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We’ve made you a list of 10 African Poets Whose Musings Make Our Souls Sing.

African women are phenomenal poets and these 10 African Poets and their musings made my soul sing. African women continue to be remarkable in every space they occupy, and poetry is no exception. I’ve never been a big fan of poetry, despite how much I enjoy reading. As Instagram captions, I’ve snuck in a few lines from random poetry, but that’s it. Nonetheless, I was ecstatic to discover myself enjoying the lovely work in these poetry collections, and you should do the same.

Here’s a list of 10 poetry books by 10 African Poets Whose Musings Make Our Souls Sing.

1.soft magic. by Upile Chisala

Published: January 7th 2017

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Pages: 122

10 African Poets Whose Musings Make Our Souls Sing
10 African Poets Whose Musings Make Our Souls Sing

Soft Magic is the debut collection of short poems by Upile Chisala, a storyteller from Malawi known for her short and powerful poems. The book is beautifully written and is an easy read. It speaks of self-care, love, gender, blackness, the diaspora, among others.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

the trouble is,

some of us are terribly tender

and god-awful at picking lovers!

and it can feel like we want love 

more than it wants us.

he said:

Are you sure you don’t carry the ocean in your chest?

mountains in your eyes?

the sky in your hips?

because 

you are starting to feel like the whole

world to me.

2.Freedom by Aisha Mohamed 

Published: 2021

Publisher: Mint Press Books

Pages: 56

10 African Poets Whose Musings Make Our Souls Sing

Aisha Mohamed, a.k.a. Bint Aisha is a Kenyan blogger, a spoken word artist, and the brain behind Freedom, a brilliant collection of prose and poetry that takes readers on a journey through love and heartbreak, as Aisha weaves in themes of identity, mental health, pain, passion, abuse, gender, and oppression. She also incorporates cartoons, a welcome addition that further enlivens the poems they accompany. This was an amazing read, and felt affirming in the most beautiful of ways. 

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

LOVING YOU

And for those who say that you don’t have to fear losing me, I say that you are mistaken. Maybe your heart will bleed when I’m no longer your shadow. 

Your soul will crave my presence like a sweet breeze on a hot Sunday. You will yearn for my words like water to a thirsty man. Maybe then you would feel how it felt to love you.

RAINY NIGHTS

Rainy nights make me wish on your presence,

Because baby if I had you even

the skies would be jealous,

For my love would make you feel like a

humble peasant,

Begging for more pieces of my soul.

3.Questions for Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Published: August 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Pages: 216

10 African Poets Whose Musings Make Our Souls Sing

Questions for Ada is the debut collection by Nigerian poet, Ijeoma Umebinyuo. To say this collection is powerful and deeply moving is an understatement. The poems in the collection explore themes of blackness, womanhood, self-love, self-acceptance, pain, passion, love, Africa, life in the Diaspora, heritage, the politics of silence, colonial trauma, and others.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

Poet

He said,  

“you are beautiful” 

I told him 

“beautiful”

is a lazy and lousy way to describe me.

Children of a lesser God

Someday, we will learn how 

to stop hurting ourselves 

because pain is not 

the only emotion 

worthy of our being.

Conversations with Broken Girls

The woman 

carried herself 

like God 

worshiped her body. 

Even the devil 

will pray for forgiveness 

at the holy sight of her.

4.Beating the Graves by Tsitsi Ella Jaji

Published: March 1st 2017

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press

Pages: 114, Kindle edition 

Tsitsi Ella Jaji is a Zimbabwean poet and an American academic. In Beating the Graves, the poems touch on political conditions, life in the diaspora, and ecological challenges, among other themes. She also pays homage to her female and gender-queer ancestors. Amazingly so. However, one may need to translate some lines and look up a few references to fully understand some of the poems in the collection. 

In this book, Jaji uses the form of Shona praise poetry, which is used for greeting elders and peers with a recitation of the characteristics of one’s clan.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

Drought 

In our nation a waterfall is a cauldron of steaming falsehoods.

