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Rachael Ige has won the May 2017 edition of the monthly Words Rhymes & Rhythm backed BRIGITTE POIRSON POETRY CONTEST (BPPC) themed ‘THE 21ST CENTURY WOMAN’.

Ige, a budding poet and recent University of Ibadan Law graduate, won the contest with a uniquely crafted poem which the judges described as “a renewed vision of the traditional nonsense verse in which Jack was the hero and Jill appeared as a mere foil.” The poem, entitled Jack and Jill, beat ‘LET ME LIVE MY DREAMS’ by Ogwiji Ehi-kowochio Blessing and ‘JUST A METAPHOR’ by Chidinma Osigwe to first and second runner-up positions respectively.

Ige, who also ventures into flash fiction, has not been published a book of her own yet but has a lot of poems to her credit, some of which have been featured in anthologies such as “Epistle of Lies” and “Uites Write”. Her writings reflect her philosophy of artistic but simple use of words to communicate a message.  

Below are the top 10 poems:

  1. JACK AND JILL (revised 21st edition) by Ige Rachel
  2. LET ME LIVE MY DREAMS by Ogwiji Ehi-kowochio Blessing
  3. JUST A METAPHOR by Chidinma Osigwe
  4. THE 21ST CENTURY WOMAN by Onabajo Christiana Odunayo
  5. THE UNHEARD by Patrick Nwamaka Ophelia
  6. LEARNING FEMALENESS by Hannah Onoguwe
  7. APART FROM THE TEMPLATE by Ruth Mahogany
  8. I HAD SO MANY DREAMS by Opeodu Pascaline
  9. THE 21ST CENTURY WOMAN by Ojeniyi Oluwafunmilayo Comfort
  10. FEMINISM by Dambani Deborah Tambari

JACK AND JILL (revised 21st edition) by Ige Rachel
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of greatness
Jack came down and Jill stayed up
To rule the world with finesse

They broke the bank for Jack to school
While Time’s for Jill to kill
To toil in the kit-of-Chen, and wash in the toil-of-Et
Jill’s face must never see the sun
since Jack and it are one

They said “mate, mate, mate!”
Till the ma’am births a macho mister
And said “shhh, shhh, shhh woman! ”
Let your wailing wane to a whisper
It’s a man’s world, you are merely a caretaker.

As time progressed and centuries went
Jill’s troubles grew and grew
She then rebelled and grabbed the horn
The feline mist was born

Tis’ centuries now of the twentieth first
And Jill conquers with zest
She builds her Home and empires too
And wears the white collar well

So Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of greatness
Jack came down and Jill stayed up
To rule the world with finesse.

LET ME LIVE MY DREAMS by Ogwiji Ehi-kowochio Blessing
Yesterday, young Nwakaego left her hut
as green grasses bathed in the morning dew
and the birds’ beaks emitted notes of glee
She had in her hands a cutlass of defense and an atlas of courage
to guide her sojourn to the land where dreams come true

She travelled until sunset and steep darkness came along
when women had to walk like frightened kittens
just not to threaten cowardly men with the footsteps of their success
She tiptoed, begging the dry leaves to grant her plea,
and refrain from screaming as she stepped on them

But just when she thought she had maneuvered her way through
the thickness of friendly thorns and thistles
her ear was greeted with male voices accompanied with bitter whistles
and no longer could she pace on, as her cold feet froze
For she was familiar with that hum of cruelty;
a medley of desire and defeat which makes men stretch penile claws
to tear hymens for early dinner and chew wombs for dessert,
feeding the voracious appetite of their lean, lanky libidos and egos

That sour night, they snatched Nwakaego’s cutlass yet she fought hard,
but her punch was like puff-puffs hitting their coarse male skin
they killed her, buried her dreams six feet beneath that heap of darkness
because she’s just a woman, they said,
What good is she beyond the earthly heaven in between her thighs
and those milk jugs hanging and dangling happily from her chest?

I know about Nwakaego and all that befell her that opaque night
And I am here to ask such men to let me live my dreams
For I am not just a woman, I am also human

JUST A METAPHOR by Chidinma Osigwe
We called her out of darkness into 21st century light

Gave her contact lenses for foresight
Changed her face beat from “bata” to high life
Reshaped her lips from circle to oval when she talks
Poisoned her mind from being robust to slim chick
Changed her hair style to the heir’s style

There’s a reservation for you in the sky
Your kind was strong enough to move a car in Africa
You are crafted for the world… Explore!

We have smashed our perspective of female patriarchy
We have recycled and crafted her for a positive social change
When this change is only a seamless probability in Africa
90% of our women suffer from illiteracy to the sickness of the other room

You give us hope without a rope
You expose us to the world and crush our homes
We are forced to suit up our cultural ideologies and be a befitting 21st century born again
When our husband and family perching eyes wants us to born again

It’s silly when they tell us we are Kings
We know we can only be Queens
Our biological clock murders our dreams under the canopy of matrimony
At least, we are fortunate to birth kings
In Africa, a 21st century woman only exists in our ideologies
It’s just a metaphor!

