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Nwagwu dedicates new poetry collection to late wife, Helen


Helen Nwagwu

There is no poet in Africa, ever, who has written four works of poetry on a loved one. And, here in Nigeria, there is no other scientist, of the stature of FAS (Fellow of the Academy of Science), which I have, writing works of literature in the genres of prose and poetry. I think, therefore, we have quite a lot to talk about.”

That was how Prof. Mark Nwagwu described his prolific writing in a recent post on social media. Fortunately, the modest professor of cell and molecular biology is not indulging in vain self-adulation. He is indeed stating the obvious. Having retired at as professor at the University of Ibadan and now sharing his wealth of experience at Paul University, Awka, Anambra State, Nwagwu has surpassed many a trained writers in his prodigious literary craft.

After retirement in 2002 from UI, he turned to writing and came with his first novel, Forever Chimes, which is a trilogy that also has My Eyes Dance, and I Am Kagara. And for his dear late wife, Helen, Nwagwu has devoted some two volumes, starting with Helen, Not-of-Troy while she was still alive, and now Time Came Upon Me & Other Poems after she passed away last year. His beloved wife was also a retired professor of psychology at University of Ibadan.


Other poetry collections Nwagwu wrote for his wife include Cat Man Dew in 2012, and HelenaVenus in 2013.

According to Nwagwu, “I wrote Forever Chimes for my 70th birthday anniversary, My Eyes Dance for the 40th birthday anniversary of my late daughter, Mrs. Onyema Eseka, and I Am Kagara for my 80th birthday anniversary. I wrote Helen Not-of-Troy for my dear wife on her retirement from University of Ibadan, Cat Man Dew in celebration of the 50 years (golden jubilee) of my marriage to my dear wife, HelenaVenus for my dear wife’s 70th birthday, and Time Came Upon Me in loving, blessed memory of my dear wife, Helen (March 22, 1943 – March 30, 2018.”

The collection is due for public presentation on Saturday, March 30, 2019 at Gamaliel Onosode Hall, International Conference Centre, UI, at 12 noon, after a thanks giving mass at the Catholic Church of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, UI.

A close of friend of Nwagwu and theatre scholar, Prof. Femi Osofisan, has paid glowing tribute to Nwagwu’s late wife, Helen, upon reading Time Came Upon Me & Other Poems, noting that her husband has immortalised her in his poetic devotion to her.

According to Osofisan, “when a friend is gone, she is gone. Or is she? Helen, too, has left. Once again, death has left us with fresh wounds, to heal as best we can.

“Loss and grief travel always on the same train, and at the same unexpected hour, especially when bearing the freight of death. At these moments that they halt at our station, or at the address of a loved one, we are inevitably overcome by our fate of helplessness. Yes, because again and again, we have been shown that death’s calendar is terribly erratic, his appointments cruelly arbitrary.”

For him, it is always the wrong victim, or the wrong hour, or the most undeserving means. But even as we accept that death is inevitable, must he wield his axe upon us always with this gleeful insolence, this unconscionable delight to catch us by surprise and mock our fragile mortality?

“But fortunately, however, we also write poems; and poems do not perish. The songs we compose never rot, and pain always remembers. Art is humanity’s trusty antidote to transience.

“This is why Helen cannot be forgotten any more. In poem after poem Mark Nwagwu has inscribed his wife’s name onto the face of eternity. Indeed, there is no other poet we can think of, at least in our contemporary times, who has devoted as many volumes of words to the single, obsessive quest of singing his woman’s virtues. And even now that she has left, another collection of poems devoted mainly to her, Time Came Upon Me & Other Poems, is coming to the shelves! How many more are in preparation, we do not know.”

In this article:
Prof. Mark Nwagwu
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