Winners of 2019 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest

Winners of 2019 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest

Winners of 2019 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest

We are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest. Now in its third year, the prize seeks to recognize the best writings by Nigerian writers aged 21 years and below.

This year we received 92 poems and 57 flash fiction pieces from which our guest judge, Kechi Nomu, selected three winners for the poetry category and the flash fiction was judged internally.

Here are are the winners with comments from the judges:

Poetry Category

Winner: “Ode to Our Body on Fire” by Anthony Okpunor

Okpunor’s voice is a revelation. He does what all poets struggle to do: make timeless language of the present, sentient moment. Picking any one of the three winners was hard because they all deserve to be on this list. But, Okpunor manages with almost every line of this poem to take risks with language without losing the reader. I look forward to reading more poems by this poet.

1st Runner-up: “Grief Will Remake” by Ernest Ogunyemi

Ogunyemi’s poem is unexpected and tender and not afraid to get lost in itself.  Without devaluing his subject matter, he offers readers many lighthearted moments. The language of this poem is beautiful and surprising always.

2nd Runner-up: “Falling Waters” by Lade Falobi  

The transitions of Lade Falobi’s poem were assured. The poem is trancelike, full of grace and the innocence we lose when we take on the hardness survival demands. I did not want it to end. 

Honourable mentions:

“What is Your Body” by Onyekwelu Chiwenite
“How Last Tuesday Became Black Tuesday”  by Praise Osawaru.
“Remember Us”  by Chibueze Obunadike.

Flash Fiction Category

Winner: “Ayomide” by Nneoma Mbalewe

Nneoma Mbalewe’s piece is a captivating portrayal of a small, intimate apocalypse; pulsating with a  delicate urgency.

1st Runner-up: “Born Again” by Tunji Akande

Akande’s story is deeply-imaginative, it has an engaging voice and impeccable diction.

Second Runner-up: “The Fallen Angel” by Ebeigbe Brian

Ebeigbe Brian tricked us into speculative fiction delivered in such liquid prose and vivid imagery it hardly requires suspension of disbelief. 

Honourable mentions:

“How Bodies Become Fluid” by Obasiota Ben Ibe.

“To Pull a Lion’s Tail” by Boloere Seibidor. 

“Shey Sugar Wey Enter Tea Dey Come Out” by Ife Olatona.

Congratulations to the winners!

We are grateful to our guest judge (Kechi Nomu) and everyone who sent in their work.

Interviews with the contest winners will be published at a later date.

The maiden edition which held in 2017 was judged by Sueddie Vershima Agema (Flash Fiction) and Okwudili Nebeolisa (Poetry).

 

Isolation

Our third issue ever, "Isolation" is out. We had thought-provoking conversations with Alexis Teyie and Tobi Nifesi. It's a collection of works from some of the finest minds out there -- poetry, short stories, interviews, and creative essays.

Do you love our published works?

You can add your literary work to an endless list of poems, short stories, flash fiction, and essays.

THE FALLEN ANGEL by Ebeigbe Brian

THE FALLEN ANGEL by Ebeigbe Brian

THE FALLEN ANGEL

by Ebeigbe Brian

The Fallen Angel – Second Runner-up of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

The door let loose an agonizing creak as it slowly leaned open. Crumbled paint and what he could only assume to be mice droppings lay scattered the floor. It was funny to think that despite all that had happened, he could still return to this cave. A sanctuary that had sheltered him from the barrages of the unforgiving and unapologetic reality that was his life.  He switched on the mains only to notice the cobwebs. It was better to ignore the terrible state of the place. A sudden fluttering of wings as resident bats swarmed out due to the surprising presence of a new entity forced him to crouch in astonishment. Some things can’t be ignored.

