Hands Washing Water

Copper Canyon Press
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“Chris Abani’s poetry resonates with a devastating beauty which cuts through to the heart of human strength.”—Pride


Hands Washing Water is Chris Abani's fourth poetry collection—a mischievous book of displacement, exile, ancestry, and subversive humor. The central section, “Buffalo Women,” is a Civil War correspondence between lovers that plays on our assumptions about war, gender, morality, and politics.


Sweetest Henri,
I know we promised to be honest,
one to the other, but your recent missive,
though welcome as any epistle from you,
filled me with a dread that clung
like dampness to wet wood. I am terrified
for your immortal soul, dear sweet Henri.
This mad war of Lincoln is infecting you
with a sickness too depraved to even address. . .

Abani’s writing is ruthless, at times traumatic, and consistently filled with surprising twists and turns.

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About the author

Chris Abani was born in Nigeria in 1966 and published his first novel at sixteen. He has been imprisoned, tortured, and sentenced to death for his literary activities. After fleeing Nigeria he continued to write, and is the author of ten books of poetry and fiction. He teaches at UC Riverside.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Copper Canyon Press
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Published on
Dec 18, 2012
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Pages
90
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ISBN
9781619320703
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Language
English
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Genres
Poetry / Caribbean & Latin American
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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This powerful collection of poems details the harrowing experiences endured by Abani and other political prisoners at the hands of Nigeria's military regime in the late 1980s. Abani vividly describes the characters that peopled this dark world, from prison inmates such as John James, tortured to death at the age of fourteen, to the general overseers. First published after his release from jail in 1991, Kalakuta Republic remains a paean to those who suffered and to the indomitable human spirit. 'Reading Abani's poems is like being singed by a red hot iron.' Harold Pinter 'Abani's poetry resonates with a devastating beauty which cuts to the heart of human strength, survival and tyranny.' Pride Magazine 'Stunning poems ... Abani conveys the experience in words shaped into art and made unforgettable by their quietness.' New Humanist 'A beautiful work of art ... elevates art and humanity above meanness and inhumanity.' World Literature Today 'A brave and challenging book ... I was moved as much by what the poems have achieved as by what they have rescued from that nightmare world. Reading, I found myself in tears.' Sunday Tribune 'An unheralded chunk of authentic literature' New Statesman 'Abani's ...poems contain moments of grace, humanity and humor.' Susannah Tarbush, Diwaniya 'Chris has emerged with poems that are graceful pieces of art, almost ready to be hung in a gallery for others to come and enter them and rest in them and weep in them and admire them.' Kwame Dawes, professor of English literature, University of Columbia, South Carolina, USA
"In the introduction to this excellent anthology, Abani welcomes readers to Lagos, Nigeria, a city of more than 21 million and an amazing amalgam of wealth, poverty, corruption, humor, bravery, and tragedy. Abani and a dozen other contributors tell stories that are both unique to Lagos and universal in their humanity...This entry stands as one of the strongest recent additions to Akashic's popular noir series."
--Publishers Weekly, Starred review, pick of the week for June 4

"Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria, with a population of 21 million, has, like many coastal cities, a 'very checkered and noir past,' writes novelist Chris Abani in his introduction to this anthology."
--BBC Culture

"The beauty of this book, which contains 13 stories from Nigerian writers, is that it serves as a travelogue, too."
--Bloomberg, included in "The Darkest Summer Reading List for Those Bright, Beachy Days"

"Through his prolific and varied writings, Nigerian-born Chris Abani has shared stories that open one's knowledge of the region beyond its colonial past. The recent release of Lagos Noir highlights West African authors as meticulously edited by Abani, one of the country's best-known authors."
--Philadelphia Tribune

"This volume is a must, as it introduces new writers of considerable talent and new works by writers you may have read and enjoyed previously...If you just like good stories about ordinary people with an extraordinary twist, this collection should not be missed."
--New York Journal of Books

"The African megalopolis of Lagos, Nigeria, makes a perfect setting for mystery stories with a noir bent...With its breadth of contributors, this latest volume in the publisher's city noir series will satisfy both the fan of contemporary African fiction and the newcomer interested in discovering some new voices."
--Library Journal

Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city. Now, West Africa enters the Noir Series arena, meticulously edited by one of Nigeria's best-known authors.

Brand-new stories by: Chris Abani, Nnedi Okorafor, E.C. Osondu, Jude Dibia, Chika Unigwe, A. Igoni Barrett, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Adebola Rayo, Onyinye Ihezukwu, Uche Okonkwo, Wale Lawal, 'Pemi Aguda, and Leye Adenle.

From the introduction by Chris Abani:

Lagos has, like many coastal cities, a very checkered and noir past. It is the largest city in Nigeria and its former capital. It is also the largest megacity on the African continent, with a population approximating twenty-one million, and by itself is the fourth-largest economy in Africa...It is rumored that there are more canals in Lagos than in Venice. Except in Lagos they are often unintentional. Gutters that have become waterways and lagoons fenced in by stilt homes or full of logs for a timber industry most of us don't know exists. All of it skated by canoes as slick as any dragonfly. There are currently no moonlight or other gondola rides available...

The thirteen stories that comprise this volume stretch the boundaries of "noir" fiction, but each one of them fully captures the essence of noir, the unsettled darkness that continues to lurk in the city's streets, alleys, and waterways...Together, these stories create an unchartered path through the center of Lagos and out to its peripheries, revealing so much more truth at the heart of this tremendous city than any guidebook, TV show, film, or book you are likely to find.

This powerful collection of poems details the harrowing experiences endured by Abani and other political prisoners at the hands of Nigeria's military regime in the late 1980s. Abani vividly describes the characters that peopled this dark world, from prison inmates such as John James, tortured to death at the age of fourteen, to the general overseers. First published after his release from jail in 1991, Kalakuta Republic remains a paean to those who suffered and to the indomitable human spirit. 'Reading Abani's poems is like being singed by a red hot iron.' Harold Pinter 'Abani's poetry resonates with a devastating beauty which cuts to the heart of human strength, survival and tyranny.' Pride Magazine 'Stunning poems ... Abani conveys the experience in words shaped into art and made unforgettable by their quietness.' New Humanist 'A beautiful work of art ... elevates art and humanity above meanness and inhumanity.' World Literature Today 'A brave and challenging book ... I was moved as much by what the poems have achieved as by what they have rescued from that nightmare world. Reading, I found myself in tears.' Sunday Tribune 'An unheralded chunk of authentic literature' New Statesman 'Abani's ...poems contain moments of grace, humanity and humor.' Susannah Tarbush, Diwaniya 'Chris has emerged with poems that are graceful pieces of art, almost ready to be hung in a gallery for others to come and enter them and rest in them and weep in them and admire them.' Kwame Dawes, professor of English literature, University of Columbia, South Carolina, USA
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