Ugandan poet Nick Makoha is set to publish his second poetry collection The New Carthaginians with Penguin Press. The book will be published in spring 2025 and explores a world where time is out of joint.

The Bookseller announced the news about Makoha’s upcoming collection last month. The book sounds absolutely fascinating as each poem explores a certain time in history, but playing with the characters and chain of events. For instance, one of the poems includes Makoha himself – when a hijacked plane lands at Entebbe International Airport in 1976, the crisis that ensues leads to Idi Amin’s Uganda becoming a pariah state and to the young Nick Makoha’s flight from the country.

The others also explore a range of realist yet fantastical poetic narratives. In the late 1970s, a mysterious writer draws poetic slogans on New York City’s walls, signing them SAMO©. The Poet, a Black Icarus and a resurrected Jean-Michel Basquiat – three characters who are one – journey through a parallel universe of sorts, watching TV, discussing art and literature, and tucking their wings into their jackets on the way to airport security. Read the full synopsis below:

Concerned throughout with flight and falling, the sample and the loop, The New Carthaginians is a poetry collection of staggering originality: a work by an author at the height of his powers, in which the familiar Western canons of art, history and philosophy are prised apart and reassembled in a new configuration. Drawing on Basquiat’s technique of the ‘exploded’ collage, our heroes’ odyssey gathers the symbols of a new mythos, through which the othering of Black life might be undone and the stage set for some fresh emergence, some transfigured understanding of myth and life. ‘Hold that note,’ writes the poet. ‘In this place you are no longer the chorus… In any future, remember you are a New Carthaginian.’

Makoha remarked that he is excited to contributed to the growing field of Ugandan poetry:

When the Ugandan poet Okot p’Bitek was published in The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry in 1963 I was not even born. But it was that book that opened the door for me to the African canon. When Penguin accepted my second manuscript The New Carthaginians with electric enthusiasm, that too felt like a door opening. I am excited to be on this journey with them.

Donald Futers, senior commissioning editor, bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Makoha’s agent Aparna Kumar. Kumar said she is awed by the scope of the collection and Makoha’s The New Carthaginians is “as much poetry as history and politics”. Futers added he is truly excited to publish Makoha’s creatively written book:

Reading this book is at times like watching Anne Carson, possessed by the ghost of Taliesin, riding sidecar with Thelonious Monk. Of course Basquiat and Icarus follow overhead, borne aloft by very handsome wings. Someone’s listening to J Dilla. Someone’s underscoring lines in Dante. Maybe they’re all on a plane. Elsewhere, locked in a room with men he doesn’t know, a politician is about to be treated to the local ‘hospitality’. The New Carthaginians is one of the most exhilarating, propulsive and sustained performances I can think of in recent poetry. We’re very proud to be publishing it at Penguin Press.”

Nick Makoha is a Ugandan poet and playwright and winner of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. His collection, Kingdom of Gravity was shortlisted in 2017 for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. His writing has appeared in publications and outlets including The New York Times, Poetry Review, Rialto, Poetry London, Triquarterly Review, Boston Review, Callaloo, and Wasafiri.

Congrats to Makoha on the upcoming collection!