Female Nigerian poets

Featured Image Credit: Nonyelum Ekwempu

Reshaping Obliterated Faces: Ten Female Nigerian Poets.

Nigerian literature has always flourished. It has produced a number of international award winners including a Noble prize in Literature. The earlier generation of writers had fewer women writers. For mostly the men that wrote, their representation of women were mostly tied with bits of gossips or pots of soup. Just as there was a poor character representation of Nigerian women in men’s writing of early Nigerian Literature, there were not enough published women writers in the 50s and 60’s, for instance. Further, Margaret Laurence in the journal Long Drums and Cannons lists about a dozen Nigerian poets of Odia Ofeimun’s generation out of which only a couple of women are included: Molara Ogundipe and Catherine Acholonu. However, with the emergence of what has been referred to as the third generation of Nigerian writers, female writers have basically broken through the glass ceiling, especially with names such as Sefi Attah, Omowumi Segun, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, Chimamanda Adichie, Toyin Adewale-Gabriel, Nnedi Okorafor, Helen Oyeyemi, Lola Shoneyin, Sefi Attah, Chika Unigwe, Molara Wood, Faith Adiele, Chioma Okereke, Jumoke Verrisimo, Chinelo Okparanta, Bilikisu Abubakar, Angela Agali Nwosu, Maryam Ali, Victoria Kankara, Ukamaka Olisakwe to mention some. Additionally, the existence of Remi Raji-Oyelade’s vast list of women poets entitled Women Poetry from Northern Nigeria cannot be ignored. While a case could be made for an actual privation in the number of female Nigerian writers of Flora Nwapa’s generation for example, Uche Umez’s “Eight Young Nigerian Poets Whose Poems Delight” silences the fundamental contribution made by women’s work by excluding them from what he intends to be regarded as a compilation of good flavor. Of all the eight poets that delight Uche Umez, none are women. In as much as he has a right to whose works and what gladdens his aesthetic taste, his expose’ perpetuates the impression that women writers would need to work harder to appeal to the patriarchal palate. Renowned scholars like Chikwenye Ogunyemi (1988:60) have spoken to this same topic, especially when she describes African and Nigerian Literature as “phallic” dominated….by male writers and male critics who deal almost exclusively with male characters and male concerns, naturally aimed at predominantly male audience. Hence, in line with Uche Umez’s inequitable eight male poets, I present ten formidable female poets that please my feminine fervor.

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Jennifer Emelife’s unique voice is authentic and bold. Sibbyl Whyte’s tone bears reflective melody. While Emmanuella Nduonofit’s lines seem awkward, there is method to her cacophony. Farida Adamu on her path celebrates flair in her infantile energy. Yet, profound and probing is Mary Ann Olaoye’s disquiet tenor. Hauwa’s songs just like the verses of Regina Achie and Maryam Aliko Mohammed have salient narrative layers. Though Iquo Bassey Eke bares the raw teeth of protest, Assumpta Ozua’s striking tune lightens the weight of her themes.


1 – Jennifer Chinenye Emelife



if i were there

i would be lost in the warmth

of your embrace

wear the cologne of your comfort

fly in your care craft

feel the love of your tender palms



…continue here


SPOKEN WORD: Tomorrow Never Came


2 – Sibbyl Whyte.



I journeyed upon this road of life

free of the treacherous blinds

that made me chase wrong dreams

I walked with you and saw the light

that shone for all things right.

You – the beacon of hope

that steered me along life’s lonely route

with wisdom wrapped in words

you sowed upon my barren mind.

…continue here


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3 – Emmanuella Nduonofit



Bury me in dry leaves.

I desire to inhale their scent.

When dry winds arrive,

I’ll be well cradled by air

and be at heaven quicker

before judgement.


Far away from humankind,

strange human kindness,

let me rot in peace.

I want to inhale

and be inhaled

by nothing.

…continue here


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4 – Farida Adamu



Upon love’s blank pages we scribble

U and I, possesive pronouns in lovespeak

entities bound, yet seperated by a ten and one

in the abcderian scheme of things

eleven hurdles crossed to bring I close to U

in a melding of form and spirit on sheets.

Read the scribbles etched on my heart;

a Testament of love neither Old nor New

just heartbeats that shows U what I feel

Not the silly shattering hearts in Boon

nor the butterflies in bellies at the Mills

It’s the peace we feel when U and I fill pages.

…continue here


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5 – Shade Mary-Ann Olaoye


from within

i dig deeper

and you,

well up from within



(for indihi)

with you, i try to recover those lost years

i gather them around me like a wrap

but they are like air, too free and loose to be contained in a place

or gathered as a shield against naked memories

yet so alive and bare it brings with it

sounds and silence of my baby steps


life grew before my eyes

and you, beautiful bouquet of flowers

with your petals of smiles

and blooming roses of life

you grow, delicately before me

…continue here


RELATED: Seven Days to the End of the World





i stand alone in this hallway

shrubs flaunt their hues before me

and I think how pale my heart has become

how the colour has left its skin

and how in the darkness that lies in a ditch

it has found solace


Dry dreams stare

their eyes drill into mine

with the silent declaration that they cannot be

yet they part their lips slightly

as though they beseech me

to pick them up,

to carve reality out of them

but my fingers do not hold sorcery

and even in sorcery,

unconceived dreams cannot be helped

and so i cannot pick them

…continue here


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Remember the lean years

When I bore you children

On straw mats

Inherited from your parents

Even then

I honoured you


In days of want

When an arm of wrapper

Was all I had

With three blouses

For church, farm and long journeys

I honoured you

…continue here


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Plot an ambiguous path

on the map that is my life

and take a leisurely walk with me

into the uncertainty of forever.

As I scatter my problems at your feet

like dissident rose petals,

be not afraid,

but collect them one by one.

Be not predictable

in the vein of Pandora’s box,

and let lose all that I hold dear.


…continue here


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9 – Maryam Aliko Mohammed



Yes, I want a man

I want a man that is like me: shattered

broken into many pieces

but has taken time to glue the pieces back together.

A man who knows how sweet life can be

with a clarity that reveals itself at the point you shatter.

A man that, even though he could not find some of the smaller pieces

those slivers that got stuck somewhere

the pieces so broken that they can’t be fixed back

A man that has learnt to lean far back so that those cracks do not allow his essence to seep out.

…continue here


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Fears of yesterday

Rush forth in a contemptuous rage

Like bits of glass in a kaleidoscope

Each piece a fiery recognition

As our past fears turn to today’s reality

Like a spider

In its own intricate weaving

This web of never ending corruption is made more rigid

With each futile breakaway attempt


We grope in the dark

Uncertain of our ailments

Even more uncertain of the cure


…continue here

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  1. Hello Unoma,
    It was quite thoughtful of you to compile the list of Nigerian female poets. I respect you deeply for that. I’m thinking it would be nice to have a forum for this group of females to encourage them and those who have same prospect. Just thinking. Kechi

  2. This is absolutely absorbing. Thanks to Prof. Unoma Azuah for affording us this opportunity to read some of the best voices in female poetry of our generation.

  3. This is absolutely absorbing. Thanks to Professor Unoma Azuah for affording us this opportunity to read some of the best female voices in Nigerian poetry of our generation.

  4. Women representation (or women writers as the case maybe) is something that has been overlooked in Africa. Most of the works we read in school are the ones written by or are about the men and the few ones written by the female usually have either Emecheta’s Joys Of Motherhood or Nwapa’s Efuru as the major point of focus. Frankly speaking, I have never heard or come across any of these writers or their works, not until after I read this post. Nice one dear, and am happy this is coming from a fellow grammarian and a worthy Lioness.

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