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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Chris Abani
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
Chris Abani
Chris Abani
"Not since Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird or Agota Kristof’s Notebook Trilogy has there been such a harrowing novel about what it’s like to be a young person in a war. That Chris Abani is able to find humanity, mercy, and even, yes, forgiveness, amid such devastation is something of a miracle.”—Rebecca Brown, author of The End of Youth

"The moment you enter these pages, you step into a beautiful and terrifying dream. You are in the hands of a master, a literary shaman. Abani casts his spell so completely—so devastatingly—you emerge cleansed, redeemed, and utterly haunted."—Brad Kessler, author of Birds in Fall

Part Inferno, part Paradise Lost, and part Sunjiata epic, Song for Night is the story of a West African boy soldier’s lyrical, terrifying, yet beautiful journey through the nightmare landscape of a brutal war in search of his lost platoon. The reader is led by the voiceless protagonist who, as part of a land mine-clearing platoon, had his vocal chords cut, a move to keep these children from screaming when blown up, and thereby distracting the other minesweepers. The book is written in a ghostly voice, with each chapter headed by a line of the unique sign language these children invented. This book is unlike anything else ever written about an African war.

Chris Abani is a Nigerian poet and novelist and the author of The Virgin of Flames, Becoming Abigail (a New York Times Editor’s Choice), and GraceLand (a selection of the Today Show Book Club and winner of the 2005 PEN/Hemingway Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award). His other prizes include a PEN Freedom to Write Award, a Prince Claus Award, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. He lives and teaches in California.
Chris Abani

In The Face: Cartography of the Void, acclaimed poet, novelist, and screenwriter Chris Abani has given us a brief memoir that is, in the best tradition of the genre, also an exploration of the very nature of identity. Abani meditates on his own face, beginning with his early childhood that was immersed in the Igbo culture of West Africa. The Face is a lush work of art that teems with original and profound insights into the role of race, culture, and language in fashioning our sense of self. Abani’s writing is poetic, filled with stories, jokes, and reflections that draw readers into his fold; he invites them to explore their own “faces” and the experiences that have shaped them.

As Abani so lovingly puts it, this extended essay contemplates “all the people who have touched my face, slapped it, punched it, kissed it, washed it, shaved it. All of that human contact must leave some trace, some of the need and anger that motivated that touch. This face is softened by it all. Made supple by all the wonder it has beheld, all the kindness, all the generosity of life.” The Face is a gift to be read, re-read, shared, and treasured, from an author at the height of his artistic powers. Abani directs his gaze both inward and out toward the world around him, creating a self-portrait in which readers will also see their own faces reflected.

Abani’s essay is part of a groundbreaking new series from Restless Books called The Face, in which a diverse group of writers takes readers on a guided tour of that most intimate terrain: their own faces. Visit www.restlessbooks.com/the-face-series for more information.

Chris Abani is a novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter, and playwright. Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and English mother, he grew up in Afikpo, Nigeria, and has resided in the United States since 2001. His fiction includes The Secret History of Las Vegas, Song For Night, The Virgin of Flames, Becoming Abigail, GraceLand, and Masters of the Board. His poetry collections are Sanctificum, There Are No Names for Red, Feed Me The Sun - Collected Long Poems, Hands Washing Water, Dog Woman, Daphne’s Lot, and Kalakuta Republic.
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