Tram 83

A poem by Chika Jones.

So, I was reading Fiston Mujila’s Tram 83,

And a line caught my eye on page thirty-three,

That’s a lie I wanted that line to rhyme,

It was actually on page fourteen,

Yet unlike my fake rhyme that chimes like a wedding bell in a cemetery,

That line was truer than the joy a loner finds in solitary,

You are probably wondering what the line was,

So, I will tell you before I drop rhymes that are far worse,

The line was this: “They were two life forms adrift in a city that had become a state by the force of Kalashnikovs”,

That line was so sharp it caught my eye like a shiny new razor,

So, I bled onto that fourteenth page,

Like I am bleeding onto this stage,


For Nigeria is about 300 tribes held together by the force of guns,

By the blood of women and little children,

If you have noticed I have stopped rhyming,

Because nothing rhymes with October 7, except 1967,

Asaba Massacre,

Seven hundred women and children led like cattle into Ogbe Osawa,

Till this day many do not know where their loved ones were buried,

And this reminds me of a line from Prison Break, when Theodore T-bag Bagwell,

Held a knife to the throat of a mother while her two children looked on,

And this is what he said,

“We are going to be a family, even if it kills us”

So, let me introduce more numbers,

The government held a knife to the throat of a tribe,

For one year, six months, one week and two days,

And this is what they said, “We are going to be a country, even if it kills us”

And it did, we are still bleeding, look where you sit,

There is blood under your feet,

Yet, what happens to a country held together by the force of guns?

I am not sure, but it rhymes with burns,

For states, should only become countries to the sound of millions raised in unity,

Not to the sound of bullets lodging themselves in the frail frames of a nine year old,

So, I just came to tell you about a book I read,

About how I bled,

And about how even if it does not rhyme,

If you look where you seat,

You will see that there is blood under your feet.

 

About Chika

Chika Jones is a poet who believes in the ability of stories to change the world. He has performed poetry on many platforms, and was most recently involved in a play titled 'Finding Home'.

 

Source: Chika Jones. Used with the permission of the author.

Image: Francois-Henri Galland.

 

2018: Most Anticipated Reads

An annual ritual you may call it but every year, we put together a list of books we cannot wait to get our hands on. This time, we got together 21 literary connoisseurs, bloggers and editors, and asked for their most anticipated read of 2018 from an African or author with African heritage. From them emerged a potpourri of genres, 10 debuts, 9 forthcoming novels and a consensus: Emezi's Freshwater is coming for all your coins! So, start piling them.

Mayowa

Historian and literary blogger

Black British history is cast aside by academia, and this negation of Black British history allows Britain to carry on its myth of racial harmony and egalitarianism. As an African, I think it is important to educate myself on not only the country and continent I’m from but also on the diaspora. This book is black excellence, and I am really looking forward to educating myself on my British sisters and brothers!

Ainehi

Founder/Editor, Brittle Paper

Adeyemi burst into the limelight last year when the news of her million-dollar book deal got out. She is the second African writer to attract that kind of payout. So that’s exciting. But the story itself is intriguing. It is a fantasy narrative which draws some inspiration from Yoruba cosmology and features a powerful female lead character. Children of Blood and Bone could very easily be the next mega hit YA novel…like The Hunger Games, perhaps.

Leila

Writer, book reviewer, and blogger, Black Book Quotes

An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

It is a story of upwardly mobile newlyweds whose love is tested when the husband gets jail time for a crime he didn't commit. Having never read Jones before, I am really looking forward to being introduced to her work. After having loved Ayobami Adebayo's Stay With Me and Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers in 2017, I'm super excited to read another nuanced portrayal of how structural injustice trickles down into romantic relationships.

Tope 

Writer and editor

Akwaeke’s writing is not of this world. To be honest, her style isn’t for everyone. She’s one of those love-them-to-your-bone-marrow or hate-them-with-everything-in-you type of authors. Iweala, on the other hand, had a good first book, so I’m excited to see what he’s done with Speak No Evil. It’s interesting that even with his well known surname in Nigeria, the literary community knows him as his own person.

Afoma

Writer and content creator,  Afoma Umesi

Hold - Michael Donkor

Hold - Michael Donkor

Michael Donkor’s Hold - to be published in July by 4th Estate - is definitely high on my TBR list. It is a story of unexpected kinship between a housegirl and her masters’ daughter, set in London and Ghana. Hold promises to be a captivating read from a new African voice. Besides, with a cover like that, who wouldn’t be interested?

Fifi

Book blogger, Kenyan Bibliophile

I’ve always been fascinated by race relations. It seems my thirst for wanting to understand how people can mistreat a certain group based on their skin color is yet to be quenched. Hurston’s book is based on her 1931 interviews with Cudjo Lewis who was brought to the US as a slave in 1860. Barracoon is set to be released in May by HarperCollins, almost half a century after the author’s death.

Sreddy

Postgraduate student and literary enthusiast

Tales of the Metric System - Imraan Coovadia

Tales of the Metric System - Imraan Coovadia

My most-anticipated African read of 2018 is Imraan Coovadia's Tales of the Metric System (Umuzi, 2014). Coovadia is one of South Africa's most exciting contemporary writers, and I'm looking forward to reading his latest (though not-so-new) novel, which reflects on the nation that is South Africa through its transition from the atrocities of apartheid to the uncertainties of the present.

