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Uche Ogbuji UCHE OGBUJI is a Poetry editor at TNB, and at Kin. He is also founder and curator of the @ColoradoPoetry project, and his short collection of poems Ndewo, Colorado (Aldrich Press, 2013) is a finalist for the 2014 Colorado Book Awards. He is a founding member of The Stanza Massive poetry/media collective.

To expand a bit, Uche Ogbuji was born in Calabar, Nigeria. He lived, among other places, in Egypt and England before settling near Boulder, Colorado where he lives with his wife and four children. Uche is a computer engineer (trained in Nigeria and the USA) and entrepreneur whose abiding passion is poetry. His poems, fusing Igbo culture, European Classicism, U.S. Mountain West setting, and Hip-Hop influences, have appeared widely. Uche also snowboards, coaches and plays soccer, and trains in American Kenpo. You can catch more of the prolifically fraying strands of his life on his home page, his weblog or, heck, even on Twitter.

Recent Work By Uche Ogbuji

The runner’s the disciple of travel,
Ambassador from determination;
All the wars a runner fights are civil,
The self-turned challenge, the primal agitation.
We tritely say that running signs the human
Spirit, community of close-stepping pack,
Second wind as individual omen,
We measure with matched morals on the track.

You’ve surely seen all the fanfare on TNB lately about The Beautiful Anthology (TNB Books, June 2012), a collection of essays, stories and some poetry on the topic of beauty. Thanks to the tireless efforts of editor Elizabeth Collins the book has emerged as a very beautiful physical object full of diverse, witty, engaging pieces. There has already been a fair bit written about the essays in this volume, but given my whole-hearted insistence that poetry is the queen of all forms of writing, I decided a look at Erato’s hand on the book is in order.

On St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday significant to engineers in the USA, I wrote about the prominence of that profession within my family. It so happens that I’ve had occasion to expand upon that on another holiday. I’ve never really been big on Father’s Day, despite having four children of my own, but on the usual phone call to my father we got to talking about his background in electron microscopy.  He was not only a pioneer applying it to materials engineering, but also involved in education, looking to produce the next generation in his field, particularly from Nigeria.

We’re off work early, eyeing up the clouds,
Our children dancing sun-maker magic twist,
Blowing to whip wind to mist-shifting brisk.
Science and history are the idle chatter here:
From Cook’s transit sketches to what future
Space colony might carry Boulder’s gist
By the next match for this event on Earth.
The soul of Boulder funnels to the Fiske.

From a Nigerian-American on Memorial Day to my father, veteran officer, Biafran Infantry and my father-in-law, veteran, U.S. Navy (served in Vietnam). They and others like them, then and now, are the reason I have myself never had to experience the horrors of war.

There are no voices over ordered rows of stone,
Visitors silent over silent hosts,
And, dotted nationwide at work or recreation,
The quiet few who lend voice to comrade ghosts.
No more than honest pride at our acclaim
That they went to serve when we called their name.

I met Abbie Grotke a few years ago when my company Zepheira started work for the U.S. Library of Congress to produce the web application that has become Viewshare. I was immediately struck by her sideline, collecting classic advice books and writing articles which apply material from those books for modern enquirers, and also by the phenomenon that’s emerged from that sideline, which will become clear in this interview.

I mark you archetypes:
Clean-cut fame slut
And earnest, humming wakeboard boy,
All American, what puritan joy!
And please and thankee
No hanky-panky
Do praise the Lord
No Betty Ford
‘Cause I’ve seen the seventies
And heaven, please!
It’s getting dark
And Noah’s Ark
Has got to be coming round
‘Cause that roaring sound
In the western sky
Is the fire next time,

“Family Feelings” is a collaborative blend of poetry and play reading that combines the work of this week’s TNB-featured poet John Foy (and others) and playwright A. R. Gurney. “Family Feelings” pays tribute to those relationships we know best, or least! Using scenes from Gurney’s Cocktail Hour – an appeal to gain Father’s approval for the staging of his son’s play – and selected poems by John Foy and others, the performance weaves together poems and script in counterpoint so that, through echoes and associative logic, they get to the psychic truth of unspoken family feelings.

Indian Café, 108th St. and Broadway (NYC), Sunday, January 22, 2012, at 4:00 p.m.

