Darlington Chibueze Anuonye likes to call me his editorial assistant. I think I am just his student. One can only attempt to assist Darlington in what he does with grace. He sees a vague sentence, and knows the writer’s intention. There’s a possibility that if I had not met Darlington, I would not have been interested in literature. It was in my second year in the university that I met him through my roommate who calls him Prof. He told me Darlington was a writer. It was a time when I was in search of something I did not know how to describe. I remember walking up to Darlington for the first time, one evening. I told him about my desire to read more, my dream to do something unique. I do not remember most of the things he said that day, but I remember he spoke like a wise teacher when he talked to me. He told me that one could hardly proffer an absolutely new idea to the world, because a lot of things had been said and written already. He advised me, as someone interested in the quest for knowledge, to get familiar with the existing knowledge in my area of study and then offer my contributions. Of course, I was disappointed at the thought that I would not gift the world an original idea, or invention for which I would be remembered. While I did not immediately think about Darlington’s advice, I was determined to read more books and watch fewer movies. I was addicted to movies. When I began to read the books Darlington sent to me, I encountered some young writers whose stories struck me so hard I began to admire them. The thing about admiring someone is that you have the urge to try out some of the things they do. So, I started writing. Now that I think about it, I began to see life as a dialogue, although I did not know it then. I see existence as a conversation and contribute to it through my stories. I realized that if I am to engage my environment through literature, I should do so properly. Darlington encouraged me to be patient with my craft, and now that I am older, I am glad I listened to him.
My grandmother is an ancient library of endangered stories. I don’t think I would have been interested in storytelling if she didn’t tell me stories. My siblings and I still remember some of the folktales she told us as children. But none of us can tell a folktale the way she does. When we try, the stories lose their flavour. What Darlington has taught me is that a story is good, but a well-told story enthralls, and people will remember the ingenuity of a storyteller long after they have forgotten the details of their stories. Darlington knows how a story could be better told, how my contribution to the dialogue could be better presented. When he reads my works-in-progress, he understands my thoughts at the time of writing, which shows in his insightful comments and brilliant suggestions. One of the fascinating things about him is that he does not find gratification in money for the work he does. He simply enjoys his work. And when he is not in the mood to enjoy it, he sees it as a responsibility. I have not seen anyone who works so hard for a thankless job like Darlington does. Indeed, I admire his energy and commitment to his work, and I hope he doesn’t stop, at least not soon.
All of the things I have said so far and those I lack words to describe constitute the reason I set out to curate this collection of testimonials in honour of Darlington, a man who has given so much to me. But as I read the testimonials of other writers, it became clear to me that I may never fully know the depth of what Darlington has given. I thank Ngiga Review for their support on this project and invite you to join me in witnessing Darlington’s wondrous life and legacy.
Chibueze Anthony Ukwuoma
I think what distinguishes Darlington as an editor is not merely his ability to cut off redundant sentences from a piece of writing, but his understanding of the work at first glance. His tendency to identify my inconsistencies is worthy of note. He once worked on my set of poems which I consider deeply personal. His feedback challenged me to reconsider certain aspects of my writing. I am certain that working with Darlington will bring in my writing nothing short of a miracle.
Darlington Chibueze Anuonye is one person in the literary scene that I respect for his work and dedication. He has a good eye for curating and synthesizing some of the best pieces of literature from diverse Nigerian writers. This is evident through the number of important anthologies he has edited over the years. With this in mind, Anuonye’s contribution must not be underappreciated. There is a need to collect, record, and illuminate the talents of the present generation. Documentation has always been an issue throughout our history. But with people like Anuonye who are actively working to preserve the current artistic voices, there is hope that posterity and the rest of the world will have access to the brilliance of our generation. When you look at it from that perspective, what Anuonye is doing is so important to ignore. That is the role of the curator in literature, and he does it so well. Surely, there are other editors and creatives out there who have witnessed his offerings and have been inspired to, just like him, offer.
My first proper contact with Anuonye was when he reached out to me a year ago. I was surprised. I had won something and he wanted to congratulate me. Much recently, I was honoured to work with him and contribute my voice to one of his ongoing poetry projects. He told me he was working on the project in 2018, but he left it for a while. It felt great for him to consider my works and have a part of me etched in his history. To be surrounded by a lot of young poets that I admire is also a great feeling to have. Aside from his curated anthologies, Anuonye’s other works also speak of his devotion to literature. While reading his conversations and interviews with other creatives, you notice how much he knows about his contemporaries in the literary scene, and how much of their works he is aware of. A skilled conversationist, the questions he asks are relevant, doors that open rooms of introspection. Creatives like Anuonye are the motors that give motion to our literary culture. If you do not look behind the curtains, you may not notice them. But when you do, you have to celebrate them.
Enit’ayanfe Ayosojumi Akinsanya
Darlington Chibueze is a tearing force in literary circles. The kick of it is, he does it subtly, carries this power imperceptibly, which makes it even more devastating. The way he uses words needs to be studied. I have been privileged to work with him, to a remarkable extent. He gave me a thesis proposal to handle, and guided me through my failings. Now, I know better. He has not reviewed any of my works, but he has called for my poetry, waters on which I am making my first voyage. His enthusiasm about my work is buoyant and buoying. I anticipate a more fruitful future with him. Darlington is an awesome icon in our bourgeoning literary world.
