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.
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.
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
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.
BURY ME IN DRY LEAVES…
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
Far away from humankind,
strange human kindness,
let me rot in peace.
I want to inhale
and be inhaled
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.
RELATED: Brave New World by Dike Chukwumerije
i dig deeper
well up from within
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
RELATED: Seven Days to the End of the World
6 – HAUWA
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
7 – REGINA ACHIE
I HONOURED YOU
Remember the lean years
When I bore you children
On straw mats
Inherited from your parents
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
8 – ASSUMPTA OZUA
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.
I WANT A MAN
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.
10 – IQUO ABASI
IN THE WEB
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