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Day writers drank from Eugenia Abu’s libation

The quintessential voice of Nigerian Television Authority news presenter, Eugenia Abu, resounded again, to the pleasure of the poetry and literary reading public as She in her remarkable and magnetic reading manner delivered lines of poetic renderings from her latest poetry collection, Don’t Look At Me Like That, at the January edition of Abuja Writers’ Forum (AWF) Guest Writer Session writes, Tunji Ajibade

Energetic and high-spirited, the fact that she was AWF’s Guest Writer on January 30, 2010 couldn’t have escaped the attention of anyone who walked into the venue as a first time attendee. Eugenia would easily have been picked out from the teeming crowd as she greeted guests and passed compliments at friends; who gathered at the Pen and Pages Bookstore, Abuja  venue of the event.

For the poet-journalist, Eugenia , every guest was special, and her kind words made all feel welcomed. And there is something about her attitude that imbues in her the metaphorical strength of a smoke that one can not prevent from escape.

Eugenia took note of the first three people who arrived long before the kickoff  time. They all got a reward which she announced even before the programme  began  -  a thing that made an attendee to jocularly accuse the guest writer of ‘partiality’ since according to him, ‘before 4 pm’ was not the opening time but ‘4 pm prompt’.

And the rewards were worthy as they came in beautifully branded bags similar to the back cover of her latest book, Don’t Look At Me Like That.

The atmosphere was charged with expectation even as  the venue was full of activities long before the kick off time. It was obvious that writers as well as lovers of literature who were present looked forward to a wonderful evening. Attendees were also on the edge of expectations as the Guest Writer mounted the ‘hot’ and the tallest seat in the hall.

When She started, She began by reading poems from Don’t Look at me Like That, which shared the same title with the first poem she read. This poem came across as if someone was saying, ‘I am not what you think that I am, so don’t look at me like that’, and its last verse tells as much: Don’t look at me like that/shifting seats when I sit beside you/it’s my ankle that hurts from illness/I was not born this way/show me love not scorn/Don’t look at me like that…’ She also read other poems such as Elmina Waves, The roads were thirsty today, The working mother and many more.

Earlier before the reading started, the Master of Ceremony at this first AWF reading for the year, Mike Ekunno, had invited Dr Emman Usman Shehu to entertain guests, when he began on a good note. Many expressed surprise at seeing the AWF President playing the role of an entertainer by thrilling the audience with lyrical tunes from his box guitar.

The performance was so nice that  indefatigable, evergreen and motherly Neonyeodiri Ukoha, an author and a management staff of NTA,could not hide from telling the excited audience that she knew Shehu.  The hall erupted in applause after the poet, editor, media guru and literary administrator did a Bob Dylan number, Bob Marley’s ‘No woman no cry’ as well as a couple of other numbers in the course of the event.

Like every other public figure, Eugenia’s presence was an opportunity to take her on several issues of national importance. Candid, down to earth  -  the mark of one with a balanced view of things – Eugenia took in her strides all the canons as they came, pointing out that ‘once an artist has his work out there, he must be ready for whatever people express about it.’

Interesting was a question as to why Eugenia’s first book, In the blink of an Eye (a collection of essays) as well as the second book, Don’t Look At Me Like That, have titles that have to do with ‘eye’ and ‘look’. “Some of the essays in the collection, In the blink of an Eye were written as far back as the 1980s, so when I was looking for a title that would string the collection together I chose, In the blink of an Eye. All the pieces, though they were written over the years, appeared to me like they happened in a blink of an eye,” the author explained.  And no one in the audience could disagree that the title does not achieve this purpose effectively.

As for Don’t Look At Me Like That, she said that some of the poems treat the matter of wrong perception. This ranges from issues such as HIV/AIDS, mis-perception of behavior of others and the rest. The author noted that what some commentators perceive or critique  as absence of a central focus or theme in Don’t Look At Me Like
That is actually its strong point because it makes it accessible to varied meanings and interpretations that  different readers will inevitably give to it. Such varied interpretation, she pointed out, is the beauty of any piece of art.


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