Ach man, spare us your sermons 

concerning our weeknight brews: 

the problem we are facing now

is the drunkard who drains

his own water pot, leaving 

the mother of his children

with one thing only: 

pure grit.

Rhinos are shrinking.

Filthy crawfish bloat.

Our grandmother is just seated

as if death were a bus running late.

Praise Song for Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Patricia. You are your fatha’s daughter.

We thank him for teaching you to take up space,

but we thank you for standing in that space.

We thank you for pushing the word no so hard it fell backward. 

We thank you for squeezing the word man so tight it noticed 

it was missing two very important letters.

5.Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire

Published: December 2011

Publisher: Flipped Eye Publishing

Pages: 38

Born in Kenya to Somali parents, Shire and her family moved to the United Kingdom when she was one. She tells stories of people, especially migrants and refugees, not as victims or martyrs, with their human experience being overlooked.

The poems in Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth explore the themes of sex, relationships, religion, womanhood, immigrant life, being a refugee, war and death.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

Conversations About Home(at the Deportation Center)

No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. I’ve been carrying the old anthem in my mouth for so long that there’s no space for another song, another tongue or another language.

I know a few things to be true. I do not know where I am going, where I have come from is disappearing, I am unwelcome and my beauty is not beauty here. 

Questions for Miriam

My parents played your music at their wedding.

Called you Makeba, never Miriam, never first name,

always a singer. Never wife, daughter, mother,

never lover, aching. 

Did you tell people that songs weren’t the same 

as a warm body or a soft mouth? Miriam,

I’ve heard people using your songs as prayer,

begging god in falsetto. 

You were a city exiled from skin, your mouth a burning church.

6.Exiles of Eden by Ladan Osman

Published: May 7th 2019

Publisher: Coffee House Press

Pages: 84 pages

Ladan Osman is a Somali-American poet and teacher who was born in Mogadishu. Her book, Exiles of Eden, is said to be about the origin story of Adam and Eve and their exile from the Garden of Eden. However, it doesn’t make overt biblical references to the origin story. 

This collection explores exile, displacement, and the traumas of displaced people. She addresses these larger issues as well as smaller, more personal ones, shifting from intimacy into violence. Moreover, the author incorporates photographs in this book, some of which she took herself.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

You Return with the Water: Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2004

after chicken finger dinners that later made us sick.

You begged me to finally fart for you.

We joked about sending me to Iraq,

to sit on the chests of enemies, gas their faces.

Enemies who dressed like my parents.

Refusing Eurydice

We refuse the spirits that attempt oppression,

and we refuse the spirits that attempt possession.

We refuse humans who call themselves gods,

who try to graft hellfire onto our bodies,

and raise columns of fire in our yards.

We are looking for better myths.

We are looking for a better myth.

We’ve only been looking since Eve.

7.Salt by Nayyirah Waheed

Published: 24 September 2013

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Pages: 275

Nayyirah Waheed is a poet and author. Although she is a reclusive writer who doesn’t reveal many details about her life, her work speaks for itself. Her poems in salt. have become famous through her social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

The poetry in salt. revolves around topics such as love, identity, language, race, sexism, colorism, colonization, diasporic life & pain, the self, and healing.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

take the art.

slice it from their skin.

leave the color behind.

–– flower crowns and bob marley t-shirts

i want more ‘men’

with flowers falling from their skin.

more water in their eyes.

more tremble in their bodies.

more women in their hearts

than

on their hands.

more softness in their height.

more honesty in their voice.

more wonder.

more humility in their feet.

–– less

you

will drown

if

you do not have boundaries.

they

are

not optional.

this structure

counts

on your inability

to

say

no.

mean no.

they take no

from

our

first breath.

go back

and

return it to your mouth.

your heart.

your light.

