Bathing in Lake Victoria”

“These poems bloom and ripen, inquire and listen. The travelers in these poems are humbled by the dignity and generosity of their hosts.   Many are called by name: Ghaki, Freddie, Mama Chela, and Moraa. But the poems of Dagoretti Corner are far more than catalogs. The poems know what it means to "wring mangoes from the tree" and offer them to another. The poems are peopled devotions.” Harvey

<h3>Paper Dolls | Lydia Nyachiro Kasese</h3>

Things I want to say to the men that made paper dolls out of me only to set them on fire:
When you mix one part sacrifice, three parts anger and two-thirds of gods whose names are too dirty, too non-sacrificial to be mentioned. You get the makings of a war too vile to be recorded in history books.

from “Paper Dolls”

“Kasese is a strategist turning the objectified female body into a shield, a shell, a battering ram. The female body is for some in these poems an artifact and a trophy. But for Kasese’s speaker(s) the body can be an archive of sensory experience. Kasese writes as someone surveying her emotional landscape from a great height where the view is spectacular, but the air is thin as the smoke her speaker draws from cigarettes, one after another. This mix of the toxic and the beautiful characterizes many of the poems in Paper Dolls, and the distance between the two produces as much self-alienation as it does objectivity and self-awareness.”  Gregory Pardlo

<h3>Survival Kit | Chielozona Eze</h3>

I’ve known the shame of empty plates.
I’ve known the sadism of slow death
that kills the soul first and leaves the body
to coast along
a few more days
or weeks
like an airplane that has ran out of fuel.

from “The Shame of Empty Plates”

“Eze chooses a different direction, honing in first on the personal and the struggle of the individual to make meaning, and to forge a language to contain that meaning in a way that always allows the lyric turn to happen, always allowing uncertainty to live at the heart of things, like the trickster we know as Esu in Yoruba, or Agwu in Igbo. This offers a new and more nuanced way to open up the larger issues at the heart of a culture…The collection also traces multiple contexts and circumstances of the long-term implications of that initial loss—of innocence, of trust, even of faith—as the poet attempts a new liturgy for self.” Chris Abani

<h3>Asmarani | Safia Elhillo</h3>

i do not always survive
across boundaries i pull
sweet blue smoke from a coiled
hookah pipe i sometimes
lie bleeding painted gold
& you need not find me beautiful

from “first interview for the position of abdelhalim hafez’s girl” 

“Intricacy is a key word here, as Elhillo is a writer who operates on multiple levels concurrently, interweaving family history and autobiography with a broader analysis of Sudan’s socio-political history – a narrative that must encircle colonialism, civil war, genocide, resource conflict and exile. Water is a motif that saturates many of the poems --- and one which serves the dual purpose of bearing ecological insight and emotional freight.” Karen McCarthy Woolf

<h3>The Color of James Brown's Scream | Kayombo Chingonyi </h3>
For the purist, hung up on tracing a drum break to its source, acquired in the few moments’ grace before the store-clerk, thin voiced, announces closing time it's not just the drummer’s slack grip, how the hook line swings in the session singer’s interpretation, or the engineer’s too-loud approximation of the MacGyver theme tune, it's that hiss, the room fetching itself from itself in hiccups and spools. from “The Room”
“The poems, therefore, reveal not so much self-conscious sophistication, but something more valuable, a bounding pleasure in language and its possibilities. We begin with the sensuality of people engaging with the scents and fluids of our lives, and then, gradually, we begin to see the grace of a kind of honesty: ‘since I’m remembering this, or making it up/ there is only darkness’, he writes. We begin to believe this, and further, that the poem is a way to contend with this darkness.” Kwame Dawes
<h3> The Painter of Water | Gbenga Adesina </h3>

This is how you love in war:
You put a bit of yourself in salt and water and
feed it to him. You make his hands write a map
that softens the night on your cheeks and then you
open a tiny follicle in his eyes and say Shabash, Shabash

from “How to Love”

“Gbenga Adesina’s poems invite readers into the heat of postcolonial discord, test the warm wind of commotions to come. Painter of Water is a beautifully sequenced chapbook that stands in the “mine at noon,” and describes the rage that suffocates citizens, leaves them beyond dystopia, in bewilderment. In “Three-fifth of the World’s Songs” and other poems, citizens, primarily women, lament their swallowed songs. Adesina presents a poignant definition of loss and the lost, while offering a possibility for respite: relief through a returned lyric, the freedom to breathe songs of generation and not grief.” Ladan Osman

<h3>In Praise of Our Absent Father | D.M. Aderibigbe</h3>

before me, there is my shadow--
my father's past-- gawking
at me with blank eyes: a past

I would feed to some hungry gods
in place of a return to my mother's womb.

My mother and her sister
joke of their slow death--
about their murderous men.

from “Separating from my Future” 

“Here is a poet whose vision and empathy reach into the intimate corners of family history, bearing witness to generations of tenderness, violence, generosity, survival and imagination with rare precision. At the intersection of the public and the personal his politics emerge with integrity – if these stories emerge from the private world of his own family, their resonance and relevance, marked in the title’s naming of our absent father, call his readers to bear witness and join in imagining other possibilities.” Tsitsi Jaji