For a very long time, Nigerian authors and writers have graced us with great literature. Some of the best-known books in Africa were written by Nigerians, both in the diaspora and at home. You will find books on every genre including poetry books.

Poetry books in Nigeria are both fascinating and powerful at the same time. They evoke so much emotion and even have a flair for the supernatural, especially where the Yoruba writing is concerned.

Award-winning poets and writers have penned down poetry books, poetry chapbooks, magazines, and anthologies, for us the dear readers to enjoy their journeys, lives, memoirs, and storytelling, which is mostly done in the context of the rich Nigerian and African culture.

Poets such as Niyi Osundare, Chinua Achebe and Tade Ipadeola are well known and respected poets whose poetry collections have challenged viewpoints, addressed political issues and made foreign readers see Nigeria and the African continent in a new light. Besides that, they have spoken about love, war, joy, happiness and simple everyday things in their poems.

Some of the best poetry books in Nigeria have won various Poetry Prizes over the years, and are widely celebrated in the country, they have garnered international recognition around the world and are distributed in every available bookshop in all parts of the country. As a bonus, the price to purchase these books is not much compared to their value. It’s hard to come across a bookshop that doesn’t have a copy of Chinua Achebe's Collected Poems. 

In this post, we will show you some of the best Nigerian poetry books, from the contemporary to the classical and the children’s poetry books.

Most authors of the best poetry books in Nigeria were award winning poets.
Some of the best poetry books were penned by award winning poets. Photo by Andrzej Rembowski from Pixabay

Best Contemporary Poetry Books In Nigeria

Contemporary poems are aligned with the present, they deliver diversity, and creativity with the use of the language and convey ideas and feelings in written verses that we can relate to in the present and modern sense.

Most poetry is usually archaic and centuries-old, it leaves one to wonder if there is any poem in this day and age. Well, thankfully there is, and here are some of the best contemporary poetry books in Nigeria.

Echoes Of The Sunbird

In this poetry book, some of the works of the top legends of poetry writing were put together to bring this collection to life. Echoes of The Sunbird has poems from the likes of Chinua Achebe, Niyi Osundare and about five others.

The poems in the collection are simple yet legendary and gratifying. Most of the poets have won The Commonwealth Poetry Prize and other poetry prizes from around the world.

The book was edited by Donald Burness and it consists of both the new and old poems from these authors, making it such a unique collection. A collection of literary giants like this is ought to be great for reading.

Clinical Blues, by Dami Ajayi

Dami Ajayi is one of the top contemporary writers in Nigeria, he is a medical practitioner in Nigeria, and his poems in this collection: Clinical Blues is a reflection of work in the hospital environment.

It is hard to imagine what goes on in the theatres of operation and behind the scenes in the hospital, the feelings of loss and hope that goes on in the minds of family members when they have a patient. Dami Ajayi captures it all and more.

The poetry book has an Anglo-American feeling about it. It talks about love, hope, everyday life of a medical practitioner and the hospital environment itself, it was not a topic many thought would make for an enjoyable afternoon reading, but this book turned out to be one of the most celebrated and talked about poetry books in Nigeria.

I know clinical sittings,

Where patients are restrained facedown,

Where ignorance and microorganisms, patiently whip men into coma,

And onlookers use peeping-tom microscopes,

To witness death’s hospitality.

– Dami Ajayi

Your Father Walks Like A Crab, by Tolu Akinyemi

This poetry book is quite different from the others, if you are looking for wit and humour, this is the poem collection for you. It says it is a poetry book for “people who hate poetry”, you can imagine the fondness that must have been infused into every verse in this collection.

The author stripped the poems in his book from conformity, and is against old and ancient poems. Your Father Walks Like a Crab is an attestation to non-conformity. He was aiming to get to ordinary people who don’t care much for deciphering classical poetry.

He is a popular spoken word artist in Nigeria and has many videos on YouTube, and he has a modest social media following where he posts some of his performances. Tolu's website is vibrant and full of witty content as it is in his nature to be so.

Sahara Testaments, by Tade Ipadeola

The Sahara Testaments won the Nigerian Poetry Prize for Literature in 2013, the award set up by NLNG every year. A prestigious prize worth $100,000. The author’s poems were written in a deep classical style, in this collection of poems he compares the African continent and Nigeria with the Sahara desert.

He twisted the meaning of the Sahara into some kind of living creature, with its problems and life, with its woes and cries, in short, it was a beautiful representation of what’s happening today in our fatherland and Africa.

This is the third book by the poet, who is the President of PEN Nigeria Centre and one of the most popular poets in the country. He believes poetry has a flow, it is a piece that needs to be connected little by little until it is complete, he says of this,

“Some things in life cannot be forced and poetry is one of them.”

