Izuchukwu Saviour Otubelu, a 300 level Zoology student at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Awka, has won the September edition of the BRIGITTE POIRSON POETRY CONTEST (BPPC) 2016. Otubelu had previously come second three times in a row in the June, July and August editions and placed 7th in the May edition.
Izuchukwu, who writes under the pseudonym Usman Kamsi Ojo, claimed the top spot with his excellent poem, entitled THE SUN RISES TOMORROW, though it was originally placed third by the judges. The poem automatically won the 1st place award because the first and second placed poems were ineligible, as their authors had previously won the BPPC in this season (2016) and a poet is only allowed to win one edition in a season according to the contest rules.
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola, author of the first placed poem ‘TELL US WHERE THEY TOUCHED YOU’, won the BPPC February 2016 edition while Otubelu Chinazom Chukwudi, author of second placed poem ‘INSIDE HIS HEAD’ was the BPPC May 2016 winner.
Apart from poetry, Izuchukwu also writers fiction and essays. His works have been published on various platforms, including the Kalahari Review and Nigerian largest poetry sharing platform, Words, Rhymes & Rhythm Poetry. He is from Isiekwulu village in Ukpo, Dunukofia Local Government Area, Anambra State.
This month’s theme was “SUICIDE – BEHIND THE DARK CURTAIN”, chosen with the aim of raising awareness about the silent but potent killer that ‘Suicide is fast becoming in most modern societies.
Below are the TOP 10 entries:
- TELL US WHERE THEY TOUCHED YOU by Kanyinsola Olorunnisola
- INSIDE HIS HEAD by Otubelu, Chinazom Chukwudi
- THE SUN RISES TOMORROW by Izuchukwu Saviour Otubelu
- SUICIDE by Agbaakin Oluwatoyosi Jeremiah Agbaakin
- WHEN DARK CURTAINS BECKON by L.P Alani
- A LOVE LETTER by Sherry Duggal
- THIS IS SUICIDE by Prince Nwachukwu
- THE KILLER by Ojelabi Jesujoba
- WHY HANG THY SOUL? by Nome Patrick Emeka
- SMALL TALKS FOR SUPPER by Rudolph Adidi
TELL US WHERE THEY TOUCHED YOU by Kanyinsola Olorunnisola
Men have crawled into me in search of a home,
But all I can give is the restlessness of guilt,
For inside of me, ghouls of darkness roam,
I am the moon with which bad nights are built.
Why do you wear gloom on your soul like this?
Shattering every shred of your inner peace?
They have toured my body in the name of love
And left memories of forced romance and disdain,
Pretend not to know what demons I dream of,
Speak not as though you feel the heat of my pain.
True, but enslave yourself not to bitter yesterdays
For sweet hope, before your tear-clouded eyes, lays.
When Mother said, “Tell us where they touched you”,
I raised my teenage skirt in the cold meekness of shame,
But I wanted to show her my battered soul too
As the colour of my grief nears no known name.
Only weak spirits wither away in sight of sorrow
Your strength lies in the hands of a waiting tomorrow.
Living comes at too much of a price,
I am in need of a divine song of fire,
Agatha says the world beyond is paradise,
Let my transition be greeted with drums and lyre.
They might have defiled your holy temple,
But listen, in you, the heavens still mumble.
INSIDE HIS HEAD by Otubelu, Chinazom Chukwudi
The graveside goat gored the good old earth to death
Inside his head, lame flames flickered in their hearth,
Amid the acrid smell of leaves that littered in the breeze
He dreamt of soldiers that sank in a tank like snows that freeze
The five forlorn fingers of a feeble right hand
This place ate up his space – cursed desert of a land
Inside his head, the loose heavens wept like women again;
The tender thunder would all but wander with the vain rain
The ropes fathered chameleons that flee like dead wood smoke,
Much faster than weird chuckles of the big black fig oak
His hurt limbs would not stop; Satan’s gate was near
They craved cursed bread crumbs sprinkled with hell-brewed beer
Inside his head, the wild cat sat beneath the rat’s bed,
Buried with red cups of blood that longs his own soul dead
That neck-wrapping noose will laugh again at sundown,
For what king owns a throne without his royal crown?