A year ago I interviewed Tyler Chin-Tanner, creator of the indie graphic novel  American Terrorist, recently released at the New York Comic Con, and now available through a choice of outlets.

There has of course been excitement of other sorts, also breaking through in The Big Apple. Some of the scenes of the “Occupy” protests bear a striking resemblance to the fictional events of American Terrorist.  I recently re-connected with Tyler to get his thoughts on the matter, and he shared some fascinating illustrations of the connection between his fiction and live current events.

Tyler Chin-Tanner: When I first began writing the American Terrorist graphic novel over four years ago I felt as if it was a fairly topical story in terms of its take on current American politics and where we were headed. But now, at the time of its release, even I find myself amazed at just how relevant it is in terms of its similarities to the mass protests of the Occupy movement.

I

We mad fly; we
Dream dry; we
Scribble drunk; we
Fake the funk; we
Keeps it real; we
Sly conceal; we
Royal hall; we
Southern drawl; we
Bleed tears; we
Clink cheers; we
Fling curves; we
Gnaw nerves; we
Break it down; we
Class clown; we
Write raw; we
Down by law.

I’ll get one thing out of the way first of all, to address whose in the know, and as a point of interest for those who aren’t. “Akata” is to some a pretty nasty word. It’s Nigerian Pidgin deriving from the Yoruba for bush civet cat, and is used as an epithet for Americans of African descent. Some people claim it’s not derogatory in intent, but I don’t really buy that given the context in which I hear it used most of the time. It certainly leaves an offensive taste in the mouth of many Nigerians, especially in diaspora. Yeah, taboo language sometimes marks the most superficially surprising vectors. Nnedi Okorafor, author of the recent fantasy novel Akata Witch (Viking, 2011 ISBN: 978-0-670-01196-4), is well aware of the controversy she courts with its title. It takes an extraordinary book to put such an abrasive first impression into the background, and in short, I think Nnedi has well accomplished this.

They come from bars and frat houses,
Chins sporting the last chug’s dregs;
They’ve shut down the POTUS block
Down lawn chairs! Time to tap the kegs!

“Na na na! Hey hey hey! Goodbye!”
Caught in the unstoppered ear—
Perspective fails the sloppy street
It’s just one terrorist’s career!

What giant wheels when Brezhnev sent
Red troops into Afghanistan;
House of Saud and CIA,
Tipped shots to Charlie Wilson’s plan.

If All

By Uche Ogbuji

Poem

Earth Day blessings, 2011
Elu anughi, Ala ga anu.—If the heavens don’t hear, the Earth will hear. (From an Igbo proverb)

If all the skies were sewers
If breezes made us gag
If flocking birds were charnel herds
What would our lungs for swag?

If all the seas were petrol
And all fresh water slops
If all the fish thrashed feverish
What sap for veins and crops?

If every storm’s potential
Were parboiled troposphere
If hurricanes swept all our planes
What home could persevere?

Dream Residue

By Uche Ogbuji

Poem

Can’t believe I stayed asleep to give
Honey slope après ski GPS,
Real life need-to-piss bringing the cock-block;
Her black greek letter accent fading fast
With harem eyes under bright bluebird skies
To duller daybreak wink of bluing chalk…
Damn! I planned to smash that like Thor’s hammer.
The ferry over cream slides cruel to dock.

I’ve long trumpeted (most recently in “50 Observations on 50 years of Nigeria, part 3″) the marvelous efflorescence of young Nigerian writers, and especially Nigerian women writers, both in Nigeria and in diaspora. I’m not much of a reader of novels, but I waste no time getting stuck into any new work by Adichie, Oyeyemi or Okorafor. Nnedi Okorafor is the author of the novels Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature) and The Shadow Speaker (winner of the CBS Parallax Award), and the children’s book, Long Juju Man (winner of the Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa). Her latest novel, Who Fears Death (DAW Books), was released in June. Her forthcoming novel, Akata Witch (Penguin Books/Viking Press), is scheduled for release in 2011. Nnedi was also a finalist for the Andre Norton Award (The Shadow Speaker), the Essence Magazine Literary Award (The Shadow Speaker), the Kindred and Parallax Awards (Zahrah) and the Golden Duck Award (Zahrah and The Shadow Speaker). Nnedi is working with Disney to produce a chapter book in the Disney Fairies series, tentatively titled Iridessa and the Fire-Bellied Dragon Frog.