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This week: Our online book club with Nii Ayikwei Parkes for The Geez

Date: Friday 20 May 2022
Time: 5-7pm BST, 1-3pm AST, 12-2pm EST
Price: Free
Book online

Nii Ayikwei Parkes is the special guest at the next meet-up for our online book club. We will be focusing on his latest poetry collection, The Geez (pronounced 'gaze').

The Geez is a core-shifting collection. Each section is an electric shock to the senses. Nii is writer of precision, of ritualistic delicacy, his words are a symphony and every note in this masterpiece is a masterpiece in itself. How lucky is the reader to be taken on a journey through the self, where they are shown the real in the imagined and the imagined in the real. Each poem is a shovelling through the soil of one’s perception, the richness, the grit, the depth. This brilliant collection is the sum of breathing, of loving, loathing, thinking, believing, grieving, thirsting, reaching and reaching.” Caleb Femi

About Nii Ayikwei Parkes

Nii is a Ghanaian-British writer and editor who has won acclaim as a children's author, poet, broadcaster and novelist. Winner of multiple international awards including the ACRAG award, his novel Tail of the Blue Bird won France's two major prizes for translated fiction – Prix Baudelaire and Prix Laure Bataillon – in 2014. Nii is the founder of flipped eye publishing, a leading small press; serves on the boards of World Literature Today and the AKO Caine Prize; and was chair of judges for the 2020 Commonwealth Prize. Currently Producer of Literature and Talks at Brighton Festival, he is the author of two collections of poetry The Makings of You (2010) and The Geez (2020), both published by Peepal Tree Press. He also edited our Inscribe anthology, Filigree: Contemporary Black British Poetry (2018)

Nii has performed on major stages across the world, including at The Royal Festival Hall and at a reading for the London Mayor’s vigil on July 14, 2005 (in response to the London bombings). He is the author of the poetry chapbooks: eyes of a boy, lips of a man (1999); M is for Madrigal (2004), a selection of seven jazz poems; and Ballast (2009), an imagination of the slave trade by balloon. His poem 'Tin Roof' was selected for the Poems on the Underground initiative in 2007 and his novel, Tail of the Blue Bird (Jonathan Cape, 2009) has been hailed by the Financial Times as 'a beautifully written fable... simple in form, but grappling with urgent issues.'

Nii is the Senior Editor at flipped eye publishing, a contributing editor to The Liberal, a former poet in residence at The Poetry Café, a 2005 associate writer in residence on BBC Radio 3, and has held visiting positions at the University of Southampton and California State University.

As a socio-cultural commentator and advocate for African writing, Nii has led forums internationally, has sat on discussion panels for BBC Radio with literary heavyweights such as Booker winners Margaret Atwood and A.S. Byatt, and he runs the African Writers’ Evening series at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden. In 2007 he was awarded Ghana’s National ACRAG award for poetry and literary advocacy.

About The Geez

The Geez, longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Award 2020, is a stunning new collection, featuring poems which embrace play, love and the ephemeral such as water bodies, blood/heritage, history and gossip; and a healthy dose of music and popular culture. Concerned with the phase of life sometimes referred to as the midlife crisis, The Geez navigates the blurred lines between age and youth; the real and the imagined; what is seen and what is -- what catches the gaze and what lies beneath.

Conceived in four sections, the collection moves from play, to love, to gossip and -- finally -- to explorations of the intersections of self and contemporary culture, including a segment inspired by blues legends, riffing on the myth of the crossroads, as well as an eleven-part love letter to the African diaspora -- specifically African-Americans, whose sacrifices have contributed to the still-suppressed freedoms of Black folk globally. A number of the poems in The Geez are written in a form called the Gimbal, which was developed by Nii -- initially to work through his enduring grief at the loss of his father. It is now a form that has evolved to mine emotion within a guiding format that, for him, evokes the workings of a gyroscope -- spinning but stable -- a state that echoes the liminality that anchors this collection.

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