By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
A review of There was a man – Chinua Achebe Poetry / Essay Anthology (sixth edition); A publication of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers, Anambra State Chapter; Edited by Izunna Okafor; 2021; 128pp
Chinua Achebe is undoubtedly one of the most influential writers of the modern era around the world. When Chinua Achebe passed away at 11:51 p.m. sharp (U.S. time), that is, 4:51 a.m. (Nigeria time), on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at Harvard Teaching Hospital, Massachusetts, United States. -United, at the age of 82, the earth shook and tributes came pouring in from all continents of the world, from presidents to the poor.
The then US President, Barack Obama, praised Achebe: “Revolutionary author, educator and cultural ambassador, Chinua broke the conventions of literature and shaped the collective identity of Nigerians around the world. . With a dream of embracing the misperceptions of his homeland, he gave voice to perspectives that cultivated understanding and brought our world closer together. His legacy will remain in the hearts of all whose lives he touched with the everlasting power of his art. “
Ghanaian President Mahama said: “Achebe will never die after leaving behind a legacy that will keep his voice alive forever. South African President Jacob Zuma put forward these words: “Chinua Achebe was indeed Africa’s greatest literary export and a legend of African literature. It was in his famous novel Things are falling apart that many Africans saw themselves in literature and the arts at a time when most of the writing was about Africans but not Africans. Africa owes Achebe a debt of gratitude.
Achebe’s eminent colleague, the Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o, paid homage to him with aplomb: “Achebe straddles generations and geographies. Each African country claims it as theirs.
Nigerian President at the time, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, said significantly: “It is up to us to work very hard so that by the time little Achebes writes again, they write that there is a country and not that there was a country. “
The “little Achebes” as President Jonathan pointed out are indeed writing now, as evidenced by the 128-page book under review today, There was a man – Chinua Achebe Poetry / Essay Anthology (sixth edition); A publication of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers, Anambra State Chapter; Edited by Izunna Okafor.
In her editor’s note, the ingenious Izunna Okafor writes: “This journey began in 2016 when young writers from Achebe’s home state, Anambra, Nigeria, planned to host the first literary festival. Chinua Achebe, which is the first of its kind. held all over the world, in memory and honor of Achebe, the father of African literature. Through the Chinua Achebe literary festival and through the anthology (which are currently in their sixth edition), these writers immortalize Achebe who, since his death on March 21, 2013, has not received any honor from any individual or group. in no part of the world. The writers here, through this international anthology, immortalize Achebe in pen.
There was a man is divided into large sections. The first section contains catchy poetry based on the mystic Chinua Achebe. The second section contains essays and reviews. There is an appendix of immortal quotes from Achebe.
The Poetry section starts with “You lend wings to our eagles (A dedication to Chinua Achebe) by John Chinaka Onyeche:
Today we will meet again –
In this land of our ancestors,
Yes, the one through the rays –
of lights, you have lifted up for all of us;
We have been armed with –
with a voice that echoes aloud,
That there was a country,
in the country we live.
Our famous writer, novelist and poet teacher Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo celebrates Achebe with the poem “Words of wisdom (in memory of Chinua Achebe, Ugo-nabo)”:
It’s been thirty-seven years since you revealed the major cause
Of our misfortunes in The problem with Nigeria, a timely warning
The ancients closed their minds to his insistent remonstrances
The next generation lived in negation or total oblivion
Today the folded carpet is wide open
And the young are on the warpath without violence
Demand redress, respect and good governance.
Given the extent of Achebe’s influence, all of the geopolitical areas of the country are literally represented in the poets featured in the anthology.
As a global icon, Achebe is praised by poets from distant lands like India. For example, Ekta Rana who grew up in Vijaypur, Jammu and Kashmir, India, is an assistant professor and writer whose work has been published in Haikuniverse, Quills, Poemify Magazine and Chrysanthemum and also received the award for best researcher. , written from Jammu & Kashmir, India with the poem “Trembling Fingers On Things are falling apart“:
Creative minds are caged forever.
Nwoye with a bitter throat,
the word “Father” strikes on the four walls of his mouth.
The few who await the promises of Sweet Tongue,
Okonkwo is grappling with the Winds of the North.
Umuofia changes, I hit it off
with a step outside the cafe !!!
Juliana Davidsson, poet and fan of Achebe’s work and in particular his poetry, writes from Duncan Way, Oakland, California, USA with the poem “The Truth is a Liar”:
They called my Vietnamese mother a black cow, the color of a gun,
Less food and less chances, she was away from communities because her skin was the color of the earth
The world told her she was less so what did the world say to the African man and more sinister still? What did we tell the African woman and what lies did she accept as truth?
The truth is a liar
It shines in golden sheets for fools to believe it, but belongs to the funeral pyre.
The Essays and Reviews section bears resounding testimony to Oseloka H Obaze’s profound personal essay “Simply, Achebe” which reveals:
“ACHEBE was a role model, mentor and great conversationalist, always in that almost drab tone and elocution that belied his intellect, but spoke forcefully of the truth and expressed awesome and scholarly views on such personal and other issues. .
“By a twist of fate, the character of ACHEBE whom I have not read, I got to know him closely thanks to my affinity with his childhood and long-time friend, the chef Chike Momah and his Ethel wife. The friendship between the Achebes (Chinua and Christy) and the Momahs (Chike and Ethel) was almost eschatological. By proxy, I was the beneficiary.
Chinua Achebe is greater than life and death because his name still resonates on all continents of the world. The fact that we are gathered here today is a testament to the eternal greatness of Albert Chinualumogu Achebe.