So, I am led by nzu, the holy (chalk-like) guide in my mythical zone of bright lights, zone of purity and innocence. And I have the thing, which distils the interior beauty of things, which enable my anger when I chastize to work electrically or my sweetness to touch tenderly. But for you to hear these things, I must read my poetry to you. Good poetry remains an oral thing. I always remind my audience that I am an Igbo poet writing in English to distinguish my practice from that of my ancestor Christopher Okigbo who wanted to be seen just as a poet. I have little or no punctuations in my poems. There is no way for any serious African poet in sync with the spirit of his people and the soil of his culture and origins to escape that fact. I share with Utamsi the thirst for savage purity and innocence. I am fascinated by the baby in the heart of humanity before the onset of desire."
A quick return to Preface to The Womb in The Heart, Nwankwo drops the age-old hint of the importance of reading wide and not just people of one's own extraction but any work of quality from any part of the word. He says, "When I think of simplicity, I go to Chinese poetry. When I want the folksy, I go to Eastern Europe. When I want the romantic and hyperbolic, I go to the Middle East: for the heavy brush of metaphors, I go to Neruda and South Americans. I stay with the traditional African (Igbo) base for the chief bolsters of my practice. Since I am still writing in English, I visit the English metaphysicals, and Lord Tennyson for his captivating cymbals…" but he is quick to caution, "Beware of what sticks out from roving. It could be quite an atrocity to behold."
As we arrive at the court of the art of poetry which is currently in a struggle for identity and direction, we find a confident artist in Chimalum Nwankwo who has found a path of expression along which he walks, shares his vision, and fearlessly tackles in his own poetry some theories his introduces in his book's preface which are bound to generate discussion for years to come.
Nwankwo's other books include: Feet Of Limping Dancers (Poems, 1987), Toward the Aerial Zone (Poems, 1988), Voices From Deep Water (Poems, 1997), Toward The Kingdom of Woman & Man: The Works of Ngugi Wa Thiongo (Critical Work, 1992) and The Trumpet Parable (a Play, 1988).
Esiaba Irobi "E-mail To Nnorom Azuonye" 26 February 2003
Chimalum Nwankwo "E-mail to Nnorom Azuonye" 26 February 2003
Chimalum Nwankwo "Preface to The Womb in the Heart"
Nwankwo, Chimalum. The Womb in the Heart (African Heritage Press, San Francisco, 2002) p. xi-xii