A pen, some books, a broken pencil and a few notes scribbled on old pieces of paper littered the table. He sighed, dropping his satchel. Pulling out a dusty record case, he walked towards the vintage record player. Two things struck him as his eyes darted across the old machine, his record although taken with him everywhere he went was still as good as new and his bird bath seemed to house a new creature. As to what it was…that would be left for later. He dusted the record player and blew at the dusty record. It read “Viva La Vida and all the melancholy of the institution.” There was only the initial scratch, the coarse sounds eventually blended out into a harmony echoed throughout the orifice in the mountain.  Stripping down to just his tattered jeans, he sighed in relief as his broken wings clumsily fanned out creating all sorts of shadows that seemed to stun the little mice scurrying about. He lowered himself onto his seat next to the table. The old chair creaked and buckled but didn’t collapse under his familiar weight. Reaching into his satchel revealed three items. A cigar, a matchbox and a photograph.

No time was wasted in lighting the cigar.  A cloud of smoke enveloped his face although his glowing brown eyes were still visible in the mist. Looking at the picture the stitches in his chest began to bleed once again as he beheld once more what he wanted but couldn’t physically have. Turning the picture over he read again the note written on it.

“[4/27, 10:21 AM]: Let them hurt. Let them molt and wither. Then, when the time comes, let them grow. The muscles surge and the feathers strong. They will lift you again and the sky will be your friend

Signed

The Eleventh Gentleman”

Would the council find him before it was too late?
Would jealously consume him?
How many more demons would he have to face and seal in his scars?
Would she be worth it?
Thoughts like these and more struck his mind like a rain of flaming arrows. However, before the cigar would finally find that one neural path straight to his brain, he could feel his skin being branded with one more curse. Unlike all the others on his back

Pain

Loss

Grief 

This one was different.
…It was a name.
Overwhelmed, he dropped his head into the choking fog that was never just the smoke; it was pain. Pain searing and hot as his eyes shifted from glowing brown to smoldering red.
********

Elsewhere in a place just as derelict, a form could be seen kneeling in snow. A man dressed in a dark coat knelt amidst corpses. Corpses that could only have been victims of his wrath. Upon closer inspection anyone would tell you these three things; accompanying a truly terrifying groan, his eyes had slowly transitioned from murky brown to a vicious red. His coat seemed to burn, but from the inside and upon his kneeling he had spoken in a garbled tongue.

They would tell you upon his strange exclamation his then red eyes had cooled to an eerie green. They would mention that he had raised two fingers to hi temple and then spoken clear unmistakable English.

“He is slowly losing his grasp on the words of Power Merion. If we do not find him soon, he will be lost to us. I refuse to lose my brother to fate. I have only just regained my wings, so I leave his rescue in your hands”

They would tell you that he walked towards one of the corpses and slowly retrieved a sickle-like blade. Those strong enough to watch would recount how he cut an unforgiving gash on his neck, how he spoke without moving his mouth. Yes, if they were strong enough, they might even remember the words.

“To The Craftsman of Original Sin. Lord of Deceit. To the true Marquee of Snakes. To Lucifer’s Bane. Come forth”

Now for the rest of the story it would be best to visit the underworld, for if there were men foolish enough to listen to this chant. To watch the hand signs. They were undoubtedly dead. However, if you did manage to raise a witness, they would mention one thing before crumbling away into the nothingness. They would speak of the emergence of a dark figure that seemed to tug at their exiting soul. Whose aura foretold the song of death and the chant of anarchy. They would tell you of its sickening grin and hoarse whisper of a voice. Most importantly, as their soul was dragged to hell for whatever sin, they would scream on and on about how our unidentifiable winged killer had looked this being of darkness straight on and spoken only two words

“Hello Mother”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

From The Eleventh Gentleman:
My name is Brian as you now know and I’m a medical student at the University of Benin.
I’ve long-held dreams of either changing the world or setting it ablaze with my work. Childish and overly ambitious I’m sure. Writing and indeed the arts in general for me have served as an outlet for my erratic emotions. It’s been an honor participating in this year’s competition and I hope to try again next year.
I’ll push the line a bit to thank my Council Members: The Angel after whom this piece was fashioned, The Prince who is an idiotic yet heavenly Gift, to Percival and the Last Councilman… thank you for your wisdom. To naMe who even in absence pushes my pen. My last words will go to Sosa… I’ll continue to thank God for having met you.

