BOOK REVIEW: Best “New” African Poets 2015 Anthology

Title: Best “New” African Poets 2015 Anthology

Edited by: Tendai R. Mwanaka and Daniel da Purificacao

Length: 386 pages

Genre: Poetry
Publisher / Year:  Langaa Research and Publishing CIG
Reviewed by: Chuma Mmeka
Why I’ll Read It: Truly African and told in three languages: English, French and Portuguese, the anthology consists of 214 poems, 79 poets from over 23 African countries and the Diasporas. The title contains poems that deal with a panoply if issues, feelings, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and identity; as each poet speaks his/her own story of the Africa that she/he knows, dreams and envisions with protective pride and resolute dedication.


Best “New” African Poets 2015 Anthology is an encyclopaedia of learning, I anticipated an education; but nothing like the education it gives. At the beginning, is a struggle of ancestors fighting to achieve an Africathat is free. An African now corrupted; discarded, chained and enslaved by dictators and greed, are thelessons given by Lekpele M Nyamalon. The silent suffering that young African girls are subjected to, bodies and minds encumbered by worldly responsibility before childhood has ended. Childhood’s stolen by poverty, by rape and cruelty, and the desperate need for these young girls to be heard, to be unyoked from this existence, is cried out by Handson Chikowore. Teaching us to strive for greater, to reach higher, to better our fathers that have gone before us, to be more than we think we can be, more than is expected of us,to soar, to fly farther than the sun, is what we learn from Ohioleh Osadebey. I could list all the contributors, as I was moved by and learnt from each one.


Before reading Best “New” African Poets 2015 Anthology; I am embarrassed to say, I thought I knew our African history, that I understood the words; heritage, tradition, culture, legislation, governance, individuality, sexuality, memory, and I believed that African meant born in Africa. And since reading Best “New’ African Poets 2015 Anthology, I now know; I am no more than an embryo in this land, in this cradle of life, and my education borders on illiteracy.What I thought I knew versus what I learnt, I can only express and explain in metaphors.


“…We talk, We laugh, Like nothing ever happened, Like the knives we threatened to kill each other with, Were never sharpened…”. -Orimoloye Moyosore


“…Yet time and timeagain, we are told of a free press, a free state, free will, freedom of speech,

freedom to write what we like, to preach, what we like, freedom to make a mess…” – John Eppel


“…So Love, kindly appreciate this extraordinary love poem, for ours is totally out-of-the-ordinary love…”- Kariuki wa Nyamu


“…Like Icarus, Did you not say that to fly too near the sun was to overreach?…” -Ohioleh Osadebey


At times I had to get up from my laptop, and walk outside and recompose myself; because of the goose bumps, the hair rising all over my body, the frog in my throat, the rage that balled hands into fists, and to wipe the tears inmy eyes.Just to be summoned back by the call for insurrectioninthewords ofLekpele M. Nyamalon, in Dig the Graves,


“Where are we now Africa? Sometimes I ask,The truck is stuck. Where are the men? Sometimes, I want to grasp the diggers and burst the graves. And hold the bones of our fathers. And tell them to come back…”


Askingthe reader how far have we really come, what has happened to progress, what happened to thewarriors and the great leaders of this land?Reminding us ofthe men that have bled into African soil, that have fought for those incarcerated, fought for freedom from injustice, and that Africa needs men like them again.The writer’sdesire for the resurrection or the reincarnation of these leaders, in an Africa that has regressed is made clear. As well as the anger and the sorrow that these leaders would feel should they still be alive in thisAfrica, that has lost sight of the original goals; goals of democracy, equality, a fair constitutionand the upholding of legislation and human rights. In the words of the writer,


“….Ay Madiba your strength is needed…Dig the graves…the hero’s please live again, or breathe through your sons”


Asking for a leader, a descendent of an African hero to save Africa from its current state.Wordsthat demand of the reader; “Where is our courage”, save our African land from those that seek to destroy what wasfought for, and not to allowtheir deaths, their sacrifices, their suffering to have been for nothing.


I heard clearly the voice ofTaijhet NyobiinBold Fade, expressingsexuality and the prejudice she has faced as a lesbian within African culture;

“I enter into the space meant for men, the heads don’t turn but the eyes strain at the corners.”


Illustratingto the readerthe lack of acknowledgment, the disrespect, and the scrutiny she receives in ahomophobic and misogynistic world, unwilling to respect her choices, her body, herself.The intimidation felt at the hands of men that have made her feel powerless and insignificant because of her sexuality and her appearance.How she has been discredited by those close to her, made to feel immoral by men of religion who are meant to be accepting and without judgment.


“My down there, the space between my legs, the open wound became a mouth that could talk back.”


The writer’s discovery of her inner strength and the powerful authority she finds in herself.Sharing the ridiculous, the incredulousness she encounters, and her response to them;


“I’m queer because I am beautiful and I have a right to say what I do with my body, how I dress it, and what I call it.”


I found myself searching withBadradeen Mohammed,


“When the eyes look at the eyes, it is always a normal look, but when yours look at mine, it is definitely something else”


Hopingto find the answers he looks forinYour Eyes. He takes the reader through the uncontrollable physicalresponses of his body to the eyes thatinvoke his feelings;


“My blood pressure goes up and suddenly down, with no signs of balance”,


Feelings he cannot explain away with reason or logic, feelings he cannot master.The writer expresseshisuncertainty and his doubt over this love, not trusting what the eyes are communicating tohim.


“I see scattered messages all over the space of your eyes, I try to collect them, open them, read them,or even translate them into love signs, but I seem to always draw blanks”.


Trying to solve the questions in the eyes which bring him closer to frustration, how his doubtgrowssurrounded by other suitors perusing the eyes.The writer experiencing elation and depression whilst looking and waiting for reciprocation of his feelings, waiting for the validation he yearns for, but unable to discern the signals due to a past of hurtful transgressions, that have marked him.


“And I used to be a damn romantic but time has played me roughly so, I can’t distinguish your romance from your being nice”.


Leading him to delve into his subconscious self in an attempt to find the answers.Relayingto the reader theexperience of a love that to him is never certain, never sure, and that his quest for answers from the “adorable eyes” has only takenhim deeper into doubt and confusion, and although he tries to escape the eyes, he is constantly drawn back in, because of his love for them, and the eyes’ pull on him.


Best “New “African Poets 2015Anthology, is a translator and educator of Cultures, Heritages, Traditions.Acollaboration of brave voices and fearless pens, sharing Memories, Individuality, Sexuality,Political views, from23 Africancountries, 79 contributors,214 poems, edited by Tendai R MwanakaandDaniel da Purifacacçáo.This is a collaboration I could read again and again, never tiring of the powerful messages within it, you find yourself discovering something new each time, and it leaves youwonderingprofound thoughts on an African history.You find yourself as the reader transposed into the pages of this book, becoming one with the sand and the rocks of Africa, hearing the African voices cry out, andwitnessing the strength and will of our Africa.

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