22 February 2010

chris abani on the big stage

The poet and novelist Chris Abani has given at least two TED talks which are, I think, worth watching. Little directly related to poetry in either -- though he concludes both with a reading/recitation (of a poem by Lucille Clifton in one and Yusef Komunkakaa in the other) -- but if we take all the world to be the stuff of poetry, then "relevance" is not an issue for us here...

These are interesting pieces by one of the younger, and in many respects, "anointed" voices. He reminds us that "there are no essential Africas," of the distinction between news and narrative, and, I think, that there is space and time and something worthwhile about listening. And reflection.

You also, I think, have to view these with an awareness of the audience he is addressing.

Like many, my first introduction to Abani was through his novel Graceland and only later (though not too much later) did I discover his poetry. It's a poetry I'm not entirely sure what to make of; perhaps because I've only read each volume once, and then in the heat and rush and bustle of the graduate school experience where I was very much a one man extractive industry.

I have to revisit the poetry. Though if pressed I would, for the moment, say that his novella, Becoming Abigal, is his strongest, most searing work.

Abani's website seems more focused on promotion than distribution, so I'd suggest looking elsewhere for his work. There's an entertaining interview on Poetix and an extended write-up on Abani and his work which includes links to a number of his poems on the Poetry Foundation website.

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