BORN AGAIN by Tunji Akande

BORN AGAIN by Tunji Akande

BORN AGAIN

by Tunji Akande

Born Again – First Runner-up of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

My mother screamed nine times in one night, drawing fistfuls of her hair, cursing God, Eve and the earth that produced the fruit. She kicked the nurses and spat on the doctors. When she’d tried six hours straight and I still wasn’t forthcoming, the doctor said, ‘how about an operation?’ And my mother cursed my father because the doctor was asking him and not her. ‘He who is in me is greater than science, I shall deliver like the Hebrew women,’ she said. 

Of course, coming for the second time I had to be great— that’s what my mother said, but I’m not sure I believe her. 

There is my mother. She sits and stands. Back to the ground, legs up, breath held. The instructor passes bottles of water to the women whose bellies are pushed out in different sizes, sweat dripping down their dark and light skin. There is my mother pressing the yellow towel to her skin. ‘My second,’ she says to the plump woman to her left. ‘But it’s different compared to the first. ‘

‘Eh, this is my first,’ the woman says.

My mother says she knew happiness the first time I arrived inside her, but now what’s happening with me. The first and second me, all of me.

I do not have memories of the times I did not exist, but my mother wants me to remember. ‘Where did you go, when you were not here?’ She asks, and I wonder if there are people who know what it means to be dead even while they’re alive. I turn to my friend Google, our teachers say we should make Google our friend. Entry: where do dead children go.

Heaven, at God’s right hand.

No where.

They were born into this wicked, but couldn’t accept Christ, so hell.

They stopped existing.

Sent back to the world as other people’s children.

Entry:  do dead children come back.

Yes.

No.

Yes.

No.

Entry: how do I know I have been born again.

By giving your life to Christ.

Erase, new entry: how do I know I am born into the same or another body again?

You love listening to certain beats, drums especially.

Dreams.

You just know.

When reincarnation happens, you might and you might not know.
 

But this isn’t about reincarnation. I don’t think I’m taking another person’s body. And also, my mother believes this is me from the previous time. Same eyes and nose and complexion and hair.

During her first pregnancy, my mother was happy. She said knowing that another living being growing inside her made her feel like a god. Knowing that your actions didn’t only affect you, but also another tiny being learning to breathe, to live inside of you makes you feel that way. She went to the market and got clothes for the baby, accepted gifts from everyone who offered her one. She was planning to be the good mother. Had a crib made for the baby. Poor baby who wouldn’t stay.

The baby finally came out— no cries— with pale skin and eyes which were closed to the world. She had one look at this dead baby before it was taken away from her.
The Lord gives and the Lord takes.

When she became pregnant with me, my mother had learned how to avoid the sun and people.  Too much evil spirits lurking around, too much evil eyes piercing through her thin satin blouse. She kept me a secret from everybody who wanted to know if she had taken in again. She cancelled family meetings and took a break from her job at the law firm. She didn’t care that they threatened not to take her back. These evil eyes could be lurking anywhere.

‘How do you know I’m the same dead baby?’ I once asked her.
‘You were never dead,’ she said. ‘They tried to kill you, they will continue to try, but you are a strong boy, baby.’

When I was about five years old, I used to have this recurring dream that chased me out of sleep. We are all walking down the street, my parents and I. Maybe returning from church or a family friend’s place. Then we get to this junction were these women and men in long white robes are singing, drumming and dancing. They let my parents go and hold me hostage. My parents go without looking back and I scream my lungs out, screaming into wakefulness.

These dreams would come and go with my mother cuddling me, reminding me that I was strong, that I had done it before.