The stars swept the floor of their shiny door at night,
To hear the nigh sigh of a rotten pie’s last fight
Inside his head, the vultures danced and sang aloud;
A veal meal was in sight, how empty stood the cloud
Morn was born blind to stir the mauled pendulous hen,
Never to see the sun that scorch the backs of men
The cockerels did not crow nor did seagulls grumble,
For inside his head, life had no cause to mumble
Perhaps, dear brethren, his grains did taste like hell
But worn tongues grow thorns in the truth that they tell
Should winter wield a sword, embrace him without fear
Our roofs still lie unbuilt, that cold we all must bear
THE SUN RISES TOMORROW by Izuchukwu Saviour Otubelu
There is a freedom which words cannot tell
Submerged in the noiseless screams of suicide’s call
There is a suffering which supersedes hell
Buried in the fangs of democracy’s fireballs
Silence shut his eyes and sank into a peaceful sleep
Beneath the death throes of civilization
Justice was drunk with wine- and lay in a dust heap
Waiting to kiss the red lips of the yellow sun
Our hearts were handcuffed to potbellied promises
Sworn by the unseen voice of elder spokesmen
Our past future dissolved into white ashes
There are fifty chariots, but there are no horsemen
Peace sighed and clambered over the dwarf fence
And turning his face, burst into a sluggish run
I am the surviving worm amidst starving hens
I have no womb, yet I have borne nine sons
The sun rises tomorrow, but I dare not wait
I must go home- to put a knife to this strife
The eerie cry of vultures seeps through the gate
There is a death which is the bringer of life
Nothing remains of my existence but dry bones
Crying for redemption, to a congregation of deaf ears
Engrave these words of mine upon my gravestone
The sun will rise again- but I shall not be there
Ask the coffin maker how much I shall pay
Death is a pleasing penalty for the brave
The sun will rise again- but that is another day
For now, Death is the master; I am the slave
SUICIDE by Agbaakin Oluwatoyosi Jeremiah Agbaakin
Son, I know how dusk has darkened your youth
Udders of sour anguish have milked your mouth
I see kohl of grief painted beneath your face
Cease not your breath for life still offers grace
Irokos do stand tall towering against tempests
Dab your wounded heart with the towel of hope
Eden lies for the taking if you’d sieze the conquest.
Son, you must sing again the songs of hope
Until the morning removes night’s dark cope
If dwellers of Hades still strive to live in pains
Clasping hands in hands like a praying mantis
In the wait for the Gospel of greening earth
Decline then thee, the dirge of yester hurts
Erase suicide song from the chords of your heart.
Son, the Saracens say the best camels don’t let go
Under Sahel’s searing sun or on the sinking snow
In harsh winters, when away the castle is still far
Covered by miles of dust- the desert’s only tar
It trudges bravely o’er endless deserts of life
Dreaming with sand-blinded eyes, a morrow
Eschewing the mock of crows till home is nigh.
Sever this noose that promises you home;
Untie the worries that make hell the Rome
In your soul, that’s lost its glorious cache
Call no more on ‘spirits’ to numb your ache
In lifting you high, the tumbler tumbles you,
Drowning you back in the seas of sorrows
Exit, son, not your life, but gather her rubble.
WHEN DARK CURTAINS BECKON by L.P Alani
A river of tears meanders down a mother’s cheek
It wets her tribal marks-they are a reminder of pain
Pain felt in time immemorial and so, forgettable
Nothing can ease the pain she now feels; not time
Blood of her blood, life brought forth from her loins
Has now by its own hand chosen the otherworld whence it came.
A river of blood seeps into the black earth
The essence of life diluted by abiyamo’s tears
The digger strikes the sixth feet and earth knows
Another is returned unto her but this one decades too quick
Does the earth grieve or just selfishly accept even this?
Abiyamo’s tears carry this question to the silent earth.
A wind of sorrow blows open baálé’s curtains
Seated by his empty gourd, he stared-
Is it not a father’s pride if a child thrives?
Now he has but shame that he neither saw nor perceived-
Discontent or pain; or was it madness?
Seated by his empty gourd, he stared into a future now never to be.
A wind of sorrow dries up tears as siblings cried:
Would (s)he have kept this life if better loved?
Tongues wagged where wails would not let the bereaved hear
Vultures feasting on death whispering amongst themselves.
Now when he had shown me this vision, he spoke:
“Child, do you see now the melancholy behind the dark curtains?
We may wander in search of a zest for life
But in all of our searchings, let us seek:
Love. Love is first found for oneself within one self.
Courage. Courage is only found if one looks past one’s fears.
Child, find these whenever the dark curtains beckon”.
A LOVE LETTER by Sherry Duggal
The blank spaces
between each breath
are like a tug of war
between life and death
it’s a continual fight
dark and light
it is the answer
to a question
in black and white
words form shadows
as I become visible
in the contours of your face
not easy to trace
all I have is my mind to give birth
to different versions of me
filling empty holes
trying to distill the dust and debris
light enters through the wound
as words intertwine
they filter through the page
sealed and signed
as I rewind.
