The Tragedy of Being Born Beautiful-A Critical Review


The long wait is over as Bibiani Books released The Tragedy of Being Born Beautiful a poetry collection interpreting human experiences from an African prism by Cookey Iwuoha.

The Tragedy of Being Born Beautiful is a thought-provoking, multi-layered collection of poems divided into four parts, Dawn, Sunrise, Sunset and Twilight.

In Dawn, the poet concentrates on abstract human relationships while Sunrise takes aim at discouraging social injustice. Sunset addresses the intricacies of emotion and finally, Twilight reflects on the universal search for meaning, self, and identity.

Much like the seasons of man, the poems alternate between tender, angry, helpless and heartbreaking as they address age-old questions and emotions of life’s purpose, man’s inhumanity to man, despair of the soul, hopelessness, and the loss of self-purpose.

The poet known for his enigmatic style of replicating modernism on a papyrus, delved into the present- past to collect essential issues and dissect them on today’s society, infusing their influence in our psyche and then battles it to standstill on his readers mind.

“The Tragedy of Being Born Beautiful is a thought-provoking, multi-layered collection. Iwuoha’s mastery of language and imagery is brilliant and invites readers to spend time with each poem, reading and deciphering them more than once in order to delve deeper to peel away the layers and reveal the message held within. “

“As readers journey through the parts, questioning despair, hopelessness and disillusionment give way to hope, self-discovery and meaning.”

This collection is a keeper and the poems will stick with you long after you close the book. Every now and then, you’ll find yourself reaching for the book again.’’ Mary N Oluonye explicated in the foreword of the book which she penned.

In the collection a philosophical  poem bearing the title of the book questioned the source of evil in Man ,if man’s capability of exhibiting treachery to his fellow human an emanation of the Innate will in him by the divine, or a resultant action of his experiences influenced by his environment.

In the poem The Tragedy of Being Born Beautiful   he questioned

Are tragedies of the human

 Transported by the Divine?

Or emergencies responsible to actions of man?

Is crime solely an offspring of poverty

Driven by misery inspiring to balance inequality?

Or a force of human greed, feeding on disease of insatiety?

…Are we crooked innately?

By our creator designed gravely?

  Or do we learn injustice

 From our interaction with society?

Psychology says we become what we have done

 And what has been done to us

Religion says we are rebellious in spirit, of our own making

 Our maker innocent of the flaws in our design

Who is the culprit?

Who deformed our purity?

From innocent children

To querulous men

Awful and desperate maidens

To pretentious mothers

The poet left those questions for each reader to answer on their own premise with his own conclusion that the divides needs to come together to complete the human which is a complexity of sort to insinuate that we need a touch of good and evil to attain perfection.

 The incessant kidnapping of students in the north east  of Nigeria hinged on rising cases of insecurity in the region starting from kidnapping of the students in Chibok which was followed years later in Dapchi , with about a thousand children kidnapped in the region in 9 years, the poet expended his energy on his poem Mothers of Lost Daughters

It’s horrific the price of ignorance

Vagabonds armed an ideology of haram

Illiteracy commanding authority, enchaining civility

Communities in a free society, entrapped in archaism

No longer we mourn, with mothers of lost daughters

Clinging unto torn infant photographs of their lost loved ones

Anger, guilt as daily companions

Fathers, daily searching pages of newspapers

Hoping a reporter will remind the nation to seek answers

As they still await the return of their lost treasures

A traumatic reality, trivialized with politics

Our bond of diversity, crushed with tribal loyalty

Shame of a nation, to fail one is to fail all

Oh !  If only our generals are to stand trials

 For a single child not returned to her block

Dignified empathy is what we lost in Chibok.

His poem  “Ogbanje “  talking about a people’s quest to spiritually negotiate the return of a spirit child is being applauded by the reviewer’s of the work, who are elated with the dimension he approached the work from and it’s amazing conclusion. 


To us you come with nothing

From us you leave with everything

Not that you have no mercy, child

Just that you are weak to calling powers of your allies

Spirit child, with a haunting smile  

We await your return

To make you stay when you are reborn

For we know in truth, bright eyes don’t die

We gift you kolanuts

 Forced inside your stiff clenched nose

A treat from us for those in the beyond

Repaying our debts to ensure a reward

This time they will urge your return

And you will come in haste

With all you have taken from us

For we have made complete your spiritual purchase

This time you will be born grateful

This time you shall stay

In our home you must find your place

And you shall be called beautiful

Engaging this subject that renowned Nigerian poets like Wole Soyinka and  JP Clark had traversed at the peak of their careers on traditional belief of reincarnation and predestination is a commendable feat by the poet.

The diverse socio-political persuasions in his nation from religious crisis ,  failure of leadership, even police brutality that instigated the globally affirmed End SARS  protests were all conveyed to his readers in poetry motion.

There were amazing abstract works in the collection like his attempt on deciphering the timelessness of time in which he ruminated in verses like the one captured below

Time in the moment, must be the only thing un-created

For every event seen or unseen is witnessed

By the moments that hosted its sequence

Time is a thing that nothing preceded

For it hosts everything

Other amazing works like The Call in the sound of Running waters, A waking Africanness, Chants of the Time Past and Present, Above in the Charging Clouds, The Act of losing belief and more will ensure that all wandering souls will on his poetic verses find a place to call home.

Cookey Iwuoha is a journalist, prose stylist and poet; dialogue facilitator, columnist and author of many published articles aimed at the development and decolonization of the mind of the African youth. This is his second collection of Poetry. His maiden literary work The Contents of Our Empty Graves a poetry collection on social vices, love and justice was published in 2011.

The Tragedy of Being Born Beautiful is available on you can also buy it on the following websites

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