Letter to Patience (Seren) 2006  WINNER OF COSTA AWARD

    My Poetry  Books









First the Desert Came and then the Torturer (RAG Press, Zaria), 1986





You is a love poem but not of the traditional kind.   It deals with the coming together of two different kinds of love, out of two different cultures,  the speaker and the listener who are English and Nigerian respectively. The poet's and his wife's notion of who the 'you' is whom they love, is explored in several ways:  the narrative of the listener as the poet imagines it realising that the best empathy is in the end but imagination,  the background.  thoughts and religious ideas of the listener, as well as her overall view of love which owes little to the tradition of courtly love from which most ideas of love between men and women still go back.   The listener, on her side has to come to terms also with a different culture.  But 'you' in itself is a mysterious concept which underlines and perhaps undercuts all this, and part of the poem is an exploration of this philosophical dimension.   





This was written under the name of Idi Bukar and deals with the Nigeria  mainly in the 1980s from the point of view of this radical poet.  He responds to the Shagari government, military rule, and the position of the radical intellectual in the university, also with a mythical  revolutionary Guevaresqu figure, 'Dan Foco', who stands for a kind of hope for change in the country.  


Anthologies I've contributed to

The Committed Individual (Penguin,1971)
London Magazine Poems (Harvill,1985)
National Poetry Competition (1992)
Arvon Competition (2002, 2004)
Tying the Song (Enitharmon,2000)

The title means 'stranger's quarter' and is used of non-Hausa areas of Hausa cities.  Part Two of the book is here, and records my first responses to living first in Kano and then Zaria, the sharpness that, and the love relations that went with it. Part One in the Britain I left in 1970, but also deals with childhood.


Sabon Gari  (London Magazine editions) 1974

Letter to Patience is an imaginary letter from from a man who has recently returned from Nigeria to the owner of a small clay walled  township bar near the university where they both worked until she left because of political pressures from the military government, and he had to return to UK to look after an ailing father.

The letter is written through the course of a single night and in it the Letter Writer tries to deal both with his anxiety about Patience's safety in a time of unrest, and to sort out his own thoughts about his twenty years in Nigeria. 









Some Poems


My Other Books

About Poetry

On Letter to Patience

John Reading from Letter to Patience

Reviews of Letter to Patience

Film interview

Radio interviews

Work in Progress