By Suleiman Galadima
ON Saturday, November 27, 2021, at Jelosimi Art Centre, Oshodi, Lagos, poet, publisher and culture worker, Mr. Femi Morgan, unveiled his latest poetry collection, ‘The Year of Fire’ at a Book Party organised by Baron’s Cafe, the publishing brand of Fairchild Media. It has in attendance the ‘People of Femi Morgan,’ a collective of friends of the author, who came to solidarise with the young but dogged culture maverick. Foreign friends of Jelosimi Art Centre were also there. Those who were there included lawyer, gender rights advocate and social worker, Enitan Sophie Oluwa, and communications expert, Babatunde Odubanwo, who held sway as moderators and asked intellectual and personal questions. They also engaged the audience by allowing them ask questions and share experiences.
The party also featured performing poets, Rez Afolabi, Uche Uwadinachi, Brenda Nwafor, Gabriel Ogungbade–they engaged the audience with rhetoric, verse and rhythm on sex, love, and bad governance, expertly balancing the realities of people living in Nigeria with the affective shocks of misgovernance as it trickles down to every aspect of the lived lives of the commonman. The headline poets: Rez Afolabi and Uche Uwadinachi, were selected by Professor Wole Soyinka for the Providus Bank Poetry Cafe for the 2019 World Poetry Day.
Morgan, who gave insight to ‘The Year of Fire,’ said, ‘’I wrote ‘The Year of Fire’ during the Covid lockdown; it was a phase of unnerving and dangerous loneliness, but it was also a time of observation and reflection. The social, economic and security threats of the lockdown also reminded me of the year half of my Oshodi apartment got burnt in 2015 while I was reading Wole Soyinka’s ‘You Must Set Forth at Dawn.’ The grave uncertainty (of the pandemic) made me ask questions about home and abroad, Africa, Lagos, God and people. It gave me a decent ‘residency’ to practise my craft.”
He also said a quarter of the poems in the second part of the book, ‘Cosmopolitan Angst’, is dedicated to Lagos, especially the boisterous Oshodi, where the event was held. There were readings and engagements on ‘Rude City’, ‘Ubuntu’, ‘Temporary God’, ‘Women Landlords’, ‘Two Masks’, ‘Wall Geckos’ which poems Morgan said explore matriarchy and patriarchy, bad governance and tyranny, history, suburban existence, violence, bigotry and doublespeak, among others.
Oluwa prodded him on the next phase of his craft as a writer to which Morgan said, ‘‘It is difficult being a writer and founder of an enterprise at the same time especially in Nigeria. So, I want to pass the operational batons to my team members while I write a book of love and erotica poems, dedicated to my beautiful wife, after which I will dedicate a couple of years to write a masterpiece, a book like Tade Ipadeola’s ‘Sahara Testaments,’ Derek Walcot’s ‘Omeros’ – although I may not be able to achieve the pastoral nuances of their works, because I have lived in cities all my life, I believe that it is possible to do more than I have done so far. I look forward to a well-endowed residency that will make me read, research, reflect, engage and write without thinking about breaking even on convoluted Excel sheets.”
Morgan is a writer, media consultant, and art curator. He is the author of six books of poetry. He was longlisted for the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation Prize in 2015 and was selected for the Writivism Poetry Workshop in the same year. He is also the author of ‘Renegade,’ which was shortlisted for the 2019 Pius Adesanmi Memorial Prize for Literature, selected amongst the 2019 Lagos Book and Arts Festival books (LABAF), and is currently being translated to Portuguese. Morgan has also curated art and culture projects for more than 10 years, with his most recent book, ‘The Year of Fire’ reflecting on humanity at the time of Covid-19 lockdown.
The event ended with book signings, renewed connections and camaraderie.