Tag Archives: Abayomi Animashaun

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Abayomi Animashaun

Taking a Siren on a Date

You need not plug your ears with wool
Or bind your chest to a chair’s rest
From fear, when she starts talking,
Of plunging into your bowl of soup,
Ramming your head against the table
And splintering your skull with wood.

When she comes in, speak to her
In a manner so reckless and sure
She knows from the outset
You’re no Odysseus.

Make clear that as god is your witness
You’ll leap into the waters first
Before you lose your right mind
To her songs or laments.

Hell, show her your mind
Wasn’t right to begin with
By talking of rivers in your town
That lean on trellises,

How you comb sea-horses
On your chin each morning,
And of blue vines and clay buttons
Boats wear when professing love
To lemons, pears, and donkeys.

And if she is incapable of realizing
You’re too far gone
To be threatened by her singing,
Stand her up. Leave.

Don’t worry about her weeping alone
By her free drink. Soon,
She’ll find one like the son of Laertes –
Who conquered the Aegean
But never found the Ithaca within.

Q: What is your writing process?

A: I try to enter the music where my soul agrees. Often, faith provides the necessary doorway. And just when I think I know what I’m doing, the doorway shifts. Becomes full of whim. And does a now-you-see-me, now-you-don’t.
But when I persevere and follow the trail beyond the confines of the intellect, I almost always arrive in a new country. Where sandals get drunk with iguanas. Caliphs fall in love with guavas. Hibiscuses grow fat from boredom. And priests have foot-races in the ancient city of Sodom…

Q : Is there an exciting poet whose work you just discovered this year?

A: Anna Valencia-Seiferle, whose gifts have been a blessing and a delight. And Megan Kaminski, whose Desiring Map I can’t seem to put down.

Q: If you could go on a one-week writing retreat to anywhere in the world, where would you go?

A: Serifos.

Abayomi Animashaun is a Nigerian émigré, who won the 2008 Hudson Prize for his poetry collection The Giving of Pears.

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National Poetry Month Spotlight: Abayomi Animashaun

In the Other Nigeria

After elections, instead of gathering ballots and painting blue votes red. Paying to blot out opponents’ faces or marking them “X”

Politicians take balloons to each house. Sing nursery rhymes with children. Wink at lesbians. And drink with homosexuals.

They hang up their coats and join old men at farms. They rake gutters. Sweep yards. Take mortars from women, and pound yam.

*

Q: Where is your favorite place to write?

A: I’m drawn to quiet spaces. And moments when I can sit or lie idle for long periods of time.

Q: Do you remember the first poem you read that really blew your mind?

A: William Stafford’s “Traveling through the dark.”

I was particularly drawn to Stafford’s language and quiet intensity. I still am. Aside from Rilke and Elytis, I can’t think of another poet whose work has been more beneficial to me.

Q: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in the last 12 months?

A: A wonderful trip to South Korea…

Abayomi Animashaun’s The Giving of Pears is available through Black Lawrence Press.

New Review: The Giving of Pears

There is a great new review of Abayomi Animashaun’s The Giving of Pears in The Cafe Review. In the review, Annie Seikonia calls the collection “an utterly refreshing book of poetry”. The review gets even better from there:

These delicate and often fanciful pieces are populated by a mélange of ghosts, unborn children, snippets of village life and culture (the author is a Nigerian émigré), and magical tunings.  Some of them resemble mystical puzzle boxes, crosses between koans and philosophical conundrums, hearkening back to author Abayomi Animashaun’s study of mathematics.  They are clever, sad, amusing and straightforward, without succumbing to pretentiousness.  They contain a haunted music and a vigorous imagination…

You can read the entire review here.

The Giving of Pears, which won The Hudson Prize in 2008, is available from Black Lawrence Press and Amazon.

