Book Review of “25 Atonements” from John Chinaka Onyeche (reviewed by Aondonengen Jacob Kwaghkule)


BY: Kwaghkule Aondonengen Jacob.

25 Atonements is a forty paged poetry book penned by John Chinaka Onyeche. It is embedded with a lot of literal and figurative accurately engineered aesthetics. All the poems in the said collection are stylistically titled and numbered in Atonements from one to the twenty-fifth Atonement. Of a truth, all these poems are wow-stricken as well as mind-blowing considering the tone and the era in which they have been rendered.

Grief, according to English Dictionary means suffering, hardship. Grief is also defined as pain of mind arising from misfortune, significant personal loss, bereavement, misconduct of oneself or others, etc.; sorrow; sadness. Grief is the cause or instance of sorrow or pain; that which afflicts or distresses; trial.

In the poetry book, 25 Atonements, John China Onyeche has deliberately portrayed grief like sellers do display their wares in market squares_the picture of a girl captured in the early pages of the book speaks volumes_although, not minding the different view of the poet as seen in “Atonement Seven”. It is undoubtedly verifiable, that most 21st Century Societies, Nigeria inclusive, have failed their citizens just like the world always disappoints new born babies resulting into their cries immediately after being born.

Nigeria is one of the underdeveloped 21st Century societies_so to say. The level of maladministration in this country makes her to be termed an underdeveloped [if not undeveloped] nation till date. The question is how can a poet living in such a ruined society think straight other than being constantly interrupted by grief? With this, John Chinaka Onyeche has vindicated and bears no blames for having penning down grief in ‘poetrical’ lines.

Beginning from the interlude anchored by Tares Oburumu to the last Atonement, it can be inferred that this society has caused this grief  made visible in many poems of these poets today. For Tares openly says:  “I know of a happiness that doesn’t include me in its typical home. So I create one and rub it on my body. Does it smell? Am I the scent only my mirror understands?” No wonder, till date, Nigerians still seek homes on the shores of other societies…

One of the key amenities of life is shelter. This when it’s lacked, peace is lost and grief is activated. John Chinaka Onyeche has been /longing for a home in a home/ all this while. He captures this disillusionment in his second Atonement thus;

“When I stare into the face of yesterday
Home whispers hope to live on
But how else should I live
Atoning for yester-longings?” (Pg.14).

The question of homelessness in this society has promoted Onyeche to asking that /Where can be more home, than where the heart already lives, without leaving?/ In this poem, the author has succinctly explained what grief is, that:

“Grief, you’re a kin, bestriding the threshold
I know you, I know your story
—of a river holding a large whale
I know your story of a winter breeze
Scrubbing away light
You are a cloudy sky without rain
You are a shell without snail” (Pg.16).

The futility of many a citizen’s efforts in this Society is unfathomable. In different sectors, the Government of the people has kept denying being for the people. It contradicts what the poet has believed in. In his belief, it is biblically asserted that /“Ask and it shall be given,/Knock and the door shall be opened/For whosoever inquires shall find”/

Yet, here, a poet prays:

God save a poet atoning for the clouds
Gathering them from a blue sky with sun (Pg.21).

In a society filled with dysfunctional mayhems, a poet is left with nothing but his pen putting down pains to paper. It is evident as Onyeche puts; /My grief is clothed in the garb of rhetoric/(Pg.26). As /Words have galloped on our tongues/Pulling even the last pinch of steel/(Pg.32) and all that is made of this society is likened to;

A broken bucket
A broken water pot
A city of broken walls
A broken metaphor (Pg.31).

Indeed,  /This society has become a fire that burns me/[emphasis mine] and /I breathe here like a saltwater tide, coming in in the mornings and returning in the evenings/(Pg.34). Sadly, we only live to groan about /the wishes which dressed my good old days/(Pg.36).  For;

The stories told from a broken wall

Have held us bound a thousand times

If we don’t return to retell our tales of old

The days shall go by and not let us go on

Conclusively, it is what the society tells a poet to write he writes. John Chinaka Onyeche has done so. Poetry has therefore, been used here as a tool for exposng the cause of many a poet’s grief amidst this contemporary turmoil; the failure of the Government at all levels.


John Chinaka Onyeche “Rememberajc” (he/his) is an author of three poetry collections “Echoes Across The Atlantic”, a husband, father and poet from Nigeria. He writes from the city of Port Harcourt Rivers State, Nigeria. He is currently a student of History and Diplomatic Studies at Ignatius Ajuru University Of Education Port Harcourt Rivers State.

