Monday, December 31, 2007

Greetings for the year 2008

He who began a good work in you

He who began a good work in you
He who began a good work in you
Will be faithful to complete it
He'll be faithful to complete it
He who started the work
Will be faithful to complete it in you

If the struggle you're facing
Is slowly replacing
Your hope with despair
Or the process is long
And you're losing your song
In the night you can be sure
That the Lord has His hand on you
Safe and secure
He will never abandon you
You are His treasure
And He finds His pleasure in you

by Steve Green

With hearts full of gratitude and praise to the Almighty God
With hearts full of joy and appreciation to our friends
With hearts full of fraternal love for every member of the human family
We wish you the best in everything you do in 2008
All your wishes will fruit and fruit abundantly
You will have physical, emotional, spiritual, and material prosperity.
Happy New Year

Arinze, Amaka and Nnorom Azuonye

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sentinel Poetry (Online) #60 December 2007

Issue #60, Sentinel Poetry (Online) went live on Christmas Day. This is the 5th Anniversary issue of our magazine and features Guest Poet Andy Willoughby author of Tough and The Wrong California. Other poets in this issue include Amy Licence, Pita Okute, Terence Doyle, Tatiana Pahlen, and Julia Edgell. Cartoons are by Tatiana Pahlen. There is also the The interview, 'Steel Tough, Even Now' with Andy Willoughby. Edited by Nnorom Azuonye
Click here

Outcasts and Postcards from London

In the last publication of my poetry in 2007, the holiday issue of African Writing features two of my poems "Outcasts" and "Postcards from London"
African Writing


Friday, December 28, 2007

Another year ends with another big death

I am yet to read anything that does not say Saddam Hussein was a beast with his heart somewhere in the back. Tales abound of thousands of people he killed, or ordered their deaths, or were killed in his name. 30th December, 2006, just over three years after the American-British invasion of Iraq, the brutal dictator kept his date with the hangman. As a human being respectful of human life and sickened by the deaths at Hussein's hands, if the allegations were indeed true, I should have been unperturbed by his death. As a human being fundamentally against capital punishment, a nice-sounding tag for murder by the state, I was saddened by his passing, especially by the way he was paraded on television as he stepped up to the hangman's noose.

Fastforward to 27th December 2007. Benazir Bhutto is gunned down. It is difficult to decide what to mourn about Benazir. The Political animal. The beautiful woman. The beacon of progress of segments of the Pakistani world. The naive muslim who believed that Islam forbids attacks on women. Maybe if she did not believe that stuff, she would not have gone back to Pakistan and might still be alive today. This is totally academic. The woman is gone, and I am surprised at the sadness I feel about her death. Still I applaud the courage with which she lived her life and faced her ultimate destiny. You may have seen her interview with The Sunday Times in April 2007 when she was questioned about the danger to her if she returned to Pakistan and she said simply, "I don't worry about it. If it's time to go, it is time to go."

It was time to go yesterday. I just hope that the ordinary people of Pakistan will understand that it does not have to be time for them to go on account of Benazir and go killing each other in the streets. There have already been anough deaths in Pakistan since her return. Let them give life a chance as we approach the threshhold of another year.

Nnorom Azuonye

image from used on this blog for non-commercial purposes only.

Monday, December 03, 2007

domain recovered

I first launched in 2000 and ran the website until last year, when somebody in the United States grabbed my name during an administrative hiccup with my then hosts. The gentleman, having parked the domain unprofitably for more than a year finally released my name back to me last week. I am now in the process of relaunching the site sometime in January 2008. You can see the development by visiting or

Monday, October 01, 2007

Nigeria must Stop Killing Poets and other Citizens

On October 1, 2007, Nigeria celebrates 47 years of independence from British rule. Many in Nigeria and elsewhere will be asking themselves what the independence has been all about. If Nigeria were a man who had set forth from home at the age of twenty-one to lead an independent life, should he, forty-seven years later appear unable to function with maturity, certainty and fairness? More importantly, should he have the blood of his offspring on his hands?

