Poetry/Fiction Reading and Conversation with Chris Abani

September 1, 2004

Tuesday, September 7th, Lab I 1037

Chris Abani, a Nigerian writer currently living in Los Angeles, is the author of numerous books, including DAPHNE's LOT (poetry) and DOG WOMAN (fiction). His book of poems KALAKUTA REPUBLIC is based on his experience as a political prisoner in Nigeria between 1985 and 1991.

Chris Abani's Dog Woman is a mesmerizing, haunting, and sometime subversive exploration of the personal and cultural politics of disempowerment and power. In these heart rousing and lyrically complex poems, the poet enacts the reconstruction of his feminized selves, and his personae struggle to re-form and transform both themselves and the difficult worlds they inhabit. At turns, earthy, enigmatic, devout, outraged, and compassionate, these elemental women's voices ring true, as they sing siren songs, dirges, and hosannas, and as they navigate into new and unknown territories of human will and endurance. Dog Woman is a daring, trailblazing, and important book; it's a vital addition to the poetry of our times.
- Maurya Simon, author of Ghost Orchid.

These poems reveal a prodigious imagination, which is enlivened by sardonic wit and an inexhaustible capacity for irony and empathy. Daring to span a historical continuum that takes us as far back as the rituals of Christ suffering, through the tragic history of the Mayans of Mexico, to the starkly modern concerns of contemporary life, these poems find beauty and grace in the most painful things. The achievement here lies in the poet's ability to bring an engaging intelligence to bear on the complexities of race, gender and memory. Abani's line has a sharp precision that turns a scream into a line of memorable lyric music without losing the emotion and force. That he does this again and again in poems of such vulnerability speaks highly of Abani's art.
- Kwame Dawes, author of Midland.