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Truth be told, I never thought I would write another volume of poetry after the last, I will not Dance to Your Beat (2011). The reason was that my previous volumes were reactive to the circumstances of the times. Patriots and Cockroaches (1992) was a reaction to the socio-political corruption that had engulfed Africa and dimmed the enthusiasm that had been built by the years of struggle for independence. Whereas we thought we were stepping into a post-colonial era, what we stepped into was a vicious neo-colonial times. The next collection, Poems on the Run (1995) was a reaction to military autocracy and the repression that followed. The volume was literally written underground. This was followed by Intercepted (1998) all written while detained at Kalakuta Republic of Alagbon Close. We Thought it was Oil But it was Blood (2002) responded to two things primarily – extractivism and the accompanying human and environmental rights abuses in the Niger Delta and elsewhere. The massive erosion of biodiversity and attacks on food sovereignty through the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into our agricultural system inspired I Will not Dance to your Beat.
What you have in your hands, or on your screens, is a compilation that is largely more meditative than the previous collections. There are moments of reflection on the colonial and neoliberal foundations that permit a willful disconnection from nature and the resultant destructive extractivism.
Some of the poems came through conversations and poetry writing sessions with Peter Molnar, Maryam al-Khawaja — Rafto Human Rights laureates and Salil Tripathi, a member of the board of PEN International, in August 2017. The sessions held at a beautifully rustic location in Celleno, Italy, were documented on celluloid by the duo of Maria Galliana Dyrvik and Anita Jonsterhaug Vedå of SMAU, a multimedia firm in Norway. Poetic relationship with Maria and Anita has continued over the years and their work continues to inspire more and more poems.
We have also had time to ponder on the criminalization of environmental defenders and the burdening of victims with survival struggles with no life boughs. The poems were written over a wide span of time and require some pondering as poems often demand, of course. Although written over a broad time spectrum, they fall into identifiable themes. The harsh times that birthed the earlier volumes were blunted with doses of humour as poetry is largely therapeutic and contributes to our wellness and well-being.
In our communities, poetry and song are key tools for exposure of ills in our societies, for education and for rebuke. Poetry is an indispensable cultural tool with which we laugh at the wicked and add the needed bounce to our steps as we march on to end ecocide and give our people and other beings a chance to retain our being.
The call of this volume is that we must ensure that we see the invisible and hear the inaudible.
Mother Earth our Teacher
Scarified and sacrificed
The Womb of the Earth
Choked by Convenience
I’m Not Afraid
I come from the future
Recent Ancients Foretold
The Other Side
I like those bridges
There is beauty
I Have Been in Motion
Bumping into the Wind
Rainbows on the Sea
Stilts and Wiggles
The Stump I So Loved
Beads of Inspiration
Seducing the Bees
The lands we fight to own
Tenants of Furious Times
I see the invisible
Portals of Greed
Cast a Vote
This hate does not define us
We Planted a Flag
Welcome to the age of paradox
By Me We Spoke
After Oil We Flourish (The Niger Delta isn’t a ticking ecological time bomb)
A Dirge for Fossil Capitalism
Return to Being
Riding the Waves of Time
When You Clock 6 and 2
Rainbows Through the Tears
Climate Debt Long Overdue
Poetry in the time of pandemic
We must breathe again
Net Zero Comes to Zero
Dreadful Liars On Heartless Shores
We are Seeds
We can plant a seed
In the Shadows of the Future (For Jay Naidoo & Stephen Pittam)
What is in that Barrel?
No More Sins to Confess
Pavements of Shame
Dawn in Celleno
Lago di Bolsena
No vantage points
I Catch Myself
Holding my Peace
Traps Sold on Lies
If the Sun Slept
This book marks the 25th anniversary of the execution of Nigerian activist and written Ken Saro-Wiwa. The 21 essays, by international contributors, and 42 poems by new and established poets, are inspired by his ideals and activism.
