It may very well go down in the history of book presentations in Anambra State as one that has drawn the most attention this year. It may very well be the one that had more high-profile guests in attendance. It may very well be the most talked about literary event after James Eze’s first book of poetry, Dispossessed, is publicly presented in Anambra state this Saturday 14 December at Oma Event Centre, Awka the capital.
But what the book has accomplished so far is unrivalled in publishing, certainly in the state and, possibly, the entire country. Never before in Nigeria has the Executive Council of any state government devoted time, however briefly, to listen to a poetry rendition, to have the author himself read to a roomful of principal officers in Government House, commissioners, their aides and bespectacled senior civil servants.
Such was the occasion on Monday 2 December, 2019, in the hallowed chambers of the meeting room of those who call the shots in Anambra State. Standing before a lectern was Eze, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Willie Obiano, reciting from a poem in his just published collection. Eze’s principal stood to his left – a solid executive endorsement/ approval for the novel exercise –as his CPS dazzled them with a flawless recitation. It also helped much the poem he read from is titled “anambra.”
An open copy of his collection before him, in an orange T-shirt, the same hue as the book cover, mike in hand and looking from page to audience at precise intervals, Eze read. The ovation at the end was as much for his cadenced rendition as for the subject itself.
“Finger of light poking through the embryo of dawn/ through reluctant folds of darkness/ through remnants of a diseased past/ to dispel the thick blindfold across eastern skies,” Eze intoned to a studio-quiet hall during a session aptly named “James Eze: Author of Dispossessed reads to Anambra Exco.”
“This sun must rise today/ against the bruised ego of vengeful godfathers/ against tongues broken by dark oaths sworn in evil forests/ against vampire godfathers for whom the state is less than a dunghill/ sixteen years of carving out a stony footpath to greatness/ shall not evaporate on the altar of greed/ anambra must rise today/ above the broken dreams of a region/ to midwife a peoples’ hope of rebirth/ and wipe away the silent tears of ndigbo., he added.
One of Ndigbo’s most famous daughters, home and abroad, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is already in Nigeria for the Saturday event. She landed at Asaba International Airport from where she proceeded to Awka. Early this week, she was seen receiving a copy of the poetry book from the author himself, a formal presentation to a fellow writer, friend, compatriot, one Eze sought and got her permission to mentor aspiring writers through a Creative Writing Workshop sponsored by Fidelity Bank while he was Manager External Relations.
Already on his way or preparing to come to Awka from his base in Canada where he is Graduate Programme Coordinator Institute of African Studies, Ottawa, is Nduka Otiono. Otiono, Eze acknowledges, “turned me into a poet,” because of his “constant prodding and mentoring.”
On that Saturday in question, guests, particularly students of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam, will know more about the poem and poet from the visiting professor’s “critical insights on the poet within and outside the atmosphere of the book… 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.”
Apart from prescribed school readings in Literature classes and those who genuinely enjoy poetry, not many people around here think much about the genre or those who write poems. Otiono’s intervention, therefore, “is to further distil the intense imageries trapped in the pages of Dispossessed for a deeper appreciation by audiences not usually enthused by poetry.”
Even now, no fewer than three publishing companies in America, Canada and the UK have taken up the title under their label. For one, there is Barnes & Noble, an America bookseller and Fortune 1000 company with the largest number of retail outlets in the United States. The current selling price of Dispossessed is almost $12. Booktopia has also lined up the collection on their shelves, as with Book Depository for sale and delivery to potential buyers worldwide.
There have been campaigns in the social media concerning the book, also, short video clips about the forthcoming event. In one, the author and a couple of friends urge potential guests not to miss it if they don’t want to be dispossessed “totally.” In another, voiced over by Bob-Manuel Udokwu, one of the most sought after Nollywood actors in his day, with Enya’s “Only” as background music, he sells the message, not to mention the 37 second video clip in which Udokwu. He will be Master of Ceremonies at the occasion and also give a dramatic rendition of one or two of the poems.
So, what is it about James Eze’s Dispossessed that is rocking the literary establishment east of the Niger to its very foundation at the moment? As the ads have proclaimed, you have to be there today to see, feel and understand it.