Marcelle

Co-founder, Afrikult.

I'm a big lover of historical fiction. When I first heard that Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani was due for release in March, I immediately leapt to my laptop and began reading the reviews. The endorsement from Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is very promising; the overflow of praise this novel has received won me over completely. I'm intrigued to see where this story takes me, what I learn of colonial Kenya's 'iron snake', how the narratives are interweaved meanwhile discovering Peter Kimani's work. I'm equally excited and intrigued by Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi.

Freshwater - Akwaeke Emezi

Freshwater - Akwaeke Emezi

I fell in love with Akwaeke’s words after reading ‘Sometimes, the fire is not fire’. I can’t wait to read her debut book and immerse myself in the story and completely savour it. Freshwater is part fiction, part memoir, and Akwaeke blends the two beautifully. I’m excited to go into new worlds with her and have my reality and worldview completely shaken.

 

James

Literary blogger, James Murua

Freshwater - Akwaeke Emezi

Freshwater - Akwaeke Emezi

The only book I am eyeing right now is Akwaeke Emezi debut novel "Freshwater." So why am I looking forward to this read? Well, I read her Commonwealth Prize winning short story 'Who is Like God’ which announced her as an important new voice in African writing, and I LOVED IT. With the talent from that wonderful short story, I want to sample more of her prose.

Bri(tish) - Afua Hirsch

Bri(tish) - Afua Hirsch

Blackass - A. Igoni Barrett

Blackass - A. Igoni Barrett

Akua: The novel presents a melange of cultures in its quest to explore answers to the question "where are you from?" As British born Ghanaian, I can relate to the pressure of self-identity when it concerns that provocative and also annoying question. I'm confident this book is going to be amazeballs.

 

Mel: Picture yourself, a person of African descent, and you wake up one morning with blue eyes and freckles! I've toyed with the concept with friends and family so it's no surprise that I was drawn to reading this book in 2018. I'm looking forward to the comical flare this satirical novel has to offer.

I actually just posted some books (56 of them) that I'm looking forward to this year. But I'd say Hold by Michael Donkor and The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah are the ones I'm very eager to read. Nafkote Tamirat and Akwaeke Emezi's debuts - The Parking Lot Attendant and Freshwater - are also highly recommended!

Suyi

Author

It's easy to fall for this book, really. A seven-figure deal, a Fox 2000 film option, a gorgeous cover and a six-chapter sampler (released in late 2017) everyone's gushing over. But what interests me most is how this book will tackle matters of identity, community and courage. People are calling it Black Lives Matter meets Fantasy. Who wouldn't want to read that?

So many good books are coming out in 2018, and I am looking forward to reading Wake Me When I’m Gone by Odafe Atogun. He captured me with Taduno’s Song, which I found was almost spiritual for me. I am also chuffed that Buchi Emecheta’s books will be re-published this year. Buchi was a woman who came way before her time and her writing is still relevant today. Head Above Water which is her memoir is definitely the one I am most excited about.

Karabo

Avid reader and book blogger

Always Another Country - Sisonke Msimang

Always Another Country - Sisonke Msimang

This is a book that has been doing the rounds on Instagram (bookstagram). Out of curiosity, as always the case, I looked it up and found that the storyline seems compelling and very interesting. I'd really like to travel back in time with this particular book especially since the Sisonke Msimang has South African roots.

Wale

Founder and Editor-In-Chief, The Republic Journal

The Rise of the African Novel - Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ

The Rise of the African NovelMũkoma wa Ngũgĩ

I’m most looking forward to reading Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ’s The Rise of the African Novel: Politics of Language, Identity, and Ownership. According to a tweet the author posted in 2017, The Rise of the African Novel explores “what it means for the current generation of writers and scholars of African literature not to have an imaginative consciousness of their literary past.”

Ghana Must Go - Taiye Selasi

Ghana Must Go - Taiye Selasi

Ghana Must Go – I have watched a lot of Taiye Selasi Interviews and thoroughly enjoyed her brilliance. Ghana Must Go is up next on my list. I have heard contradicting opinions about this book, and I want to see for myself. Some seem to love it and others, not so much. I read that her writing in this book reads like poetry and as a huge fan of poetry, it’s a yes from me.

Lade

Researcher, Writer and Editor

Freshwater - Akwaeke Emezi

Freshwater - Akwaeke Emezi

After reading her short story, Who Is Like God, I became interested in Emezi's writing and looked forward to reading more of her work. My curiosity about the book increased because of my interest in Psychology. I read in a blurb on her site which says the main character has several selves; making identity of the major themes of the book.

What We Lose - Zinzi Clemmons

What We Lose - Zinzi Clemmons

Maybe because it was described as the debut book of the year by Vogue in 2017. Or, perhaps, because I am curious to know how a pretty face like Zinzi Clemmons captures grief — a theme I want to learn more about this year; that is, how does one handle loss or grief? What We Lose reminds me of my most potent 2016 read - When Death Becomes Air - and I just want to relive that moment again.

