Liberia: Book Review - "Under Ducor Skies" By Patrice Juah

"Under Ducor Skies" by Patrice Juah is a compilation of sixty-six poems on women's empowerment and perseverance. It is her first poetry compilation--a modernist, thought-provoking piece of literary work that swings between the extremes of sorrow and joy, conquest and liberation, and weaknesses and potential.

The title of the book may seem abstract to a reader unaccustomed to Ms. Juah's background. Ducor is the traditional name for Monrovia, Liberia's capital city. There is Ducor Hill, which is a picturesque location in Monrovia, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Saint Paul River. Its serenity is a writer's paradise.

Unlike poets who are invisible in their works, Ms. Juah does not mask her face or still her voice. She uses the first person generously to convey thoughts, making it easy for readers to connect with her life's experience. Fourteen years of a brutal civil war in Liberia ended in 2005 when the author was a teenager. More recently, in 2014, the country was hard hit by the Ebola virus. However, the author's optimism shines through most of the poems.

The poems "Step Out Girl," "I am Doing Me," and "Celebrate Women, Celebrate" have a liberating resonance. In another such poem, "The Flower Story," the author writes: "When you see a beautiful flower/ Stop and reflect/... Think about the many days/ It went un-watered... Think about the Growing pains of bursting out/Springing forth and breaking free."

A reader's favourite must be "Riding Through Africa," which the author often does with folksy aplomb. The poem is simple but sophisticated; it conjures the image of the African downtrodden happily eking out a living. It is a fascinating paradox, underscoring an anthem of Africa's poor. The author uses alliteration effectively. A sampler: "I head to the east side, making a stop in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, on my boda, I am chilling as a Zulu... on my Sthuthuthu.

Ms. Juah also uses emotions to elicit empathy. In "Painful Christmas" for example, she laments: "I sit here/ Heart filled with grief/ Eyes flooded with tears/ I should be singing/ But I'm here weeping." This, like many other poems in the compilation, is a highly relatable stanza--reinforcing the author's humanistic approach to poetry.

Reviewed by Dr. Kingsley Ighobor

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