Featured Collection by Akachi Obijiaku
The Poet: Akachi Obijiaku
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and spent the first 16 years of my life there.
Writing was always something I knew I had a ‘sort-of’ talent for; still, I was never able to complete a piece. I wanted to be a novelist, I knew I had the creative mind, but I was just never able to complete a piece. It just wasn’t happening.
Poetry, on the other hand, had never crossed my mind. All my life I had an intuition that I could not write poetry, that people who could do so had fairy dust sprinkled over their brains and gunmetal grey pens.
So, I kept going at my novels. Every few months, I would start one, and a few pages later - zilch. There was simply no momentum.
This changed in April 2017, when I penned my first poem, after watching a period drama. I wrote a short poem, and then another one, and another one, and another one … and I haven’t been able to stop since then. It then clicked: for almost the last two decades, I had been super-focused and determined to write novels, when my talent clearly laid in poetry; it was all a matter of redirection and self-discovery.
Sometimes we close doors before we even look to see what’s inside them, and if I have any advice for writers, it’s to do exactly the opposite of that. Explore. Defy. Play around.
Currently, my poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Rising Phoenix Review, the Scarlet Leaf Review, and Sentinel Literary Quarterly. Truly, I’m excited for the future.
Akachi Obijiaku on Her Poetry
The poems in this collection cover the themes of family, self-worth, grief, and interpersonal relationships. What underlines them all is the idea of being human. Abstract poems are fine, but oftentimes they are not my style. For example, I penned The False Promise ofEgalitarianism to echo the increasing attention wealth inequality is getting in the press.
Living in today’s society is complex enough, and I like words that tickle memories overtly and remind us that we’re not alone in this.
These are the ten pieces that have inspired my poetry so far; I enjoy all art, so there’s variety in media type:
1) The Red Tent by Anita Diamante [Novel | Historical Fiction]
2) The Declaration by Gemma Malley [Novel | Dystopian Fiction]
3) Golden Brown by The Stranglers [Music | Rock]
4) "Being brought up one way and trying to see another way is very difficult", Perry Smith [Nonfiction | Location: Kansas State Penitentiary]
5) Graceling by Kristin Cashore [Novel | Fantasy/Adventure]
6) The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins [Novel | Psychological Thriller]
7) The Lion Fell in Love with the Lamb by Carter Burwell [Music | Composition]
8) The Pursuit of Happyness [Film | Biographical Drama]
9) The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg [Novel | Fantasy]
10) … as a writer, I would say my future self deserves this spot. Few things inspire me more than the idea that tomorrow I shall be greater than who I am today.
I heard comparison is the killer of joy
Oh boy, has it butchered my joy
My smile is stressed but all the while he remains blessed
One level lower I have to move
You say to me that I have more to prove
A co-worker he is; a brother to me he was
But his suit is now cleaner, his card blessed with a suffix
He hit his targets and beat the market
Little did I know that his progress threatened my prowess
Now, one floor down, I have to go … with my box of worthless stocks
I wipe my skirt and lift my chest
But the stares and sniggers make me feel once again like a negroid
On my shoulders lay the weight of the world
As I let down my gender, my tribe, and any of my kind
Why does my pain bring another joy?
What was the main selling point of his ploy?
To see my eyes cloud up with my own tears
… convinced that I was right to fear this corporate world.
A fresh start, I tell myself I require
Greater works, I convince my soul I can acquire
But how can I repossess the gift of working miracles,
after all have witnessed the prime of my debacle?
This is not the life I want to live;
Disgrace and sorrow rolled into one,
all the damage has now been done.
