Smoking the Bible

Copper Canyon. May 2022. 97p. ISBN 9781556596285. pap. $17. POETRY
Nigerian-born and now rooted in the Midwestern United States, award-winning poet/novelist Abani (Sanctificum) takes readers on a journey in his lyrically wrought and emotionally piercing new poetry collection. Two brothers part, one facing terminal illness, the other traveling abroad because it is too dangerous for him to stay at home. The pain of that separation is rendered in biblical terms, with imagery of fire and flight prevailing throughout; the flames here signify both destruction and renewal, while the man’s flight is not just literal but metaphorical: “All my life, men with blackened insides/ have fought to keep/ the flutter of a white egret in my chest/ from bursting into flight, into glory.” Many immigrant accounts focus on the shock of arrival, but while Abani captures that experience through powerful sensuous language (“Migrant,/ …you wake up on a cold day in another country/ and put faith in hot rice and braised goat, …persistent aftertaste of a lost home”), he’s especially good as conveying the journey itself (“Traveling as a way of emptying out all that cannot be emptied”). In the end, though home and past are irretrievable, he has memories (some painful), saying, “The red earth of my homeland is both wound and suture.”
VERDICT A masterly and distinctive study of the travails of leaving home; highly recommended.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing