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Featured Poetry: Old Friend, We Made This for You by Yannick Marshall and Yemi Aganga

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Featured Poetry: Old Friend, We Made This for You by Yannick Marshall and Yemi Aganga

Old Friend, We Made This for You by Toronto poet Yannick Marshall and Nigerian poet Yemi Aganga is a collaboration that celebrates the Afrikan experience and promotes pan-Africanism. The collection will officially launch at the Oakwood Village Library and Arts Centre on Thursday, October 11 at 7:00 p.m.

Old Friend, We Made This for You
by Yannick Marshall & Yemi Agana
Kellom Books, 2007
80 pages
$21.95
Old Friend is both a plea and a gift from two black youths to Africans of the continent and the Diaspora. It crosses oceans and continents from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, and Zimbabwe to Haiti, Grenada, St. Lucia, Nova Scotia, and Toronto.

Its themes are just as wide-ranging—Black love, African landscape, mysticism, AIDS, development, folktales, politics, violence, natural disasters, discrimination, drugs, family, religion, slave revolts, suffering, and beauty.

As Marshall says, “Through these poems and essays we offer our views, ideas, questions, and art first and foremost to our people, our ‘old friends.’ Old Friend, We Made This for You is our contribution as two, young, black, ready poets to the discourse on Africa and Africa’s redemption.”

In his introduction, celebrated poet George Elliott Clarke (Illuminated Verses, Kellom Books) proclaims the volume “the most remarkable Canadian poetry debut of the 21st century…. Marshall, with the redoubtable assistance of Nigerian writer Olayemi Aganga, delivers the polar goods: the red of tuberculosis patients’ blood, the ebony nights of ivory stars and copper skin, the shouts and moans of witness …the explosive music of nightclub, shebeen, church, and disco, plus poetry that is dynamic, breathtaking, soul-shaking, and unabashedly brilliant. Yessum, these poets ‘bring da noise.’”

Yannick Marshall, born in Canada to parents of St. Lucian and Jamaican origin, has a firm understanding of the Caribbean immigrant experience and what it means to be black and a descendant of slaves in North America. His poetry reflects the slave and post-slavery experience and the slave’s mystic romanticization of the continent. Marshall holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Toronto.

Olayemi Aganga, who was born in Nigeria and has lived most of his life in Botswana, has a unique understanding of the issues facing the continent. Living in Sub-Saharan Africa, he has witnessed the region’s plight with AIDS, violence, and poverty, and has first-hand experience of being an expatriate Nigerian in Southern Africa. As such, his poems are well rooted in the politics, culture, and urban experience on the continent.

The two poets met in secondary school in Botswana when they were in their teens. Shortly after sharing poems and ideas they began working on a project that reflected a Pan-African vision from both the African and African Diaspora’s perspective. That project evolved into the poetry collection Old Friend We Made This for You.

Their two perspectives blend together beautifully through moments of intense political lyricism and deep and often mournful mediations. The intermingling becomes in itself a symbol of African solidarity and redemption.

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