City Dwellers is a brilliant collection of poetry by Nigerian poet Akpa Arinzechukwu. Growing up queer in a country that has made homosexuality illegal bred a complex relationship between him and his country, his family, his friends, and himself. His poetry explores the depths of a young man's journey and struggles, much like Dante being led through hell and back, but instead of being guided by the poet Virgil, Arinzechukwu's guide is youth — with all of its pitfalls and missteps, naivety and wonder. City Dwellers has the richness of language reminiscent of Wole Soyinka, a distinctive style hinting of T.S. Eliot, and the familial storytelling of Carl Sandburg…all woven together and stitched with writing that’s uniquely Akpa Arinzechukwu.
Splash of Red Press is proud to publish this wonderful collection. Splash of Red Press is an imprint of Writers Unlimited, a non-profit publisher located in Florida. The press has the sole purpose of serving the next generation of editors, publishers, writers, and graphic artists by being run as an internship for the Deltona High School students on Howl (www.DeltonaHowl.com), the acclaimed student-run literary magazine. It was the talented students of Howl who put in the work to bring City Dwellers to life.
praise for City dwellers
"The shortest of these poems are like messages passed under a cell door, whereas the longer ones echo the tortured cries you hear in the Inferno or Eliot’s Waste Land. Each is a prisoner’s cry, each a warning from one who has seen the worst and is now cautioning the rest of us. Humanity’s gift for cruelty is unlimited, apparently, and our only chance for survival lies in voices like that of Akpa Arinzechukwu, a voice that, in its warmth and insight, affirms the enduring power of hope and love." ~ David Kirby, poet of The House on Boulevard St. which was nominated for a National Book Award; Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts Fellow
"Akpa Arinzechukwu has burrowed deep into the soul of a nation, by way of a city, and has returned with a mesmerizing story of that elusive of all creatures: the individual. City Dwellers is brilliant and beautiful and smooth, but do not for once underestimate the harrowing stakes of the journey, which includes death. This is one of the best poetry collections I've read in a long time, and Arinzechukwu’s name should be added to that list of gifted contemporary poets who have arrived to tell us something.” ~ Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, author of When Skateboards Will Be Free and Brief Encounters With the Enemy
Who do the self-styled religious think they are when they execrate a gay man or woman? Jesus says nothing, anywhere, about homosexuality. If He had, I’m confident that His message would be akin to Akpa Arinzechukwu’s: “Let love lead.” That the writer’s City Dwellers can abide by such a resolution strikes me as nigh miraculous: the viciousness and sadness faced by him and other gay people –not in Africa alone– are hideous, and are so deftly recorded here that it literally hurts to read much of the book. If one wished to argue for poetry’s redemptive potential, Arinzechukwu’s brilliant City Dwellers would offer the most compelling evidence imaginable. ~ Sydney Lea, Pulitzer Prize finalist for Pursuit of a Wound and Poet Laureate of Vermont.
“I mated myself/when I was seventeen/and became this headless/creature,” writes the Nigerian writer and photographer, Akpa Arinzechukwu, deep in the stunning and necessary collection, City Dwellers. I read these poems as an articulation of the body-heart life, a life lived in the face of each “new wave of erosion.” How do you survive? How do you flourish in a world that doesn’t require you to be an occupant of it’s “doubled” or fantastic spheres? The answer comes swiftly; “Lagos/doesn’t ask/you what you want before it lets you in. If it does,/ it would be How do I kill you without shedding your/blood.” There’s no question mark. Instead: “it’s just me disappearing,” writes Arinzechukwu, drawing our attention to the traces and magnetic glimpses captured, nevertheless, in the margins of “hope and brightness.” I kept returning to the extraordinary preface and the language there: “This is not the future we dreamed of and this is not the Nigeria we want. My poems may not make that much impact, but I hope they can teach, as well as inspire, people to embrace love.” Yes. I felt that love, the flares of it, on every page. I am deeply moved and honored to write in support of these immensely brave poems. They are brave because, in writing them, the author is exposed further to view. Queerness, that is, is made explicit, in a society that criminalizes and punishes queerness in a myriad of ways. What is writing for? Reading Arinzechukwu’s work, we read until we are living together in what wants to be known, and perhaps would not be known otherwise. To this end, what can I do to put it, to press it, City Dwellers, into your hands, whoever you are in the radical elsewhere where this book is received? ~ Bhanu Kapil, Naropa University and Goddard College