Title: What a Time to Be Alone
Genre: Quotes, Essays, Memoir
Author: Chidera Eggerue
Publisher: Quadrille Publishing (August 7, 2018)
Year of Publication: August 2017
Number of Pages: 192
Reviewer: Oyindamola Shoola
I have been stalling on writing a review for What a Time to Be Alone by Chidera Eggerue for over two months now, first because, it is taking me time to accept what the book offers, digest it, reevaluate myself and my life and fix things where necessary. Second, I don’t think there can ever be a review that fully captions and evaluate all that What a Time to Be Alone by Chidera Eggerue offers. Just imagine a combination of all your favorite motivational speakers in one book but from an extremely raw perspective and unapologetic voice.
As a reader, What a Time to Be Alone has the power to unseat almost everything that you have thought wrongly about yourself, other people and that other people have thought about you. I read What a Time to Be Alone by Chidera Eggerue shortly after New Year celebrations, and while recommending it to other people, I simply told them to ditch the other New Year resolutions books to pick something real like this book.
Pamilerin Jacob is a young Nigerian poet & mental health enthusiast. His poem was shortlisted for the Ken Egba Prize For Festival Poetry 2017. Some of his poems also appear in the Best “New” African Poets 2017 Anthology (as Olawale Ibiyemi). He made the winning list of PIN Food Poetry Contest 2018. Author of Memoir of Crushed Petals (2018) & Gospels of Depression (2019); he is a staunch believer in the powers of critical thinking, Khalil Gibran’s poetry & chocolate ice cream.
This interview was conducted by Uduak-Estelle Akpan.
What inspires your writing?
Why is poetry your choice genre?
I always say, Poetry chose me. & even when I dabble into other genres, you can see the poetic impulse, floating in between the words.
Why are you passionate about mental health advocacy as it is evident in your writings?
I have a mental illness, & have tasted of what stigma does to healing. How it ruptures the process. How it renders hope inept. I find it a personal responsibility to dismantle the culture of silence surrounding mental health.
Does one need any special attribute to be a good poet/ what in your opinion is that special thing?
Thirst. There has to be a perpetual thirst for the betterment of the craft.
Vulnerability too. In poetry, the poet rather than the tongue, speaks with the heart.
You studied accounting in your first degree, is there any clear relationship between that and your work as a poet?
I would say, the ability to search for imbalances & attempt to rectify them. The accountant balances the books, the poet balances the soul.
Do you care about distinguishing your work from that of other writers/how do you make sure of that?
Personally, I feel that a good poem is in itself unique. Doesn’t have to struggle to distinguish itself. A poet’s voice is sharpened through constant tonguing of self-truths, however frightening. & the reader will always recognize such a voice, though blindfolded.
How do you balance your day to day engagements with the demands of writing?
Honestly, I have no clue. But I guess it has to do with the fact that, there is thirst. So regardless of my activities, I always come back into a poem to marinate.
Who are the five Nigerian writers that inspire you?
This is a hard one. I have lots of them.
Niyi Osundare, Servio Gbadamosi, Shoola Oyindamola, Logan February & Adedayo Agarau. (there are lots more though! Romeo Oriogun, Kanyinsola Olorunnisola, Saddiq Dzukogi, Odia Ofeimun, Christopher Okigbo, Jide Badmus, Chrisstie Jay, Kormbat, Obafemi Olatunde etc)
Which are your top five Nigerian books?
Waiting Laughters by Niyi Osundare
A Tributary in Servitude by Servio Gbadamosi
To Bee A Honey by Oyindamola
Painted Blue with Saltwater by Logan February
For Boys Who Went by Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau
This poem is an excerpt from an anthology titled "...But Here You Are." that will soon be published for free download as a PDF file by Authorpedia (WRR) towards April 1, 2019.
When my brother felt the world
closing in his throat,
you told him to pray.
After my sister’s house was broken into
by the branches of other men's bodies
you told her to pray.
When you wanted to take,
you preached that it is good to give
but when we needed, you told us to pray.