Darlington Chibueze Anuonye’s brief biography on Facebook, “Resurrecting my mother,” holds diverse meanings to me. A mother is an embodiment of love, compassion, conscientiousness, and other positive attributes one could imagine. I have to say this: I don’t know why Darlington chose such a terse and enigmatic biography. Although I was curious to know, I never asked him. I concluded that time would reveal it, and time did eventually. The revelation, epiphany even, is objective, although Darlington might be communicating a message that could be diametrically opposed to what formed my epiphany. A mother as a quintessence of painstakingness ensures her children’s well-being—she stares beyond what appears at the surface and knows when a child conceals their trouble and tries to unearth it for soothing. Darlington, as a critic, is the most painstaking I’ve ever seen—and this assertion is not hyperbolic. His critique of Nnamdi Oguike’s manuscript, published in Shallow Tales Review, remains indelible to my memory. Upon a cursory look at the piece, one would think the epistolary form Darlington employed would water down his critique and consequently disappoint the reader’s literary prospect. But Darlington proved the connoisseur of literature he is; he offered a tender, constructive criticism, one that showed what a critic’s objectives should be—a physician, I reckon, who ought to pinpoint a work’s defects and propose a remedy. I relished this particular goodness some months ago when I requested his critique on a poem I haughtily believed was the best piece of literature I’ve ever written. Of course, Darlington pointed out what I was blind to see, advised me to read W.S Merwin, and recommended a Youtube video, Taha Mohammed’s recital of his poem entitled “Revenge.”
Darlington, as a literary conversationist, is conscientious. The conversations he’s had with different writers have set him on a pedestal: these conversations are engrossing and educating. Indeed, I don’t think I have read any of the conversations without having to search for one book or more. The recent one with Adebayo Agarau set me on to find Alex Haley’s Roots, and I’m more than elated to announce I’ve added it to my book collection. I recommend Darlington’s interviews to budding writers who are keen on seeing their craft take flight—the interviews, without failing, will be their guide to becoming better writers. Darlington was—I must confess—one of the two persons who indirectly prodded me on my reading journey, and I’ve seen its offshoots. Kindly indulge me to mention one act I noticed in the interview he had with Agarau—I reckon anyone who has followed Darlington’s interviews intimately should acknowledge the deluge of empathy he allows in this conversation whenever Agarau shares the chain of grief his family had experienced. The interview is published in Isele Magazine—it’s profound and inspiring. Darlington listens to his interlocutor, allows the interlocutor’s outpouring, humours Agarau, and never tries to dominate the discourse. I could feel Darlington’s compassion, coursing the conversation even though it’s not audio.
What Darlington’s “Resurrecting my mother” truly means, beyond my observation, is not known to me and, if it’s the antithesis of all that I have mentioned, I contend that Darlington has been resurrecting a mother, resurging her, for everyone to see. I ask, what characterizes a mother?
I have known Darlington Chibueze Anuonye for up to six or seven years. But it was in 2017 that we became quite close. Our friendship started on a very human level. Darlington used to come to my house then. Later on we were part of the unofficial board running Literati, a literary organization we formed at Imo State University in those days. Tall, lanky and eloquently spoken, Darlington has always been generous with his praises. In those early stages, this was the only part of him that I knew with any certainty. Thus we began a friendship that has remained strong through all these years. Many times, I have spent long periods in Darlington’s house, with him cooking and pampering me like a mother. Most times, we would usually have long conversations around literature and literary news. The first editing liaison I had with Darlington was in late 2017 or so when I edited his novel. I spent a lot of time on the work. Subsequently, we collaborated on shorter pieces.
He edited some of my own works and I, his. Also, in 2017, I worked a bit on the first of his major editorial projects, Selfies and Signatures. Starting from 2020, during the Covid-19, we developed a symbiotic editorial entanglement in which we sent individual works to each other to appraise before effecting final corrections. We have worked on creative, academic, and critical works together, helping each other attain a level of competence that only the privilege of a second eye can do. Darlington is, first and foremost, a human who offers love wholesomely and without restraint. Darlington, the editor, is an incisive force. His eye is that of an eagle and his vision of correctness is acute and pointedly precise. Darlington can elevate a poor line to a level of artistic mastery that may even flatter the average writer.One quality of being human is susceptibility to learning, and with Darlington you are bound to learn a thing or two about writing or being human.
Darlington has always been my go-to editor for all of my writing projects, both nonfiction stories and poetry. He provides invaluable input on each project, bringing with him a unique perspective that helps shape my work. I would recommend his expertise to anyone.
Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera
I have worked and interacted with Darlington Chibueze Anuonye on different capacities; as a teacher, a friend and an editor, and in all three respects, have encountered his wide range of knowledge, attentiveness and generosity. The most striking thing about Chibueze is how his knowledge about any given topic at any time is arranged inside of his head in almost perfect sentences and paragraphs, waiting to be said in the event of a discussion. Listening to him can be fascinating, but what fascinates me more is how the light of his knowledge makes me understand even more about what I already know, in addition to learning from him. Chibueze is as talented a writer as many of this generation’s finest. But being more of an editor and teacher is a result of his generosity and desire to help other writers become better. He has curated many anthologies, two of which I participated in. And the purpose of these anthologies is what you would expect of someone with vision. I had a particularly memorable time working with Chibueze on The Good Teacher anthology, as it helped me bring to light an essay I had intended to write for a while before the time. Chibueze is a hybrid of an academic who hungers for the best in the creative world and a creative who uses his knowledge to reshape of the academia. His kindness makes him a breath of fresh air, because characters like him are rare in the Nigerian academia, particularly in Southeastern Nigeria.
