Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Many Sense of Ogunlesi's Post

Let us for this moment ignore the correctness or otherwise of my English in the subject, and look below with a little patience. It is an extract from Tolu Ogunlesi's post to Krazitivity on the denigratory remarks the new generation of Nigerian writers have suffered from the many mouths of the older poets. I have read posts after posts of young/er and new writers in response to the many challenges of the denigration they often suffer from the mouths of their elders, the most recent being from the eminent Professor of Literature, Ben Obumselu (of the Imo State University) who many have accused of not having even read any of the works he so easily disparages: He is quoted as saying of new Nigerian poems: “boring, totally uninspiring, empty and without a story”, blaming the emerging Nigerian poets for their inability to create popular poetry that will stand the test of time.

No doubt an ignorant generalisation, arising from a general unavailability of the new works for the critics to make available in the forms understandable to the likes of Prof. Obunselu.

Here's Tolu, in part*:

"Chiedu Ezeanah is sometimes said to be the "best poet of his generation". What is the likelihood of Obumselu "stumbling" upon a copy of Twilight Trilogy anywhere that goes by the name of bookshop. I have never seen The Oil Lamp or Madiba in any bookstore in Nigeria, other than the copies that I saw when Ogaga was in town for a reading at Jazzhole in October. I think that maybe we need a non-profit specialist bookstore (in Lagos, in the first instance) devoted to the work of Nigerian writers. Such that you are sure that if I go to [whatever name it is called] I will find every work ever published by Helon Habila (the pre-Caine non-fiction book for example), or Voices From the Fringe, or Nnorom's Letter To God & Other Poems, or Oguibe's A Gathering Fear, or Chika Unigwe's Tear Drops."

And here's mine though not much on the challenge as on the solutions to create accessibility for our much "invisible" works:

We need more than a bookshop. Call it a resource centre. What is ANA if it does not have a record of ALL books published by authors in Nigeria? Like an equivalent of the United States Library of Congress? What of an online resource? Something managed by custodians of art's growth (this falls back towards ANA or whomever will assume the responsibilities) that has first of all a list of ALL published works by Nigerian Authors (those living in and those living outside). I am not in doubt that Macarthur Foundation or equivalent grant making international bodies will be interested in funding such projects as this.

The sense in the above, among others, is to call attention to the absence of a place (on earth) where works of all writers in the country can be obtained. But we should be able to get the works of ALL writers, from Acbebe to Adichie, Okigbo to Ogunlesi, from Soyinka to Shehu without sweat... It may be the very first step in making New Literature available to all, including those who wish to speak authoritiatively on the aquality of the issues we engage.

On the other hand, I think it will also become an index of our creative/literary development/advancement.


* Tolu Ogunlesi is one of the new generation's prolific voices in poetry. His letter is used by permission.

** My first book "Headfirst into the Meddle" is not available on bookstands for reasons not far from the issues above, and is not just "forthcoming" as published in my latest profile on Sentinel Poetry, and I am myself interested in any such initiative as can help the above cause.

1 comment:

Araceli Aipoh said...

An interesting topic, making books available to the reading public...