THE 21ST CENTURY WOMAN by Onabajo Christiana Odunayo
Jet damsel,manifold creator of
Light darkness unfathomable
Rare species in logic
The 21st century woman

Togetherness is her aim
Oneness is her joy
Kindreds of greatness
Undying love-sorrow
For her family
The 21st century woman

No colour or race division
She is beautiful in nature
Stunning of all creations
The 21st century woman

She rules with power
Unsolicited welcome
Crowned with royalty
Clothed in majestic
The 21st century woman

THE UNHEARD by Patrick Nwamaka Ophelia
Yes we broke loose from the shackles, these chains we wore like amber bangles.
Beautiful twisty things adorning our shrunken wrists and ankles; locking us to a space, a place- unheard.
The much celebrated workhorse bought with a price; flowers on flowing mane
And gold plaited whips clinging to promises made at the altar, led with mirth to the workhouse with a bridled mouth;
White lace fluttering in the wind. Can we really break loose?

Mother once told me… Wear him like a gold manacle;
Wrap him up in sweet scented peace, fluttering eyelashes and hot plate of ofe olugbu and akpu.
Keep mute when the brute erupts like a forgotten volcano suddenly presented with sacrifices.
He is your god. Worship at his footstool, Keep your head bowed.
Never look him in the eye and call him ‘my lord’.
Innocent me, I learned well; Eddie Murphy’s Princess barking and wallowing in the mud at his behest.
My god spoke, the earth shook and lava poured. I was the blind, the deaf, the dumb, unheard.
Taught lessons learned at the now dormant firewood glow of father’s faded eruptions.

I want a voice, mother. Can you lend me yours?
So I can whisper ‘Free’ in between quiet pages, folded at the tips, to remind me of bravery, of daring.
A life is what I desire so I can creep towards the light,
Taste the sea on my tongue and dig my toes into the receding surf and warm sand.
The unheard have I remained for too long, hidden underneath the heat of your loins,
Lost in the fumes of kitchen smoke, wrapped within laundry, starch and ironing tables.
I am worn out, my body dying quietly, watching the clock tick-tock my dreams into the embers of faded wishes;
Watching the lights dim and that flowery mane crinkle and crackle and cackle; over-extended, permed, dyed and grey.
Watching from the window while he chased after the unworn body,
Their firm bosoms mocking the lassitude of my relaxed mammary.

Get this shackles far from me so I can find life in my solitude;
Trek this terra firma, be it on wobbly feet; Find myself I must, be it just a fragment of me.
I have preached my emancipation from the reign of our iron-fisted gods but can we really break loose?

We wore our youth on lips varnished
with strawberry lip gloss dripping warm and sticky
onto English notebooks collaged with famous faces—
Madonna and Eddie Murphy and Boys II Men.
Breasts in snug bras impatient to fill the vast spaces
between budding and bloomed.

Creases ironed into uniforms reeking of borrowed musk,
our modulated walks were the anthem
we sang to young patriots with divided loyalties,
plaits a pledge to dialects of femininity learned
on our mothers’ oiled, Sulphur-8-ted palms.

Laughs free and unfettered, hastily doused with
admonitions about how ‘ladies’ should behave in public
our bellies were the soft soil of future children
but first they were the training grounds for overeager boys
who visited those plains hesitantly, and then cursorily
ploughing uneven grooves,
raising dust…

and yet we would still long to present unpierced pearls
to nameless, faceless husbands on platters of patriarchy.

We were oranges. Tangy tough on the outside,
slumbery sweet sections revealed to those with patience,
the yellow of our tentative dreams floated like fumes in the dusk of awareness.
In later years we learn that good things don’t necessarily
come to those who wait
and the voice between her ears is the only difference
between a ‘slut’ and a saint.

A parent, a spouse, a keeper of the house,
Depart from this template and criticism is aroused.
Could her dreams be voiced?
Could they be said aloud?
What makes her choice insolent?
Or her audacity, unallowed?

Of tender hearts and sweetness, and compassion of females,
Take benignity for weakness? It’s a pity, your leads fail!
In the century of a score and one,
Games turn, tough ones are born.
They gird themselves with confidence;
And prove that gender never limits competence.
Gravid with offspring, with possibilities;
Groom families yet birth trends in industries.
The single, one time insecure, one time prone,
Now strong, fends for her begotten, fends for her own.
While societal expectations cry out, demanding to be met,
Many succumb, a few others owe no one a debt.
For some, the heat cannot be borne- they exit the kitchen,
Ending it all, loved ones are left grief-stricken.

