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The memory of seasons, by Arukaino Umukoro

To read Arukaino Umukoro is to see the world both as it is and as it could be. This duality – this gift of seeing…

To read Arukaino Umukoro is to see the world both as it is and as it could be. This duality – this gift of seeing – a mark of journalistic range and poetic temperament, shines through this stellar collection of poems, infusing his work with a unique clarity and depth that deftly navigates the nuances of love, nationhood and humanity.

In the collection’s opening segment, “Imagine Nigeria”, we find poems chock-full of hope for a country adrift on a current of cynicism. The poet dreams of a Nigeria where prosperity reigns, where unity is the norm, and where a sense of national pride pulses in every heart. This is not just an idealistic dream, it is a call to action, a blueprint for a better world.

“Children of Wakanda”, the second poem in a carefully curated segment of tenderly worded reflections on nationhood and global black solidarity, is a bold and necessary celebration of the resilience and creative spirit of the African diaspora, and a tribute to the ongoing struggle for equality. It reinforces a narrative of black excellence and resistance that is easy to trivialize, overlook, undervalue, or outrightly deny.

The poems, “Rebirth of a Nation” and “The extra mile, for God and country”, echo this theme of resilience, their probing language beautifully rendering the unyielding spirit of a people who refuse to be broken by their circumstances. Here, we see, touch and feel the potential of a country on the cusp of change, and hear, through the poets unwavering tenor of hope, the possibilities of transformation.

In “Whispering Hearts” and “Blood Runs Deep”, segments that follow in dreamlike sequence, Umukoro confronts love and longing, delving into the wild complexities of the human heart. In “What a Woman Wants”, we navigate the labyrinth of a woman’s desires, portraying her quest for a man who embodies strength, respect, and unwavering commitment. This theme carries through to “Snow White”, where the echoes of fairy tale romances meet the yearning for eternal love, a love that illuminates kingdoms and transcends time. Yet, love is not always bright and hopeful. “Feelings” introduces us to its shadows, laying bare the desolation of a heart longing for someone who belongs to another. This bitter-sweet symphony of emotions continues in “Maybe”, where the protagonist grapples with the complex decisions of the heart, finding themselves at the crossroads of love and pain.

Umukoro’s poems are a potent mix of journalistic precision, lyrical beauty and spiritual depth. His work reflects a commitment to breaking down barriers of obscurity, making poetry an accessible, relatable and transformative medium. These poems are meant to be read, reflected upon, and shared in both quiet, intimate moments and bustling public spaces. They are a tribute to the enduring power of art to connect, inspire, and heal.

As you journey through the pages of ‘Memory of Seasons’, may you be challenged, comforted, and ultimately inspired by its attestations to the power of love and the possibility of a better world, just as I have. May it remind us of the importance of empathy, compassion, and understanding in our relationships with one another.

Arukaino Umukoro has crafted a collection that is both a celebration of life and a call to action, done with such subtlety as to transform the mundane into the extraordinary, epitomizing the profound ability of the poet to serve as both a mirror and a beacon, reflecting our reality while guiding us towards new horizons. If James Baldwin is to be believed, “The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through the vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.”

This collection of poems by Arukaino Umukoro heeds this clarion call with an urgency and passion that echoes the tenor of Baldwin’s advocacy for humanity. As readers, we are invited to not only bear witness to the beauty and struggles of the human experience, but to join in the fight for a more just, equitable, and loving world. What hope. What joy.

Efe Paul-Azino is a poet, and Director Lagos International Poetry Festival

 

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