Globetrotter & Hitler's Children
by Amatoritsero Ede
New York: Black Goat (Akashic Books), 2009
106 pp. $17.50
Amatoritsero Ede has travelled the continents carrying his native Nigeria along like a hunchback. His heady career has included a spell as a Hindu monk with the Hare Krishna sect. Most accomplished poets across the globe publish their “Collected Poems” edition toward the end of their careers but a certain poet then known as Godwin Ede bucked that trend when his very first collection bore that coveted title in 1998. Actually the first part of Ede’s Collected Poems, “A Writer’s Pains”, took the 1993 Association of Nigerian Authors’ (ANA) poetry runner-up prize in manuscript. That first collection published by Yeti Press, Bremen, Germany in 1998 was divided into two parts, namely, “A Writer’s Pains” and “Caribbean Blues” with the poem “for Ken Saro-Wiwa” serving as some kind of breaker in the middle. It won the ANA All-Africa Christopher Okigbo poetry prize.
Ede’s current locale in Canada accounts for the first section of his new collection of poems, globetrotter & hitler’s children, while his earlier stay in Germany informs the second section. The poles of Europe and North America meld into an engaging brew of metaphors and images from off the smithy of Amatoritsero Ede. It has to be stressed from the very beginning that the “globetrotter” section is a kind of manumission for the poet from the constriction of the “hitler’s children” phase, though the poet who has the Yoruba god of mischief, Esu, as his patron saint somewhat places hibernation after liberation, or more correctly, nightmare after dream!
Like the great American poet ee cummings, amatoritsero ede is lower case all the way in globetrotter & hitler’s children. The two sections each has 26 poems with the letters of the alphabet, from a to z, serving as the titles, save for a handful or so poems such as “The Skinhead’s Lord’s Prayer”, “Anike”, “The Crescent and the Cross”, “Rust”, “Speaking in Tongues” and “Exile.”
The experimental sweep of Ede evinces the driving spirit of the publishing outfit Black Goat, “an independent poetry imprint of Akashic Books created and curated by award-winning Nigerian author Chris Abani, who serves as the series editor. The first Black Goat title that landed on my table back in 2007 was Uche Nduka’s 152-page eel on reef which completely shuns linear meaning for in-your-face percussive mellifluousness.
In the poetry of Ede meaning makes sound not unlike Okigbo, for as T.S. Eliot writes in his epochal essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”: “No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists.” Ede keeps great company of master poets such as the afore-mentioned Okigbo, and then Tchicaya U’Tamsi, cummings, William Carlos Williams, Wole Soyinka, Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney etc, but he retains an originality that shuns all affectation.
Ede’s temporal and spiritual journeys as limned in his lines recall French poet Paul Valery’s words, to wit, “it is the very one who wants to write down his dream who is obliged to be extremely wide awake.” In the wakefulness of the fully lived life the migratory poet’s Toronto progressively becomes in different guises Amsterdam, Prague and London. To contain the many worlds of the poet it is indeed necessary to break all borders and boundaries as Ede intones: photographer/you have no perspective/wide as the autobahn…
To find a core most artists find that they are in dire need of flight. It is akin to the search for meaning in a menacingly absurd world. In Ede’s poetry it all coheres in the breaking of all bonds of division for his is democratic art: where all colours meet/a rainbow democracy/ signals spring…
Homogeneity has never been the suite of Canadian poetry given the country’s peculiar history. What Ede brings to bear on the exotic mix is a somewhat tropical ambience that revels in bonhomie. The living, the dead and the unborn are all afforded space to play on the page: across cardinal points/the flaming mirage/pulses with apparitions…
Ede’s admirably pared down collage of colours extends the range of the works of such worthies as Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen, Dorothy Livesay, Al Purdy, Eli Mandel and Bruce Meyer. The Toronto that Ede sustains is in the end, despite the many hues, a home for all unlike the suffocating dividedness of his earlier sojourn in Germany.
The grimmer side of things in the “Hitler’s Children” section is livened by the introit, a mischievous subversion of “The Lord’s Prayer” entitled “The Skinhead’s Lord’s Prayer”: our father/who art in Valhalla/harrowing be thine name…
The entire section bears the ominous title “Not in Love”. The controversial thesis on depersonalization as espoused by Eliot is juxtaposed with the otherness in a society that somewhat separates the poet from the poetry. Science and art are at odds in a land of hate. Ede sees his poetry here, in a pain-laden “Foreword”, as “a poet’s document and testament to the xenophobia that is eating away at the fabric of an apparent democracy in Germany, for one, and in a larger EU to varying degrees.” As if from a coven the poet manages to find the voice that echoes James Joyce, author of Ulysses: history is a nightmare/roars joyce without voice/from the abyss…
It is a mark of Ede’s devotion to his art that he does not at any time let his language to falter even amid the political pulls. Passion is his strength toward transcending temporal power: sea and sperm fuse/in amphibious incandescence/the child was heartburn…
The violence of his days does not lead him to atrophy of vision. He raises the necessary questions on the collapse of bonding through the highlighting of class and creed and credo. His voice rings true as vehement warning in the march of humankind and civilization: how did it transpire/that empires/do expire!
Amatoritsero Ede writes as though with his own blood lines that haunt. In Ede’s mind history and science bring to bear on the page truths that are burdensome. Race remains an inescapable ambit of the cosmos and Ede is unafraid to rend the cosmos if it comes to that. His wordplay is spot on and the control over language is never indulged. A gifted witness, Amatoritsero Ede deserves celebration.
Culled from Next Newspaper
Uzor Maxim Uzoatu is a playwright, poet and fiction writer. He was recently nominated for the prestigious Caine Prize in the UK for his fiction. He is the author of God of Poetry and Other poems. He has been published widely in journals like Wasafiri. He lives in lagos, Nigeria.
September 15th, 2009
Jon Paul Fiorentino awarded 2009 Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry
August 1st, 2009
Amatoritsero Ede publishes much anticipated book