National Poetry Month Wrap-Up

As April draws to a close, we’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Black Lawrence Press authors who participated in our National Poetry Month feature:

David Rigsbee, “Pilot House
Marcela Sulak, “Pomelo With Fallen Angel
Shelley Puhak, “War
T.J. Beitelman, “The Inciting Incident
Laura McCullough, “The Ellisionist
Jason Tandon, “Work
Abayomi Animashaun, “A New Religion
Carol Guess, “Kicks
Joe Wilkins, “A Roadside Diner in Iowa
Lisa Fay Coutley, “In the Carnival of Breathing
Matthew Gavin Frank, “After Il Sergente Serbo e Sua Moglie
Michele Battiste, “Nobody Leaves
Katharine Rauk, “How Many Weeks are in a Day and How Many Years in a Month?
Brent Goodman, “Another Prayer
Stefi Weisburd, “Behind My Ear is a Little Palace in Broad Daylight
Larry Matsuda, “Arc de Triomphe, 2003 Invasion of Iraq
Sandra Kolankiewicz, “Winter Sonata
Frank Matagrano, “Waiting with Alexandria for Her Mom
Hayden Saunier, “Beach
Kevin Pilkington, “Milk
Michael Hemmingson, “Sedona
Erica Wright, “Reservoir
Keith Taylor, “At the Living Creche
James Reidel, “Ave Maria afarensis
Helen Marie Casey, “Mary Dyer’s Courtship
Brad Ricca, “Workshop
Daniele Pantano, “The Oldest Hands in the World
Julia Cohen, “Panic at My Wilderness
Rachel Galvin, “In Cambium Lucida

And most importantly, thank you to everyone who read, shared, and commented on these poems — you’ve made this event a big success!

A Love Letter to Lagos

The Giving of Pears may be Abayomi Animashaun’s debut collection, but it is receiving the sort of acclaim that many poets wait their whole careers to receive. Rigoberto González has reviewed this Hudson Prize-winning title for Harriet, the Poetry Foundation blog. And here are some bits of what he had to say:

The growing body of critically-acclaimed Nigerian authors on the American bookshelves (think Chris Abani, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Uwem Akpan) have given incredible insights into the history and politics of the most populated country in Africa. A new voice has joined that distinguished company with the publication of Abayomi Animashaun’s The Giving of Pears by Black Lawrence Press, a gorgeous collection that celebrates the collisions and cooperations between the Nigerian and Western cultures…

The Giving of Pears prefers to mine the beauty of a country that has become synonymous with overpopulation and conflict. No small effort given that the impressions that usually travel from the African continent are shaped by the non-stop devastating accounts of war, violence and famine. This book is in praise of the other face of Nigeria, and a love letter to Lagos…

We at Black Lawrence Press have loved this book since it first came to us in manuscript form in 2008. We are so pleased that it is winning the hearts of other readers now that it has been published. The entire review is available online here.

You can order your copy of The Giving of Pears from the Black Lawrence Press website.

New Poetry Title: The Giving of Pears

We at Black Lawrence Press are very pleased to announce the release of  The Giving of Pears by Abayomi Animashaun ($14, ISBN: 978-0982631850).  The Giving of Pears won The Hudson Prize in 2008. You can read a sample poem here. The book can be purchased from the Black Lawrence Press website.

Author’s Statement

In writing these poems, I saw the page as a sort of living room, where I could go to have a party. And, of course, everyone was welcome: To drink wine. Join the conga line. Do a shimmy or cha-cha. Kiss in the manner of Zebras. Sumo wrestle guavas. Or even swing from rafters with giraffes.

I wasn’t at all surprised when Tomatoes, Fish; Grapes, Goats, Thieves; Mohammed, Rilke, The Unseen; and so many others showed up for the party.

Since each guest was allowed to do as he/she pleased. Goats removed their hooves, their hides, and wept like women. Women, in turn, tried on hides, hooves, and stared like goats. Stones imagined themselves naked. Kettles became villages. The Unseen, continued as they always have – conducting their own festivals and singing their own songs…

About the Author

Abayomi Animashaun is a Nigerian émigré, who came to the United States in the mid 1990s. After completing his baccalaureate degree in Mathematics, Animashaun abandoned the sciences to pursue poetry. His poems have appeared in several print and online journals, including 5 A.M., African American Review, Southern Indiana Review, and Diode. In 2008, he was awarded The Hudson Prize for his first volume of verse.

