ISBN 9781942876779
Pages 264
Dimensions 229 x 152mm
Published 2021
Publisher Spears Media Press, Cameroon
Format Paperback

Narrow Escapes

by Tanure Ojaide

Narrow Escapes: A Poetic Diary of the Coronavirus Pandemic is a poetic journey that is at once emotional and spiritual. In over 200 distinct poems, the reader follows the poet’s musing from the pandemic’s outbreak to the onset of the second wave. The poems are shaped by and reflect the persistent fear induced by the ubiquity of the virus and the accentuation of life’s uncertainty as never experienced before. In diary form, the poet deploys specific images to present the virus as a leveler because its victims are not defined by class, race, ideology, nationality, or culture. The poems invite readers to go beyond our obsessions with self and materialism by embracing compassion, love, sacrifice, and sensitivity to others. Ranging from the personal, familial, and public to the political and economic, the poet reminds readers of the lurking presence of nonhuman beings and the ways in which they intertwine with human beings. The poems are themselves therapeutic, painting as it were on the canvass of a shaken world, broad strokes of poetic language that render a much better version of an imperfect world.

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"Poet Tanure Ojaide’s Narrow Escapes: A Poetic Diary of the Coronavirus Pandemic is presented as a series of poetic diary entries, spanning from March 19, 2020, to October 31, 2020.  Each of the poems is a response to the coronavirus pandemic, but they vary in focus from the global impact of the pandemic to the very personal impact on one’s family members.  All of these poems pack an emotional wallop, but the personal ones are especially gut wrenching.  For example, the poem “When the Coronavirus Comes to the House” captures perfectly the anxiety and anguish that parents feel when their children are stricken by a deadly virus.  In many ways, this poetic diary has the feel of a verse novel, for there is a continuing narrative that ties these poems together. The poems in Narrow Escapes narrate the unrelenting progression of a global pandemic.  It is a narrative that we all are experiencing, and that is what gives this book its universal appeal."

Mark West, Veteran poet, Professor and Chair, Department of English, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA

"Written in the form of a diary, the reader can see how the pandemic and the global lockdown have affected the poet’s persona and, by extension, all of humanity. The collection thrives best in how it reveals the psychological implications of the lockdown. The collection is also a ready material to those in the field of medical humanities, especially in its role as a form of psychotherapy. It is easy for the reader to identify the evolution of the poet’s mental state from the outbreak of the pandemic to the point where the collection ends. It is also safe to say the poet’s mental states mirror the progression of the virus. It is interesting to observe that the poet’s initial tone of despair quickly turns to rage in poems that topicalize racism in America and then when we return to the pandemic, the poet’s tone is not as bleak as it was at the beginning of the collection. I feel strongly about this collection, especially concerning its relevance, topicality, and, most importantly, the fact that it provides new critical lenses for Tanure Ojaide’s poetry. A good poet is not always predictable, and this collection justifies that idea with all its psychological, philosophical, and literary wealth."

Mathias Orhero, Department of English, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

"I like the fact that in the poems the poet casts the coronavirus with a personality that reflects African beliefs. There are loads of sarcasm and irony derived from the size of the virus and the magnitude of the havoc it is wreaking. In spite of the havoc, some of the lines make me laugh. This is what we describe in Yoruba as “Oro buruku toun terin.” It loosely translates as “distasteful words that elicit laughter.” The strong points in this collection are the intertwining of the personal (the daily ritual) with the reality of the virus; the commitment to social values; the currency of the issues recorded; the soul-baring on multiple levels which shows how the virus was affecting the poet; and the criticism of governments and individuals."

Saeedat Aliyu, Department of English, Kwara State University, Malete, Nigeria

About the Author

Tanure Ojaide

A renowned poet, Tanure Ojaide has won major national and international poetry awards, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Africa Region (1987), the BBC Arts and Africa Poetry Award (1988), twice the All-Africa Okigbo Prize for Poetry (1988 and 1997), and thrice the Association of Nigerian Authors' Poetry Prize (1988, 1994 and 2004. In 2016 Ojaide was awarded the the prestigious Fonlon-Nichols Award at the 42nd annual African Literature Association (ALA) conference in Atlanta.

For Tanure Ojaide, "the creative writer is never an airplant, but someone who is grounded in some specific place. It is difficult to talk of many writers without their identification with place. Every writer's roots are very important in understanding his or her work." He has read from his poetry in different fora in Africa, Britain, Canada, Israel, Mexico, The Netherlands, and the United States. Some of his poems have been translated into Chinese, Dutch, Spanish and French. He is currently the Frank Porter Graham Professor of Africana Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Visit Tanure Ojaide's website here:

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