Some Of The Best Classical Poetry Collections

Do you want to talk about poetry? Well, you can’t go five words into a poetry conversation without mentioning one of the greats, who are the creators of some of the best poems in history that we relish, and that shaped how most poetry is written today.

Classical poetry books are the best.
Classic poetry books are age old and the mother of all poetry. Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

From Shakespeare to Edgar Allan Poe to our very own Chinua Achebe, they all are masters of their craft and poetry would not have been the same without their poetry collections.

Collected Poems, by Chinua Achebe

It goes without saying almost everyone knows this giant of Africa, who is an indigene of the Igboland in Southeast Nigeria. Chinua Achebe was a writer and poet from the 1950s and he authored Things Fall Apart, his greatest masterpiece, which has been translated into over 50 languages and is widely read in schools.

After writing a number of novels, he settled for poetry writing during the Biafran war that took place here in Nigeria in the 1960s. Hence his poems are mostly consistent with pain caused, and he talked deeply about averting the conflict, evil corrupt leaders, and the idleness that led to the war in the first place. We need more voices like Chinua Achebe's in Nigeria and Africa.

The Essential Rumi, Rumi

Born Jalalul-din Al-Rumi, he is a well-known Muslim Persian poet from Afghanistan in the thirteenth century. His poems are often spiritual and mystic in nature, probably because of his Sufi upbringing, Sufism is a branch of Islam that is relentlessly mythical.

His collection of poems The Essential Rumi has about 80 poems altogether, and talks about love and generally just living life. His quotes are widely used in Instagram posts, you may have come across some yourself. Other classical poetry collections of his include; The Rumi Collection, Rumi Poetry, and The Soul Of Rumi. 

You can read more poems online, check out these poetry websites in Nigeria. 

Poetry Books For Children In Nigeria

Rhyming words are best appreciated by children, otherwise, you would be left wondering why all kid’s books have to rhyme. Because it’s fun, and what’s more fun is a children’s poetry book.

Some with dazzling colours and full-page illustrations, below are some of the best children poetry books in Nigeria and beyond.

Early Birds: Poems For Junior Secondary School, by Niyi Osundare

This book is a collection of children’s poetry by the great poet and writer Niyi Osundare, he likes writing children literature and has written quite a few of them.

This book is a series among 1 through 3 books, each containing a collection of poems that teach morals, talks on daily occurrences and is filled with riddles and wise sayings.

Baby Goes To Market, by Atinuke

Baby Goes To Market is a witty and somewhat creative way to introduce kids to numbers. It is the story of a baby and her mama who went to the market to buy some foodstuff but ended up getting more.

The book used fruits and other food items for counting, it educates kids on simple arithmetic. It is a well-illustrated book and it is rhythmic and joyful.

Oh The Places You Will Go, by Dr Seuss

Dr Seuss is one of the best children literature artists on this planet, perhaps best known for Cat In The Hat. The writer always writes children’s books and always, always writes them in rhyme.

The book was first published in the 1990s. It is motivational and very optimistic in its approach. Some of the verses from Oh The Places You Will Go portray that fact.

“You're off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So... get on your way!” – Dr Seuss.

Some of the best children's poetry books are illustrated.
Children poetry books are full of colours. Photo by IIONA VIRGIN on Unsplash

Poetry Books For Spoken Word Poetry In Nigeria

For some poets, it is not enough to read poetry, they have to read them out loud, and frankly, some poems are best read out loud to an audience. Spoken word poetry is a poetry performance where the speaker (poet) goes up a stage to recite a poem, either from the classics or a contemporary poem or an original piece.

Some poems are purposely written to be recited, the rhythm and rhyme are crafted to sound beautiful in speech. The poetry books listed below are an example of a collection of Spoken Word Poetry.

Collection Of Niyi Osundare Poems

Niyi Osundare, how many times do we have to mention him? By now you must be familiar with his name even if you have never heard of him before reading this post. Each of his poem is a delectable read, most of them are in a sing-song manner, perfect for poetry recitation in Nigeria, and they are written in both Yoruba and English.

His poetry books always allude to spoken words, even from their name, for instance, SONGS Of The Marketplace, SONGS Of The Season, and Village VOICES. 

For Broken Men Who Cross Often, by Efe Paul Azino

The author of this poetry anthology Efe Paul Azino is a big advocate of spoken word/performance poetry, thus his first poetry book For Men Who Cross Often was written with the intent to be performed as a spoken piece.

He believes in the oral art of poetry, and his life's works prove that he founded the Lagos International Poetry Festival (LIPFest), an event that attracts people from over 10 nationalities and features performances, panels, music, workshops, launches and exhibitions. Efe writes with a traditional style but on modern-day topics.

Nigerian poetry books are among the wonders of literature, the creativity that goes into writing them and the style and story leaves one at a loss for words.

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Hafiz is a freelance writer who has an appetite for creativity and smart tech. He also dabbles in poetry.