Niyi Osundare is Nigeria’s most acclaimed poet. He turned 70 only some day ago, on March 12th. In his home Nigeria he is honoured with an impressive event organised on World Poetry Day in Ibadan. On the occasion of his 70th birthday and World Poetry Day we are proud to present Niyi Osundare on lyrikline where you can now listen to him read seven of his poems.
Remi Raji of Diktaris, the Nigerian partner organisation of lyrikline, pays tribute to this great Nigerian poet.
Niyi Osundare: Gardener and Warrior of Light at 70
by Remi Raji
The gardener of redolent words, the warrior of light, is three scores and ten years on Mother Earth. Niyi Osundare is undoubtedly one of the most enduring voices of Nigerian second generation poetry.
Fire in the bushels of barbarians, scourge of tyrants and traitors, the predictable voice against the conclaves of corruption, he of million metaphors, neither tired nor tiring of speaking truth to crookedness in high and low places.
Born on March 12, 1947 in Ikere-Ekiti, Nigeria, Niyi Osundare has achieved solid fame through hard work, diligence, and a dogged commitment to creativity and intellectual distinction. Grand and multiple award winner for his numerous books of poetry, he is always in great and real elements in the classroom, as trainer and high priest of knowledge. I am certainly not the only witness to Osundare’s unique teaching style…being one in a long list of his Creative Writing students at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
Ten years ago, on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, I penned a tribute about Osundare’s philosophy of art:
Chinua Achebe teaches us a masterful and disarming narrative style filled with both lessons and puzzles; Soyinka bequeaths to us a large canvass of artistic genius and political daring; and Okigbo, the combination of the puzzle and the daring that the real author is all about, provides us with the limitless possibilities of the Muse, the true excitement of imagination. In his poetry and essays, Osundare, the scion of Osun captures the vagaries of the African dilemma, with the deep emotive insight of a revolutionary artist. Always, he queries the “jangling discord” of the Nigerian nation in a harmonious language made for intimacy and intelligibility; he draws consistently on the heritage of Yoruba verbal elegance which he transforms onto the graphic and permanent intelligence of the written word; for him the page is only a tangible site for the performance of the poetic text, and the voice, with the atmosphere of delivery, is the thing. To read a poem sitting, or standing like Sigidi, he insists, is to commit an abominable act, a disservice to the pageant of the enchanted word!
Indeed, Niyi Osundare is the poet of the alter-native tradition par excellence.
Global Nigerian. African Patriot. Engaging Poet. Three odd things to be at the same time, at all time, Niyi Osundare continues a healthy dialogue with his country and continent, without apologies, without compromise and without anxieties. Master of romantic and satirical verses, his most recent poem to the Nigerian/African public sphere is indeed both topical as it is provocative: “My Lord, Tell Me Where to Keep Your Bribe”.
We celebrate Olosunta’s child, Katrina’s survivor, we celebrate decades of unrelenting writing and activism. Many hearty cheers to the author of Songs of the Marketplace, Village Voices, A Nib in the Pond, The Eye of the Earth, Moonsongs, Songs of the Season, Waiting Laughters, The Word is an Egg, Tender Moments, Random Blues…etc.
May many more celebrations come and go like the rains in the predictable hour.
World Poetry Day Event
A special interactive event on World Poetry Day (Tuesday, March 21, 2017) is dedicated to Niyi Osundare’s ideas and poetry under the title “Poetry, Politics and Society.”
Participants include Nelson Fashina (author of Gods at the Harvest, 1998), Ademola Dasylva (ANA Poetry Prize winner, 2006), Tade Ipadeola (NLNG Poetry Prize winner, 2013), Jumoke Verissimo (Creative Coordinator of Ibadan Poetry Foundation, and author of I am Memory, 2008 and The Birth of Illusion, 2015) and Matthew Umukoro (author of Dross of Gold, 2002).
Also scheduled to perform at the event is a list of emerging and engaging Nigerian poets like Funmi Aluko, Ibukun Adeeko (Winner of the Babishai Poetry Prize, 2015), Charles Akinsete, Ndubuisi Martins Aniemeka, Bartholomew Akpah, Sola Ojikutu, Oladele Noah, Oredola Ibrahim, Theo Edokpayi, Danladi Sunday, O’Busayor, Saddiq Dzukogi (ANA Teen Author Prize winner & Brunel International African Poetry Prize, 2017 Shortlist) and Rasaq Malik (Brunel International African Poetry Prize, 2017 Shortlist).