John Chinaka can be reached through the following means:

Poetry Showcase June 2022 for John Chinaka Onyeche “Rememberajc”

New poem “Journey of Love” by John Chinaka Onyeche

Poetry Focus on John Chinaka Onyeche (Rememberajc) 8 poems

Bio for Reviewer:

Kwaghkule, Aondonengen Jacob is popularly known by his pen name “Mr Kvip”. He’s an awarded Nigerian poet with multiple online and traditional publications.  A two time finalist for Pengician Chapbook Poetry Prize, 2021 and 2022, an Entrant for NSPP, 2021, and a Longlist, African Human Right Playwriting Prize, 2021. Kwaghkule Aondonengen Jacob bagged a B.A Honours in English and Literary Studies from the prestigious Federal University, Wukari, Nigeria, where he serves as the Poetry Editor for Insights. If he’s not writing, he’s admiring the beauty around him.

Bare Bones Writings Issue 1 is out on Paperback and Kindle

Cover photo by Paul Brookes of Wombwell

Bare Bones Writings is an extension of . Themes we are Looking for Poetry/prose/articles/other styles of writing are for Adhd Awareness, Mental Health, Anxiety, Culture, History, Social Justice, LGBTQ Matters/Pride, Love, Poem series, sonnets, physical health, pandemic themes, Trauma, Retro/pop culture, inspired by music/songwriters, inspired by classic & current writers, frustrations. Artwork. Music, Poetry, Book reviews.

Issue 1 includes tributes to poets/writers that contributed to Fevers of the Mind in the past including Kari Ann Flickinger, Scott Christopher Beebe & Dai Fry.

A Fevers of the Mind Musician Spotlight on the albums of Marissa Nadler.

Short Interviews from the Quick-9 interview series with Khalisa Rae, Ron Sexsmith, & Shaindel Beers.

Poetry/Writings from Kari Ann Flickinger, Dai Fry, Scott Christopher Beebe, Paul Brookes, Bill Abney, Ankh Spice, David L O’Nan, Robert Frede Kenter (with poems about Lou Reed), Glenn Barker, Rc deWinter, K Weber, Robin McNamara, Elizabeth Cusack, an art/poetry collaboration between Lia Brooks & Phil Wood, the first 5 poems from Hiraeth Series by Kushal Poddar, Barney Ashton-Bullock, Spriha Kant, Jennifer Patino (with a poem inspired by Audrey Hepburn) and artwork by Maggs Vibo, Matthew M C Smith, HilLesha O’Nan, Lily Maureen O’Nan, Ken Benes, Jessica Weyer Bentley, R.D. Johnson, Ojo Victoria Ilemobayo, Norb Aikin, Andrew Darlington, Liam Flanagan, Christina Strigas, Lorraine Caputo, Conny Borgelioen, Adrian Ernesto Cepeda, Colin Dardis, Petar Penda, Helen Openshaw, Matthew Freeman, Christian Garduno, Eileen Carney Hulme, Colin James, Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal, Marisa Silva-Dunbar, Kate Garrett, A.R. Salandy, John Chinaka Onyeche, Doryn Herbst

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Current bio for Fevers of the Mind’s David L O’Nan editor/writing contributor to blog.

Hard Rain Poetry: Forever Dylan Anthology available today!

Available Now: Before I Turn Into Gold Inspired by Leonard Cohen Anthology by David L O’Nan & Contributors w/art by Geoffrey Wren

Poetry Showcase June 2022 for John Chinaka Onyeche “Rememberajc”

Let Your Kingdom Come

With her voice, she whispered behind. // Let’s make our kingdom come tonight, // And let’s dwell in its home of ecstasy. // For kingdoms are not wild and woolly, // They are a garden well tended to by all, // The kings, subjects, and all care for its peace. // Tonight, let’s have a stroll down the seaside; // And be welcomed by a myriad of flowers, // Ones bearing our choices roses of many colours, // For all these twilight long, I have mended our cruise ship, // The captain and divers are ready to roll our ship, // Into the sparkling waters of devotion unreserved, // Where we will forever inhabit in peace of sanity, //Joy and tranquil, away from our noisy earth, // We will daily build and rebuilding our stories of love, // With the waters of the blue ocean as holy water, //From here we had set out our journey into eternity.

Tongue of an Orphan

This is another poem from where I am breaking my silence, and musing in the tongues of an orphan child of the world, and this is to sing how we have cried as an orphan and never been heard from every thick wall that muffled our voices off the street of mercy and remembrance.

