By Iminza Keboge
Published April 23, 2016
Two African poetry books have just been released on the market.
The books, Gabriel Okara: Collected Poems by Nigerian-born Gabriel Okara and Fuchsia by US-based Mahtem Shiferraw, have been realised through the collaboration of the African Poetry Book Fund and the University of Nebraska Press.
As implied by the title, Okara’s book is a collection of poems written in the lyric, narrative and dramatic styles and arranged in six sections. Each copy of the 168-page paperback goes for US$19.95.
Brenda Marie Osbey who edits the books also puts it in context through the foreword.
Okara is hailed as the elder statesman of Nigerian literature and the first Modernist poet of anglophone Africa. He is best known for The Fisherman’s Invocation (1978), His Vision (2005), and for his early experimental novel, The Voice (1964).
Okara was born at Bumoundi, Bayelsa State, in the Niger Delta in 1921. He was educated at Government College Umuahia in Nigeria and Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, USA. He worked as a bookbinder and printer for the Federal Government Press in Lagos and as director of cultural and information services for the short-lived Republic of Biafra.
A former general manager of the Rivers State newspaper and broadcasting corporations, Okara is an honorary member of the Pan-African Writers’ Association, a fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters, and is currently writer-in-residence at the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria’s Rivers State.
Mahtem Shiferraw’s Fuchsia, on the other hand, appears to be autobiographic as it examines issues like trauma, war, and diaspora that the author has experienced.Indeed, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, refers to Shiferraw’s poetry as a “personal history and emotional architecture of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”
Also a paperback, each copy of the 108-page Fuchsia whose foreword is written by Kwame Dawes, editor of the African Poetry Book Series, sells for US$15.95.
Shiferraw is a native of Ethiopia and Eritrea who now lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.
The African Poetry Series is made possible through the financial support of Laura and Robert FX Sillerman.