Shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth PrizeA Die Well Top 10 BookSonokrom, a village in the Ghanaian hinterland, has not changed for thousands of years. Here, the men and women speak the language of the forest, drink aphrodisiacs with their palm wine and walk alongside the spirits of their ancestors. The discovery of sinister remains; possibly human, definitely ‘evil’; in a vanished man’s hut brings the modern world into the village in the form of Kayo; a young forensic pathologist convinced that scientific logic can shatter even the most inexplicable of mysteries.
But as events in the village become more and more incomprehensible, Kayo and his sidekick, Constable Garba, find that Western logic and political bureaucracy are no longer equal to the task in hand. Strange boys wandering in the forest, ghostly music in the night and a flock of birds that come from far away to fill the desolate hut with discarded feathers take the newcomers into a world where, in the unknown, they discover a higher truth that leaves scientific explanations far behind.
Tail of the Bluebird is a story of the mystical heart of Africa, of the clash and clasp between old and new worlds. Lyrically beautiful, at once uncanny and heart-warmingly human, this is a story that tells us that at the heart of modern man there remains the capacity to know the unknowable.₵45.00₵45.00Quick View
Nii Ayikwei Parkes’ début collection encompasses the story of a triangular trade in reverse – a family history that goes from the Caribbean back to Sierra Leone, and in his own life from London to Ghana, and back again.
His gift as a poet is for the most rewarding kind of story-telling, including those stories told with wit and an engaging ambivalence about himself. His narratives move unerringly to a perfect punch-line, but in the collection as a whole there is a refreshing lack of complacency in his willingness to move out of his comfort zone and explore areas of imaginative fantasy, as in his “Ballast” series, a tour de force of defamiliarisation, where he imagines how the slave trade would have gone had its mode of transport been the hot air balloon, rather than the slave ship.
There is much humour, but it comes from a family tradition of knowing that “our jokes weren’t really funny, they were just sad/ stories we learned to laugh at”. Like all poets with a largeness of heart, with no embarrassment about embracing the deepest feelings, Parkes has an especial sensitivity to the promise and acute sensitivities of childhood, both his own and others.There is much humour, but it comes from a family tradition of knowing that “our jokes weren’t really funny, they were just sad/ stories we learned to laugh at”. Like all poets with a largeness of heart, with no embarrassment about embracing the deepest feelings, Parkes has an especial sensitivity to the promise and acute sensitivities of childhood, both his own and others.
Nii Ayikwei Parkes’s poem Barter from The Makings of You (Peepal Tree) is featured on tube train posters throughout London as part of the fantastic ‘Poems on the Underground’, celebrating 150 Years of the London Underground.₵55.00₵55.00Quick View