Many have wondered why Nigeria leads Africa in the proliferation of writers of poetry. This question reared its head at me recently when I edited the Christopher Okigbo Special Edition of Sentinel Poetry (Online), and I found myself quoting to at least two people a comment in forum at the Common Sense Common Ground web forum where in 2005 I had chanced on a thread titled ‘Voices of Africa’ which featured my poem ‘Giant on a Tightrope’, Olu Oguibe’s ‘House of Hunger’ and Kwame Dawes’ ‘A-Sea’ among others. The comment stated that, “A land where they kill poets, seems to just spread poetry!” stuck in my head and has been there for a little over two years, initially because I assumed the statement referred to some lines from ‘Giant on a Tightrope’: “Fractured, their future mocked by oversized berets / Whose nooses and bullets have in a decade / Of brazen bloodletting, so silenced finer hunters / And poets, that they who were once men, / Can only smile passive kolanut smiles in fatality.” I later realized that the reason the statement stayed with me was because it was completely true.

Let us assume that the generation of poets who wrote in 1960s Nigeria wrote because of their love of words, and or because of the immediacy of poetry as a vehicle for the snatched observation or comment, certainly the violent and premature deaths of some of Nigeria’s poets have not only impacted in providing a subject sources for many poets over the last 40 years, they have also driven Nigerian poetry way beyond her shores. Therefore in a bizarre kind of way, Nigeria’s killing of her poetic children has been responsible for a large part of international spread of Nigerian poetry.

The most celebrated of the prematurely-killed poets is Christopher Okigbo, killed in the Biafra-Nigeria war in 1967, fighting for the freedom and dignity of the Biafran people who were butchered in Northern Nigeria. Remembered in a big way at Boston, USA in September 2007 via and international conference, he was first sung in the book Don’t Let Him Die: An Anthology of Memorial Poems for Christopher Okigbo (1978: Achebe, Chinua and Okafor, Dubem. Eds). There have been several books, book chapters, scholarly essays, and poems written about the life of Okigbo and there does not seem to be any end to those inspired by him who continue to write poetry because Christopher Okigbo lived and because he wrote poetry that has refused to die.

Mamman J. Vatsa was executed in 1986 on the count of participating in a coup against the Nigerian military government then led by General Ibrahim Babangida who was infact the Best Man at Vatsa’s wedding. Vatsa published eight poetry collections for adults and eleven for children. His titles include Back Again at Watergate (1982), Reach for the Skies (1984), and Verses for Nigerian State Capitals (1973). Tori for Geti Bow Leg (1981). Sadly, Vatsa has not been celebrated in death as some of the others. As it turns out, General Domkat Bali – the army chief under whose watch Vatsa was killed has stated in an interview with TheNEWS 22 May 2006 that he was not sure he ought to have been killed supporting the long-held view that Babangida willfully murdered the poet. I am looking forward to a time the life of this wrongfully-executed man will be acknowledged and lifted from the stain of that coup. As the years go by, Mamman is the one that is still alive and will live forever through his creative output, and Babangida though living it up in Nigeria cannot be said to be alive, not with the stain of the blood of the innocent on him.

Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed in November 1995 alongside seven others as part of the ‘Ogoni 8’ by the Nigerian military government then led by General Sani Abacha for the murder of four tribal leaders. He has been remembered and celebrated in the book Dance the Guns to Silence: 100 Poems for Ken Saro-Wiwa among other publications and poems in literary journals across the world.

In April 2007, Ebereonwu died in an automobile accident. Although this was an accident, many still blamed Nigeria for his death, especially on the state of the road and the lawlessness on it. Apparently, Ebereonwu drove into the back of a broken down truck around midnight. The truck’s hazard lights were not on to warn oncoming drivers of its presence. Ebereonwu was the author of Suddenly God was Naked (1995), Cobweb Seduction (1997), Insomniac Dragon (2000) and Unpublishable Poems (2004). A prolific film-maker as well, his movie titles include The Intruder, Sweet Sixteen, Fishers of Men, King of the Jungle and Piccadilly. Ebereonwu’s life is to be celebrated in a book of poetry and prose Monuments for Ebereonwu edited by Uduma Kalu.