Catherine J. Cole
I worked with Darlington Chibueze Anuonye in the second volume of the nonfiction anthology Through the Eye of a Needle: Art in the Time of Coronavirus. May of 2020 was a frightful time. The pandemic was at its peak, the entire world in lockdown. It looked surreal, like a scene from the film Vanilla Sky: empty streets in the middle of workdays, the authorities prohibiting you from exiting your home because you may contract a virus that could kill you. What dystopian alternate world did we slip into? Yet the death toll was very real, and sensationalist media kept the climbing numbers on screen as if they were economic indicators for some currency on the rise. It was a time of anguish, desperation, fear. In such a dark summer, I received an email from Darlington, inviting me to submit a short nonfiction piece for the second volume of his anthology about artists and writers living in the time of Covid-19 pandemic and how it affected our lives and our work. Depressed as I was, this project gave me a chance to breathe, to get my head back into writing gear, so I accepted. Darlington is the type of editor who listens to the message on the page, not just the one written in words but the one between the lines, in the blank space that makes readers stop and think. He does not look to change your message or to adapt it to his preferences, to his way of thinking, but tucks the corners in lovingly around the industry standards, regional traditions, and grammatical conventions for readers to receive your message with the least resistance possible and the greatest appreciation. That is the work of a good editor. My essay required very few changes, and that is the best compliment an author can receive from an editor, a species known for their detail-oriented nitpicking. I’m grateful that I got to be part of the anthology, and that the words of this American/Colombian author can reach all the way to Africa.
Generous, intelligent, articulate: these are the words that come immediately to mind when I think of Darlington, a far-away friend who I have never met in person but whose companionship has been a privilege. I first had contact with Darlington through his editorial work with Praxis Magazine Online. He wrote the editorial to their sixth “Around the Fire” series, in which I had some poems. His editorial was beautifully written and he responded to my poems most generously. We have been in touch ever since. Darlington’s generosity was again displayed when, in his busy schedule, he found the time to write a blurb for “Rock Dreaming”, my book of poems on First Nation People of Australia. He wrote an eloquent and perceptive blurb. Subsequently, I worked with him on a collection of essays, basically in response to the challenges of Covid. I submitted something but hadn’t really grasped what was required. He was most patient and kind in articulating what was required. I have also been working with Darlington on a series of interviews. These are essentially thoughtful questions about my life and influences in poetry. They display Darlington’s love of literature and passion for promoting creativity. I have also noticed Darlington’s deep love for family and friends, so to the three words with which I began, I will add these: loyal, tender, caring and loving.
Darlington Chibueze Anuonye is a proficient editor and writer, but I’m sure most people already knew this. However, It’s his mind and his mien that continue to amaze and inspire me. A fine thinker and a genteel presence. Whenever I call on Darlington, he seems ready to take on whatever challenges I’m facing at that time. Whether it be literary, academic, or just regular life challenges, Darlington has something with which to soothe me. His is a roomy life; there’s always room to fit in one more person. There are very few editors who touch your essence as a writer while also breathing life into your stories.
Darlington is that friend whose presence you feel, even when you aren’t communicating or in close proximity, and for a person like me, so ensconced in my inherent aloofness, Darlington is that friend with a piercing edge that gets through to me, gets me blabbering, laughing, or venting depending on the circumstance. I feel it’s important to say this because there’s a part of a writer that doesn’t want to be viewed through the predominantly clinical lenses of editorial feedback; your humanity needs nourishing, an emotional plane needs to be opened up, kept open while you create art, and meeting this need a writer has, to be nurtured while you tend to your sentences, to be understood and seen, might be Darlington’s most outstanding quality as an editor.
When he edits my stories–and he has edited a good number of them–there’s a sense of ownership that he assumes, using the words “We will work on it” and never “I will work on it”. He once told me that he feels like a mother, has what he called atavistic instincts to pull people close to him and give them hope.
It’s that hope that props my writing up when things get shaky. It’s that hope, I think, that makes one continue to brave the rejections, the silences, the disappointments; that hope is a gentle voice you hear when the lines blur and the story cuts you off. That hope is Darlington’s voice, and the voice of committed editors like him, nudging us forward, girding us, letting our words grow wings and fly.
The first time I conversed with Darlington Chibueze Anuonye, it was on a series of posts about poems published by some of my writer friends from Facebook. Darlington in his usual self cheered these people on and made impressive comments when they shared their acceptances and published works. Later on, he would edit some of my finest pieces and his work process wowed me. His soft attitude, like water; his impeccable skills as an editor; the way he let works breathe, and evolve, and his fine communication skills. His thought process, finesse, and how he fleeces redundancies from work are second to none. In recent weeks, I have immersed myself in reading Darlington’s conversations with other writers and his book reviews. I read his conversations with Adedayo Agarau and I was stunned at how possible it is for Darlington to hold so much and not spill; how possible it is to be vast yet wear simplicity like a first skin. Darlington’s conversations are curated art topics. Apart from his conversations, his curated books are timeless pieces. Since I met Darlington, he has contributed a ton to my growth as a writer. I am always happy to receive his comments on my pieces because they are always honest, straightforward, and respectful. Darlington recognizes that writers are not just mothering beings who are fierce with their creations, but also vulnerable people. He is aware that meaningful contributions do not have to be destructive criticisms, and an honest editor doesn’t have to be an emotionless person.I like to call Darlington a “sugar daddy with no pot belly” because of his jovial nature and approachable status. We’d banter on social media and a few seconds later move on to discuss like professionals. Such a range is beautiful to experience. Anyone who has worked with Darlington in the past would agree with me that he is a human being with a fine set of impeccable qualities. Darlington is a flower, I’m not sorry to say that he does nothing but bloom.
I have known Darlington Chibueze Anuonye for years now, and first met him in person at Benue Book and Arts Festival. I am lucky to be one of those whose works he has edited. Working with Darlington has been great because he takes into care the details, accuracy and delivery of a piece. Also, he is very enthusiastic about creative writing and this has led him into questioning and criticizing its intricacies. He is a great friend and listener.
