by Matthew Magill
"Those who are lost at the sea of a country crumbling under the weight of bad governance."
The second poetry competition, Endless Sky, has come to an end with the winning piece: Michael Imossan's Lost at sea. From all the wonderful submissions we received, we loved the layering of Lost at sea and its take on the competition prompt as the endless void of the sea, horizon, and our own memories. Addressing themes of national identity and violence, Lost at sea moves from gothic pastoral to an emotive piece on family and loss. Below is the full version of Lost at sea:
on the boat, the boatsman kept dipping his paddle
in and out of water like fingers in the art of teasing
& each time, i watched as the sea crack its lips into
a giggle —goosebumps growing on its back a
ritual of ripples. in the near, the sun edged behind
fishermen who strung prayers to the tip of their hooks
as baits sunk into the bottom of the sea
only to haul back a school of emptiness. the emptiness
grew into songs. the sun, caught in the calmness of
water danced to its rhythm. there's always a correlation
between light and sound; how they both struggle
for speed. in the far, i saw the sea kiss the sky, their lips
thinning into oblivion horizon. what sits back in our
eyes as beauty? what loneliness walks out of here?
night sidled up to us from the east. i watched
the sun drowning. aren't some songs suffocating?
the moon blossomed over the sea. we waded closer
to shore & the seaweeds, green as fatherland reminded
me of home, of a tiny portrait: mum & dad & i sitting at the
dinner table. beside me, a chair is empty. in the faintness of
night, i grope the emptiness to know who should be
there. i feel my brother wrapped in country's cloth. in
the absence of light, the hands become a window to the eyes.
i stretch farther into remembrance to find a hole on his
forehead blackening like a wilting rose. his body solid,
cold as a bullet's heart. i pull closer to him, as if to hug him,
as if to remake him into liquid, into warm water,
into little tenderness. someone is singing the national
anthem, please beg him to stop. some songs are suffocating.
my food sours. father calls to me. the boatsman yells my
name. anchored to memory, i have forgotten what the living
want from me. what crawls under my vein when the sun is
For this competition, we were searching for pieces that explored the feeling of expanse, space, and distance. I spoke with Michael about his own writing journey and feelings on the piece:
What first drew you to creative writing or poetry?
Well, I can’t really say exactly what drew me to creative/poetry writing except that I was groomed in it. My mother was a lover of literature and used to read me books, especially Shakespeare’s, and my dad encouraged reading of literature as well. So I ventured into studying arts and falling in love with the beauty of language.
Related: Some other Radical Art Review shit
What was the inspiration behind Lost at sea?
Most of my recent poems are inspired by the situation of my “fatherland”; the constant killing of her citizens without little or no effort from the government to stop it.
Thus, the poem Lost at sea is a tribute to those who died during the EndSars protest and any other form of police brutality; those who are lost at the sea of a country crumbling under the weight of bad governance.
Who are some authors, poets, or literary figures who have inspired you or your work?
The list is a very long one but I’ll try to keep it short. My works have greatly been inspired by African writers like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Yaa Gyasi, Chimamanda Adichie and so many others.
I also greatly have been inspired by Romeo Oriogun, Divine Iyang Titus, Martins Deep, Adedayo Agarau, Ernest Ogunyemi, Nome Patrick, Nnadi Samuel, Taiwo Hassan, and myself (sometimes, I inspire me!).
The list could still continue but I’d like to stop here. Thank you.
Michael Imossan is a Nigerian poet currently living in Sokoto where he is studying for an M.A in Linguistics in Usmanu Danfodiyo University. Michael loves being in class –whether as a teacher or a student. He spends most of his working hours researching topics concerning language, linguistics, and literature. And when he is not engaged, he writes, reads, plays chess or scrabble.
Most of Michael’s writings investigate the reason behind grief. He won an honorable mention in the DiBiase poetry competition 2022, He is a finalist of the Lumiere Review poetry competition 2022. He was longlisted for the Nigeriannewsdirect poetry prize, 2021. He is a winner of the Shuzia Redemption poetry contest. He was shortlisted for the Shuzia prose contest, 2021.
His works are forthcoming from Brittle Paper, Lumiere Review, Shallow Tales, Poetry Columnnd, Salamander Ink, The Walled City Journal, Inertia Teens Magazine, Small Leaf Press and elsewhere. He tweets via: michael_imossan.