On Saturday, December 14, 2019, Awka, the capital of Anambra State shall witness literary fireworks as some of Africa’s finest writers and scholars gather to welcome ‘dispossessed,’ a collection of poems by James Eze.
The Graduate Programme Coordinator at the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, Prof Nduka Otiono has confirmed that he would be on hand to provide what he called “Biocritical Reflections on ‘dispossessed.”
Otiono who is heavily credited by the author of ‘dispossessed’ as the man “whose constant prodding and mentoring has turned me into a poet” is expected to offer critical insights on the poet within and outside the atmosphere of the book. The objective is to shed more light on James Eze’s muted journey to his debut book as well as annotate some of the collection’s unuttered yells.
Since its release in October 2019, ‘dispossessed’ has made notable splash on the Nigerian literary scene, ratcheting up impressive reviews and making history as the first book of poetry to be read to a full cabinet session of a Nigerian government.
Otiono’s intervention at the launch is expected to further distil the intense imageries trapped in the pages of ‘dispossessed’ for a deeper appreciation by audiences not usually enthused by poetry. Otiono comes fully prepared for this role though. His writing career is laden with fruits. The author and co-editor of six books, Otiono won ANA/Spectrum Prize for Fiction with his debut collection of short stories titled ‘The Night Hides with a Knife,’ and quickly followed it up with a poetry collection titled ‘Voices in the Rainbow’ which earned Honorable Mention for the ANA/Cadbury Poetry Prize. His second collection of poems, ‘Love in a Time of Nightmares,’ won him the James Patrick Folinsbee Memorial Scholarship in Creative Writing.
As a scholar, Otiono has distinguished himself. He graduated with a perfect GPA, while winning the prestigious Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship at the University of Alberta, Canada, and being nominated for the Governor General’s Gold Medal for academic distinction. Otiono has also gathered enormous experience working with Chinua Achebe at Brown University where he was appointed a Visiting Assistant Professor. In much the same way, Otiono’s career as a teacher has earned him a Capital Educator’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and a Faculty of Arts and Sciences Early Career Award for Research Excellence at Carleton University.
Happily, the faculty and students of the Department of English and Literature Studies of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam, Anambra State, shall be beneficiaries of Otiono’s acclaimed knowledge during his visit for the presentation of ‘dispossessed.’ The twice-winner of a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship shall be teaching a Master Class in Creative Writing at the university to wrap up activities marking the formal introduction of ‘dispossessed’ to the public.
It is noteworthy that the of promise ‘dispossessed’ as a distinctive literary work is signaled on the blurb endorsements of the book by three of Nigeria’s finest writers. To Helon Habila, winner of both the Caine Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize who also teaches creative writing at George Mason University, USA, dispossessed is “a promise fulfilled…what we all want from great poetry: lyricism, captivating imagery, storytelling but above all, the ability to rouse the emotions to that sublime plane only great poetry knows how to do.” To Olu Oguibe, renowned artist, poet, and recipient of the Governor of the State of Connecticut’s Award for excellence and lifetime achievement, “of all the joys that one must take from Eze’s poetry, the most obvious, perhaps, is his easy command of imagery. There are many images in these poems.” And then to Okey Ndibe, former professor at Bard College and Brown University, all in the US, who is also a celebrated novelist, essayist and journalist, ‘dispossessed’ is “an act of restoration, reminding us that art – and poetry, specifically – challenges us to dream and achieve our best humanity.”
Several weeks after its release, further reviews by notable poets and writers have strengthened earlier impressions of the book and primed the audience on what to expect from its imagistic pages.