When Serendipity conspires
with Fate, the result is almost invariably a combination of astonishment
and eye-popping bewilderment. This observation provides a painfully
perfect script for my own ‘Irele narrative’, especially with regard to
my interactions with this great scholar and generous enabler in what has
now turned out to be his last few weeks on earth.

The immediate chapter of this narrative has to do with the dedication
of my new book of poems If Only the Road Could Talk, just released in
the United States by Africa World Press. In the over 15 years I worked
on those poems, it never occurred to me that I was going to dedicate
them to anybody. Nor did that thought ever cross my mind in the hectic
months leading to the final editing and revision of the galleys. Then,
one morning, I woke up with something close to a Eureka feeling: voila, I
have found a worthy dedicatee for my new book and that person would be
none other than Abiola Irele. That decision itself was both curious and
complex; for I already had a piece written in his honour in the book of
essays I was readying up for publication – an essay which had missed the
chance to appear in The World in Africa & Africa in the World:
Essays in Honor of Abiola Irele, a highly valuable festschrift edited
with a characteristically comprehensive and provocative introduction by
Biodun Jeyifo. In spite of all this, I woke up with that irrepressible
urge to put Irele’s name in my new book’s dedication page. When I called
Kassahun Checole, my publisher,  and revealed my new decision, I knew
the manuscript was set and ready to go to the printer. But the Irele
name did the magic. My publisher had the grace to wait for another two
days, during which the following was born:

To Abiola Irele

Ageless Humanist

Scholar without borders

These seasoned offspring

Of Songs of the Marketplace


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