AiW Guests: Nduka Otiono and Uche Peter Umezurike.
AiW note: by way of introduction to our Guest post here, we are very pleased to be able to share with the editors news of the African release of Wreaths for a Wayfarer (Narrative Landscape Press), published in honour of writer, academic, beloved mentor and esteemed Nigerian public intellectual, Pius Adesanmi, who lost his life in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash on March 10, 2019. Edited by Nduka Otiono and longtime AiW contributor Uchechukwu Umezurike, this superb anthology of commissioned poems features 127 contributors from Africa – including 3 contributions from our very own Reviews Editor, Wesley Macheso (‘Tears on Canvas’, ‘Nausea’ and ‘This Easter’) – as well as from writers around the world – in Asia, Europe and North America, a range testament to the reach and touch of Adesanmi’s life and work, and his great loss to the global African Studies community.
This balance of the profoundly personal with the large-scale generosity and impact inherent to Adesanmi’s legacy is layered in the ‘wreath’ of words that honour it throughout the collection, something Chris Dunton picks up particularly for Wasafiri in “Nigerian Literature: Four Deaths and an Elegy”, an article written on the book’s first release last year by Canada based Daraja Press:
“As Odia Ofeimun puts it in his foreword: ‘Pius Adesanmi was ‘my personal person’, as he was to so many people around the globe’ (xxv).
[…] Nduka Otiono’s Introduction to the anthology is a model of its kind, eloquent, heartfelt and informative, with a great deal of valuable background material in footnotes. An especially pleasing touch, so much in the spirit of Adesanmi the dedicated mentor, is the editors’ decision to take on ‘budding poets . . . [a decision which] necessitated editing and working with such authors to help develop writings that might otherwise have been rejected’ (7). A little later, Nduka comments: ‘we conceptualized an anthology that will be enduring in its thematic range and stylistic variety. And we got one’ (8).”
On this note, we are especially delighted to have forthcoming an AiW Words on the Times Q&A with one of the editors of Wreaths, Nduka Otiono, which we will publish as a follow-on to this post by Otiono and Umezurike, where they reflect on the event for World Poetry Day 2021, marking the African edition with Narrative Landscape Press.
Watch this space for the Words on the Times – it offers a moving and in-depth insight into the production and distribution of Wreaths as the pandemic began to hit last year, as well as to the event detailed in the post below. On World Poetry Day, the editors seized the opportunity to share the African edition of the anthology with the world, bringing everyone together for a celebration of poetry with readings and performances, and reflections on mobility and mortality in the time of the pandemic, in a matter of days, hours, even!
The first release of Wreaths in March 2020 with Dajara aligned with the 10th anniversary of Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies, where Adesanmi was Director, also marking the first anniversary of his passing. As well as an academic and scholar, Adesanmi was a celebrated poet and acute, fearless satirist – many who remember him hold up vivid pictures of his hearty, welcoming laugh – well known for his columns for Premium Times and Sahara Reporters, in which he critiqued Nigerian social and political systems and figures. His first book, the poetry collection The Wayfarer and Other Poems (2001), won the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Poetry Prize. A collection of essays, You’re not a Country, Africa (2011), followed, receiving the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing in the nonfiction category. In 2017, he received the Canada Bureau of International Education Leadership Award.
While his penultimate book Naija No Dey Carry Last (reviewed for Brittle Paper by Echezonachukwu Nduka at the link) was released in 2015, as this beautiful piece about Wreaths by Eyitayo Aloh poignantly reveals, “such was the life of Adesanmi, that even in death, he left with a tinge of poetry…
“…For a man who spent the greater part of his adult life away from his African roots, but never lost an ounce of love for Africa and defended her with fierce passion, it appears the poetic nature of his life predetermined that he would die and breathe his last on African soil. And, not one to be written out of his own story, Pius gifted the world one last poetry “performance,” a rendition from the bible book of Psalms 139: 9,10, posted on his Facebook timeline ten minutes before he and 156 others plunged to their death on an Ethiopian landscape.”
Eyitayo Aloh (2020): ‘Soundtrack to a Wayfarer’s Transition’, Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue canadienne des études africaines
A posthumous publication of a collection of Adesanmi’s keynote lectures titled Who Owns the Problem? Africa and the Struggle for Agency, was published by Michigan State University Press in 2020.
That the dedicated Wreaths for a Wayfarer’s African release fell on World Poetry Day 2021, finding space to articulate its central concerns while we continue to negotiate the multiple losses of the pandemic and its own anniversaries, is itself a tribute in many thoughtful and celebratory ways. Made up of five parts: “Wayfarer,” “Requiems,” and “Homecoming,”, a “Selection of Adesanmi’s Poems,” and a “Postlude”,
“…[w]hile some of the poets celebrate Adesanmi, others reflect philosophically on existence, mortality, immortality and/or offer hope for the living. In this memorably textured collection, the poets – some who knew, and some who did not know Adesanmi – exorcise the pains of loss through provocative poems that pour out their beating hearts with passion.”