“The Burden of Barrenness”
On the train I stare at the infant sleeping on her mother’s chest,
No one knows I’m been searching for a dozen years
It’s not my fault that the novelty of a civil union wears off quick,
My partner and I are tired of just staring into each other’s eyes
My pain is silent and I stare at happy children with covetousness
I know it’s wrong but how did I pick the wrong card
Why am I the one left in need and desperation
While my lifelong friends celebrate nursery graduations and awkward puberty talks
As the hot flashes scare me
And the men in white suits remind me that hope is risky
I struggle at the thought of giving up
Still, my partner has given up on me a long time ago
He is now with Julia
Twenty-five, young and fresh
A strong viable woman
Seemingly able to replace his barren high-school sweetheart
“The False Promise of Egalitarianism”
Society is obsessed with the idea of equality
No barons or lords, no serfs and peasants.
No bosses, no billionaires - it’s a fool’s wish.
Not because it doesn’t sound great, no,
But because it’s a fallacy.
Egalitarianism is a concept, a theory,
But that is all what it is.
Obviously one doesn’t need to take it so far
- so far as owners and slaves,
But there has always been hierarchy in society.
Some are blessed and some are not
Fortune never promised fairness
Even people who don’t sow vex at those who do,
When it’s time to reap.
Wealth is futile; life is passive
One obsessed with wealth equality has their priorities wrong
For there are a million more worthy things on which to expend energy on
Even focusing on love and laughter pushes forth more dividend,
Than the false notion of income equality,
That, and its neighbouring theories.
No extreme end of the spectrum is desirable,
Yet, a perfect middle can only be hoped for.
“The Introverted Socialite”
No matter what I say or how I say it
They don’t believe me
They see me in the flashy lights
With wild smiles and heavy laughs
To them, I’m the epitome of celebrity culture
They don’t believe me when I say people drain me
Stereotypical notions of reserved people cloud their judgements
They refer to me as a ball of energy and want to jump on the wagon
And even though I swear through my teeth
Forcing a smile and reminding them that’s it mostly just an act
They don’t believe me
I’m not surprised though
In society, one considered to be introverted can’t be social
Even though they’re not mutually exclusive,
I’m forced to choose one or the other.
These morons fail to consider that it’s mainly down to a given situation
I can be as mute as an abused wife
Or be as wild as celibate man finally set free
My actions are driven by context
So, why is that concept so hard to comprehend?
Why am I, the introverted socialite, seen as a strange phenomenon?
Being like me is not just possible: it’s beautiful too
And the only anomaly here is their false perception of human behaviour.
On the Struggle to be Consistent in Finishing a Task
It’s not much but I estimate a shitload of energy
What was once marvelled at is now growled out
The initial excitement has faded;
This project idea I anticipated is now outdated
I cannot begin to count how many lightbulb moments I’ve had
How many times I’ve concluded they’re bad,
and how often they’ve turned out to be just fads.
What I start, I can’t seem to finish
My short-lived crazes fuel and aspire till they burn out:
No persistence, poor commitment, I rebuke myself.
I once wrote a novelette but then I burnt the pages,
because I couldn’t decide on a suitable title.
My handwork starts as a miracle but quickly turns into a battle
I need a spark of gold dust for revival,
so I can follow-through and truly beat my rivals.
Scrap that, at this point, I just care for survival.
I generate ideas like the sun generates light,
but with each sunset, I tear the page and fall into a pit of rage.
As a child I was told I would be great,
that my expensive mind would wow a state.
But beyond the walls of this youthful skull is an abyss
- a bottomless pit where nothing ever settles.
I’ve tried theanine, caffeine, taurine -
- ingested glutamine and phosphatidylserine.
But whatever foundation I build is washed away by waves of fresh imaginations
… and all over again, it’s a new narration.
“I Thought of My Grandfather”
I thought of my grandfather today for the first time
I never knew him - never met him
Died whilst I was a kid
But today my mind wanders
His face - what did he look like?
His voice - what did it sound like?
His palms - what did they feel like?
I heard he had two wives …
Grandson of a prince who ran a bread company
But too much flour and family tension burst out the diabetes
And he passed decades before I was born
Still, I find myself thinking of him,
and wondering why my father never speaks of him;
Was he a bad man?
Surely, I deserve an explanation
As my friends in class draw their family trees
I dodge enquiries like flying bullets
“Why are there so many blank slots?”
