Poetry Archive Now Wordview 2023: The Other Side of History

The words of our fathers are light, wisdom burning through the words of their lips.
If the snake does not show its venom, it would be mistaken for the ropes to tie firewood.
May each lobe of kolanut bring us life,
May the ocean never swallow us when we wash our feet at its shore.
May we not wrestle down our god in a battle of men.
Salutes to the ones who crossed ten thousand miles and the ocean, turned the Middle Passage into a walkway red carpet ‘cause sorry, you can’t beat this black race blue.
The stories have been told and retold,
Chains cannot bind our minds and ancestry, our culture is thicker than vines, as colorful as pageantry.
Look at us shine, brighter than Moses’ face.
History is written into our veins, tailored into our skins so sorry, no messiah’s blood can wash black skin white as snow. We are both history and historians, both beauty and euphoria.
We carry our flags like Calvary crosses, count our losses and remorses.
When I smile, a generation of African women who were taught to break backs, bend necks, work, work, work, are smiling with me, all lip, all cheek, all body.
When I speak, I awaken the voices of a thousand lost ancestors buried behind the walls of my throat, my language ripples in me. And if you look hard enough into our skins, you may just see God’s face.
So somebody help me tell Mungo Park that he must be high on crack to think the River Naija was inexistent until he found it.
Somebody tell Lugard that even if you look hard enough into our maps, you cannot trace your way to our history so burn your history books and let me teach you about a people bathed in light, beaten dead over and over and over again
But just like Christ, always we rise again.

Poetry Archive Now Wordview 2023 Winners

Poetry Archive Now! was established in 2020 to enable us to gather recordings from a much wider pool of talented poets from the UK and ...

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Iheoma Uzomba

Iheoma J. Uzomba is the Editor of The Muse Journal No. 50, the oldest students’ journal in West Africa, established by Chinua Achebe in 1963. Her poems have been published on Rattle Magazine, Palette Poetry, The Shore Poetry, Isele Magazine, Chestnut Review and elsewhere. She is a winner of the Lagos-London Poetry Prize and a fellow at the Undertow program. She likes to be innovative with her poems, exploring subjects as girlhood, shame, and loss.


A special thank you to our WordView 2023 poets.

Here's what our PAN Wordview 2023 judges have to say about this year's competition. Robert Seatter, says "ever a joy and a privilege to co-judge the Poetry Archive Now annual competition, tapping into a pulse of thought and feeling from around the globe, condensed into intensely crafted poems. The entries came from all continents, covered myriad themes, spoke in different voices, but all shared a fundamental belief in the power of poetry to speak from the soul."

Courtney Conrad says "the poets who participated in this competition reminded us that poetry is a tool for change, a medium for reflection, and a source of inspiration. These poets have left an indelible mark on me and the world, and I can't wait to see how their words continue to shape our collective consciousness in the future."

Merrie Joy Williams says "The Poetry Archive is such an indispensable resource - the idea that a poem read in a poet’s own voice can outlast those seemingly endless moments tinkering until a poem feels right, or at least robust enough to convey a memory or insight - so exploring these entries was a privilege and joy. Selecting a final twenty was tortuous. So many captured the spirit of these times, when so many things are at risk of erosion or at a critical juncture: the environment, the misuse of AI, truthfulness, the modus operandi of those who run our countries, and issues of social justice and humanity. Others captured personal moments of reckoning in bold and intimate and surprising ways. Somehow we’ve managed to narrow them down and here we have, I think, a wide range of voices and approaches, personal and political, national and international, witty and wise, often proving that these dialectic notions are one and the same."

See the collectionWatch the full Wordview 2023 playlist