Advance Praise

Abayomi Animashaun’s poems hum inside like a good cocktail. When he invokes, ‘Lead us into that pure elegance,’ he is cherishing cities, foods, colors, human histories of passion and hope, with a lush affection and rich attention. These poems are blessings to the spirit. Their vivid, magical powers of witness lift up the world. — Naomi Shihab Nye

In Abayomi’s  world,  gods  and prophets and dead friends walk ‘in and out of walls.’  Fruits and animals of a lost ancestral village – guava, iguanas and goats, flock on flock – assert their spiritual presence. To say these are merely “religious” poems would be an understatement…these poems vibrate with living spirits, giving voice and honor to the unseen. Indeed, this is a fresh and dazzling first book.— Marilyn Chin

Abayomi Animashaun’s The Giving of Pears is a tribute to inner lives: of people, of fruit, of vegetables, of trees. Animashaun’s poems read as parables, using magic and myth, to sustain emotional power as he explores violence, tranquility, and the dead. The effervescent surface of these poems and their rich underpinnings make The Giving of Pears an exciting debut.— Denise Duhamel

These poems are subtle, wide-ranging, and lovely, recreating a world steeped not only in myth, loss, and the vagaries of memory, but in the daily life of Abayo Animashaun’s native Nigeria. Here, a speaker recounts conversations with Mohammed or Noah.  Elsewhere, angels hang up their wings and head to the barbershop for a haircut and a shave. One poem teaches us how to speak to birds, another meditates wittily on folklore, while, in a third, the speaker’s dead friends walk “in and out of walls.” And within a kettle, a whole village boils and thrives. By turns erotic, elegiac, and meditative, these rich poems suggest an ambitious, fiercely original young poet, one whose work I’m sure I’ll return to again and again. — Kevin Prufer

Please contact Diane Goettel at diane@blacklawrencepress.com for media inquiries and review copies.

Abayomi Animashaun is available for readings, interviews, and speaking engagements.

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Abayomi Animashaun

A NEW RELIGION

It sounds pompous. And, at best. Done:

Each one claiming a new way. Each one with its leader standing behind a lectern raising his hands. Blessing those present.

And they with eyes closed listening intently to rhythms, say, of the holy ghost. Or, for our purposes. Its equivalent.

But imagine. And stay with me on this. One where everyone already belonged: Those dead as well. And still to come.

Imagine the temples made of strands from each person’s breath.  Candles lit
with dreams of the dead.

Rituals performed in the language of the unborn. And hymns, the movement of bodies stretching alone in bed. Or, beside a loved one.

And imagine each man being his own Good News: A ready-made priest. Able to
minister quietly to the needs of his heart. When all departs.

That the homeless under the bridge. With the mucous. And cold sneeze.
Contributes to the day’s hymn.

And the man, who last year broke my heart, is arriving at his new lover’s house. A priest, I hope, of loving heart. Waiting for him in the bedroom. Nude. Ready to share of his own good news.

Q: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on the day you wrote the above poem?

A: As I recall, I was in Madison, Wisconsin at the time. I recall also having a massive writer’s block that day, which left me sitting on my chair for hours without writing a single word. For some reason, however, I started thinking of reality television shows and how unbearably boring one on poets might be. I was thinking about this, when I mindlessly opened a folder containing a very old poem. I moved several words around. And, as luck would have it, I stumbled upon the core of what would eventually be this poem.

Q: What is the last book you’ve read that made you want to grab a pen and write?

A: This is a hard question. And one could easily rattle off names. But, pressed, I’d have to say a collection of Montaigne’s essays. That crazy old man never ceases to amaze me. I read him over and again. And each time I read him, I feel my imagination become so thoroughly loosened that I see no inherent contradictions in equating the Pope with Don Quixote or an Imam with a pigeon.

Q: What is the most sublime meal you’ve ever eaten?

A: I have a strange addiction to a bean delicacy common among the Yoruba, known as moin-moin. By itself, it is a chief meal – regal and august. But, it works particularly well with eko [a type of corn meal], which only goes to show that humility is not the sole property of homo sapiens.

Abayomi Animashaun is the winner of the 2008 Hudson Prize with his collection of poems The Giving of Pears, now available for purchase at Black Lawrence Press.