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Your country calls, / Niyi, Niyi Osundare
I am missing you ./ I know you sing of my beauty and my pain.
Where are you? / Does some other woman make your bed?

 

 

Books by Niyi Osundare

Songs of the Marketplace  (2006)  / The Word is an Egg  (2005) /  Pages from the Book of the Sun  (2002)  / Two Plays (2006)

Thread in the Loom: Essays (2002) /  The State Visit  (2002)  /  Midlife (2005)  / Moonsongs  (1988)  /  The Eyes of the Earth  (2007)

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Niyi Niyi Osundare

By Lee Meitzen Grue

the name breathes a song
we are learning.
A life with the breath and depth
of a strong table:  Handsome and useful.

A green bottle loosed and twirling in the ocean
rolls up on this riverbank,
within
a poem like music,
no translation needed.

Niyi, you are your country
and you are absent,
its negative space calls for you.
You’ve left words like cornmeal
for your people to follow

Your country calls,
Niyi, Niyi Osundare
I am missing you .
I know you sing of my beauty and my pain.
Where are you?
Does some other woman make your bed?

Forget her.
Sing only of me.
Sing to the woman’s children,
but sing only of me.
I am your beautiful mother.

Niyi, we know your home calls you,
but this too is your home.
Flood waters could not wash you away.
Tonight we celebrate you with ritual:  candles, sage, sparklers,
with many glasses lifted too many times.

We celebrate you as someone who arrives from great distance,
as a man who arrives from the stars.

Grue photo by Phyllis Parun, photographer

posted 17 April 2007

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A Response

Rudy,

May peace flood your heart today. 

It has been a very busy weekend down here in Lagos. I have this morning thoroughly enjoyed the poem on Niyi Osundare by the New Orleans poet,  Lee Meitzen Grue. I suppose it had been written earlier, or has it just been written?  

I couldn't help feeling jealous that someone is pleading with Niyi  to stay put in exile, saying that though Nigeria beckons on him to return, New Orleans cherishes his presence on its land. Can you beat that?

Well, that has been our plight for many years now.  Majority of Nigeria's best minds and original thinkers are all in exile,  because the horrible conditions at home grow worse with each passing day.

 We are stuck with  an insufferably incompetent junta, whose inferiority complex drives into thinking that these writers and great minds are its greatest problem.  And so, it hounds them into exile, and we lose them to other climes. 

Chinua Achebe, for instance,  is out there in New York even at 76! This was a man who had always cherished living in his country, and contributing his  thoughts and ideas to further its progress.

There are many others like him out there scattered in Europe, Asia  and the US, where their persons, talents and services are duly appreciated.  

The April elections have brought no hope to Nigerians. President Olusegun Obasanjo, in an  election adjudged the worst in the nation’s history, has imposed on the nation his anointed candidates who will not ask questions about his massive looting of the nation's resources.   

Power supply  continues to be withdrawn almost the whole days in the week, and so how can a writer function in such a terrible environment?  

I will scan some pages of Osundare's Moonsongs and send them to you. I always find Niyi’s  poems very delicious.

You sure will love them.  Have a nice day. Ugochukwu

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Niyi Osundare, who was born in Nigeria in 1947 and is currently a professor of English literature at the university of New Orleans, is considered the greatest living Nigerian poet. Most of his books are published in Nigeria; The Word is an Egg, his latest collection, appeared earlier this year. Just recently, two books of his, Pages from the Book of the Sun: New & Selected Poems and Thread in the Loom: Essays on African Literature and Culture, were published in the United States by African World Press. His work has been translated in Dutch, German, Korean and French, and has won many literary awards, such as the Noma.

posted 24 April 2007

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Downtown

By Lee Meitzen Grue

Lee Grue is arguably one of the finest practitioners of poetry in New Orleans' storied history. These superb writs are equal to the upwelling of jazz itself: from Tremé street corners, to the wayward French Quarter, to the carefree vibes of Bywater, all the way to back o' town; this astonishing collection speaks from a mythic pantheon off yowls & beats as timeless as the Crescent City herself. "If you're missing New Orleans, and you know what that means, you need to read Grue's book front to back, place by place, time by time, name by name, everything that breaks your broken heart and asks it to sing. A generous, loving tribute to poetry and to New Orleans"—Dara Wier

 "Lee Grue's work is one of the majestic pylons that keeps New Orleans above water, a pylon woven thickly and subtly from the city's history. Her poetry weaves her personal history to the five centuries of the city's own, a fabric stronger than the dreams of engineers. Lee Grue holds us all on the warm open hand of her music; she emanates the love that raises the soul levees"—Andrei Codrescu\

Lee Meitzen Grue was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana, a small town upriver. New Orleans has been home for most of her life. She began reading her poetry at The Quorum Club during the early sixties. There she met musicians Eluard Burt and Maurice Martinez (bandleader Marty Most). Burt had just come back to New Orleans from San Francisco, where he had been influenced by the Beats. Eluard Burt and Lee Grue continued to work together over many years. Burt and his photographer wife, Kichea Burt, came home to New Orleans from California again in the nineties, where the three collaborated on a CD, Live! on Frenchmen Street. Eluard Burt passed in 2007.

Kichea Burt contributed some of the photographs in Grue's book DOWNTOWN. During the intervening years Grue reared children, directed The New Orleans Poetry Forum workshop, and NEA poetry readings in the Backyard Poetry Theater. In 1982 she began editing New Laurel Review, an independent international literary journal which is still published today. She has lived downtown in the Bywater for thirty-five years. After the flood of 2005 she began teaching fiction and poetry at the Alvar Library, which is three blocks from her house. Her other books are: Trains and Other Intrusions, French Quarter Poems,  In the Sweet Balance of the Flesh, and Goodbye Silver, Silver Cloud, short fiction.

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 11 April 2012

 

 

 

Home  Lee Meitzen Grue Table  Transitional Writings on Africa   The African World

Related files: Niyi Osundare At 60   The Remains of the Day   I am Alive  Osundare's Universe of Burdens  PraiseSong for Niyi Osundare  (Mona Lisa Saloy)  Niyi Niyi Osundare (poem  by Lee Meitzen Grue)