And if I sing not of roses and riversIt's because I see rivers of bloodI look through the holler of the crowdAnd I see blood on the groundI see blood on the rockslabsI look over the mangrove swampAnd I walk through fields of groundnutAnd I see nothing but bloodI see blood in the face of the farmerOn the palm of the school childI see blood on the statueOf the Immaculate Mother
I walk through the streets and I see puddles of bloodI see blood on your shoes on your underwearI see blood on the hands of menAnd if I raise my voice to hollerIt is because the grasses wither in this deluge of bloodFishes float on their bellies with their eyes coveredBy the sanguine flood

- From Olu Oguibe’s ‘I am bound to this Land by Blood’

The current Nigerian president must among other things make a conscious decision to avoid any form of murder by the state, not just of poets, but of Nigerian citizens. Poets are a passionate lot and will invest their creative energies writing hard-hitting poems in honour of the murdered. Hopefully, just a review of the four lives mentioned in this piece – just a handful of many murders committed by the Nigerian state between 1967 and 2007, will make the leaders say, ‘our nation must stop killing her children, even it means that these killings would create literary ambassadors for the country.’

- Nnorom Azuonye

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sentinel Poetry (Online) - October 2007 issue

This is a pre-publication information for all interested parties. The 58th issue of Sentinel Poetry (Online) is due for publication on the 1st of October, 2007 and will feature Guest Artist, Munayem Mayenin, Founding Editor of Poet's Letter Magazine and Co-ordinator of the London Poetry Festival. Other poets include Ashok Niyogi, Elizabeth Kate Switaj, Jumoke Verissimo, and Meghan Casey. The artist featured this month is John Mubiru. Further information will appear at on the 1st of October.

Nnorom Azuonye
Managing Editor

the magazine is now live at

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sentinel Poetry Christopher Okigbo edition

I am pleased to announce the publication of Sentinel Poetry (Online) #57, September 2007 dedicated to the great Nigerian poet, Christopher Okigbo (1932-1967). This edition of Sentinel Poetry is not only dedicated to Okigbo, it is all about him. Every poem or article in the magazine is about him and his work.
There are poems by James Tar Tsaaior, Obiwu, Jumoke Verissimo and Obododimma Oha and prose pieces including "Okigbo: Empty Grave for the Poet" by Uduma Kalu, "The Meaning of Christopher Okigbo" by Obi Nwakanma, and "My Apology, Brother Pius" by Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo.
For anyone interested in the first Christopher Okigbo International Conference holding in Boston, USA 19th -23rd September, 2007 convened by Professor Chukwuma Azuonye, the full and detailed programme also appears in this magazine.

Sentinel Poetry #57, September 2007 is edited by Nnorom Azuonye.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Take joy, brother

(To Chidi Iroanusi Azuonye 1963-1982)

Five days ago, our brother Chike turned 49. I called him up and wished him a very happy birthday. He was very pleased. Actually he was on top of the world because my phone call came at the very moment his daughter Hannah was giving him a command vocal and piano performance, her angelic voice charged the air. I let them be in that world of songs as I awaited my own milestone.

Four days ago, I turned 40. At the stroke of midnight, my wife Thelma Nwamamaka hugged me a happy 40th birthday. I was still hanging on her when Pastor Yemisi Bamgbose's text message arrived covering me, my wife and our young son, Arinzechukwu Chinedum with prayers as I march into the 41st year of my present incarnation. As the day wore on, prayers and goodwill messages poured in from all over the place. I was particularly excited to receive these from our brothers Uzoma, Chike and Kodi, and from Ike Anya, Okwudili Ojukwu, Rakesh Shah, Roy Witter, Ray Thompson, Jacky Nawell, Anthony Nweke, Patrick Iberi, Grace - Pastor Solola's wife, Deacon Yemi, Uju Asoegwu, and Richard Butcher among others. Of the birthday cards I received, the most amazing were of course from Thelma and Arinze who borrowed mummy's hand to write the message on the card, well, he is just under four months old. I ended the day with an absolutely sumptuous meal of Oha Soup and Pounded Yam.

Today, as I finished breakfast, I remembered as I have done every year since I became conscious of your being, that the 16th day of July was your birthday, and that July 16th 2007 should have been your 44th birthday. But then, you left us when you were only 19 years old, claimed by that aweful automobile accident at Ijebu-Igbo in 1982. That crash not only claimed you, but it also claimed your dream of becoming a medical doctor - a saver of lives. It also robbed us of the music that filled our hearts every time you sat at a piano and played. It robbed us of the laughter you birthed with the fine cartoons you drew for your college magazines, and the beauty of the words in the poetry you wrote.

