Poetry News

Gabriel Ojeda-Sague Reviews Uche Nduka's Living in Public

By Harriet Staff
Uche Nduka, Living in Public, cover

At Entropy, Gabriel Ojeda-Sague takes a deep dive into Uche Nduka's new poetry collection, Living in Public (Writers’ Collective of Kristiania, 2018), a collection which, in Ojeda-Sague's words, "modulates between bursts of very concrete references to post-Trump American politics and Nigerian/Pan-African politics (with an eye towards dictatorship and exile) and expanses of associational/abstract language." Picking up from there: 

Anselm Berrigan says the very same in his blurb for Living in Public, that Nduka’s form allows him to “by turns, unfold gradually, cut sharply, come forward, and slide further back into the plane as needed.” For example, poem 6 uses both techniques in quick turn:

1. It spiraled into “false decolonization”

which Frantz Fanon pouted against


2. In service of the screaming summer

in your lockstep.


3. Not one of the outsiders preferred

a hillside.

But rather than “seemingly bold but in fact ambiguous,” I think I prefer to think of Nduka as bold, ambiguous, and ambiguous-therefore-bold.

The 168 brief and numbered poems of Nduka’s Living in Public are born out of a resistance strategy situated within the issue of craft. Take poem 53–

Shadows make promises

in this poem. The people

in this poem talk all

the time. Its windows and doors

croon. Despair has not provided

furnishings here. Every color in

this poem you can touch. There

are moans of pleasure here.

This poem wants to become

a wharf. It laughs at timelessness.

A breakfast table grows

loquacious, tries its hand at calligraphy.

–where everything, even the breakfast table, is wordsmithing. The poem is aware of the consequences of its craft: knowing that where every letter is inked, a shadow is cast, a promise is made. Note also the rigid short sentences that make up the poem, landing at a weight at every period, forcing the shadow cast by ink to become aural. Living in Public is concerned with “living in public” on the sociopolitical level, but these poems are also letting us know that “the public” up for debate is one Nduka is crafting in real time (not just people, but “the people / in this poem”). The public in this book is an aesthetic preoccupation as much as a sociopolitical one.

Read more at Entropy.

Originally Published: September 14th, 2018