Origins of the Syma Species
by Tares Oburumu
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Pub Date 01 Mar 2024 | Archive Date 29 Feb 2024
Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Tares Oburumu’s collection is a brief history of where he came from: Syma, a neglected oil-producing region of Nigeria. After growing up with a single mother in the creek- and brook-marked region, and himself now a single parent, Oburumu examines single parenthood and how love defines family circles. Mixing music, religion, and political critique, Origins of the Syma Species evokes pasts and futures.
Inspired by the relative chaos found in the origin of things, Oburumu’s poems explore how the beauty of chaos binds us to our ancestral roots. In his poems Oburumu identifies with anyone who is a single parent or is dealing with the lonely trauma of a broken home. His poems instill hopefulness in a world that has the means to throw many into poverty and agony.
“Origins of the Syma Species is a supple devotional to the divinity that is movement; Tares Oburumu’s dazzling poetry travels through the fantastic, the extraterritorial, the corporeal, and the spiritual to declare, ‘This life is not mine, it is my mother’s & I am God’s lifeboat.’ Oburumu’s lines brim with restlessness and abundance, limned rich in dust, in pixel, the granular zoomed into like an airport or sudden dream before becoming panoramic—intimacies pointillize among flashes of the war-torn global. Oburumu’s swooping and sweeping aerial views take in continents at a glance even as he holds close the names of his beloved, minding them as they weave through tableaux of ‘national blood’ and empty houses. Origins of the Syma Species is a monumental work, determined to ‘write us / out of shipwreck’ poem after bravura poem.”—Douglas Kearney, author of Sho and Optic Subwoof
“In his poem ‘The Origin,’ Tares Oburumu’s capacity for the arresting line is starkly demonstrated: ‘At the end of my happiness is a house without doors.’ There is something quite memorable about this locution, and it is rich with feeling and clever with its own wit and sophistication. Of course, it helps that it makes sense in the way that the best poetic lines should—in layers and layers of meaning that are enlivened and complicated by what a reader might bring to the idea.”—from the foreword by Kwame Dawes
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 3 members
The African Poetry Book Series consistently puts out great collection after great collection. I went into this with high hopes because I’ve really enjoyed the other collections put out by this publication and I was still so pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed these poems! The first section is particularly striking but I really enjoyed all of the poems in this. Great collection!
It’s been awhile since I’ve felt the urge to read poetry. I will admit, I have been a bit jaded from my previous poetry reads so I decided to take a bit of a break.
A couple pages after reading Oburumu’s work and I was instantly reminded why I loved reading poetry so much. Oburumu is masterful in his craft; his talent transcends borders. I would best describe this collection as ethereal yet grounded and earthly. Needless to stay, I finished this collection feeling inspired.
This is a lovely collection. It's a bit more dense than a lot of the poetry I've been reading lately, and as usual, the introduction is somewhat excruciating (I wish publications would put these notes at the back of the chapbook, just in general... why are we being told how to analyze poetry we haven't had a chance to enjoy yet?). The intro did serve as a reminder that I am absolutely, 100% missing some of the poetry's depth and imagery included in these poems.
Which, honestly, was fine, because Oburumu's work is beautiful. The line structure is often quite interesting, and there are words that are unexpectedly added in (or left out) that significantly change the meaning of the line in ways that bear rereading. In other words, if you're skimming and your brain fills in the blanks, you *will* miss what the line really says. If I were still reading poetry as an academic, I'm sure that this is the kind of work where I could pick each line apart and find multiple layers of meaning within.
Mostly, though, it's just beautiful. I found myself reading certain lines aloud, or rereading stanzas a couple of times in a row. The prose-poems in particular are breathtaking.
I read this book as an ARC through NetGalley, and I can see why this debut collection won the Sillerman prize. I'd love to read more of Oburumu's work in the future.