20 years’ work, lost in the hurricane

Today’s issue of The Wall Street Journal includes an article about writers who lost years of work to Hurricane Katrina. Among them is one of Nigeria’s leading poets.

As the murky waters swelled in his New Orleans bungalow, Niyi Osundare‘s first instinct wasn’t to preserve himself. Instead, he frantically moved his manuscripts from file cabinets and bedside table to higher bookshelves until his wife, Kemi, warned, “Niyi, we’ll drown trying to save the poems. Let’s go to the attic.”

After 26 hours trapped in the attic, the couple was rescued. But Mr. Osundare … still mourns his lost “babies” — 300 unpublished poems, written in longhand over 20 years, ranging from satires on Nigerian political corruption to a meditation on the beauty of Mt. Monadnock in southern New Hampshire.

Mr. Osundare, who writes in both English and his native Yoruba, often wakes in the middle of the night, remembering an isolated line or image. “I was typing them when the storm hit, trying to get them ready for publication,” he says.

(Thanks to Phil Campbell for the pointer.)


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