Ajebota by Precious Okoyomon – Review by Mitra Jouhari

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I feel like I can’t do Ajebota justice and that whatever I say won’t be enough for a book of poetry that alternates rapidly between the sharp intake of breath and deep release of it – seeing feelings you have never figured out how to verbalize sitting right there on the page will do that to you. (I will say the word “feel” 100 more times in this review because Precious writes with her heart and her gut and every poem feels visceral and a little painful and very cathartic.)

I knew I was in for it on page one, even before the table of contents – “It was nice to know that you were looking at me when i was looking at you.” It’s simple, it’s a gut punch, it’s beautiful. Her love is a lot like your love, even though we like to think that every love story is a revelation – you looked at me when I looked at you, and that’s all it took. Ajebota, to me, says that we are all a lot less complicated than we think, but it’s okay to be overwhelmed by our inner lives, too.

I was projecting a lot while I was reading Ajebota – obviously it’s easy to apply your own experiences to writing, especially poetry, but Precious makes it especially easy to lose yourself in the way she writes about intimate emotions without making them so specific that you feel boxed out. Reading Ajebota at times feels like emotional voyeurism and and at others feels as though the words have been lifted straight from your bones. It is conversational and relatable, with lines worded in ways that feel like something I could say and at the same time like something I could never find words to express.

Ajebota is full of contradictions. Precious shakes and rattles you and then reassures you, writes of hating everyone but being unable to stop herself from falling in love with everyone, cares deeply but can’t take action. It feels like nostalgia for something that you still have. It is very female – loving the feel of the female body and losing yourself in your love for another person. Precious writes about sex and vaginas in a blunt and direct way that I don’t see often. Sometimes sex is just fucking and sometimes it’s the world, but it’s nice to see Ajebota talk about sex without resorting to flowery language. Ajebota is beautiful in its simplicity. There’s nothing excessive – it’s just feeling.

Precious is trying to understand herself and her relationships and her identity and everything else through her poetry and we’re lucky to be along for the ride. She discusses sex, race (“HEAVY // A BLACK OBJECT” – wow), love, lust, burritos, her phone, her body, her mind, and a lot more. Everything has weight and at the same time nothing matters – as Precious puts it, “Everything is just a thing.”

Simply put, Ajebota rules. Check it out so you can lose yourself and find yourself in it. You will love her words.
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Ajebota is now available from Bottlecap Press. Buy it here.

 

Mitra Jouhari is a Brooklyn-based writer/comedian. She works at Full Frontal w/ Samantha Bee and is a member of the Three Busy Debras and the Holy Fuck Comedy Hour.

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