For it is a new poem that tells from where we have learned too quickly to shelter our desires with garments of voiceless wishes in the night, and how we are chased each day, by the breaking of the new day with the realities of the day, and who we are amongst the world today.

In this poem entitled tongue of an orphan, where we have muffled our desires with tears, and clothed our realities with coats of many colours we wore, from this refuge of the land we are born to; as to the sunrise, we arose to embrace life, with life’s cracked-body too rough to be held with bare hands, but with wills, we embrace it with our eyes closed in rivers, as life has vowed to be life in all its forms;

For as an orphan child, we have learned to embrace embers of live coals with our bare hands, and as with thoughts and wills not to be burnt, we have thrown our fears overboard our ship to our dreamland, and are inventing the man next to us in the mirror of life’s grief, and of one who has overcome the tsunamis of life’s winds, and standing at the tip-top of the highest mountains; as we run this race in anticipation for a crown at last, though many are the life’s blows and not like man’s hits of fists against his fellow man, but, we have kept the dreams alive along the way to the crest, and for this is what life as an orphan child has been with us in the tongue of an orphan child.

And as we have been driven and drawn from life’s springs, to water the land from where we are its survival of the fittest, for many are the dreams of our unquenchable desires, in this land of our journey to the promised land of all men, we have become of many troubles with good hopes, in the tongue of an orphan child dwells our tales of victory at last.

(A poem I wrote after William Shakespeare's)
"Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day"

Shall I not liken your beauty as a day in paradise?
You are more lovely and more gentle as a dove:
Though rough winds of life had shaken your wings, 
And the summer's rain-drenched your feathers;
Sometimes you are too cold of our love because of fear, 
And often, you choose to dim the light of our love;
And every dark from the dark side of our love, you declines,
By chance or out of the unknown you feel untrimmed; 
But I assure you, our home is eternal and shall not fade, 
Nor shall there be any dispossession of our dearer; 
Nor should death brag and shades our love to eternity, 
When in eternal lines to life we shall grow:
So long as the River Niger never runs dry or eyes can see,
So long as this love gives our lives a meaning to live.

"The Chinaman meets you with the stolid morality of his Confucianism; the Hindoo with astute logic for his patheism... When I carry my touch into the caves of Africa, I meet only filthy birds of darkness."  Returned Missionary 1873. 

Africa, Seen As A Cave of Darkness

History is biased to my continent, 
and only the few of us would tell; 
how it is in every race stood culture, 
some to the human detrimental; 
and others to their development. 

But why is my Africa is likened to men in caves, 
while her development and culture; 
with men across the sea is seen as evil, 
even that which happens in their lands. 

History is prejudice to the black man, 
it tells of my origin in another's tongue; 
wrecking me my pride and sense of belonging; 
to the human families to which I belongs. 

Histories of the blacks are told with one-sidedness; 
with the mindset of dehumanising his race, 
this is another way history prejudices, 
of the people of our African descent. 

Caves of darkness; where raw materials; 
they sourced from; in their quest to rule, 
a land where their gods has kept their golds; 
maybe for their invasion and conquest. 

Within their mouths, the streets of Bini is never mentioned, 
where the inhabitants of the great city lights; 
up their city entrance to the kingdom with palm-oil, 
because it is not in their language to write; 
of our mind bewildering craftmanship. 

In their quest to write about us the men's of Africa, 
they were so - occupied by negative notions of race,
as my Africa is seen as a cave of darkness and not 
as a continent.

Freedom At Last

We have broken off from the nutshell of pains,
with our sledgehammers of will, and determine.
Against that which encloses our rays of shining.
It was not the sweetest portion of our lives  but, 
It was the necessary path to thread in time.
The ones that ushers us into the purified soul,
where nothing is again hidden within a man.
It is at this threshold that knelt those great, 
to receive their golden crowns, for they've won; - 
the battles of life and its happenings in time.
Those whose names are written in time. 
Those names in a golden pen that arises; 
from afar off they shone their glittering!-
For time heals our wounds of visits to the house, 
those moments of pains and catastrophe; 
They are the only thing that matters to us, 
For it usher us into that needed truths.


John Chinaka Onyeche “Rememberajc” (he/his) is an author of three poetry collections “Echoes Across The Atlantic”, a husband, father and poet from Nigeria. He writes from the city of Port Harcourt Rivers State, Nigeria. He is currently a student of History and Diplomatic Studies at Ignatius Ajuru University Of Education Port Harcourt Rivers State.

