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World Poetry Day: Top young Nigerian poets in literary business

world poetry day

As literary communities across the world celebrate the World Poetry Day today March 21, 2022, BusinessDay takes a look at some budding poets whose creative ingenuity and commitment to their career resonate beyond the Nigerian shores. Like their older counterparts and the pioneers such as J.P Clark, Gabriel Okara and Christopher Okigbo, their works focus on issues around family, culture, injustice, corruption and the healing and purging of their beloved country.

Below are some on these young poets in no particular order:

Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau

Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau
Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau

He is a Nigerian food nutritionist from Oke Agbo in Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State. Adedayo started writing poetry in 2013. He has won several writing awards including the ‘What Can Words Do’ challenge in 2013, the Pulse Student Poetry Prize and the Tony Tokunbo Fernandez International Poetry Prize in 2014, the Brigitte Poirson Poetry Contest (July) in 2015 and the Eriata Food Poetry Contest in 2016. In 2013, he compiled a collection of political poetry, Epistle of Lies, which featured a hundred poets. Adedayo’s words have been published on Kalahari, Sankofa, WRR, African Writers, Praxis Magazine, and several other platforms. He lives in and Writes from Ibadan.

Romeo Oriogun

Romeo Oriogun
Romeo Oriogun

He is a Nigerian poet and essayist. He is the author of Sacrament of Bodies and three chapbooks. He won the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Prize for poetry and The Future Awards African Prize for Literature.

He has received fellowships and support from Ebedi International Writers Residency, Harvard University Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Oregon Institute for Creative Research, and the IIE- Artist Protection Fund. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Harvard Review, American Poetry Review, Poetry London, The Poetry Review, Narrative Magazine, The Common, and others. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and his poems have been translated into several languages.

Tolu Akinyemi

Tolu Akinyemi, one of the top young Nigerian poets
Tolu Akinyemi

The poet and writer, who is also referred to as Poetolu, is one Nigerian poet to watch. His work is notable for its relatable insights and humorous take on everyday human experiences.

The intrigue that despite his huge science background and training, Akinyemi, who studied Architecture and Design at the Federal University of Technology Akure, earning a Bachelor of Technology degree in Architecture in 2008 and also obtained a Master of Science degree in Built Environment Studies from the University of Greenwich, is a poet more than architect.

He is the author of three collections of poetry. His first collection “Your Father Walks Like A Crab published in 2013, was described by Lola Shoneyin as “a witty debut”. In 2017 and 2018, he was named one of ‘100 most influential Nigerian writers under 40′. In 2017, he won the Nigerian Writers’ Award (Poetry writer of the year) for his poetry collection I Laugh at These Skinny Girls. His works have been featured in advertisements, documentaries, and in cultural and literary publications such as the Association of Nigerian Authors anthologies, Forward Poetry’s Great British Write-off Anthology, and Black History Month magazine. In 2017 he obtained the Arts Council England’s, “exceptional talent endorsement” as a creative writer. This was a part of the British Home Office’s ‘exceptional talent visa’ programme to attract to the United Kingdom, exceptionally talented individuals in fields such as the arts and sciences.

In 2016 he started writing the online Halima Series’, an illustrated and humorous social commentary on popular culture and everyday experiences from the point of view of the fictional character called Halima.

Anietie Isong

Anietie Isong, one of the top young Nigerian poets
Anietie Isong

The young poet’s works are anchored on Nigeria’s persisting challenges, family and life situations.

Among his poems and short stories, he won the MUSON Poetry Award for “These Many Rivers” and the Commonwealth Short Story Award for “Diary of an ECOMOG Soldier”. He subsequently sponsored a special prize in the Commonwealth Short Story competition for “best Nigerian story” in 2010. He also won the Olaudah Equiano Prize for Fiction and the Remember Oluwale Writing Prize.

He holds a PhD in New Media and Writing from De Montfort University, Leicester. He is also a graduate of the University of Ibadan and the University of Leicester where he studied communication. Dr. Isong started his career in broadcasting before switching to public relations. His earlier work writing scripts for radio evolved into a more dedicated focus on writing.

Read also: Poetry still offers sustainable career for today’s budding writers

Isong has worked as a speechwriter, public relations manager and researcher in Europe, Middle East and Africa. His elder sister, Emem Isong, is a well-known producer and screenplay writer for Nollywood films.

Dr. Isong’s debut novel Radio Sunrise explores the issue of corruption in the journalism profession and has been described as “a satirical portrait of Nigeria”. Radio Sunrise won the McKitterick Prize 2018.

Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Ijeoma Umbenyiou, one of the top young Nigerian poets
Ijeoma Umbenyiou

She is a Nigerian contemporary poet who is skilled in the art of poetry rendition. Since 2016, she has been considered as one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s best modern poets. She started writing at the age of seven and her short stories and poems have appeared in publications such as The Stockholm Review of Literature, The Wildness, The Rising Phoenix Review and The MacGuffin. Her TEDx talk was called “Dismantling The Culture of Silence”. She has a book of poems called Questions for Ada and her work has been translated into many languages, including Turkish, Portuguese, Russian and French.

Ijeoma’s poems reflect her life, passion and journeys in life.


Salihu Mahe

Salihu Mahe one of the top young Nigerian poets
Salihu Mahe

Salihu Mahe is a Nigerian poet and author of How to View the World from a Glass Prism. An engineer by profession and a poet at night, he writes from the deepest parts of his heart. His poems are often motivated by nature, love, the psychology of human thinking, morality and philosophical principles.

He believes so much in humanity, peace and unity. His works have appeared In Praxis Magazine, CWC Kongo Issue, The Shade of Women Foundation issue among others.

He won the Green Author Prize in 2019.