My dear, I have no clue.
Maybe there’s more to this thing, yes?
But how do I ask my father about his dead father?
The unknown bites;
the more I try to not think, the more questions spring up!
What did he imagine his grandchild to be like?
I can’t help but think of things I can never find out.
I’m stuck alone in a room with you
Pretty big for a dorm room, I notice
As you play me original songs on your guitar
I spot the latex from the corner of my eyes
Oh boy, don’t get any ideas.
As it ticks closer to midnight
My coat burns hotter
But I can’t let us deviate from this conversation’s structure
No need to talk about my toned shoulders and sculpted cheek
I can’t afford you getting any ideas
As we wander from topic to topic,
Looking for topics to keep us occupied,
We jump from classics to modern pieces -
Talking about chords and customized snowboards.
But we can feel the tension - we’re getting ideas!
Fighting youth sexuality is a losing battle
But I remind myself -
The sexually immoral shall not inherit the kingdom of God
It’s almost like you hear me think though,
Because you smile and give an acknowledging nod.
I feel it
I feel the space
I feel the hole in my heart
I feel the emptiness of not having a sea of acquaintances to laugh with in this warm summer night
I feel it
I feel the strength
I feel my agility strengthening
I feel the beautiful touch of resilience as I walk on the streets with a sense of independence
I loath it
I loath my desperation
I loath the dejection creeping in
I loath that I do not look around and see warm faces making merry together
I loath it
I loath this sight
I loath seeing these weak people
I loath encountering individuals who always feel the need to be around other people all the time
“Flicking through your Fiction”
I flick and flick
Consuming the philosophy of mutual benefit
You see my every move and I feel your every groove
You seem to be queens on the screen
But with more data, our relationships falter
How is it that I know your political orientation, religious disposition, your healthy brunch notion,
and yet we haven’t had just one conversation?
The attraction of this social media revolution has drained us of all affection
But surely there has to be a solution,
or is this nation’s defect just my imagination?
Your life looks like fiction:
Soirees and dungarees, road trips and swear blips.
It doesn’t, yet it does feel like a construction,
and as the thoughts race through my head,
I realize … the painful truth: I just might be jealous.
To love thyself is the only option,
I catch my reflection in the mirror; I caution myself
But seeing your picture-perfect lives is a pollution -
- your bliss disrupts my peace,
bugging me to consider that my own existence isn’t burdened with glee.
Just like a movie, I crave my life to be …
… but only because I flick the screens and yours seems to be.
“Journey to the 1st world”
A Poem on Migration (Seeking better opportunities)
Don't judge me - it’s substantially better
The lives and the looks - they’re significantly fairer
A thousand miles I go, I fly to my saving grace
A land of the unknown - whispers of a dreamy life
We are painted as villains, we are
As we flee our homeland to the arc
It’s a Boeing 747 but it’s my arc
My ticket to a new life in a place with no strife
Across the oceans, I hear it flows with milk and honey
I hear they drink fresh milk
I hear of the lack of sweat patches on their silk
The ear pressure as we ascend -
Apprehended by the silent judgement of patriots.
A national treasure I seem to be
Well, where was the love before I ceased to be?
Fended for by wolves on the street
The journey I’m on is a risk but I hope it’s brisk
The critics rage as I migrate
Yet my hopes and dreams they ate
I march along, brethren, I march
And my mother think it’s fatal but I think she’s just post-natal
The future lies ahead
No more waiting, lest I dread my choice.
Interested in having a collection of your poems featured?
When you submit for the next issue, make sure to submit ten poems and tell us what the theme of your collection is. Your work might be picked as a featured collection. However, only one collection will be chosen each issue, so only one or a few of a poet's work sent as a collection might be published in the journal. The Basil O' Flaherty requests the right to only publish one collection, and to consider all collections of poetry submitted for each issue as also part of the general submissions (i.e. we can pick and choose the poems we like if your work is not selected as the featured collection.)