Personal, primordial, and pulsing with syncopated language, Tolu Oloruntoba’s poetic debut, The Junta of Happenstance, is a compendium of dis-ease. This includes disease in the traditional sense, as informed by the poet’s time as a physician, and dis-ease as a primer for family dysfunction, the (im)migrant experience, and urban / corporate anxiety. In the face of struggles against social injustice, Oloruntoba navigates the contemporary moment with empathy and intelligence, finding beauty in chaos, and strength in suffering. The Junta of Happenstance is an important and assured debut.
Publication details: Spring 2021, Palimpsest Press (Anstruther Books)
Order link: https://palimpsestpress.ca/books/the-junta-of-happenstance/
Praise for The Junta of Happenstance:
“Tolu Oloruntoba’s The Junta of Happenstance left me dazzled to the point of squinting. In every poem, some piece of gorgeous, quotable language glittered in my eye: “Wake up. It’s the crescendo. // Here comes your / redaction from the world.” The collection is neither burdened, victimized, nor apologetic about race. It does not put on race as a pair of glasses. Race is more like an eyeball. It remains a simple fact, even though, as he writes, “my mind has bent the facts, I know. / The facts have bent my mind.” One gets the sense that Oloruntoba is the alluring stranger, scribbling into a steno, “submerged into words on the bus,” seemingly absorbed in his world but really taking note of us.”
– Ian Williams, author of Word Problems, and Reproduction, winner of the Giller Prize
“Amidst a rich, dense, and yet judicious poetic that covers much ground – mental illness, family strife, medical training, and immigration – Tolu Oloruntoba assumes a preternaturally confident voice, maintaining that “We were a conflagration asking / to be incarnated into the world.” Outfitted sonically and formally to render interpersonal conflict, his work warns those who wield colonialisms, “Don’t aim your will at me / if you will not shoot.” The Junta of Happenstance commands our attention, pointing at the stuff of life, love, and death, the human project entire.”
– Shane Neilson, author of Constructive Negativity: Prize Culture, Evaluations, and Disability in Canadian Poetry
Manubrium, shortlisted for the bpNichol Chapbook award, draws from, and attempts to remake, experiences with urban ennui, mental illness, family dysfunction, and postcolonialism with inquiry, mythography, confrontation, struggle, and the author’s perspective as a serial immigrant. Its speculative and confessional poetry styles, and probing questioning, bear witness to the experiences of those who seek meaning in an incongruous world. With descriptive and observational skills honed in the author’s time as a physician, and through lived experiences in Nigeria, the United States, and Canada, The Junta strives to illustrate, and diagnose, the dis-ease that shadows this version of the world, inviting the reader to join its contention for a cure, or salve by interrogating the conflicts driving it. It illuminates, amongst other things, the random nature of the luck that (im)migrants must depend on, and the rich interiority of their lives.
Jami Macarty reviews Manubrium in The Maynard: https://www.facebook.com/684235664993363/posts/the-maynard-short-form-shout-outmanubrium-tolu-oloruntobaanstruther-press-2019-b/2784686281614947/