John Chinaka can be reached through the following means:

New poem “Journey of Love” by John Chinaka Onyeche

Journey of Love

When the last ship ducted at the bay for the voyage,
We made our way to the deck and rode out. 

Out of the sight of the onlookers, we went away, 
And she looked deeply into my glittering soul. 

The reflection of the waters retold what it was like, 
Our journey of love as sojourners on this side of the world. 

When she bent over my head like reeds on the waterways, 
Whispering to my soul within its doors of my ears.

You have become my route that is less travelled, 
Not only have I found my hidden treasures thereof.  

But my entire soul is engulfed in your love, 
As desiring nothing again but you in my day and night. 

As the Sun that keeps my day warmth in the winter, 
And as my guiding star when in lonely nights I journeyed.

Wolfpack Contributor: John Chinaka Onyeche “Rememberajc”

Poetry Focus on John Chinaka Onyeche (Rememberajc) 8 poems

Poetry Focus on John Chinaka Onyeche (Rememberajc) 8 poems

There Is A Good Day To Write About Our Memories

Yesterday, I took out the bottle of dye I found 
under the bed in my grandmother's hut, 
and I drew with it - a triangle on my heart. 

In that triangle, I engraved the memories -  
of my life as a pilgrim - who is a survival of 
myriad of life's experiences as a child. 

Outside this triangle, I wrote myriad of names, 
some were those who - in my life on earth 
have played one role or the other hand - alive or dead. 

As I tried to limit the names for the next day to come, 
for what I have written here is the beginning-in my heart, 
it is what I can hold out today, as the triangle expands. 

& as I held out my hands to draw on my heart, 
it all became visible, the words of my grandmother, 
she had once told me, there is a dye to write memories. 

Out of my curiosity as a growing grandchild, 
I visited her hut every cool evening with oozing winds, 
and she would say, there is a good day to write memories

of those life has blessed us with - though they are not here,
this dye is specially meant to be used in writing in our hearts, 
except for such moments, the dye stays hidden from the eyes.

I reached out my hands yesterday under her bed, 
in that her small hut after many years of her death, 
I am blessed to have found the dye for which I am using now - 

To write about my memories with her, 
our times together is what I am about to write here,
as it started from the gathering of clouds that rained.

The gods, if They Are in Existence
The gods in our frivolous perceptions of them, 
has stricken us - with ignorance in our perceived cultures -
and left us more wounded in the hands of evil. 
With strength we walked miles into the tip - 
of the mountains, and the forest of wide animals - 
plants, we have cuts the best trees and shrubs. 
Making many images as craft of our hands, 
and imagination of our hearts - but - 
has not behold the gods - helping us 
to drag the woods home. 
With the same wood - our strength - and the craft, 
we have - factioned images - according to ourselves - 
and bestowed them the name - gods - and we bow in ignorance of our minds. - 
With dirtiness of our hearts, we did eat ourselves, - 
causing harms - to ourselves just because of ignorance 
and we run to - the carved - woods and kneeling down, 
we ignore our common sense and our ability - 
to be gods in our own. 
We sacrifice the best of our animals for the carved image, 
with obliviousness of cleanliness to our environment & health; 
we run worshiping what supposes to worship us,  - 
The gods, if they are in existence.

Our Wedding Pictures Were Flash of Lights

How it all happened was like a man in a day dream, 
the many wishes of the attendees to the event.
Post your styles and this is the best posture, 
the ones we have selected from flash points. 
The road is far from home, so, make it a memory, 
to remember our journeys from the distance land. 
This is our stories to tell those that are at home, 
that we travelled from far away land for a wedding - 
whose pictures were just a flash of light of cameras, 
our memories of the wedding still lives with us, 
As it could not live with pictures we posted to take, 
and the camera man made us believe we were taking 
real pictures and not just flash of camera lights. 

The Owls City

It was once called the city of owls, a city from where silence oozes at noon, and at night, its inhabitants' howls, 

In an unknown tongue of hoots; just as their songs are in dirge; from the sorrows of their past: they assailed once their sorrows, hooting and hoping for joy, maybe the one from a distant future not seen.

It is called the city of owls, where its dwellers are drawn, in the Waterloos of many dreams, as their twilights are full of lament;  and longings for memory, one they once call their own in joy,  where oozing breeze never hurts them, those who are called by the name.

