Sunday, April 8, 2018

Review: New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set

New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set by Kwame Dawes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read all the New-Generation African Poets chapbook sets from Akashic, and always find poets I had not heard of, leading to long rabbit holes in YouTube and elsewhere on the internet. I was very excited to see a new set and jumped into it as soon as National Poetry Month hit. This grouping has some poets from and still living in Africa, some born to African parents but living elsewhere, and some who have never lived in Africa, but their heritage comes from African parents. I was noticing more fragmentation even in the layout of these poems than what I remember in previous sets, and I think that resonates with the feelings of dislocation that many of these poets write about. Many have been displaced by conflict, war, rape, murder, independence; some have had the experience of returning "home" only to discover that they no longer feel the same sense of belonging. There is a lot of recent violence here, and it is painful, but the poems capture it, hold space for it, both soothing and not stepping away from the horrors that have been some of these poets experiences.

There are also poems about nature, family, love, longing, etc. The parts I picked out are not representative of the works as a whole but simply moments that caught me as I read through them. Each poet has their own chapbook with its own cover, and an introduction written by a poet, many whose names I recognized from their own previous chapbooks. I love the continuity this series feels like it has.

Favorite bits:

Thurible by Yalie Kamara (first generation Sierra Leonean-American)

Non-Compliance by Alexis Teyie

Fasting in Tunis by Leila Chatti (Tunisian American)

Time by Saddiq Dzukogi (Nigeria)

Insignia by Saddiq Dzukogi
"Keep your body
like a neighboring country
close to mine...."

We Don't Know Where We Belong by Rasaq Malik (Nigeria)

Gay Boy History by Romeo Oriogun
"What they want is for me to say I'm sorry
but I'm beautiful like a museum...."

Denial by Romeo Oriogun

Thanks to the publisher for providing early access to this title via Edelweiss. It is available April 10, 2018.

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