In school, I fought with other students so much they feared me. The teacher made me sit alone at the front of the class, repeating words I can’t remember. Back home, my mother asked, worriedly, ‘why do you allow this old spirit use your body like this?’

‘Tell me your dreams again,’ she asked. But these days, I hardly remember my dreams.

When my father wouldn’t agree that I go for deliverance, my mother called him a foolish man, and he called her a crazy woman. She took me to a church where the pastor asked me to close my eyes, praying and kept asking me if I could see anything.
‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘Just darkness.’

AYOMIDE by Nneoma Mbalewe

AYOMIDE by Nneoma Mbalewe

AYOMIDE

by Nneoma Mbalewe

Ayomide – Winner of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

My body craves water but I have none to give it. I have never stayed this long without water. It’s been forty-five hours or so and I really feel rotten. The human body can live for a month without food but three to four days without water can lead to death. We only have a few more hours. If not, we’d most likely die.
My sister has a higher probability of dying than me. I’m not a pessimist but I have been lying in her blood now for hours and she won’t make it if help does not get here today. The lower half of her body is trapped under rubble and she’s showing signs of shock. Her skin is cold and clammy; her breathing is shallow and rapid.

Masha’s whining pulls me out of my thoughts. I rub my dog’s fur, trying to comfort him. It’s dusty under the bed where we are and I know he really wants to leave. He would have done so hours ago but the truth is that we are trapped here. Not unless someone rescues us.

I remember exactly forty-six hours ago. It was dusk and my sister was preparing Eba and Efo. The healthy meatless, fishless Efo, as she liked to call it. Honestly, we were too poor to put meat in the food. The rain started suddenly and poured without mercy. We were about to eat when we heard something huge and loud fell on the apartment roof, the face-me-I-face-you apartment where we lived. That when everything came crumbling down.

The building was already falling apart but whatever that fell hastened things up and in seconds, the ceiling and the walls began to collapse. We were far from the door so the best thing to do was to hide under something sturdy like they do during earthquakes.

“Under the bed,” I screamed to Aramide, my sister as I grabbed Masha. I crawled under the bed, my sister following close behind. She was halfway in when the ceiling crushed her.

Now, my sister is struggling to stay awake. Thank God she knows that there is no guarantee that when she closes her eyes, she will wake up again. I don’t have to tell her that.

“It was the transformer,” I say. “It’s the only thing high and strong enough to bring down this building.”

“Ayo,” she murmurs. “The periodic table.” She ignores my statement. There’s no use thinking about the past. The future is the most important thing now. Sadly, the past is all I can think of.

I’m smart. I know I am. I’m seven years old and I can recite the multiplication table from one to fifty-seven by heart. I know all the 118 elements of the periodic table and I know a lot more than my fifteen-year-old sister. I help her with her assignments when she can’t solve them and I topped my class last year at grammar school. My headteacher calls me a prodigy even though in Nigeria, no one knows what to do with prodigies.

“Hydrogen, helium, lithium,” I begin. It’s dark but I’m looking at my sister, hoping that when I’m done, she will still be awake. When I’m done, thankfully, she still is. I need to get her talking. That will ensure she stays awake. Although, I think talking will drain the little energy she has left.

“Do you think Daddy knows what has happened?” Even as I ask, I know he doesn’t. He stays away from the house days on end, drinking around with friends. He’d only come back, sometimes, to eat Aramide’s food when he didn’t have enough money to buy food outside.

Aramide doesn’t reply. Her shallow breathing informs me she is still alive. “Don’t sleep, Aramide,” I tell her.

“I’m tired,” she tells me.

“Don’t sleep,” I repeat. I begin my fifty-eight times table. I am almost finished when Aramide murmurs, “You should be a doctor.”

“Why?”

“Doctors are smart. Like you.”

