Barth Akpah reading a poem at the LRF book reading

Barth Akpah Renders Literary Masterpiece ‘How Does the Rain Sound?’ at October LRF Book Reading

In the realm of literature, some moments beckon the reader to journey beyond the confines of everyday existence, moments when words transcend mere text, and pages become portals into new worlds.

Sunday, 1 October 2023 marked one such moment as the Literary Renaissance Foundation (LRF) gathered its community of literary enthusiasts for an extraordinary evening of book reading with the erudite Barth Akpah, author of the intriguing masterpiece How Does the Rain Sound?. The digital stage, as always, was set on Zoom, where Akpah gave modulated voice to the poetic symphony that is his latest work.

Barth Akpah is a poet of West African renown, with a distinguished career lasting more than 14 years. He is a skilled scholar who has left his mark on the literary space with works like the poetry collection Land of Tales. Among his honours are the famous Library of Africa and the Ghana-based African Diaspora West African Writers Fellowship.

The book reading started with a sense of anticipation as literary enthusiasts from around the world digitally gathered. Barth Akpah came onto the screen as the virtual curtain opened to deliver his masterpiece. An exciting work of literary skill, How Does the Rain Sound? is a collection of verses that explore themes such as politics, kidnapping, hypocrisy, and even literature itself.

In his introductory remarks, Akpah emphasised the importance of programmes like the Literary Renaissance Foundation. He stated that such events illuminate the route for new writers and sustain the flame of book reading.

He had previously been on the platform of the LRF as a presenting author before Sunday’s event, and he noted that his return was a sign of his appreciation for the LRF’s supportive academic community and rich literary terrain.

In his collection of poems, rain, the key element, represents both luck and adversity, although there are a number of other complex meanings concealed within the raindrops that Akpah leaves for the readers’ interpretation. The anthology describes a slew of human experiences as it navigates the plethora of emotions and storylines woven into the seemingly insignificant act of rain falling.

The introductory poem, “What does poetry look like?”, serves as a gateway into the soul of the collection, inviting readers to ponder the essence and form of poetry itself, and how it influences the lives of its readers.

“Before the Change”, written in the context of 2015–2019 Nigeria, delves into the circumstances of Nigerian life before significant sociopolitical shifts. The verses pointedly review the profound changes that have truly unfolded in the country since 2015 in an incredible case of situational irony.

In “The Terrible Smell of Silence”, the haunting implications of silence in the face of adversity compels readers to confront the weight of what remains unsaid.

In “Awon Omo Wobe” (Child of Ruin), the poet takes a trip down memory lane, capturing sensational events that occurred during his years at the University of Ibadan. In “A Life in the Mirror (June 15, 2020)” he pays homage to the lives forever altered by the sweeping effect of COVID-19, throwing into relief the profound impact of that global crisis.

Interestingly, in that evening of 1 October, he also read the poem “October 1”, which unravels the increasing complexities of nationality in Nigeria. Through vivid imagery and poignant lines, Akpah paints an intriguing picture right from the first stanza:

Whenever the rhythms of October 1

visited the streets and the rituals of change

of guards and 21-gun salutes struck my soul,

I asked, "Who gave birth to these sextuplets and cast

their umbilical cords to the sea cucumbers?

During the discussion that followed, the audience wore their hearts on their sleeves as they engaged with the poetry.

Olasupo Olabisi expressed admiration for the prosaic quality of the poems, emphasising how they provided an intimate window into the poet’s experiences and emotions. Bede Ehiogu lauded the power of the anthology and how it resonated deeply within the human soul, a sentiment echoed by several others, who found the imagery evocative and potent.

As the event concluded, Babatunde Oladele, the LRF Director, made complimentary remarks about the relevance of the poems, commending their ability to capture the sociocultural, economic and political realities of our times. He also exhorted the audience to invest in their thoughts through such literary engagements, saying that it was the most fruitful investment anyone could make.