The volume includes contributions by people intimately connected with Saro-Wiwa. His brother Dr Owens Wiwa recounts how his older brother awakened and nurtured his awareness of the tremendous damage Royal Dutch Shell was doing to their homeland, in collaboration with the then Nigerian military government. His firsthand account of the brutality of the military government and its impact; his unsuccessful efforts to save the life of his brother; his time in hiding and subsequent escape, with his family, from Nigeria and his efforts to retrieve the remains of his brother for burial, makes for very moving reading. Likewise, Noo Saro-Wiwa shares her story of growing up in England with strong links to family in Nigeria, and the trauma of hearing of her father’s execution while at University.
Maynooth University, where the editor works as Deputy Librarian, holds the death row correspondence from Ken Saro-Wiwa to Sister Majella McCarron. McCarron provides two personal essays. One, a reflection on the events that shaped her work with Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria and her subsequent efforts to save the lives of the Ogoni 9: the second essay explores her experience as a table observer of the Shell to Sea campaign, which strove to have gas, discovered off the west coast of Ireland, refined at sea rather than inland.
The damage that Shell has caused in Ogoni and the issue of redress are topics addressed in essays by experts including Mark Dummett, of Amnesty International, who investigated how Shell and other oil companies have caused or contributed to human rights abuses through their operations in the Niger Delta. Daniel Leader, a barrister and partner at Leigh Day’s international law department, the firm who have led a number of ground breaking human rights cases, including a series of cases against Shell on behalf of Nigerian communities, explores the issue of legal redress. Architect, environmental activist, author and poet Nnimmo Bassesy’s wide ranging essay presents Saro-Wiwa as activist and writer and creator of the Ogoni Bill of Rights, against the backdrop of the UNEP report of the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland, which recorded that drinking water in Ogoni had benzene, a carcinogen, at over 900 times the level permitted
I welcome the publication of this volume which highlights the work of Trócaire and other people and organisations
to fight for a more just world. Trócaire campaigned strongly for the release of the Ogoni 9 and continues to campaign for justice in the face of state and corporate violations of human rights. The writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa and those inspired by his work keep the flame of justice lit.
Dr Caoimhe De Barra, Chief Executive Officer, Trócaire.
The publication of I am a Man of Peace: Writings Inspired by the Maynooth University Ken Saro-Wiwa Collection highlights the shift towards peaceful protests as a means to a more sustainable end. It is a justification that one’s dreams for the greater good can still be attained without bloodshed. Ken preached, lived, and practiced peace in his search for justice even in the face of stiff opposition. Years after his death, Ken’s ideologies and philosophies have proved relevant today.
Dr Owens Wiwa, Executive Vice-President, Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).
Sister Majella McCarron’s choice of Maynooth University for this unique donation was particularly appropriate, given the University’s long involvement with issues of inclusion and justice in Ireland and abroad. This deep-rooted commitment is today articulated in our University Strategic Plan, where a strategic goal is ‘to build on our achievements to date and become a model University for equality, diversity, inclusion and inter-culturalism, where social justice, addressing inequality and empowering people are central to our mission.’ This book makes a significant contribution to that goal.
Dr. Gemma Irvine, Vice-President of Equality & Diversity, Maynooth University.
Writing can urge us to pause, to think, and to discover what we really want to say. Sharing that writing calls for courage and support. In this publication, as Jessica Traynor suggests, we see the evidence of a new generation of Irish and new Irish citizens engaging with complex issues through poetry. Reading their poems, we may begin to understand more about each other and ourselves. By bringing together these Irish and new Irish voices the book contributes to building a shared discourse which is essential for trust, community and hope.
Dr Alison Farrell, Founder of the Summer Writing Institute For Teachers (SWIFT) and Co-founder Irish Network for the Enhancement of Writing (INEW)
Edited by Íde Corley, Helen Fallon, Laurence Cox
These letters and poems are invaluable fragments of a living conversation that portrays the indomitable power in humans to stay alive in the face of certain death – to stay alive even in death.
Reading through the treasure trove of the letters and poems compiled here as The Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa evokes intense memories of his resolute struggles against an oil behemoth and a deaf autocratic government. His crusade frames one of the most tumultuous periods of Nigeria’s history; his tragic story evokes anger and demands action to resolve the crises that first led the Ogoni people to demand that Shell clean up Ogoni lands or clear out of the territory.