“My name is Darlington Chibueze Anuonye. I am an editor and writer. ”Those were part of the first words I read from Darlington. He had reached out to me because he was curating the works of “those driving the poetry conversation in our time. ”I responded almost immediately. Somehow, when you work with words, you develop an instinct for knowing the people you can trust with your words and works. It was something in his carefully crafted message. It showed deliberateness and old-fashioned politeness. He wanted five poems. It did not hurt that “there are no themes.” Why not? I pondered and conveyed my gladness and flatteredness, there should be such a word. But the time he found me was when I had not written poems in a while. I had been stuck in that wilderness of wordless poetry where the poet’s life has all the intensity and chaos of a poem and she is direly afflicted by wordlessness. The words flit by. Yes, they do but like Anne Rice’s wordless immortals, sitting in temples for millennia, hearing and seeing all but so assaulted by words and numbed into wordlessness by the sea of words, I had been evicted from Olympus. The password to let me back into the world of poetry was poetry. That was when Darlington reached out. I went to my laptop, like a studied impostor. I had poems from the days of abundant words. Enough poem to fill my bag of mystery, enough to pass as posts while I dealt with my existential crisis, a clichéd poet. So I took out five poems, attached a note saying something to the tune of “my cherished poems.” He had requested that I send my cherished poems. I had thought he would be the regular editor, worrying about basic article. What I didn’t know was that Darlington knew. He quickly caught on to my blitheness. Yes, they were good poems. He called them “important and beautiful” but his editorial feedback revealed that he knew what I was saying and he would take no half-heartedness. It spurred me. I had seen someone who wanted to really buy what I was selling. His motivation and incisive feedback spurred me into inspiration and I rallied my creativity. I began to carefully re-mould my words. When I sent them back, this time around, I keenly waited for his feedback. I had not known Darlington for more than a couple of days neither had I known of him prior to the time he reached out but I already knew that his was a feedback worth having. So when I opened my email to read:
I have no words left: everything has been said. It is my pleasure to accept your poems for publication in Kilimanjaro Voices. Thank you for the gift of your poetry.
I probably did a little jiggle. I know my soul and muses definitely did. And when I thanked him “for infusing life into these veins,” it was literal. He had resuscitated my interest in poetry and provided a lifebuoy that would carry a poet across the peculiar waters of poetry. The lifebuoy he offered was solid. It was cast in old-fashioned honesty and directness. When I said it was a pleasure working with him, I was referring to something beyond the proposed collection. It was a pleasure to be one of the poets known by Darlington. His words, I filed away and kept among one of those words that will be a testament to a poet’s existence, words that will remind me of myself on days when the lifebuoy has flattened to something that cannot carry even itself.
Alain Jules Hirwa
Darlington Chibueze Anuonye is not only an amazing editor and curator, but also a generous mentor. When I first started communicating with him, Laura M. Kaminski, another generous mentor to many of us, had recommended me to him for a poetry anthology he was working on. I was in Rwanda. Rwanda is pretty distant from Nigeria, but our communication demonstrates how dedicated to his work as a curator he is. I am sure his anthologies are very diverse in terms of geography. Through The Eye of a Needle, the first of his anthologies I got my work in, had writers from Rwanda, Nigeria, South Africa, the list goes on. As an editor, he is someone who makes the writer excited about his work. After sending him my essay for Through The Eye of a Needle, he said it was a masterpiece. It being a masterpiece or not, here was someone appreciating my work in a way that somehow showed me that I could write masterpieces. I swear, had he never accepted my poems and my essay for publication, I’d not have gotten where I am now. Today I have a chapbook forthcoming through Akashic Books and APBF. Three years ago, he was the first person to accept my poems for publication. He built for me that first stair. Darlington is an example of what every citizen of the art world should be, someone who holds the door open and invites in not only those who have a ticket but also those who can’t afford the bus ride. He is an example of someone who elevates voices, and I can’t wait to see all the light that he brings into the African literary circles.
Have I come to write about the one who writes back to writers, or a friend or a friend of my mother? This is how complicated it is to write about Darlington Chibueze Anuonye. When I was looking for an editor to work with me on Homecoming’s final draft, I wanted someone who is not Anuonye but with his patience, vision and humanity. In the end, I was lucky to get Anuonye himself, not his other selves. But in getting Anuonye’s acceptance to be my editor, I was worried on his behalf: When Anuonye writes back, will he write as my friend or my mother’s friend, or as the one who writes back to writers? Anuonye wrote back as an editor because editing is not where to continue pleasantries; an editor’s job is as serious as a surgeons’ or a street-cleaner’s. Through his edits, he makes a writer to account for every idea in a story and to be faithful to language. Anuonye puts the love and compromise of friendship aside and encounters the art before him as an object which must either show willingness to survive or give reasons to be drowned. He knows that not all works of art deserve survival or immediate redemption. In the Acknowledgments section of Homecoming, I described Anuonye as an editor in possession of nine eyes. His nine eyes did something for my book which nine lives do for a cat—redemption. Anuonye sees what a writer doesn’t, and revives a work by that recognition. So, when he says, Be patient with this work, listen to him. Anuonye is a busy editor with so much on his desks. Be patient with him as he is patient with your arts because redemption, revival or resurrection takes time, even the famous one took three nights.
Ikhide Roland Ikheloa
Nigeria is a mysterious space. As toxic as it is, it still manages to raise many citizens who are brilliant, industrious, and visionary in many spheres of life. The creative ecosystem breathes with the brisk energy of young men and women doing what they must, using the least tools, under conditions that would sap the creativity of their peers elsewhere in the globe.These young visionaries have created a warm, welcoming space for themselves and others on the internet and social media where they hold forth humouring themselves and the world with brilliant art that could only have been forged from the pit of a certain darkness. As an older consumer of their works, I am fascinated by and appreciative of the demons that fuel their lunatic creativity. In their works, they document the true narrative spilling out of Nigeria. This they do in song, dance, writing and the visual.
