Saturday 9 November 2013


I am standing here

looking at this photograph
of you the eve before you left
the sudden rattle in your chest

a fortnight ago

we were blowing soap bubbles
and you said, what’s a metaphor?
and I’m like, women!

so I’m here looking at this photograph of you
mists frozen on mountains behind you

thinking of the soil that’s already been flattened
wishing your mom didn’t call
every day –

and suddenly noticing

the grey around your eyes
the slight ruse of a smile

that you knew metaphors were bubbles

photo credit: christmasallaroundus

Wednesday 6 November 2013


recently, in order to fend off atrophy of the writing muscles, i decided to flex my muscles through experimenting on drabbles, or what some would call "microfiction".

and since the theme mainly deals with romance and marriage, Romance Meets Life
was willing to publish some of them, which you can read below:

purity hotel

"You do want to find out the truth about your husband, right?"


‘I don’t know him,’ the stranger said, ‘but my wife’s never seemed so happy…’

A Girl Like Me

CJ manages to say, ‘What makes you think I won’t marry someone like you.’


Yet he snarled, ‘I hate it when you act deaf.’

In the Corridor

‘Lovely bre…dress.’

Friday 1 November 2013

Dami has offered us a Slim, Pert Poetry Holder

I should be disappointed in Dami Ajayi. Politically correctness aside, I am. Flatly. Disappointed, for I did expect something much more than what he has offered us: here is a very capable young man, who opted to shortchange his brilliance by not publishing a volume of poetry, but instead offered his throng of admirers a slim pert 30-paged poetry holder.

Dami is a poet, an essayist, a short fiction writer, and also a co-publisher of Saraba Magazine, an online quarterly lit mag. So you'd understand why I expected something more formidable from him. Sometime in 2011, he was among eight young Nigerian poets I presented as "emerging poetry voices" that were representative of their own generation – let’s call them the millennial generation. Click here to view them.

This modest effort by Dami is worth commending anyway, and of course commenting on. So, at last, Dami Ajayi has released Daybreak and Other Poems – a chapbook containing fourteen poems of uneven shades of lucidity, humour and grace. I am not disappointed with the poems, though. They are as pert as the chapbook itself.

Not surprising, for me at least, his poetry is bereft of ism, the ism of protest, of indictment, which animated a good number of Nigerian poetry, right from the time of colonialism, through civilian misrule, military despotism, and back to this moment of democratic doddering.

By weaning himself off the poetry of political consciousness, Dami appears to have – like some of his contemporaries – broken with the poetic tradition of generations before him. Euromodernists, nationalists, activists, and post-activists. He has chosen to explore more private issues, instead. So it’s really not surprising if his poetry reflects much of what typifies the current, or perhaps ethos, of his generation, a privileging of the self over the polis, a visible sexual angst – possibly, a strong sexual consciousness.

So in some way, it is pretty refreshing to read poetry that is without indignation, without ism, given that we are already living in a world that is more fraught than ever before, even though we are daily beset by titillating (or disturbing?) images of hyper-sexuality.

Little wonder, then, that Dami’s thematic concerns are just about voluptuous. Some of the poems in Daybreak and Other Poems appreciate the voluptuousness of life, as though Dami the medical doctor has since grown weary of seeing the sore, cadaverous side of life.

Poems like “Amaokpala East-Side Motel”, “Konji Blues iii”, “You are my Flagellation”, “The Gnaw”, “The Blue Room”, and “Slow dancing”, although other poems like “Die a Little”, “Dreams die at Ekwulobia”, “Dreams”, “Tolu”, and “Home” evoke myriad feelings of misery, grief and nostalgia.

Daybreak and Other Poems prefigures Dami as a poet who is capable of producing a luminous work of poetry (with more spectrum), only if he remains quite committed to this unforgiving craft, if he is willing to stretch himself thin, surpass what he's just freshly offered us.

For now time will tell if Dami Ajayi might be ready to tax himself and produce a work that parallels his intellect.

By the way, I have posted (from the collection) my favourite poem below. For those who don't know "konji" is a slang that hints at "sperm build up" in a guy.


What do we do about hearsays
Gathering like Vietnamese camouflage
On our brows?

What do we do about this rush
Seeping from sealed sweat pores?

What do we do to the skipping record
Imploring, why not fall in love?

I like the thud of clothes drop.
I like flimsy eye contacts,
Sweeping like a glass cup storm,
A bucket Tsunami.

The kept woman
Likes to be called Madam.

She daydreams in the glazed mirror
In the cavernous corridor,

Let me unfurl you,
Exfoliate you, rid you of clothes:
They are insignias of debut sins,

Please be still.
The pain that spread through your thighs
Is the joy that starts from your scalp.
Let me in.

To read the other poems, you can download the entire chapbook here.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Poetry Interview pt 3

Afam Akeh, is the author of Letter Home & Biafran Nights, a delightful poetry collection, with lines so quotable yet haunting.

In spite of his hectic schedule, the poet obliged me an interview, here is an excerpt:

Uche Peter Umez: There is almost a palpable sense of looking back in many of the poems in your collection. A masked feeling of nostalgia, the inexorable pull of memory. This image in the poem ‘Letter Home’ (pg 5) vividly captures this fact for me:

…the gecko
seeking warmth
behind shut doors
to its new perch,
dreaming of home
in another life.
The familiar dream
a constant lure…

How much of your ‘travel guilt’ still clings to you? Have you been unable to shed much of it?

Afam Akeh: Memory is not always friendly. I carry my immigrant travel guilt with me always – not in any disabling way, but in the sense that I am frequently reminded of it by daily encounters. I am acutely aware that I am not alone in these paths taken, but have also committed my children and possibly their children...

you can read the whole interview on Africa in Words

Poetry Interview pt 2

Tade Ipadeola, is the author of an impressive poetry volume, The Sahara Testaments, which is on the shortlist of the 2013 Nigeria Prize for Literature.

I recently interviewed the poet, here is an excerpt:

"Uche Umez: The Sahara Testaments appears to be the largest volume of poetry by a Nigerian I have read in recent times. 184 pages. How long did it take you to write such an impressive volume? Was there a point when you thought it wasn’t worth completing and had to give up?

Tade Ipadeola: I’m sure there are larger volumes of poetry out there. The thing with poetry though, is that size means nothing if there is no substance to it. People study Elizabeth Browning’s incredibly long poem, Aurora Leigh, as well as the really slim Goblin Market by Christina Rosetti. The actual writing of The Sahara Testaments took about four years, although the material had been gathering in my mind since 2003..."

but you can read the whole interview on Brittle Paper

Tuesday 1 October 2013

2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2000 – 5000 words) in English. Submissions must be made by the author of the short story. Regional winners receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £5,000.

Short stories translated into English from other languages are also eligible.

Please read these eligibility and entry rules carefully before beginning the online entry process. No entries will be considered if received after the closing date unless given prior consent from the Prize Administrator at

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions if you are uncertain about any aspect of the entry process.

Entry rules here

You can visit the website


Mother at 53

Today, motherland is 53. So I tried composing an ode for her, but I'm torn and too stumped by her ineptitude and indifference to fend for her diverse children.


I want to call you Mother,
with a child’s heart
that is blind
to your scars
and sores:

your desire for what’s ugly
and brutal
your body shot through with waste
age scored with blood –
I want to love you


sing an ode to you
but images of you
wrench from my heart
a threnody

photo credit: