Nigerian poet Tanure Ojaide has a new collection of poetry titled Narrow Escape: A Poetic Diary of the Coronavirus Pandemic. The 200+ poems were drafted between the start of the Covid-19 pandemic up until the second wave. Ojaide believes that “poetry is a spiritual Journey for many poets and readers and through it one could have a better understanding of life.” This collection is his journey navigating the emotional toll and spiritual implications of the pandemic.
The collection was published by Africa-based publisher Spears Books on March 2021. The poems in the collection are written as short diary entries. Each day of the pandemic brought with it a different feeling and emotional state, and Ojaide wanted to capture these chaos of feelings in the moment. As a result, the poems have a wide emotional range. As Ojaide reveals in the preface, the idea that poems can be therapeutic also went into the creation of the collection. Poetry can make us feel a certain way, bring clarity to complex situations, or make abstract ideas more concrete. The book is particularly needed today. As we return to normal life, a book likes this can be helpful for working through the complex emotion having lived through the pandemic.
Narrow Escape is influenced in some ways by Urhobo mythology. As with his other collections, Ojaide summoned the Urhobo deity of memory called Aridon for inspiration. “Throughout the period,” he writes, “I was inspired by my muse, Aridon.” Acknowledging the power of the deity’s influence in his work, he adds, “These poetic entries in the diary are gifts to me.”
Tanure Ojaide is a Nigerian academic with far reaching influence in African literature. He has published over 30 books and won numerous awards. Narrow Escape is the latest in a body of work that engages with universal questions about life through African experiences and literary culture.
Read the publisher’s note and order Narrow Escape: A Poetic Diary of the Coronavirus Pandemic here.
Narrow Escapes: A Poetic Diary of the Coronavirus Pandemic is a poetic journey that is at once emotional and spiritual. In over 200 distinct poems, the reader follows the poet’s musing from the pandemic’s outbreak to the onset of the second wave. The poems are shaped by and reflect the persistent fear induced by the ubiquity of the virus and the accentuation of life’s uncertainty as never experienced before. In diary form, the poet deploys specific images to present the virus as a leveler because its victims are not defined by class, race, ideology, nationality, or culture. The poems invite readers to go beyond our obsessions with self and materialism by embracing compassion, love, sacrifice, and sensitivity to others. Ranging from the personal, familial, and public to the political and economic, the poet reminds readers of the lurking presence of nonhuman beings and the ways in which they intertwine with human beings. The poems are themselves therapeutic, painting as it were on the canvass of a shaken world, broad strokes of poetic language that render a much better version of an imperfect world.