The Grolier Summer Series: Timothy Ogene

I have the honor of introducing Nigerian poet Timothy Ogene at The Grolier Poetry Book Shop this evening at 7:00pm. Click the title below to read the blurb I wrote for his new book, Descent and Other poems, published by Deerbrook editions.

+Timothy Ogene at The Grolier Poetry Book Shop

I'll tell you a secret--Timothy's given name is Friday, because he was born on a Friday, and the running joke is that his mother had run out of names, since he came after 5 other kids. When his parents converted to Christianity, he was rechristened Timothy, but retained Friday as his middle name. Ask for his ID as proof!

Here's a tidbit from his already remarkable life--Timothy went to a leadership camp in Florida run by Jane Goodall.

He's married to a photographer from Denver, Clare, whom he met when they worked with kids in Liberia and tomorrow they're off to begin a new adventure--after driving to Colorado they're moving to England, though not to Oxford, where he got a master's in world literature.

He's currently reading Henry James for fun, while packing.

Now listen to these sounds:
'Dreams are embers in a December night.'

Timothy quietly pays attention. He has little interest in talking about himself and in his poems he rarely names the places he describes --he's no tourist. He's a loving observer. Wherever in the world he is he notices the everyday, the changes of weather, the ordinary, the harsh, the destructive, the lovely. He uses imagery but sometimes figurative language and you feel those comparisons are never arbitrary. He appears in the poems as a self, not a particular individual self but a self who expresses the universal. He loves to write, he is devoted to the language, he loves to read, he loves to concentrate then he loves to surface and contact the few people he is regularly in touch with because he cares nothing for the trappings of the literary world--he wants work and love.

He manages to learn a great deal about others without being invasive. You will notice this is true of his sense of place as well, as he reads his poems, which are modest, strong, precise, and cohesive where he can find cohesion in this fragmented world.

Here's a handful of his images:

The beeping of a bus, the folding of its doors. A pail dipped into a hole to collect water. Fermenting cassava. Tea slurped in haste that burns the mouth. Roofless shacks. Green leaves to wipe the orifices of a dying boy. A man dying in jail. Plastic bags, bug bites, 'the fragile dance of newly hatched chicks,' You wouldn't know Timothy had seen so much oppression and suffering since the way he is and the way he writes are lyrical, lovely and at times simple, no presenting himself, just a keen observer doing what a real writer does--giving us other people's eyes through the melodies of language.

The Day Ends Like Any Day is the title of his forthcoming novel--a plain title for someone who has lived in wildly different places--plain because he's captivated by the particulars of a common life. No place or person or past is romanticized yet is given its actual due.
Occasionally he refers to language, writing, the writer himself in the poems, to convey point of view and perspective. He doesn't hesitate to remind us of the world's violence, but he isn't polemical; he feels everything. Listen for yourself.


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