Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Poem: Uche Nduka

NdukaOne of the serendipities of browsing the university's extensive collection of Africana materials is that I often happen upon books it might take me years to come by otherwise. And so did my eyes light upon Uche Nduka's eel on reef, a sizable collection of poems the Nigerian native published under literary rainmaker Chris Abani's Black Goat imprint at Akashic Books. The collection includes a thoughtful, laudatory introduction by acclaimed poet Kwame Dawes (can we say Black Diaspora, people?), which points out that Nduka, who's also a percussionist, lecturer and essayist, who moves between Germany, the Netherlands, and the US, has chosen a more open-form, indeterminate lyric, while not sacrificing many of the traditional concerns of post-independence and contemporary African poetry. A few of the poems in the ample volume read like play for its own sake, but when Nduka hits the mark, which is more often than not, he achieves a music whose echoes stay with me for a while. This is one of my favorite poems in the book; none have titles, so I'm following the practice of bracketing the first line as its title. Enjoy!

[where's the attic of the sea]

where's the attic of the sea
forget it. forget it.
flap out and jist
and razz and twist in again

who's the date of the sea
where is he
give me his number
open the eyes
of his toes of his waters

waters smoking waters
waters prodding waters
seeking his eyes and catching
them in alliances of waters

and the words say
we are shy but we are mean
let's kill the letters
before they kill us

Copyright © 2007, Uche Nduka, from eel on reef, New York: Akashic Books.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, 'playfulness' is a key signature of Nduka's poetry. It is interesting that most of his pieces retain that character, even when they open, on deeper reflection, into dense thickets of meaning.

    Chuma Nwokolo