The Poetry of Nduka Otiono
DisPlace: The Poetry of Nduka Otiono engages actively with a diasporic world: Otiono is equally at home critiquing petroculture in Nigeria and in Canada. His work straddles multiple poetic traditions and places African intellectual history at the forefront of an engagement with Western poetics.
The poems in this selection are drawn from Otiono's two published collections, Voices in the Rainbow, and Love in a Time of Nightmares, and the volume includes previously unpublished new poems. Peter Midgley’s introduction contextualizes Otiono’s work within the frame of physical and spiritual mobility, diaspora, and newer critical frames like Afropolitanism, attending to form as well as his political engagement. The volume concludes with an interview of the poet by Chris Dunton that touches on the nature of poetry, language loss, and diasporic identities.
- Short-listed, Archibald Lampman Award 2022
- Winner, African Literature Association Award for Creative Writing 2023
Otiono is constantly dialoguing with the ethical dilemma of history and tradition, political and literary, whether bardic—Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Neruda, and Ginsberg—or Nigerian—Christopher Okigbo, Femi Oyebode, Sola Osofisan, and Niyi Osundare. And, in so doing, he produces a geospatial context that accurately depicts his lived experience, his grief, and his message. The result is a compelling odyssey of episodes, each evocative of their own personages and dénouements, each establishing Nduka Otiono as a troubadour (as he says himself), a pilgrim, and bard. Through each of these personalities, Nduka Otiono is never esoteric, solipsistic, or irreverent; rather, he is always present, nostalgic, and rhapsodic. -- Jay Miller, ARC Poetry
DisPlace is the contradictory being of Nduka Otiono: He’s “here” in Canada, but he’s also a dissident resident of Nigeria. He exists in the self-appointed Shangri-La that is the once-boastfully slaveholding Americas; but he insists on remaining the anointed exorcist of an Africa still decadent with bullets, with “militicians,” who play baboons rather than messiahs.
—George Elliott Clarke, Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada, 2016-17- George Elliott Clarke
The most personal of Otiono’s poems are mostly elegiac, with death pawing at the door, and the language swaying with a new, lithe spring to it and the strength one associates with fine, high-tensile wire. The poet’s imagistic reflections on life are at once sonorous, contemplative, bold, and defiant.
— Chris Dunton, Professor of Literature in English and former Dean of The Faculty of Humanities at The National University of Lesotho, Roma- Chris Dunton