Sacrament of Bodies
University of Nebraska Press, 2020
In this groundbreaking collection of poems, Sacrament of Bodies, Romeo Oriogun fearlessly interrogates how a queer man in Nigeria can heal in a society where everything is designed to prevent such restoration. With honesty, precision, tenderness of detail, and a light touch, Oriogun explores grief and how the body finds survival through migration.
Sacrament of Bodies is a very special book. But why? Because Romeo Oriogun has developed a style that is both personal and mythical, because these poems are sensual and spiritual at once, because they give us both a story and a song, a shout and a whisper. ‘I have learnt to love every broken thing,’ Oriogun tells us. I find that Oriogun’s tension between the high style of a sermon and the earthiness of love songs gives these poems a particularly memorable touch. It is memorable also because it is able to give us a journey (through time, through forgetting, through elegy, through exile) that is both a story of a real man in real time and an incantation, a speaking in tongues. But it is his music that finally sways me, it’s music that lifts it all, that makes out of truth-telling a song. The music works here because Oriogun is a master of incantation: ‘I danced,’ he tells us, ‘as if I knew every song had a door.’ Indeed. I love this beautiful, heart-wrenching, passionate book.Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic
Sacrament of Bodies is a gorgeous book filled with fiery pain and ecstatic desire. These poems are spacious enough to hold all the contradictions: the violence waged against gay people and the body’s insistence on love, the tenderness of flesh and the carnage of war, remembering and forgetting, silence and song. Romeo Oriogun has wrought complex, elegant poems that wrench beauty from all that would kill us. As he writes, ‘I worship the day because it survived the night.’ I admire these poems immensely. They make me stronger.Ellen Bass, author of Indigo and Like a Beggar