–– swim | women of color

8.bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward

Published: September 26th 2017

Publisher: Penguin Books

Pages: 138

Yrsa Daley-Ward was born to a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father in the UK. She makes no 8 of 10 African Poets Whose Musings Make Our Souls Sing. She lived in South Africa for 2 years, where she began to perform and was recognized for her poetry. Her book, Bone, was first self-published in 2014 and subsequently issued by Penguin Books in 2017 with additional poems and an introductory essay by Kiese Laymon. 

This collection of poems explores the realities of race, identity, Christianity, death, sexuality, love, abuse, mental health, and womanhood.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

heat

I miss you in tiny earthquakes

in little underground explosions

my soil is a hot disaster

Home is burning.

You’re a lost thing.

Sthandwa sami (my beloved, isiZulu)

I am the kind of woman who is

already teaching my body to miss

yours

without craving.

I am the type of woman who is

already teaching my heart to miss

yours

without failing

and I am quite sure that you will find

this unnecessary

but I am already searching for a place

to run to and hide when you say,

Uthando lwami. I’m ready. Are you?

You know that I would gladly drive

with you to the other side of the

world with only the clothes I am

wearing

and the loose change 

and empty peanut shells in my purse

kodwa 

every time you leave the room I

worry

and think that perhaps I have

imagined you

and maybe you have imagined me.

9.As the Crow Flies by Véronique Tadjo

Published: March 1st 2017

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press

Pages: 80

Safia Elhillo is a Sudanese poet who grew up in Washington D.C. She is known for her written and spoken poetry.

Her debut book, The January Children, is named for the generation born in Sudan under British occupation, where children were assigned birth years by height, all given the birth date January 1. In this book, Safia explores the themes of identity, home, belonging, family, immigration, colonization, dictatorship, diaspora, and so much more. 

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

asmarani makes prayer

verily everything that is lost will be

given a name & will not come back

but will live forever

& verily a border-shaped wound will

be licked clean      by songs naming

the browngirl       in particular       verily she

will not heal but      verily the ghosts will

not leave her alone verily when asked how

she got her name      if telling the truth      she

will say      [a woman died      & everything

                         wants a home]

everything I know about abdelhalim hafez

abdelhalim sings of his country as a beautiful girl

washing her hair in the canal      & my country

[did i make him up]      is the man I meet in the songs

the lover I waited      to deserve        only to learn

he is already dead      i am most afraid of having nothing

to bring back      so i never come home

10.As The Crow Flies by Véronique Tadjo

Published: 2001

Publisher: Heinemann (African Writers Series)

Pages: 106

10 African Poets Whose Musings Make Our Souls Sing

Véronique Tadjo is a writer, poet, novelist, and artist from Côte d’Ivoire.

As the Crow Flies was originally written in French and translated into English by the Kenyan academic, writer, and translator, Wangūi wa Goro. The book contains elements of traditional folklore, myth, and allegory.

It is made up of several poems, prose, and observations with the themes of desire, (unrequited) love, immigration, inequality, oppression, hope, and so much more.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book include:

Indeed, the town lost its scent a long time ago. We are all sick and tired of suffocation, of this monarch lording it over his people. Everybody can feel that this is a sterile century. Even love is finding it hard to thrive. 

LXIX

I remember. A day like no other. The air was mild. I had not eaten breakfast; just had a cup of coffee and my belly was empty.

I remember. His scent filled my nostrils. His sweat made my mouth salty. I lapped up his force and energy, and discovered how famished my desire was…

African women poets are on the rise in the contemporary world. A few honorable mentions include: Ethiopia’s Liyou Libsekal, Uganda’s Harriet Anena, Botswana’s TJ Dema, Ghana’s Ama Asantewa Diaka, South Africa’s Ashley Makue and Kenya’s Ngwatilo Mawiyoo.

If you’ve read any of the books I’ve listed, feel free to share what you thought of them in the comment section below.

Read other book reviews here: https://www.geminispicemagazine.co.ke/category/her-story/book-reviews/

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