I shake my head, even though she can’t see me. “Doctors are underpaid.” I think back to the doctors who treated mama at the general hospital, who worked grudgingly and couldn’t save mama from her sickness. They never even knew what caused her death, they just left us with debt and my mother’s corpse after injecting all kinds of drugs into her body.

“What do you want to be then?”

“I don’t know. I have to think about it.”

In any other situation, Aramide would have scoffed and said something like, “You have to think about it? You know the answer already.” Now, she doesn’t even make a sound.

My eyes tear up. It is times like this, I wish we were living in a good country like the United States. If something like this happened over there, they would be busy in less than an hour and we would have even forgotten about it by now. However, we are in Nigeria where an entire building of fifty-two apartments collapses and two days later, no one is doing anything about it.

I wonder if other people were still alive. The first thing anyone would have done when the building began to collapse was to run outside. Those on the third and second floors would have never made it down in time. Those on the first and ground floor would have survived if they had gotten as far away as possible from the building when they made it outside.

We live on the second floor. I know people are trapped underneath the rubble like we are and I know that some people are dead. I know my sister will soon join them if we aren’t rescued today. I know I will be next, if another twenty-four hours passes by and I’m still here.

“It’s been forty-six hours,” I say.

“How do you know,” Aramide asks, like she does when I say something smart.

“I just know,” is my reply. The truth is, I have been keeping track.

“Are you hungry?”

I smile ruefully. She’s doing her big sister business even though she’s the one bleeding to death.

“No,” I answer. I know hunger- we both do. Since both parents are out of the picture, Aramide has been the breadwinner. She doesn’t tell me much but I know she gets money from her boyfriends, one of whom, lives in the building, two floors down. She also hawks after school. I don’t do much apart from helping her with her assignments and reading the library books. I help her when I can with the hawking but she never allows me to stress myself. “You will make us rich,” she usually tells me.

“I will be helping you after school to hawk,” I announce. That is, if we both get out of here.

She doesn’t answer. I have to listen closely to hear her breaths because I am fainter than ever. When she first got trapped, she would scream in pain for hours. The screams turned to groans after hours passed and now, I don’t think she can even feel her legs.

Masha whines again. He doesn’t know hunger like us because he is always eating any leftover he finds around the building. He can barely move at this point.

“I love you,” Aramide tells me, out of the blue.

Fear grips my throat. It takes me a while but I say the words back.

“I want to sleep now.”

 I don’t stop her.

I close my eyes and imagine us in a better place. A few days ago, Aramide washed clothes, and I read a senior secondary school textbook on physics. Masha ran around us, playing with the little puddles of water that formed around Aramide’s washing buckets. Sighing, she splashed soapy water on him and on a second thought splashed on me too. “Stand up and play with your dog. Can’t you see he’s distracting me?”

“I’m reading,” I told her.

She dragged the textbook from me and sat on it. “Abeg, go and play. You have your whole life to read.”

I open my eyes and I realize that I am crying. Not the small sobs like I usually do but noisy, heart-wrenching sobs. Neither my sister nor my dog move.

I rub Masha’s fur one last time. I remember two months ago when Aramide gave him to me. She had found him, a newborn puppy, abandoned on the side of the road. “I know how much you love dogs,” she said, as she handed him over to me.

I reach for my sister’s cold hands, the dried blood-forming hard flakes. “I want to be an engineer. I like physics and engineers are rich,” I say, in between sobs.

She doesn’t reply. She never does.

FALLING WATERS by Lade Falobi

FALLING WATERS by Lade Falobi

FALLING WATERS

by Lade Falobi

Falling Waters – Second Runner-up of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Poetry Category)

My mother says when it rains and one needs to pee/one does not need to find a toilet.
I cry in the rain so she doesn’t see.
The rain pouring from my eyes is heavier than the one pouring from the sky.
I hardly ever feel the one from the sky
 
Think of water racing so fast through a hose that it bursts it open all over.
Think of the heavy slaps of water in a waterfall as it hits the floor.
Sometimes my tears are the storm.
I like storms.
 
