Where the Baedeker Leads uncovers the many delicate layers that lie in the spaces between departures and arrivals, offering memories and stories. As a historically specific guidebook for travels, the Baedeker emerges as a cultural metaphor of navigating multiple geographies, even as it leads both to and away from the obvious meanings in the poems; but it is also a useful instrument that points to a recurrent theme in the collection, the idea of motion and displacement
Whether it’s about journeys, personal transitions, or changes in the seasons, the reader is drawn to the personal experiences and social conditions that push people away from home to new landscapes, sights, and encounters that remind them of the times and place they have so painfully left behind. Here is one of the poems in the collection.
Away from Lagos
What life is there but comings and goings?
Every city was once a paradise
in which you played the part.
Like Lagos, a city of inchoate dreams dithering
aimlessly until they are born
as a dawn without clouds.
Its harmattan is unlike the fury of winter,
but it kisses the skin with fierceness,
as blowing winds gather dust, and plaster
the face with the dryness of wet dew
and the misery of happy strangers.
The Sahara always visits again,
bearing boastful tales of angry cold
upon travelers evading a deluge of rain
drumming wildly on rusted roofs.
But Lagos keeps swaying triumphantly,
dancing as a city that breaks
the twilight grey of dusk and explodes
into a patch of colors and traffic. A city
overflows with beautiful chaos, ecstatic
its lagoon, detached from the Atlantic
that calls you away.
Beyond desires that desiccate and rotten,
beyond daydreams that drift into reality,
here lies a city whose inhabitants embrace
from afar, preferring winter
to the smell and thrills of home.
Although the politics of my Nigerian homeland also animates several of the poems, their most abiding rumination is the enunciation of the constancy of change and the uncertain disruption of fixities. The nodes of human experiences become evident in poems that not only make legible the enduringly harsh realities of winter storms and frostbites, but also evoke the initial adversities of home that so traumatized you that you still feel the best gestures of love must be from afar.
Where the Baedeker Leads is out at Mawenzi House Publishers this fall. Please consider pre-ordering here. Thank you.