In Where the Baedeker Leads, James Yékú explores in language precise and mellifluous the particulars of longing and love, home and diaspora. He takes the reader along routes of memory and immediacy, traversing time and space, mapping geographies far and wide—geographies of belonging, intimacy, loss, and alienation—all the while revealing what connects, what severs, what roots, and even uproots us—whether we live in Africa or North America, or elsewhere. Yékú finely weaves the personal and the political in this debut poetry collection.
Uche Umezurike: Where the Baedeker Leads touches upon home, migration, diaspora, and identity. It also considers intimacy, sensuality, and love. What drew you to these themes? And what insights did you get while writing your book
James Yékú: This is a great question, and I am glad you raise it. Actually, those themes took on a life of their own as the collection grew and matured over a ten-year period. But the poems that speak to conditions of exile, migration, and diaspora were the means by which I sought to make sense of life in North America—first and mostly in Canada, and later in the US where I live in Lawrence, the former home of the American poet Langston Hughes, a major leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Of course, the migration poems can be plugged into a long tradition of literary sensibilities that cater to the estrangement and hardships of a life elsewhere, but I like to imagine them as an archive of my own journey through seasons and spaces. The intimacies of these times and places are worked into the poems that grapple with love and sexuality.
Please read the rest of the interview at PRISM international, Vancouver-based journal of contemporary writing from Canada and the world.