The venue of the programme is the Faculty of Arts Quadrangle, University of Ibadan, Ibadan.
Time: 18.00 – 20.00.
This is an Open Event.
DIKTARIS-NIGERIA, in partnership with LYRIKLINE, BERLIN-GERMANY
IBADAN POETRY FOUNDATION (IBPF)
Remi Raji is a Nigerian poet, scholar, literary organiser, and cultural activsit. He is a member of the lyrikline partner network with Diktaris and his poems can be read and listened to on lyrikline.
Dear friends of lyrikline,
be there on Sunday, 1 Sept at 7pm (CEST) when the new lyrikline will be going online! We cordially invite you to celebrate with us and watch the event live stream on www.lyrikline.org. Heiko Strunk, the lyrikline project manager, will give us a tour of the relaunched website and all its new features and functions, we will link to partners in Nigeria, Russia and Slovenia via video, publish many new poets on the site and we will have six great lyrikline poets on stage, two of them to be published on the relaunch day:
Simen Hagerup (Norway), Els Moors (Belgium), Steffen Popp (Germany), Pedro Sena-Lino (Portugal), Helena Sinervo (Finland) and Jan Wagner (Berlin). The lyrikline network partners Joel Scott (Australia) and Per Bergström (Sweden) will present the event.
You are invited not only to watch the event but to comment on facebook, on twitter (seems #llrelaunch is a suitable hashtag) and hopefully (still working on making this possible) also chat with us and some of the poets of the event.
The event physically takes place at ‘c-base – ›Raumstation unter Berlin Mitte‹ (Space station beneath Berlin-Mitte)’, a friendly place for IT and open source people, who kindly took us in. The languages of the event will be English and German mainly, but we’ll hear a bit of Portuguese, Russian, Dutch, Norwegian and Finnish too.
See you on Sunday!
The relaunch of the website has been made possible by a grant from the German Lottery Foundation, Berlin.
The event is taking place with the kind support of: c-base, Institut Ramon Llull, Royal Norwegian Embassy Berlin, Rámus Förlag, Malmö and the Swedish Embassy
For the final event of lyrikline’s anniversary week we asked the poets who read on Oct31 whether they’d like to write a chain poem together in the weeks before the event and present it on stage together. Six of the poets took part in this project: Daniel Samoilovich (Argentina), Babangoni Chisale (Malawi), Lutz Seiler (Germany), Remi Raji (Nigeria), Elke Erb (Germany), and Thomas Möhlmann (The Netherlands).
We have drawn the order of the poets by lot. Each of them wrote 5 lines and sent them, together with all the previous lines, to the next one. The poets decided to go for a second round with Lutz Seiler closing the circle on Oct30. Everyone was free to write in the languages of their choice. Here is the result of six weeks of poetic exchange (including the German/English translations in Italic):
THE CHAIN POEM
1 Daniel Samoilovich
A root of heliotrope on Mars
produced a siren on the Moon.
There is a noisy waking up
of the dominoes knocked over
in triumph on the table.
Die Wurzel einer Sonnenwende auf dem Mars
schuf eine Sirene auf dem Mond.
der Dominosteine, triumphierend
angestoßen auf dem Tisch.
2 Babangoni Chisale
This small world
Multitude queue for justice, peace and fairness
Decision makers unconcerned
Unconsciousness of the masters pinches servant’s souls
But life is worthwhile with justice, equity and fairness
Diese kleine Welt
Menge steht Schlange für Gerechtigkeit, Frieden und Fairness
Besinnungslosigkeit der Herren quält die Seelen der Knechte
Doch mit Gerechtigkeit, Gleichheit und Fairness lohnt Leben die Mühe.