THIS IS SUICIDE by Prince Nwachukwu
Suicide isn’t only when we hang on a tree
Lest we deceive ourselves with this thought
It is not frustratingly jumping into the sea
Lest the world experience drought
Suicide doesn’t mean swallowing very fat akpu
That whitemen may jeer and cheer
Neither does it mean throttling the neck with agbu
Thinking that the troubles will clear
Suicide isn’t only using motion fan to take one’s life
That perhaps the pain might flee
It is not stabbing one’s stomoach with knife
Wanting at all cost to be free
This is suicide when the listlessness grows unabated
And the horrendous moments come back haunting
When the body can’t carry the thought-filled head
And the heart pulsates like a knocking engine
Life on earth without peace tastes like death
For it pinches as painful as an angry bee
Cowardice it is though to give up one’s faith
For focus and patience is the freedom key
THE KILLER by Ojelabi Jesujoba
He kills me;
Not with a bullet to my head
Or a knife to my neck
It’s with plenty drops of whiskey
With it he drowns the liver inside of me
He kills me;
Not with poisoned wine
Or an arrow through my heart
It’s with a youthful addiction to unhealthy air
With it he suffocates the lungs inside of me
He kills me;
Not with a vile intention
Or for a vengeful cause
It’s with an innocent ignorance
With it he takes my life away breath by breath
He kills me;
He is me…
WHY HANG THY SOUL? by Nome Patrick Emeka
Oh Africa! I bear you searching every contour
Of hazy hearths for the eyes of gods. Tossings
Of pangs as a droning dice against sufferings.
The tree that chewed the head of Okonkwo
Like a kola nut before elders, holds his predecessors
Head in his taunt teeth. The shrieks of gaunt gongs
Hang ha-has of deaths round the necks of our villages
Like an ornamental bead for royal marriages.
We are ferrets fumbling upon the back of this flood;
A breach of blood and sorrow’s serenity–
We’re longing for life, survival, hope and dignity.
Oh Ikemefuna! sink us in the pool of your blood
That we may drown into a sane sacrament with you.
GrandPa once told me the road to peace is this clue:
Throwing ones’ life into the face of the maker
So when life wages war we said suicide is the answer.
Days ago, as the villagers their harvest gather,
One man tied his cloth to a tree branch and hanged
Himself, his life into history faded and changed.
I hear of the wild fire in the belly of hell
And the tolling of eerie jingles of her bells
In the embouchure of a lean white preacher
He stutters steadily ‘Think ye not now but later.
Why in hell hang thy precious soul
When thou canst trade thy sorrow?’
 Excerpt from Chinua Achebe’s Things fall Apart.
SMALL TALKS FOR SUPPER by Rudolph Adidi
Halfway into supper, he began to talk with so much power like a hoper. . .
“Did we have talks under the staggering red moon?
when I told you my body ached to rid this flesh soon?
Do you remember my river following the hind?
And my laughter that echoed throughout the wind?
I took a boat that lay by that sea side
I hear it was made with wounds from the tide.
No hope exist for my color, hue-man
so I will take that road carved by my hand.
I go by my first name wearing a regalia of failure
known to be misfit, let this be closure.
Let it find my arms, my neck and my feet
so I wear your dress because I now look fit.
Those words I heard about taking you to a better place
are not just words, that makes one win the race.
I’m bounded by royalty of stench and death
Lucifer will scream with joy when I am his birth.
I haven’t just died, I just begun to live
no questions asked, no more fabric of life to weave.
I have studied comfort and it doesn’t live there.
Someone will take my arms, at least there’s light here.”
And when it was time, the bell began to chime. He stood up and left the table and the ripper had nothing to mumble.
Izuchukwu takes over from August winner Adeosun as the BPPC Champion. He will be awarded a cash prize of N5,000 and a copy of ‘I SAID THESE WORDS’ by Kukogho Iruesiri Samson. He will also receive copies of the 2015 and 2016 BPPC anthologies while the other finalists will get a free copy of the BPPC 2016 anthology and certificates. The prizes will be awarded at the WRR ‘FEAST OF WORDS’ LITERARY FESTIVAL 2016.
All the TOP 10 poems will also be published in the BPPC anthology and automatically entered for the ALBERT JUNGERS POETRY PRIZE 2016.
The Brigitte Poirson Poetry Contest (BPPC) is sponsored by WRR CEO Kukogho Iruesiri Samson in honor of Brigitte Poirson, a French poet, lecturer, and editor who has worked tirelessly to promote and support African poetry. It is the only monthly poetry competition in Nigeria and a favorite among young Nigerian poets.
NOTE: The September edition, the 10th of 2016, is the last for BPPC Season II. The contest will resume in February 2017.