Now think of water traveling down the window of a moving car, a child enthralled by the movement and tracing dreams in the mist behind the window.
Think of a tap that does not quite shut completely, tiny drops of water falling from its mouth.
Sometimes my tears are the quiet drizzle.
I do not like drizzles.

 

Imagine pointing the barrel of a gun at your head.

Imagine your shaky hands, too scared to die but too scared to live.

Imagine deciding to pull the trigger because it is easier to die than it is to live.

Imagine the dead silence after.

Not the quiet silence of death. The quiet silence of failing even in this.

An empty gun never fires

and you have been shooting blanks.

 

Today                    we live

GRIEF WILL REMAKE YOU by Ernest Ogunyemi

GRIEF WILL REMAKE YOU by Ernest Ogunyemi

GRIEF WILL REMAKE YOU

by Ernest Ogunyemi

Grief Will Remake You – First Runner-up of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Poetry Category)

“Grief will probably/ redraft your whole/ anatomy”
—Caroline Ebeid

I have just begun my walk out of dawn
& I have begun picking dead leaves.

I have never played so close to fire, but
hear, I know the language of been burnt.

my mother taught me, the taste of a live-coal
on a boy’s tongue, when she walked out of her body,

left it a snail shell. today, I forget the language of joy,
I forget how happiness grows into a sugary bird

filling every puff of cheek, nestling under the pave
of the tongue, hiding in the spaces between the teeth

where god decided to let air in in seeps. it is the doing
of grief. how it will gift you a new tongue, or scrape clean
 
the one you knew; bland every bud that knows
sweetness; fill your mouth with a new song,
 
the way a Mother python fills a room-corner.
tell me, what is grief itself if not the remaking of a life?
 
how motherless boys are pushed into a life we never chose
burning wood & Maami’s cooking & the smell of grief’s spittle
from its latest fresh at your skin fills my nose like air.
rainwater & saltwater & the buttery taste of mucus on my tongue.
the rusty bunk bed, your fragile self pressed into its bosom.
here: the sword-edge sharp coldness of your eyes,
the wilt flowers in your hair, the after-rain quiet of your body.

 

something in my head whispers, this might be a joke.
death does not take people when their bodies begin
to green, when they’re in their most beautiful dresses—
does it?
 
when does it not?
 
I feel the pinky of grief on the nape of my neck, its touch
cold & warm like the welcoming of a new born & the burying
of its mother. the ants on my inside roam about, they pinch,
they want. a dead bird falls from my chest & ends at the floor
of my belly. the ants gather in its belly where some bees have honeyed.
a few minutes later, the ants roam again—just as I now
roam, my legs walking me to places somebody forgot to draw
on the map. the ants on my inside now bite; they bite
everything that has a name till everything that has a name forgets
its name—what is grief if not the unbottling of hunger?—
 
I forget my name, too. & I forget from
where I began walking into this new life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ernest O. Ògúnyemí (b. 2000) is a writer from Nigeria. Some of his works have appeared/forthcoming in Acumen Poetry Journal, Ricochet Review, Litro Print Journal, Erotic Africa: The Sex Anthology, Lucent Dreaming, Low Light Magazine, Canvas Lit Journal, Agbowó, The Nigerian Poetry Anthology (Animal Heart Press), Polyphony Lit Mag, and elsewhere. A 2019 Adroit Summer Mentee, a 2019 COUNTERCLOCK Arts Collective Fellow, and a reader at Palette Poetry and a staff reader at COUNTERCLOCK Journal, he is curating the first Young African Poets Anthology, guest-edited by Nome Emeka Patrick and Itiola Jones. In 2019, he got a mini-grant to Kickstart a literary outfit dedicated solely to young African creatives. When he is not reading a book of short stories or watching the birds flying in the sky, dreaming, you can find him on Twitter @ErnestOgunyemi.

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