Darlington Chibueze Anuouye is a lovely proxy for the community of young thinkers and artists in Nigeria that I just described. I call him a brilliant old soul in a young man’s body. I don’t remember me at his age. I certainly don’t remember accomplishing anything substantive at his age. I had privilege and was on the right side of the railroad tracks, perhaps with little incentive or discipline to make something for myself. Darlington has been forged so to speak from the hot embers that only Nigeria can produce. I have had to collaborate with him on a few initiatives recently. I find myself looking forward every evening to his brilliant thoughts, his gently fierce and relentless probing of my mind, and luxuriating in awe at his ability to push me and bring out the best thinking in me. Darlington is not merely industrious, he is uber innovative. His generation straddles the wide boundary that links the digital with the analog, and stares resolutely at the powerful keepers of the gates of literary orthodoxy, looking for creative ways to move a risk-averse older generation of creatives into the 21st century. In this respect, Darlington has been a real leader. His temperament, sensitivity, intelligence and work ethic uniquely qualify him for this work on gentrifying the medium of African literature. I am grateful for the gift of Darlington. He and his generation will make the right choices and push all of us into the 21st century using the digital medium and creative tools that will close the equity gap in reading and writing between much of Africa and the rest of the world. I salute you, Darlington and we all love you so much.
I think highly of Darlington Chibueze Anuonye as one of the significant gifts to Nigerian/African literature. Before working with him recently in editing my poems, I had met and interacted with him at the University of Ibadan. When he reached out to me for the forthcoming book project, I promptly responded, knowing how brilliant he is. So, we had editorial exchanges, and we disagreed briefly on my work. How we resolved it is not a testament to my authorial signature. It was Darlington’s superior editorial argument that calmed me. Following that closer work with him, I now have a firmer belief that Nigerian/African literature has a gem that is fast emerging. Darlington is one editor and writer that Ngiga Review did a coup to sign off. He’s sure to help the magazine become one of the best literary journals in Nigeria, Africa and the world. Darlington brings on board not only his rich, perspicacious literary sensibility but also his work ethic and multitasking capacity judging from his knack for completing many assignments and accomplishing them with studied discipline and remarkable attention to time and detail. And if you ask me, Darlington is one editor that any literary organization, author, or book industry should find a brilliant sail with.
Sarah Ladipo Mayinka
I admire Darlington Chibueze Anuoneye’s innovative spirit and the way he has turned his hand to a variety of collaborative literary projects over the years—from poetry to essays. I appreciate his desire to shine a spotlight on the work of others and I look forward to reading more of his conversations with artists. It was a pleasure contributing to Through the Eye of a Needle: Art in the Time of Corona virus.
Peter Ngila Njeri
Darlington Chibueze is one of the most graceful and humane people I have worked with in my writing career so far. I don’t remember the first time Darlington and I connected on social media, but we must have e-met around five or six years ago. It was a usual thing given that most of my writer friends on Facebook are Nigerians. Maybe I had sent Darlington a friend request based on mutual friends, but the first thing which struck me about him was his name. Before e-meeting this guy with an interesting name, I had never heard of the name. I had no idea that the history which would follow would change my writing life and open me to many opportunities. Over the years, Darlington has edited several of my short stories. Notable among them is “Chinese Bleeding on a Friday”, which was eventually published in the United States by Barren Magazine. One of the best things about Darlington’s editing energy is that he has this superpower of seeing things a writer never sees. After I was done implementing his edits, he still had the grace to proofread the piece. “East Africa”, another of my short stories very close to me, also experienced a bit of Darlington’s genius. When Darlington read the story on Ghana Writes, a Ghanaian-based online journal, he said that he loved it. And that he would love to include it in an anthology of short fiction by African writers. I was delighted that someone had seen my story’s worth and thought of giving it a new home. I was especially delighted that my work would be published without necessarily going through submissions and rejection. And because writing fiction is so hard, that came in handy. “East Africa” was eventually published in hard copy in Selfies and Signatures: An Afro Anthology of Short Stories. On February 2019, Darlington sent me pictures of the collection’s cover and my story. I was so excited! The collection, published in Nigeria in 2018, took its time to arrive to me. For months, Darlington and I tried to find a way for him to send me copies of the collection, but nothing seemed to work. Darlington then told me that he had already put together several copies for me, and that we should keep our eyes open for someone travelling to my city. The copies made several journeys within Nigeria, before Anthony Onugba finally brought them to me in Nairobi in late September 2019.
I was supposed to meet Darlington in February 2022 when I was in Nigeria. Around that time, Darlington was at the University of Ibadan. Our plans to meet never saw the light. But we did talk on phone, to work something out. The plan was for me to travel to Ibadan from the beautiful Benin City in Edo State, but it didn’t happen. The six-hour journey from Benin to Lagos had left me with a little energy. My good man Darlington, perhaps we will meet in person somewhere in the world.
Today is not one of such days to talk about the caring man that is Darlington Chibueze Anuonye. Indeed, any discussion about Darlington must first centre on the people’s man, the loving man, the caring man who understands what friendship is all about, and is always on the lookout for those whom he feels responsible. But like I said, today is not such a day. Today is for another aspect of this young fighter and literary warlord. Yes, a literary warlord, for, how do you define or give full nuances to Darlington’s literary trajectory if you can’t bring yourself to refer to him as the Ogbuefi of our time, the warlord? Beyond his engagements with creative writing, Darlington is a consummate editor, an outstanding one in every sense of the word. An encounter with Darlington readily evinces his keen eyes for spotting those unnecessary words, sentences and expressions that lurk about the pages of one’s writing and tend to embarrass the writer. Eagles’ eyes have been used as a symbolic expression to qualify those who possess prodigious editorial skills, and Darlington is one of such persons. My writings bear testimony to this claim.
