Naked: A New Poetry Collection by Abiodun Oyewole – Book Review No. 10

Naked: A New Poetry Collection
Book Review by Gessy Alvarez

Naked: A New Poetry Collection
By Abiodun Oyewole
with an introduction by Lyah Beth Leflore
2Leaf Press, November 2020
Distributed by University of Chicago Press
180 pages; $16.99

Abiodun Oyewole’s Naked: A New Poetry Collection is imbibed with wonderfully unadorned free-form poetics that transfigure the natural world with boundless and mystical cadence. Oyewole – poet, teacher, and founding member of the spoken-word group The Last Poets – expertly weaves the physical state of being naked and the essence of truth excavated from naked language. The poems in this collection provide an emotional and complex literary landscape carved by life experiences and the essential quest for freedom.

ABIODUN OYEWOLE (Author and founding member of The Last Poets)

These collected poems are inhabited by an “I” or the voice of Oyewole. We know this because of the autobiographical content in poems like “On Being Here” and “Older But Not Old.” With nostalgic echoes of the past, Oyewole uses language with great dexterity. In “Anti-Superstition,” we hear his voice remark on past hardships:

I took the shackles
On my wrist and ankles
And made bracelets I could sell

But there’s also a hearkening to a collective past. Hardships endured by generations before – a communion between tragic history and future fortunes.

A broom swept his feet
He spits on it
And won the lotto

The short verses, simple language, and unabashed declarations of faith, trust, and love give each of these poems a powerful upward momentum. In these times when we can’t reach out to those we love, where a hug or a kiss can be a death sentence, Oyewole’s poetry reminds us of the importance of hope. We live in a country that fights to deny the truth of its past sins, but we have to persevere, aspire, and fight for justice in the hopes that our collective voices will put this country on a righteous and equitable path to redemption.

Like the “naked poetry” of Juan Ramón Jiménez that inspired this collection, Oyewole’s Naked is about disrobing and renouncing the superficial impositions of materialism. What is left is an unfettered path towards transcendence.

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