NIGERIAN QUEER POET, ROMEO ORIOGUN, WINS INTERNATIONAL POETRY PRIZE

Bayo Ajibola
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DAMI DEOLA | 2 MAY 2017

Brunel University’s Annual Poetry Contest for poetry writers who have not been published yet, had four Nigerians in the shortlist; and this morning, announced one of them by the name- Romeo Oriogun- as the winner.

This makes it a back-to-back win for Nigeria in one of Africa’s most rewarding Poetry Contests(the winner takes away £3,000), as Gbenga Adeshina and Chekwube O. Danladi were the winners of the 2016 Edition.

Romeo Oriogun writes poetry from the point of view of a queer man who lives in a country(he lives and writes in Udi a little town in Eastern Nigeria), that has stripped him of having any feelings or affection for another man. His poetry, are extremely lyrical and passionate with poignant images and scenarios and it’s not a surprise that he emerged as the winner of the Poetry Prize; as its an established thought that the West tend to favor African Art that prostrates to its own lifestyles and culture.

Subject matter aside, the power in Romeo’s work shouldn’t be understated, and he’s like a young James Baldwin: bitter struck, immobile, and distraught in a society that wouldn’t let him be.

Below is one of Romeo’s powerful poems titled, ‘Kumbaya’.

 

Kumbaya

I cannot make this up.

Sunlight sneak behind dark curtains

 

& you sit up, say the light is here again.

 

The streets hum with voices,

vehicles run into the rising sun,

my neighbor press her ear against the wall

to hear the voice of heaven

falling from a mouth made beautiful by sin.

 

I want to find home in the rooms of your veins,

allow you carry me as you flee into the day,

 

as you look back to stop your shadow from holding my hands.

 

In your room, your father smashes our bones against the wall,

 

our blood mingle, sing kumbaya as it streaks into the rug.

 

Tell me this is not love,

tell me this is not how couples run into sunsets,

 

Tell me this is not the universe saying love is eternal

to two bodies traveling through the sea as salt,

two bodies sitting on sands

in a map that doesn’t die.

 

He digs me out of your stomach.

 

He says, no son of mine is going to be a faggot.

 

I allow light preserve me, I allow it slash me into songs

traveling through the forest softly as dew.

 

Here’s my body, take it.

 

Here’s my song searching for space within your lips,

 

open, sing it.

 

When they came for me with knives and sticks,

 

I became songs falling through rain.

 

Do not be afraid, I will always be here.

 

Just step into the wet sky,

open your mouth, sing,

sing baby.


Bayo Ajibola

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