Bura-Bari Vincent Nwilo
I met Darlington Chibueze Anuonye on Facebook and we have met once in person in Nsukka. He is such a gentle and tall man. I am not particularly tall but I admire men who are tall and who carry themselves with some grace only expected of people who place values in almost all things, animate and inanimate. I think that Darlington is one of such people. He is driven and he is a master of the world he finds himself in. And I say this because we have had some conversations, especially about publishing and I have seen his outlines and his clear cut ideas about what he intends to do. When he sets his mind on a project, it is all that the project requires. Once, many years ago, he contacted me to be part of a fiction project and I thought it was one of those projects that writers curate and it ends in the head, but Darlington ensured that the anthology was well edited and printed and distributed to all the people who contributed. I think it takes dedication to ensure that such is achieved and a man who is creative and blessed with such level of commitment is a man everyone should have in their corner. About editing, that was the only project we worked on but I have read the works of Darlington and I have seen how his mind works with fine ideas in interviews. Aside his skills, he looks like a man who is always ready to discover a new path and it is a beautiful thing because such a man would always fly high. He has my support always.
It took me years to understand my first editor, less to appreciate my second, weeks to be able to make anything out of my third and the others, minutes to be awed by the editor in Darlington Chibueze Anuonye. Before meeting him, through the good friendship of Martins Ndubuisi, we were distant pals, neither exchanging anything, nor conversing on a literary level. The editor is one, as I profoundly see it, who lives right in the writer’s heart; making it its home, where he furnishes it, cleans it with rosewater, rearranges the depths, and gives it the shape as the writer intended; these are the stellar beauties Darlington embodies. On his poetry project, he asked for a suite of poems, and I offered about three. Few days later, he sent the editorial feedback on them, and I wondered where on earth he was when I was looking for a seasoned editor. He made me believe in the poems and threw me into a state of self-knowing I had not known for years, writing. Hierarchically, he stands on the tip of the ladder editor-wise, and without a feeling of immodesty, I am confident that he is the best in the country. I searched for the works he edited, and it didn’t surprise me; the beauty they exude. His works speak mountains for him and full of hope for critical editing within the grasp of young African writers of fiction and non-fiction. His patience, assiduity and forthrightness, undoubtedly credits his name, and highly too. A good book cannot but pass through the hands of a great editor, and Darlington is one, standing tall among the millions, looming, unequalled, over the Nigerian space.
The first time I worked closely with Darlington was while revising my piece for Through the eyes of a needle: Art in the time of Coronavirus. I have also had cause to consult him while working on my personal literary projects. In all of them, he brought an uncommon passion, dedication, and conscientiousness to the editorial process. His contributions to the art stand out, and I wish him the best for the future.
I met Darlington Chibueze Anuonye for the first time in December of 2019 in Owerri at a book reading organized in my honour by Ngiga Book Club soon after I was awarded a Morland Scholarship for African Writing. Chibueze came all the way from Lagos to engage me on my debut collection of short stories, Do Not Say It’s Not Your Country, whose Nigerian edition had just been released. What struck me the most was his excitement and wit, and the profound questions he asked. I had to ask him in the middle of our conversation if he was an academic, to robust laughter from the audience.Ever since then, Chibueze has remained a friend and confidant. He has become one of my most reliable readers. He has read almost every other work of fiction I’ve written after Do Not Say It’s Not Your Country. I collaborated with him on an anthology he curated in the wake of Covid-19, titled Through The Eye of A Needle. Chibueze’s love for literature is profound and deep. He is constantly promoting African literature and emerging writers, for no pecuniary gains. He is one of the most selfless and hard working young men I have ever know.I wish him the very best in his new role as Nonfiction Editor at Ngiga Review. I have no doubt that his genius will bring solid transformations to the magazine.
My first interaction with Darlington Chibueze Anuonye was made possible through Laura M. Kaminski, editor at Praxis Magazine. It was Kaminski who introduced me to the Nigerian literary community and it was she who directly or indirectly introduced me to the persons who have influenced my craft and philosophy. Darlington is one of these people. It was at Praxis Magazine, while serving as a reader and correspondent that I guess for some reason, I caught Darlington’s attention. In our relationship as people who are passionate about the growth of the literature, the language and the learning of the Nigerian mind, we have had cause to not only collaborate in some of his projects where I have given my support through reading and/or commenting on the works he sends my way but also exchanging ideas on numerous issues around the Nigerian literary and teaching community which have broadened my grasp of the politics of being a writer in Nigeria.
The first trait I have come to associate Darlington with is his slow gentle voice, which maybe has nothing to do with this testimonial but as someone who rushes through dialogue, it is quite nice to interact with someone who slows down the conversation and makes sure I think before I speak. He always calls me Nwanne, or Benard and is it not funny how you interact with someone whom you’ve never physically seen and you just flow? Thankfully, I am yet to put my foot in my mouth while exchanging viewpoints with the man. Life has its kindnesses. Another aspect of him which makes for cordial working relationship is his willingness to explore ideas outside his accepted stance. And when he sticks to an idea about a particular piece of work we are working on, he doesn’t make it seem like I don’t know what I am doing, rather, he turns me towards the possibilities of doing things in this way or that way, with clear reasons. I mean there’s carefulness in how he engages which shows a mind that is concerned with building strong relationships with people. Is this not one of the elements of true success? As a result, if I have a solid idea, following his method, I ensure it is presented clearly so he too can grasp the benefits. I also find the fact that he tries to bring in as many persons as possible into any work he is doing interesting. He doesn’t put himself out as the know-all editor. Works that I have participated in with him at the helm has always involved other persons, people he respects and trusts and this gives me a pleasant surprise from time to time, knowing that he values my opinions enough to add me to this esteemed company.