It is the land of fathers that lost in the morning, straying away from homes we once dance and play with our ancestors in flutes, where our mothers dance with their waist bent low to the ground,  and the children playing at the full moon of our lands.

A poem I wrote after William Shakespeare's "Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer Day"

Shall I not liken your beauty as a day in paradise?
You are more lovely and more gentle as a dove:

Though rough winds of life had shaken your wings, 
And the summer's rain-drenched your feathers;

Sometimes you are too cold of our love because of fear, 
And often, you choose to dim the light of our love;

And every dark from the dark side of our love, you declines, 
By chance or out of the unknown you feel untrimmed; 

But I assure you, our home is eternal and shall not fade, 
Nor shall there be any dispossession of our dearer; 

Nor should death brag and shades our love to eternity, 
When in eternal lines to life we shall grow,

So long as the Rivers never runs dry or eyes can see,
So long as this love gives our lives a meaning to live.

Armed Forces Remembrance Day

Fellow soldiers tonight
With these one thousand candles
& this ten thousand matches 
We will all match to the year 1976

& to all those soldiers who died
& to all those innocent infants 
Who could not utter a word of theirs
But was hit by a life bullet of anger

To the voluntary soldiers & 
To the mandatory fighters 
To the circumstances men of arm & 
To the professional mem of arm 

And to those men who died in the dark
And to those who died in the bright day 
And to those who become like mist 
And they fly away from our midst

Comrades tonight
With these candles, and flames
We will match into their tombs 
And together we shall mourn them 
Bent down to their graves and say
Here is your light cut short again

And We Call to Mind

To those beautiful souls long forgotten
and to those souls who irrigated our deserts
To the ones who graced our history as a race
and to those great legends in our journey
To the ones who retold our African tales
even with the languages of the conquerors 
And bring to the limelight our ancestors bravery
Now speak to us through the flute and the gongs
Tell us what you are like in the great beyond 
and we will advance and change our course
For life hereafter your departure is fitful 

To that Akara woman at the junction
The one who rises with the first cockcrow 
and begin to make Akara for the inhabitants
All for her son to see the four walls of -
But to whose son left school for fraternity 
And died as a result of one rival scuffle
Leaving the woman heartbroken and dead
For all her hard-earned money is become - 
Like a bottle of oil punctured on a sunny day
To which there is no way to be scooped up 
For after you left here, life has become jaws of life 

To Madu the young man who angry mobs -
gathered at the market square weeks ago
Whose voice and agony the mobs overpowered
rendering him powerless to the point of death - 
To which he has been a survivor in many ways
Kill him, kill him, kill him, why should he live again
He came to buy market with counterfeit notes 
In a country where everything is a counterfeit 

To Amaechi the only surviving daughter
The one out of the benevolence of the villagers
She was sent to the college for more education
Blessed by the gods as she harnesses talent upon talents
Are they who are blessed by the gods supposed to be - 
left alone to suffer from man's cruelty
Amaechi after two months in school was raped 
Raped to her death by boys in men's clothing and who
lacks the will to control the man underneath them -
and leaving us with a question to ask, where were the gods
Does it mean even the gods sleep in our plights

For You

I am becoming a watchman 
To watch over your inks that flow into tiny air 
For you, 
I am becoming an African
From the Southern tip of Africa
For you, 
I am becoming the first inhabitant of the Cape
For you, 
I am becoming the first owner of the land 
For you, 
I am becoming the first race known as the San 
For you, 
I will go with my bands into the forest and pick wide berries
For you, 
I have become the hunter and gatherers 
For you, 
We will go into the mountains and pick pebbles
Each man on his bands, we will gather up stones 
For you, 
We will return to use the stones to make you a grave 
For you died a hero in the land of your so journal 
For you, 
We will use our stones to build you a grave,

New poem “Journey of Love” by John Chinaka Onyeche

Bio: John Chinaka Onyeche (Rememberajc) is a poet from Nigeria, he writes from the city of Port Harcourt Rivers State, Nigeria. He is currently a History and Diplomatic Studies student at Ignatius Ajuru University Of Education Port Harcourt Rivers State.
Notable works are found at: Spillwords, Melbourne culture corner, Nnoko Stories, TunaFishjournal,  Moreporkpress, Nymphspublications, Youthmagazine, Acumen uk, Zindaily, pawnerspaper, Conceitmagazine, Mosi oa Tunya Literary Review,  Rigorous, Opendoorpoetrymagazine, Feverofthemind Magazine and are forthcoming at Kalahari Review and Ethelzine.

He can be contacted with the following links: