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Sailing for Ithaca

Publication Date: July 2014


Sailing for Ithaca is a travelogue of an inner country that’s full of ports and welcoming entry points. Passports mean nothing here. There are no border agents. There are no uniformed guards. “Enter where you can. / Leave in delight.”

Dancing to the Wrong Music

It’s the same as tying fish
Around your waist
And running a gentle race.

From your chest
Waters roil awake

And become streams
That circle old trees
Till their leaves turn green.


“In this book, back then, now, and tomorrow collapse into a vivid voice, song by song. Far geography becomes one deft swirl that gathers Odysseus, Achebe from Nigeria, Cavafy from Alexandria, a host of village kin, and this immigrant’s lyric wanderings in America into one resonant utterance. Reading, you see the fresh energy of a keen observer informing a new English with the authority of a wise African voice. Like the wild winds and currents of the sea, these forces gather to hasten Animashaun’s bold poems into your dreams.”

-Kim Stafford

Sailing for Ithaca is a remarkable manifold and pluralistic poetic journey that seeks ‘the country within.’ From children playing with rats in a Nigerian ‘Beggar’s Colony’ to tourists drunk and asleep on the Island of Polyphemous, this collection vividly evokes a multiplicity of worlds. Yet, this book of deracination knows that one can come home only in wisdom. No conquering Odysseus here, but rather a generosity of inclusion and relinquishment. The traveler becomes the landscape he travels through, ‘The open field/The thick brush/The village/Where nothing lives” and ‘The wilderness/Where all is born.’ The book itself becomes a journey, inviting us to ‘Enter where you can/Leave in delight.'”

– Rebecca Seiferle

These poems are parables of interiority, legends and tales of the unique feeling-scapes within each of us. Sometimes we seem to be journeying to the poet’s childhood in his native Nigeria, while at other times we might be sailing with him to the islands of the Homeric epics. In poem after poem, however, where we are really going is closer and closer to this poet’s sense of the human heart, that ‘place’ where, he writes, we might take sorrow out of the cellar, dress it up in a child’s fresh school-uniform, send it off to meet the others it will study with, help it shake hands and strike up friendships, and laugh at jokes told in the morning light. In poems that are as lucid, sharp, and strange as a waking dream, Animashaun gently guides us toward ‘the Ithaca within’ each of us.”

– Fred Marchant

About the Author

Abayomi Animashaun

Abayomi Animashaun is an immigrant from Nigeria. He has an MFA from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a PhD from the University of Kansas. His poems have appeared in such print and online journals as Poetry Ireland ReviewDiode, TriQuarterly, The Cortland ReviewAfrican American ReviewThe Adirondack Review, Ruminate Magazine, and Versedaily. A winner of the Hudson Prize and a recipient of a grant from the International Center for Writing and Translation, Animashaun is the author of three poetry collections, SeahorsesSailing for Ithaca, and The Giving of Pears, and editor of three anthologies, Far Villages: Welcomes Essays for New and Beginner PoetsOthers Will Enter the Gates: Immigrant Poets on Poetry, Influences, and Writing in America, and Walking the Tightrope: Poetry and Prose by LGBTQ Writers from Africa (edited with Spectra, Tatenda Muranda, Irwin Iradunkunda, and Timothy Kimutai)Abayomi Animashaun is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh and a poetry editor at The Comstock Review. He lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin with his wife and children.

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