Well, apart from the template, there’s more to be,
Apart from it, there’s greatness; there’s more to see.
For great strategies, great counsel,
Often come, embedded in damsels.
Tell him, there’s more to her than warmth in bed,
‘There’s wisdom in women’- This, Rupert Brooke once said.

I HAD SO MANY DREAMS by Opeodu Pascaline
I had so many dreams
Of how to erase the lines of poverty from my village pages
Of how to lessen the fatal cries of infant and their helpless mothers
Of how to reduce the strokes of the pangs of hunger on my people.

All my dreams ended when I turned fourteen
Father and the other elders said I was now a woman
I had begun to entertain my monthly visitor
The two pointy fleshes on my chest could satisfy a heir, oh, the king to be
So they thought,
I wept bitterly.
Mother said marriage was the greatest achievement a woman could have. It was painful.
First the native doctor had to lose the rope
The rope my father put there to save my maiden innocence

Immediately after my circumcision.
I thought my husband would let the fresh wound heal
But no, he didn’t
He took me like that
Amidst the pain
The pool of blood
It was a strenuous exercise
The pain of the wound and the breakage of my feminine core
Made me scream so loudly throughout

I know he must have thought himself a very powerful man
Because the next day I overheard the other men congratulating him
What a shame he cannot hear my thoughts

Wish I could tell him how his man pride was as tiny as my pinky
All these I wish I could tell him.

THE 21ST CENTURY WOMAN by Ojeniyi Oluwafunmilayo Comfort
Unequal and inferior they were,
Miserable and damaged,
Capped with curbs,
They dared not raise their heads.

Stymied by brown ropes,
Attempts of speaking freely failed
Imposed with a great burden,
Ignoring every opportunity for freedom.

Her entire life in the home front,
Catered for her husband and children, no hopes of living a life of her own,
A naif to life itself.

Evolved a much different woman,
After many decades in history,
She breaks free from old boundaries,
Her former lulled to a deep sleep.

More educated and well informed,
Her opinions changing the world,
Ceilings of restriction lifted.

Gone are the days when it all began,
When she would take cover and run,
For the concept of being a nonentity.

Today she is a fascination,
Parading in glorious glee,
She has risen from behind,
She is the 21st century woman.

FEMINISM by Dambani Deborah Tambari
Who made the lock and key?, we did.
A world, where she became the lock,
and never the key, never to be
an answer to a deepest plea.

When did she become a piece of metal with a groove?,
to look a certain way, and act, perfect, lustrous,
waiting on her mother’s porch in front of the door,
till you walk in from seeing the world that she was hid from.

When did she become in need of a perfect fit?,
like she couldn’t be her own answer,
till there was a perfect he, a key,
to open her door, so she could be fulfilled,
as though her destiny was confined
behind that door, no!.

She never truly needed a key,
Although, Yes!, her mould made her vulnerable,
to be safe, she had to let you fit,
but before you go clanging and jingling
with your fellow keys of how needful she was,
remember, twisting; turning; conniving;
Lying; and cheating, only opens the first two latches,
her heart and her emotions, but the door,
only her inlock does the trick,
self control, self worth, and self love,
gives her a full view of her destiny, not you!

Ige is officially the first female poet to win the BPPC in its two-and-a-half year history. She takes over the BPPC crown from April 2017 winner, Kolawole Samuel Adebayo, an Agricultural Extension and Communication Technology student at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State. She will also take home the top prize of N7000 cash, a certificate, and books.

All  Each poet in the TOP 10 will receive a certificate and free copies of the anthology at the Words Rhymes & Rhythm Literary Festival 2017. Their poems will be automatically entered for the ALBERT JUNGERS POETRY PRIZE (AJPP) 2017 and published in the BPPC 2017 anthology.

“The winner of the May contest has composed a skillful pastiche of the ancient Jill and Jack nursery rhyme. She has offered a renewed vision of the traditional nonsense verse in which Jack was the hero and Jill appeared as a mere foil. Ige Rachel managed to make sense out of this topsy-turvy world, gaining credibility from the irony created by the discrepancy between the nonsensical, well-known lines and her own clear-sighted version of the story.
All the contestants have proved up to the challenge and deserve a warm ovation.”
– Brigitte Poirson

The Brigitte Poirson Poetry Contest, a brainchild of Words Rhymes & Rhythm (WRR), is a monthly writing contest aimed at rewarding the under-appreciated talent of young Nigerian poets. It was instituted in February 2015 in honor of Brigitte Poirson, a French poet and lecturer, editor, who has over the years worked assiduously to promote and support of African poetry. Now in its third season, and being one of the few credible contests for poets, the BPPC has since grown to be one of country’s most popular, especially among the younger poets.

NOTE: Submissions are being received for the June 2017 edition


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