Ben Okri has a new poetry collection out, and it’s his first in nine years.
A Fire in My Head: Poems for the Dawn was released on January 7 by the independent publisher, Head of Zeus. Okri’s last collection was Wild, which was initially published in 2012 and reissued by Head of Zeus in 2021 as well.
The collection addresses the urgency of contemporary global crises such as the pandemic, the refugee crisis, and race, while also reflecting on the history of humanity as a whole. It includes recently published poems such as “Grenfell Tower, June, 2017” and “In Praise of Notre Dame” as well as brand new poems.
Here’s a summary of the collection from its publisher:
This book brings together many of Ben Okri’s most acclaimed and politically charged poems. Some of them, like ‘Grenfell Tower, June 2017’, are already familiar. Published in the Financial Times less than ten days after the fire, it was played more than 6 million times on Channel 4’s Facebook page, and was retweeted by thousands on Twitter. ‘Notre-Dame is Telling Us Something’ was first read on BBC Radio 4, in the aftermath of the cathedral’s near destruction. It spoke eloquently of the despair that was felt around the world. In ‘shaved head poem’, Ben Okri wrote of the confusion and anxiety felt as the world grappled with a health crisis unprecedented in our times. ‘Breathing the Light’ was his response to the events of summer 2020, when a black man died beneath the knee of a white policeman, a tragedy sparking a movement for change. These poems, and others including poems for Ken Saro-Wiwa, Barack Obama, Amnesty and more, make this a uniquely powerful collection that blends anger and tenderness with Ben Okri’s inimitable vision.
Sometimes the poet just wants to take the tool of beauty and apply it to the awful conditions of the world. It’s not a paradox; it’s a magnification.
Ben Okri is a versatile writer of poems, short stories, essays, and novels. In September 2020, Okri wrote an exclusive essay for Brittle Paper titled “The Future is African Literature.”
Click here to buy A Fire in My Head: Poems for the Dawn.