Nancy

Founding Editor, Afreada

Hold - Michael Donkor

Hold - Michael Donkor

My anticipated read of 2018 has to be Hold by Michael Donkor. I remember smiling when I first heard about this book. During a conversation with the Editor, I was informally introduced to the three main characters, “wayward” Amma, born to Ghanaian parents in Brixton; “sensible” Belinda, a housegirl sent from Ghana to London, and Mary, left behind in Kumasi. This debut is bound to explore issues of cultural navigation. As a Nigerian-Londoner, Hold already holds a very special place in my heart.

Freshwater - Akwaeke Emezi

Freshwater - Akwaeke Emezi

Akwaeke's Who Will Claim You remains one of my favourite creative non-fiction by our generation of African writers. Her forthcoming novel, Freshwater, is thus my most anticipated read. What heightened my anticipation is the 'blasphemy' African Book Addict describes in it. She warned 'Christians' that the book may have them wondering if they aren't sinning by reading it. It is a temptation I intend to fail at resisting.

 

We would like to hear from you too - what is your most anticipated read in 2018?



 

Moonflower: Musings On Love

By Ràyó

A review of Esther Edoho's Moonflower.

Image: Cover Of Moonflower.

Image: Cover Of Moonflower.

For years, I have read Esther Edoho’s blog - Pieces of August. I find her writing reflective and honest, even more so when she accompanies poetry with audio narrations of same. From her first tweet about a forthcoming chapbook, I was eager to read it, and pleased when she sent a review copy. Moonflower, Edoho’s first collection of poetry, has 21 poems and short prose pieces centered on love. The collection is as much about outwardly expressed love as it is about loving and caring for oneself — or at least it inspires ponderings that should lead the reader down the path of the latter.

 

Love And Other Drugs

Throughout, I wonder if Edoho’s choice of the book title, Moonflower - taken from a beautiful weed that is an intoxicant and considered poisonous1 - is a deliberate comment about the nature of love. I have always been fascinated by actual moonflowers — how they wake in the evenings and go to sleep when the sun rises, as though engaging with the rest of the world, awake, would ruin them somehow. Edoho’s Moonflower, opens with ‘Sour’, a short poem about the persona’s fear that their love has fallen sleep. What follows are musings and questions about the nature and worth of love. It sets the tone for the book.

and isn’t that the worst? Love
going to sleep when it has barely
conquered what is left of your doubts?

Where ‘Sour’ wavers, the next poem is about strength. In ‘Adiaha’, the imagery is so strong that my mind conjures the character and follows this woman — from another time, it seems—as she boldly chooses a life of freedom against the norm. In 26 lines, it tells a full story about a woman unloved and abused physically and emotionally, yet, in the end, unafraid.

You did not collect shame
they must have tried to force it
into your hands because you rolled a fist
that was impenetrable and slowly
pushed them all away

Each time I think about ‘Adiaha’, I also think about ‘Survival 101’ - another poem in the collection that read, to me, like it should have been the sequel to ‘Adiaha’. At the end, Edoho returns to contemplation and questions, a thread running through most of the poems in the slim volume. Her questions have a powerful effect; making the poems like shards of a mirror so that I catch self reflected in some, while others cut through walls I have built. ‘Introspection’ is one of the latter. Its questions force me to obey the title: to pause and reflect on self.

 

A Sprinkling of Prose

Moonflower is sprinkled with four prose pieces, but even they are poetic and rhythmic. ‘Layers’ straddles the line between poetry and prose. In spite of the short sentences packed closely and which, when read, feel layered on one another like building blocks, I cannot tell from the presentation — without line breaks and whitespace — what category it falls into.

We Could Be Lovers’ on the other hand, is clearly prose. During rereads, I find myself skimming over it, and wonder if perhaps the chapbook should have been left to poetry alone, as this lengthy (compared to the poems) piece of prose breaks the mood and flow of my reading. The irony, however, is that one of my favourite lines from the book is from prose ‘At Least Not Yet’. She writes:

I always leave enough room for all the questions I have; enough room for when my answers come.

Although written about the reason a relationship ended, it is a perfect summation of what Edoho’s chapbook does to the reader. Many of the poems make one feel like the writer is wandering in her head, pacing, trying to figure love out. It also gives the sense that I am reading someone’s diary as she tries to sort through thoughts and feelings. It is no wonder she describes the collection as, “…the most personal poems [she has] ever shared.”

Though in the dedication, she writes: “For Udeme Ekefre, I am writing this for both of us”, her words felt deeply like they were for me too —

everything is stained with memory
and it feels like you are leaving yourself behind


 

Have you read Esther Edoho's Moonflower? Which is your favourite poem/prose?



Sources

1 Soni P., Siddiqui A. A., Dwivedi J., and Soni V., (2012), Pharmacological properties of Datura stramonium L. as a potential medicinal tree: An overview. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, Vol. 2 (12), pp. 1002–1008.

 

This copy of Moonflower was kindly sent by Esther Edoho, in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts expressed in this review are that of the writer/reviewer.