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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

Another Nigger Dead

Taban lo Liyong

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To purchase Another Nigger Dead

Title: Another Nigger Dead
Author: Taban lo Liyong
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1972
Length: 72 pages
Availability: Another Nigger Dead - US
Another Nigger Dead - UK

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting, varied collection

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
African Arts . (8:1) Fall/1974 John Povey
African Lit. Today . (6) Eldred Jones

  From the Reviews:
  • "We know what to expect: provocative role-player clown in that profound Shakespearean sense of the fool who speaks the truth, lightning conductor flashing sudden dangerous revelation, ironic cynic-philosopher-teacher -- and all these characters exposed in a scarifying mad cataract of words that tumble out -- inevitable flow of lava, boom gusher of oil (my metaphors begin to show the extravagance that reading Taban always induces). (...) (W)e find that although the seductive personality inevitably is present, the poems stand rigorous reading. (...) Taban's work is clearly inseparable from his life." - John Povey, African Arts

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Another Nigger Dead begins promisingly enough. The first lines of the first poem are:

bless the african coups
tragedy now means a thing to us
       It is one of the longer poems in the book -- and, like much of the book, uneven. It looks for grandeur in tragedy -- "it is not a tragedy / if the stakes are minimal" -- though it is not entirely consistent. It is a listing and an interpretation of what tragedy is, what it involves. Elements of the poem succeed, but the whole only half convinces.
       There are a number of other longer poems. i walked among men in america for a year, for example, is a narrative piece that retells Taban's odd marriage (and its end), closing in a "prophesy and curse". It is, certainly of biographical interest, and it is not badly expressed. But it is uncertain poetry.
       The last piece in the book is Batsiary in Sanigraland, a prose poem -- and the only piece in the collection with punctuation (even apostrophes !).
       The bulk of the poems, however, are very short pieces, each between two and six lines long, printed three to a page.
       Different sides of Taban are revealed, especially the writer, "a babbler by the seaside". There is unexpected humility at times:
how wide a vocabulary must a man have
to explore meanings in the world
sometimes words fail me
       The limits of language are echoed elsewhere as well:
i know what it means to fall in love with words
they are so inadequate
and my stock runs dry
       There is some "building a life philosophy / through juggling with words". He insists: "you create yourself". There is some politics, but these brief lessons are generally more general.
       The poetic quality varies. There are clever, well expressed lines, but few of the poems -- even of the short pieces -- are fully realized. A few do stand out, in particular:
id have loved god more
had christian missionaries confirmed my superstitions
its hard to believe
after being undeceived
       Some of the simplest pieces work best:
all men seek happiness
in very unlikely places
       Overall, Another Nigger Dead is certainly an interesting collection -- and not nearly as contentious as one might expect from both Taban and from the title. A slight sense of defeat and disillusionment -- including his failed marriage and the impotence of the writer to truly affect change -- pervades the texts (from title onwards). Taban remains unpredictable (a positive, here), and the personal quality is also a strength. Little is completely successful, but there is enough here to make the collection a worthwhile one.

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Taban lo Liyong:
  • Q & A at the Daily Monitor
Other books by Taban lo Liyong under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Taban lo Liyong was born in Kajokaji, in the southern Sudan, in the late 1930s. He grew up in Uganda, and studied at National Teachers' College (Kampala), Howard University, and got an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa. He has taught at the universities of Nairobi, Papua New Guinea, Juba, and now at the University of Venda in South Africa. He is the author of numerous works of poetry and fiction.

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