Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry, ‘Gbenga Adeoba’s collection Exodus focuses on forms of migration due to the slave trade, war, natural disasters, and economic opportunities. Using the sea as a source of language and metaphor, Adeoba explores themes of memory, transition, and the intersections between the historic and the imagined. With great tenderness and power his poetry of empathy searches for meaning in sharply constructed images, creating scenes of making and unmaking while he investigates experiences of exile and displacement across time and place.
There is both passion and beauty in Adeoba’s work, framed by what seems an acute sense of the power of language to capture reality. To capture and reveal truth, shrouded in all its scars, alive somehow with hope. History demands that images of drowning surge through Adeoba’s Exodus. The Mediterranean is ‘a grave wide enough for the numbers,’ we too ‘could become a band of unnamed migrants / found floating on the face of the sea,’ and ‘you could find trinket boxes or a girl’s / plastic doll in that rubble. . . . / The tiny things are heavier.’ Yet the poet can still imagine shorebirds’ songs ‘urging men to love again, calling / them to images craving tenderness.’ For poetry too is a tiny thing, and a heavy one.Alicia Ostriker, New York state poet laureate and author of Waiting for the Light