A Review of Painted Blue with Saltwater by Victor Ugwu

The poet, Logan February identifies as non-binary. All pronouns referring to the poet as he should please be read as they.

Blue is for Bodies
We are onions. Logan is a layer of bodies; blue, brown, salty, queer, and broken; a collection of misplaced people drowning him into his own skin, into a language, dead and infernal to translate. With every facet exposed, he walks us into this body, where he searches for too many answers.
There are questions like:
where does the sun go at night
how do you define a room full of emptiness

He tells his body, clear—only to discover his voice takes him to an opposite direction of clarities. He begins by hoping on Fridays that he’d grow to finer complexities, to grow into a house, a distraction, and even a denial.
On Fridays, I grow leathery wings,
& when the devil takes me dancing,
I pretend he is all the boys I have ever loved

We go into his being with antagonisms, walking into his queerness with so much magic, so much hunger for home anywhere and everywhere in his body, “Marcus” and even air. His unique style takes us to every scattered piece of himself left behind in odd and even places; family. His conversation with his grandmother, parents and siblings roam around his oddities and acceptance to being normal. Do they see him as an abomination, as what god wanted to happen, or even a dead body?
Silly boy didn’t your mother tell you
Blue is a colour for the dead

Being queer in Nigeria can be likened to being born a sin. The government abhors the practice by signing into law the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. This has led to increased homophobic tendencies. Logan, young and magical collects himself like a missal into other bodies (lost too); sometimes un-defining his sexuality to define ‘said’ morality (as in the poem “are you fucking the one you love”,) to say a prayer to air or anywhere home is. This search—sceptic and basic—introduces us to his centre of gravity, his balance with light, sanity and questions. His metaphors are doors shaped like windows. By entering him, you enter yourself and maybe, say a prayer. The elemental constricts are his objects and symbols—never bearing the same face, always heterogeneous—quite simple, yet too many to collect.
Another beautiful thing about Logan’s poetry is how he teaches us about halfness—to die in his misplaced skin and to die in love incompletely; and how these halfnesses though alike, are different identities. Like in “tea with my Grandma
Yes but how do you explain
yellow skin
turning green is it true I was born
half dead

It is visible that his prayers take the form of birds, and stay so in all moments even when life tries to mould them into butterflies. He spills himself in many directions to find meaning and peace. All the self-portraits poems carry the weight of his emptiness, always showing his fragility and how undying we become as we live in it. Sometimes, to die is to be sane; sometimes, writing your body in a boy’s wound is sane; sometimes, pouring home into your lover’s body opens yours into different types of questions.
It is amazing to watch the story he tells with his punctuations. How his periods depict the deadness in his finality, in his silence. His commas command movement, and show us how infinite brokenness sleeps in his skin. In trying to understand Logan, you get misdirected from the true meaning of his poetry. I think he is the misdirection, the collection is his binding force showing how beautiful we can find our way back when lost in true meaning; a sign to read and find yourself in someone else’s voice.
I cannot guarantee how clear your reflection will be in this mirror. But like David Ishaya Osu once told me, there is a rhythm of everyone in one’s poem. I sure found mine in “Self-Portrait as Pussyboy”:
Your chair is carved from the same wood / as the chopping block. They
are a park / of hyenas, showing you that nothing is wolf enough /
when it is outnumbered. / Their blood is thick with hate, laughter so
loud / it may echo for all fourteen years of prison time. / They latch on
to you with teeth & / do not let go. / A condom is filled luminous
dust& / dangled in your face. Some days, / survival is the only victory
to fondle. / You do not have to be a wolf / to survive. You run off into
the shadows, / tail between legs, but still breathing.

This carries an identical force and rawness. It is impossible to miss the honesty, fear, doubt and wounds.
The collection is a model of my family, my neighbourhood, my country. While they send queer people to hell for their sins, while they baptize them with burning candles and smoking tires, while they label an identity as an absolute abomination, I can’t help but wonder how men carry out god’s judgment and un-write scriptures built on love and peace. Are we first humans or…?

Painted Blue with Saltwater, Logan February.
Released by Indolent books,
Review by Victor Ugwu

The reviewer, Victor Ugwu has his bio in the members’profile section.

2 thoughts on “A Review of Painted Blue with Saltwater by Victor Ugwu”

  1. This is an amazing review. It brings to life the sadness embedded in the poet’s lines. I like that it compels me to read the book.
    Great job!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WhatsApp chat