The fact that Darlington is first a teacher makes his work socially important as he puts emphasis on projects that will contribute to the unlearning of dangerous ideas and the learning of new ways of thinking and seeing as well as a strong desire to bring books back into our schools and along with them, the willingness of students to read and see the value that teachers and the books they teach gives them. His love for and involvement in the teaching profession brings the literary community closer to the society, and this for me is an awesome example of how these two closely related arts can be married. I congratulate you, Darlington as you assume this new role, in your journey of putting the writing that needs eyes out there, and I hope the opportunities coming your way continue to create for you and the literary space words with which we can better understand how our lives matter and how books matter.
I like to think of Darlington Chibueze Anuonye as friend and professional colleague, which by no means is suggestive of some bias in how I regard him and his work. Each time I sit to think about his contributions to the wider literary tradition, I often tend to remember the Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges, who in the twilight of his life, and obsessed with the idea of time and infinity, sought answers from the desert soils of the Sahara, of which he scooped up a handful and allowed to sift through the spaces between his fingers, and by so doing, exclaimed, “I am modifying the Sahara.” The work that Anuonye has set out to do, speaks to a modification of the intellectual Sahara of the (African) literary space. This brilliant writer and editor, knows exactly what is at stake and does not fail in his quest for excellence. There is a lot to admire about Anuonye and the literary path that he has chosen to follow. He understands what is required of him as one who has taken on the weighty responsibility of sieving, interpreting and preserving the genealogies and traditions of the tribe.
Without the storyteller, we’re bereft of any sense of direction, like pirates lost at sea, like a marathoner who misunderstands the signals and takes the wrong turn. But one can then imagine what we would become, without the one who keeps time for the storyteller, who is like the marathoner’s pacemaker in the literary space, who witnesses to the life and work of the storyteller. This is the most dignified role in literature: this very different art of witnessing. Anuonye’s numerous dealings with writers of diverse genres and orientations show just how much soul and heart he brings to his work, like a man who has condemned himself to his endeavor, and has become a horrible worker in the process, horrible in the sense that he cultivates himself more than any other, and reaps the best of rewards: he’ll survive the wreck of time, and outlive everyone else (I often tell him this). Anuonye performs the functions of both the storyteller’s pacemaker and the storyteller’s interpreter. He fills in the link between history and modernity, thereby bridging a delicate gap. He opens up the mind of the writer to their readers, and vice versa, with a curiosity that stretches far beyond the confines of the page. This is a masterful art, one that requires a lot of brilliance and skill honed with painstaking rigor. It was Chinua Achebe, who in a conversation with Bill Moyers (circa 1988), made this important assertion about the storyteller:
“If you look at the world in terms of storytelling, you have the warrior, you have the war drummer; the man who drums up the people first of all, the man who agitates the people, I call him the drummer, And then you have the warrior, who goes forward, you know, and fights. But you also have the storyteller, who takes over to recount the event. And this is one who survives. It is the storyteller, in fact, that makes us what we are, that creates history.”
But, more than that, it is actually those on the other camp, the curators, the translators, the editors, the literary interpreters and conversationists, those, like Anuonye, who become the selfless custodians of what have been written and told, who actually bring the work closer to the reader, they are the ones who would save us from the monstrosity of forgetfulness, in the years to come. They provide the memory which the survivors must have and which the praise singers must live on, otherwise their survival would have no meaning. This encapsulates the ingenuity of Anuonye. We need to soak in all of that brilliance in his lifetime, for they do not come in their numbers. After Anuonye, we may not have another of his species for many generations to come. Give thanks.
Not so often do I write a thing and it glows, until I receive editorial feedback from an editor, and within those margins of suggested phrases/clauses, ruling out of redundant sentences, rearrangement of plot and so on, my intentions are guided towards clarity, precision and light. It is true that, as writers, we are our first editors, that to write, to create drafts of varying lengths and styles add up to the intent of editing, but how vulnerable a thing it is to view our art through eyes not ours, eyes meticulous at spotting the many flaws casting shadows over our intent at creating a nearly perfect art. “To present a work for editing could be vulnerable to a writer, but to the editor, a privilege,” opines Darlington Chibueze Anuonye, a bright editor who understands it a privilege to work with a writer in bringing a story to life. In a time of staggering youthful engagement with literature all over Africa, Darl, as I like to call him, presents himself as a refreshingly brilliant eye to reckon with as it relates to the editing and curation of literary works. I began writing few years ago, stories and poems choking in amateurish metaphors and unconvincing, unauthentic voice. The editors I worked with them, most of whom were distinctively wonderful, guided my art in a kind of formal, unaffected manner, directed towards finding my voice. With Darl, I have come to witness (more of what I embrace now) a certain ingenious, affected, untheatrical approach to the editing and curation of literary works, a method so soulful it reaches for the heart. Just last year, I worked with Darl on a story which was longlisted for the K and L African Short Story Prize and went on to be a finalist for the Tupelo Quarterly Open Fiction prize. Also, last year, I worked on a poem with him at a time in my life that I was unsure of my voice. It was the engaging calm of his thoughts and his kind reassurance that steered my work towards light. That work earned me a Pushcart nomination. Aside being an editor, Darl has proven to be a stellar curator. I am still in awe of the brilliance of The Good Teacher: An Anthology of Essays on Teachers, which he curated with commendable literary stylishness. Darl is an editor so much as he is a close friend of mine. I congratulate him as he joins the editorial team of Ngiga Review as the Nonfiction Editor. Nnaa, as you call me, jisike. Thank you for all you do for this generation of writers. Your impact in my craft is most cherished. Cheers to more engagements.
Kester Kanayo Onyemachi
I have worked with Darlington Chibueze Anuonye for a couple of years, during which he curated one of my poems for an anthology. Darlington excelled in the role so well that I knew he was made for greater things. He somehow managed to keep a close relationship with all the contributors, making sure that all we were supposed to do were promptly done. In all of his works, Darlington always goes above the expectations of his job, and that’s a testament to how proactive he is. I am confident in his ability as a curator and editor.
My first writer-editor encounter with Darlington Chibueze Anuonye happened in 2020 when he dropped a review on Facebook regarding one of my poems published in Isele Magazine. It was so insightful I had to re-work the poem all over again. Two years after, having worked more closely with him on some other unpublished poems, I owe a large amount of my growth to him. Darlington is easy to work with. He does not impose his voice on the writer. He makes the most insightful suggestions that, long after the editing process, continue to guide the writer in their craft. But what is most intriguing—to me—is how he makes out time to assist emerging Nigerian writers in honing their craft. I’m a beneficiary. I have several friends who are, too.
Writing is a personal and very lonely journey. You only hit gold, when you come in contact with the right editor to shine more clarity on your craft. Darlington Chibueze Anuonye is one reputable editor, who has eyes for excellence in a work of art. He is someone you can always send your work-in-progress, and be sure of tangible input on your manuscript. I have worked with several editors of literary magazines and they barely ever have any or much edit for my work, perhaps because of the time I spend on each piece before submission. But with Darlington, there is always something unfinished, some loose end to tighten, some cliché to remove, some tired metaphor to sharpen. When he makes a comment like “Is this the best expression?”, I too ask myself the same question. I return to my writing with a fresh eye and many questions I alone have answers to. Darlington is the third person I had ever sent my poetry to for feedback since I began writing, and I found myself coming back to him for more. Working with him is an experience I always want to relive, as a writer who seeks near-perfection. Darlington’s time as nonfiction editor for Ngiga Review will be full of impact. I wish him more feats in this course and beyond.
My writing and I got in contact with Darlington Chibueze Anuonye at a time when I was pushing through self-doubt, a constant, I would presume for most writers. It was for a piece that I had submitted for Ngiga Review’s Contest. The story made it as the first runner-up, and Darlington would later single me out at a workshop in University of Nigeria, Nsukka, hosted by The Muse, to talk about the story. Darlington stretches himself to do what the editor does—make things better. He edits both the art and the life, bettering the writing and caring for the writer as well as the lives around him.
I admire Darlington Chibueze Anuonye because he is the kind of creative that pays attention to what the larger literary community misses; this shows in the kind of works, and I mean the anthologies, he curates. And in even doing so, he brings together a coterie of writers, irrespective of their popularity, together. His Through the Eye of a Needle, COVID-19 lockdown year anthologies, Volumes I & II, are an immense blessing, in the time they were published and till now. It was where I had the opportunity to read the genius writing of Jason Mykl Snyman in a personal essay “What Kind of Animal”, in which the author portrayed a rare picture of COVID-19 as an enemy to community. Chibueze’s other work The Good Teacher, an anthology of essays about the gift of teachers to humanity, is another good work he has given us.
It was quite a short time working with him at Praxis Magazine. Initially, he corresponded more with Kaminski until she left the magazine to attend to her health. But even in that small time interacting with Chibueze, there was no doubt about his work ethic and enthusiasm for literature, especially in engaging Nigerian literature, trying to promote it in any possible way he could. And this was what he did while he was at Praxis. Even now he has continued this work greatly with platforms like Ngiga Review where he works hard still. In a time where writing and the writer’s life have almost become a masterclass in self-promotion with narcissism being its occupational hazard, Chibueze takes that Frostian less-taken road—if not carving a third—to be a curator and promoter, even as he’s a good writer as well. Many of us are in this place and we understand why this needs to be done; thus, I see him as a comrade-in-arms. There are times I wish I had his gift to bring writers together but I think we all have our gifts. I am a very good closet literary person. If you ask me, I wouldn’t want to be seen or heard; this somehow makes me very occlusive to making acquaintances in the writing world. But to be a good editor that thrives in a literary community as ours, you need to reach out and have a good number of writers in your sphere of influence, which Chibueze is teaching all of us.
Darlington Chibueze Anuonye reached out to me concerning an anthology he was (may still be) working on, and throughout our precedent conversations, I generally noticed intelligence and precision. That was the first time we were ever getting into a dialogue. I sent him some documents and his observations were properly educated. Darlington sees the errors in a work as stepping stones to a more profound beauty. He feels each work put under his consideration like a skin would feel breeze, listens out for its voice, and deliberately tries to understand, not just the presented language, but also the motive and inspirations of the language. I have been blessed with the opportunity to watch him work, and I must testify that he is very zealous about it. His desire for excellence, betterment, and deeper connection with self, makes it easy for him to go through each piece with carefulness, adequate emotional conduct, and vision. He fixed a very personal poem of mine with tenderness, so much that it did not change my story or reduce my emotions in the poem, but modified them, for me, and for every prospective reader. I enjoy(ed) working with him, and I think anyone would.
John Chizoba Vincent
Darlington Chibueze Anuonye is a passionate and brilliant editor. He has his own approach and style and eye for details in every story, essay, poem and book project he handles. Not only does he work on each project as if his life depends on it, he also understands the writer’s idea and ensures it is accurately embodied in the work. Darlington is to manuscripts what butterflies are to flowers, amplifying the beauty of every book he touches. As a writer, he is uncommonly talented. There is always a creative balance in his work; even hopelessness and grief are rendered with hope.
2 thoughts on “A Collection of Testimonials in Honour of Darlington Chibueze Anuonye”
Wow, wow, wow! What a wonderful person Darlington Chibueze Anuonye is. It is also quite interesting to read some of my friends’ testimonials above. May our paths cross soon enough.