Sunday, 3 June 2012

If I Were to Write Honestly: Sentinel Annual Literature Anthology - A Review

Sentinel Annual Literature Anthology

Publisher: SPM Publications, London
Date of Publication: November 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9568101-0-6
Source: Prize from an online competition

What I admire about the Sentinel as a literary brand is the ability of its editors to give a voice to experienced as well as upcoming writers. The Sentinel Annual Literature Anthology is no exception. Edited by Unoma Azuah, Amanda Sington-Williams and Sentinel Founder, Nnorom Azuonye, the anthology is a collection of poems, short stories and plays. Part One of the anthology edited by Unoma Azuah, is a collection of seventeen poems by ten individual poets: Wong, Beynon, Isa, Sopian, Okon, George, McDermott, Asalor, Adesuyi and Azuah who is also poetry editor. The poems are accessible and of a decent length, concise. The poems of course deal with various subject matter and in a range of interesting modern forms. I was intrigued by the first poem: 'Lives' by Nicholas Y.B. Wong. The poem seemed to me a celebration of life, nature, chaos, rebirth and renewal, as well as the relationship between living (animate) and non-living (inanimate) lives: the symbolism of a cat and its many lives including inanimate existences. It was all cleverly done as these lines in the third to fourth stanza:

...fragments of memories flashed.
It forgot how it died before this life. Its 
body turned into a glass jug. The blue blood
inside spilt out, the whole world's suddenly 

made of one colour.
When it landed
the growing cotton
formed a bed,...

 Stanzas 11 - 12 also :

...I meowed. You turned around,
Our eyes met.
I remembered how I died-

I never die. I evolve,
like virus,
like lives,
You give me water in bowl that has seven
colours, more beautiful than marbles...

Part two of the anthology is a collection of short stories - seven short stories edited by Amanda Sington- Williams. Again these are stories that capture the reader's imagination. There is little space here to do this section justice. You will have to get a copy and read it yourself. Part three is a collection of plays edited by Sentinel Founder/Publisher, Nnorom Azuonye. The first play is 'Prologue' by Callum Patrick Hughes. Angela Amalonye Nwosu penned the second play titled: 'Phantom House'. 'Funeral of the Minstrel' by Nnorom Azuonye completes the trio of plays in this section. 'Funeral of the Minstrel' is a befitting tribute to late poet and Playwright Esiaba Irobi. I daresay 'Minstrel' celebrates the writer's life including his confrontational and thought provoking writing style - a befitting tribute indeed.

Part four of the anthology brings the reader back to the Cinderella of literary forms. It is one to which the Sentinel as a literary brand has shown steadfast loyalty where other publishers have fled. Again, some twelve beautiful poems that were a delight to read, but I had to chose one. 'If I Were to Write Honestly' by Hannah Lowe captured my imagination with its universality and bending of theme, writing about love:

I heard it in the voices of pious women singing,
in the chanting of island children, words that rose above the 
classrooms corrugated roof and found the mangos hanging from 
their branches, loved by the sun.'  

In the above scene, Lowe could so easily have been talking about Lagos or Barbados or even somewhere in India. But no. We had Syria and its tradesmen and it fitted the scene just as well. Love is beautifully twisted too:

I went looking for love in the blue alleyways behind the shop...
...a memory of love. I looked for it in the stop
and pause of my father's feet outside my bedroom door.
When he beat me and later when I beat him off...
...even that was love.

  It does not get anymore honest than that.

If there was something I would change about the anthology, I would have liked an editor's intro in each of the four sections. That might have added more colour and wholeness to the entire body of work. But what do I know? They probably don't do that anymore.

©Adura Ojo 2012