With our great thanks to the editors for this insight into the book and the event, as well as their permissions to share some of the poems from Wreaths here…
Nduka Otiono and Uche Peter Umezurike.
Over 40 poets from Europe, Africa, and North America participated in the World Poetry Day virtual launch of Wreaths for a Wayfarer: An Anthology in Honour of Pius Adesanmi edited by Nduka Otiono and Uche Peter Umezurike. The event, which took place virtually on Sunday, March 22, was facilitated by Nduka Otiono and Ndubuisi Martins, an Ibadan-based poet and author of the collection of poems Answers Through the Bramble.
The event opened with welcome remarks by Otiono, Associate Professor and Graduate Program Supervisor at the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University. Also present to witness or participate in the poetry readings and performances, and reflections on mobility and mortality in the time of Coronavirus, were Professor Toyin Falola, the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin; Professor Chinedum Babalola, Vice-Chancellor of Chrisland University, Nigeria; Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, scholar and multiple award-winning writer; Jane Bryce, Professor Emerita of African Literature and Cinema at the University of the West Indies, Barbados; Akua Lezli Hope author of Embouchure and recipient of US National Endowment of the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships for Poetry; and other distinguished scholars, established and emerging poets.
Dr. Eghosa Imasuen, co-founder and director of Narrative Landscape Press, unveiled the African edition of Wreaths for a Wayfarer, praising it for its symbolic significance, poetic depth, and global character. Acclaimed poet, journalist, and writer Uzo Maxim Uzoatu kickstarted the poetry readings. His reading of his poem “The Passing of Pius” was followed by readings and performances by other poets and contributors to the anthology such as Unoma Azuah, Iquo DianaAbasi, Peter Midgley, Yejide Kilanko, Sarah Katz-Lavigne, Rasak Malik Gbolahan, Jumoke Verissimo, Uthman Ajibola Adejumo, Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún, Ndaba Sibanda, Maryam Ali Ali, Ludwidzi Mainza, Uzo Odonwodo, Peter Olamakinde Olapegba Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, Celina Aju-Ameh, Olajide Salawu, Onuchi Mark Onoruoiza, and Umezurike.
The event was both commemorative and celebratory of Pius Adesanmi to whom the
anthology is dedicated. Participants highlighted his accomplishments as a writer, scholar, and public intellectual. Before his untimely demise on the 10th of March 2019 aboard the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Adesanmi was a professor of English and Director of the Institute of African Studies at Carleton University.
It should be recalled that some distinguished scholars have hailed the book in the following glowing terms: “Richly evocative and engaging” a “powerful collection of poems from the heart” (Professor Obioma Nnaemeka, Chancellor’s Professor, Indiana University, Indianapolis, USA, and President, Association of African Women Scholars); “an assemblage of kindred tongues creating and recreating a new future from an unrelieved past and a censured present. . . a rare accomplishment” (Professor Olu Obafemi, Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters and recipient of the Nigeria National Order of Merit); “magisterial anthology. . .Verses speak to our expectations—the daydreaming, the anticipations, even the blessings of a temporary moment” (Professor Toyin Falola).
The World Poetry Day virtual launch of Wreaths for a Wayfarer event was sponsored by Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies, Chrisland University, Lunaris, Digirature, and Ngiga Books and Club. Both the Nigerian edition and Canadian edition (published by Daraja Press) of Wreaths for a Wayfarer are internationally available in-store and online for purchase. The video recording of the event can be viewed here:
Maryam Gatawa’s ‘Farewell’ from Wreaths for a Wayfarer
About the editors of Wreaths for a Wayfarer: An Anthology of Poems in Honour of Pius Adesanme (1972-2019) and AiW Guests:
Nduka Otiono is Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator at the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University.
Uchechukwu Umezurike is a Vanier Scholar and doctoral candidate in English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, Canada.
You are warmly invited to join the editors for an upcoming webinar celebrating Wreaths on April 29:
“Register now for the final installment of ACCUTE’s Pandemic Webinar Series, Wreaths for a Wayfarer: Poetry and Impermanence. The webinar happens on Thursday, April 29th at 1 p.m. EDT. This event is a creative writing celebration and commemoration of Pius Adesanmi. Featured writers are Raphael D’Abdon, Akua Lezli Hope, Nduka Otiono, and Uche Peter Umezurike.