3 Lutz Seiler
aber zuerst – ein kriegsherbst, wenn die dinge schon
von einem nerv durchzogen sind, entzündet an der luft. die treibjagd
holt über dem acker die schwerkraft
der gleise entfernungen schrumpfen & wer gerade unterwegs
gewesen ist, verschwindet in seinen gedanken
but first – a wartime autumn, when things were already
run through by a nerve, kindled on the air. the hunt
fetches the gravity of the tracks across
the field distances shrink & whoever was already on
the way, disappears in his thoughts
4 Remi Raji
There is a noisy waking in the silence…
Men walk in the thickets of their thoughts
Some blessed to be thorns, some cursed to thrive.
The world runs a race on crooked limbs
And one deaf foot does not tell the other.
Da ist ein lautes Erwachen in der Stille…
Menschen wandern im Dickicht ihrer Gedanken
Einige gesegnet Dornen zu werden, andere verflucht zum Blühen.
Die Welt im Wettlauf auf gebeugten Gliedern
Und ein tauber Fuß erzählt nicht dem andern…
5 Elke Erb
Maria durch den Dornwald ging
und der Glaube versetzte die Berge
Wessen Ohr ein Herz hat
kann Geflüster hören
und Tauben gurren
Maria walks amid the thorn
and faith moved the mountains
Whose ears have a heart
may hear a whispher
and doves coo
6 Thomas Möhlmann
Roses on the thorns appear and I
thank god that you’re around to tell me
nothing’s wrong and I should simply raise
one foot after the other, keep on walking
even when the thorns start wearing roses
Aus den Dornen blühn Rosen und ich
danke Gott, dass du hier bist mir zu erklären
alles in Ordnung und ich soll nur einen Fuß
vor den anderen setzen, weitergehen, auch
wenn die Dornen beginnen Rosen zu tragen
7 Daniel Samoilovich
and cooings wearing doves.
und Gurren Tauben trägt.
8 Remi Raji
finally, the mountain will appear to you
as the happy path, the valley of dreams
you will walk, away from the war game, with me
into the new ceremonies of light and love.
Even the birds are singing differently, because of you.
Zuletzt wird der Berg dir als der frohe
Pfad erscheinen, das Tal der Träume
du wirst gehen, aus dem Kriegsspiel, mit mir
in die neuen Riten von Licht und Liebe.
Auch die Vögel singen anders, weil du.
9 Babangoni Chisale
In the thicket of desperation
Broken thoughts mingles with empty heart
Drilling anxiety, depression and marauding tears
AS construction of hope progressing
Patience heals the wounds and gouges a way through
In der Verzweiflung Dickicht
Mischen zerbrochene Gedanken sich mit leerem Herzen
Nagender Furcht, Depression und marodierenden Tränen
Als ein Konstrukt nicht endender Hoffnung
Heilt Geduld die Wunden und bahnt einen Weg
10 Elke Erb
Wie die Verzweiflung das Dickicht hat,
so hat das Tal Berg und Berg.
Die Berge aber, sieht es, haben einander.
Wer sprechen kann, kann sich zweifellos fragen,
ob das Leiden das Leiden heilt.
As desperation has the thicket,
so the valley has mountain and mountain
But the mountains, it sees, have each other.
Whoever can speak can ask themselves without a doubt,
whether suffering heals suffering.
11 Thomas Möhlmann
So like snowballs I throw new pain
at you, it’s only medicine my dear,
like two giant mercies, like two marble
mountain tops gazing at each other, like
nothing’s wrong: I should simply raise one foot.
Werfe ich so neuen Schmerz wie Schneebälle
auf dich, es ist nur, Liebe, Medizin,
wie zwei gigantische Gnaden, wie zwei marmorne
Berggipfel die einander anstarren, wie
alles in Ordnung: Ich soll nur einen Fuß –
12 Lutz Seiler
über die täler und berge redest du nicht wie
das licht über die vögel spricht. aber auch draussen
war etwas wie drinnen, unter dem fenster
die strasse herunter gewunkene lieder, sie sagen:
wir hätten das bein an die zeit gebunden
of the valleys and mountains you do not speak like
the light speaks of the birds. but then outside
something met the inside, under the window
songs beckoned down the street, they say:
we tied our legs up to time
Translations by: Steffen Popp, Lutz Seiler, Daniel Samoilovich, Juliane Otto, Melita Aleksa, Marisa Pettit