A Fire in My Head: Poems for the Dawn

Other Pr. Nov. 2022. 176p. ISBN 9781635423082. $21.99. POETRY
This new collection from Booker Prize–winning poet/novelist Okri (The Famished Road) engages with pressing social issues and reflects on the power of art and spirit to imagine better worlds. A central preoccupation is how “[t]he world runs ahead while humanity/ Falls behind,” and poems directly address the persecution of the Rohingya people, the extremism of Boko Haram, the killing of George Floyd and the resulting outcry, and the fire at London’s Grenfell Tower (“In this age of austerity/ the poor die for others’ prosperity”). While interspersed with occasional love poems, the work is at its strongest in its straightforward reckoning with global issues and meditations on particular individuals, as in the lament for Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni environmental activist executed in 1995. “We live in unnatural times/,” the poem declares, “and we must make/ them natural again/ with our wailing.” Amid outrage and protest, the collection insists on the possibility of change and on a fundamental unity, that “[a]ll culture’s shared/ Beneath the realm/ Of sleep and of awakening.”
VERDICT It’s “time to write on the face of the earth/ the value and meaning of every name,” Okri writes. Globally engaged, accessible, and relevant.
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