“Absolutely amazing! I have read most of Neal Halls works; have had the privilege of commenting and critiquing many pieces as he wrote them. But with ‘Door of No Return’, Doc Man, as I fondly refer to Neal, has exceeded himself! His perception of the human condition, in particular the plight of the white man’s creation, ‘the Nigger’, as described in these poems, is second to none
I had the privilege of first meeting Neal Hall in Nairobi, Kenya, at the Storymoja Festival in 2013. He read from his book, Nigger For Life, a collection of poems that challenged, in the most explicit and uncompromising of ways all who listened to him to think or re-think their perceptions of race, identity, acceptance and survival. Already there, Neal’s work stood out.
Because his poetry does not make you comfortable, does not reinforce the generically ‘acceptable’ and accepted state of affairs. It instead boldly and candidly questions, in the face of Neal’s real life experiences as a black man, the status quo – raw and painfully blatant. You are forced to open your mind to the fact, not ‘the possibility’, that what seems to be may not be as it seems.
Blatantly blunt, painfully honest and, as always, breathtakingly unapologetic. Neal Hall’s language is simple but intense, not sparing his readers, not compromising his delivery for the sake of a pretentious feel-good factor. Neal Hall is not on a quest for apologies, empathy, sympathy – and least of all, pity. Brutally descriptive, he writes simply to tell it as it is! No holes barred.
‘why is a black man’s greatness greatly measured in how much shit he can peacefully endure, then forgive the white man for it’. NH
To call Neal Hall brave, even courageous, would be to undermine the power of his work. Because he is not out to save, absolve or convert the world. His work simply unashamedly and uncompromisingly calls a spade a spade!
There is nowhere to hide, nowhere to conceal ones guilty adherence to, and acceptance of the status quo of injustices and atrocities committed past and present. There is no no pretending that you have no part in it. Because at every twist and turn Neal Hall gets you, exposes you, and confronts you with countless revelations of the ways in which we fan the flame that burns us alive.
There is no respite, no relief in the reading. It is as it is. Up front and in your face, forcing you to reflect and question. So know that you cannot read Neal Hall’s work and not be affected by it.
To read Neal Hall is – whether you like it or not, to deal with it! And that is how it should be. I feel privileged and am honoured to give testimony to the work of the brilliant poet that is Neal Hall. His work is an invaluable contribution to world contemporary poetry. Asante Neal ! – Dr. Auma Obama, Founder, Director Sauti Kuu Foundation, Nairobi Kenya
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