I did not intend this birthday wish to get so long. I just thought I should fill you in - in as much detail as sanely and decently possible. I don't want to be accused of holding on to the past, holding on to you and not letting you get on with your life's journey, yet I can't help, especially when something great happens to me, wondering how your life might have turned out if you had lived. Perhaps like me, you'd be a husband and a father. Perhaps you might have called me on my 40th birthday. Better still, you might have visited with your family to have my birthday meal together. Ah, brother, you and Thelma would have been great friends, and Arinze, you would have loved him to bits.

Anyway, I happen to believe that you are alive and kicking in one of many dimensions. Perhaps you have reincarnated already? The important thing is for you, wherever you are to feel the love in this birthday message. Stay well now, brother. I don't know if I should keep sending you messages. However, if it pleases God, I shall definitely write in on your 45th, next year. By that time, we would have celebrated mama's 80th in March 2008. Well, I guess you know already somehow, mama is OK. She forgets some things here and some things there these days, and mixes up people now and then, but she is in relative good health considering, she is 79 and counting and that is something to give thanks to the Almighty God for.

God bless you Chidi. May God nurture and protect your beautiful essence.

Your brother

Nnorom Azuonye
London, July 16, 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

On Madeleine McCann

Reading a copy of Metro, London's free newspaper last week, I found some letters written by Metro readers that criticised Gerry and Kate McCann for leaving their children in a Portuguese holiday resort room alone whilst dining out. One of the writers was particularly appalled to note that they were able to risk their children 'for the sake of a meal'.

For me, that letter struck a terrible cord. It could have been me facing such criticism. On the 10th of April, my 11-day old son and his mother were admitted into Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich for two days. What had been a quick dash to the hospital to check out the little boy turned into a 2 day stay in hospital. My wife was admitted in a separate ward from my son, I therefore had to stay with him. At one point I was starving so much I asked one of the nurses if I could get some food. She said I could go and buy some, but the hospital could not give me food.
I told her I did not feel comfortable leaving my boy alone in the room and she promised to stay there with him.

"If you are going to leave this room for anything at all, tell me now and I forget this food." I said.
But she promised to stay with the boy.

I went out and bought some food and it took me about 20 minutes in total to get back. I walked through all the receptions, even those I had not gone through on my way out, and not at any one point did anybody challenge me or ask me where I was going. I got to the Safari Ward room where my son was and was shocked to find him alone. I sat down and ate my food and when I was nearly finished with the meal the nurse came back. I was upset. I told her that the way I had walked in from the restaurant to the room unchallenged, just anybody could have done that, and worse still, could have stolen the little boy. She did not get my point, instead she repeated like a radio, "You are quite welcome to make a report if you are unhappy."

Well I give thanks to God that nothing terrible happened that day, because surely somebody would have said, 'for the sake of a meal'....

It is a terrible time for Gerry and Kate McCann and we do not want to make them feel worse by making them feel bad about the poor decision to leave their kids alone and go have a meal. If we have to be honest, it was a very poor decision. The priority now is to find the little girl. There will be lots of time to criticise her parents. I am a new parent, and even an unexplained cry from my boy turns my world on its head. I therefore emphatise with the McCanns. They must be in some kind of hell that words cannot describe.

All we can do is pray for the safe return of Madeleine and also hope that this serves an important notice to all parents; if you take your children on holiday, don't treat them like an inconvenience, like some nasty, noisy tag-alongs that will interfere with the fulness of your enjoyment of your holiday. Take them with you everywhere, but if you cannot take them for any reason, make sure you find someone to watch them. If you must eat out, take them with you, but better order room service if it is too late for the kids to stay out.

Nnorom Azuonye

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Exhibition of Recent Paintings By Chike Azuonye

Exhibition of Recent Paintings
Chike Azuonye

Date: Monday 16th—Saturday 21st April 2007

Time: 11am—6.30pm daily

Venue: Waterloo Gallery, 14 Baylis Road, London SE1 7AA

Venue Tel: 020 7261 1404

Mobile: 07957 131 719

Nearest Tube Stations: Waterloo, Southwark and Lambeth North Stations
Buses: 1, 26, 59, 68, 88, 159, 168, 171, 172, 176

Map to the gallery