If part or half or the whole of what I have written
makes the blood of your belief scorch the net of your veins
please kneel too and pray.
God has heard people like us
pray for strange things
yours won't be the first.
There is beauty in the universe that man has blown over, beauty blinded by the constant pain life throws at his heels, so I write with the hope that a heart other than mine finds solace in the purity that nature offers.
Writing was no childhood dream, In fact I did everything in my power to avoid writing. In as much as I loved to read stories, I found writing a tedious chore with a constant fear of nobody showing interest in my work. I read whatever tale others wrote and had to tell, while hiding mine in the corners of my heart.
As a child, I was attached to nature in ways our people may see as extreme or funny. On days when I found a chore unbearable or had just gotten the beating of my life, I would sit on the concrete, absorbing the songs of birds; hoping they could give me the peace I needed and they never disappoint.
My bedrock has always been wildly imaginative and I often get lost in my thoughts and fantasies, so much that I enjoy solitude. In my imaginations, I live many lives that I lose count. I never think to share my fantasies or realities, out of the fear of other people’s perceptions.
Efe is sitting with Otamere under one of the ebelebo trees that is scattered like rubber seeds at the backyard of the house. It’s Monday, and they are on mid-term break from school. Efe asks his friend if he thinks captives can find any form of happiness. Otamere is smiling in his usual manner of chic ordinariness, the kind he wears when he’s about to recount one of his numerous fables. Efe will not admit this, but this is why he likes him, the relative easiness with which he calls on stories to answer questions — questions no child should be caught asking. Even more so, questions 12-year-olds should not find answers to.
“Hmm, Efe,” Otamere answers in a voice dancing with adult pretentiousness. “Once upon a time, a little girl followed her mother to the zoo, she saw how the different animals seemed happy as though they didn’t mind the cage, as if they thought the cages were mere improvised furniture. Surprised, so she asked her mother the reason for the animals’ unfound cheerfulness. Her mother said it must be because they are animals and they are dumb; she said this with a glaring lack of interest. Still dissatisfied, she asked the zoo guide”.
Otamere is looking up at the sky like one who can see what Efe is missing.
“The guide looked on the little girl and answered,” he continues as he picks a deciduous branch from the ground, “Lass, they are cheerful because they chose to be.”
Otamere stands and throws the branch into the poto poto in front of them. “You see Efe, you see, it depends.”
Efe wants to tell him that he is in a cage too, but he’s not finding any cheer. He wants to say to him that Uncle, his stepmother’s younger brother that lives with them is asking him to do things to him that the blonde girl was doing to the big black guy’s thing in the blue magazine that Rilwan slipped into school at the beginning of the term, things that make his throat sore. He wants to tell him that his tongue still remembers the slimy remains that make it tastes like sin, the kind Pastor Toritse talks about every Tuesday on the assembly ground. He wants to say many things to him, but he remembers the thick, taut vein that was on Uncle’s forehead as he threatened to kill him and anyone he mentions those black nights to. He thinks of calling his bluff, but he knows Uncle has a reputation for making good his threat. Efe does not say anything to Otamere. Instead, he smiles and says in bini, “Let me go home now and read for tomorrow’s test.”
Book Title: Gospels of Depression
Author: Pamilerin Jacob
Year of Publication: 2018
Number of Pages: 30
Number of Poems: 18
Reviewer: Uduak-Estelle Akpan
Click here to download the book's PDF.
Reading Pamilerin Jacob’s “Gospels of Depression” provoked a personal confession: of my many dreams, being a writer and an evangelist of my faith have been the most compelling. I’ve often sought ways of weaving the two, broad as they are into one fine yarn. The collection of poems, most of which are creatively named after biblical events gave me an added experience – that someone gets me, while causing me to rethink my stance and contribution on issues bordering on mental health.
With a perfect blend of creativity and insightful writing, Gospels of depression is an essential read for our age; it is a timely read because judging from social media threads and the trend of conversations, it is apparent that public perception of mental health issues, its victims and survivors could use more than a little advocacy and education.
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