My Travels:

by Ifeoma Onyefulu

Sing Me A Song, Ma – a story of poetry

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If anyone had told me I would be writing poems in 2020, I would have laughed at them. But in January last year something strange happened, I began to get requests from schools to do poetry workshops, and no sooner had I said no to one school another one would pop up like a jack-in-box toy. I had never written a poem in my life, and that was the strangest thing. Then, two days before I was due to travel to Scotland to do a writing workshop for a school, I was asked again.

image of a young banana tree

Banana trees – I write about them in my poetry…

I will gladly have done a workshop on writing plays, if such a thing exists in schools, because of No Water in The Jungle, one of my plays, staged in London in 2019.

Anyway, I had a decision to make pretty fast, and it was not going to be easy to say no to the school, with two days to go. What’s more, we, the school, and I had spent months corresponding, and setting up the timetable, and I was to do the assembly, too.

Finally, I rang a friend for some moral support, and she chuckled, ‘But when I read your books, I think of poetry… it is the way you write,’ she said breezily.

Poetry – that word again.

I decided to stick with the timetable and do the workshop as initially planned.

So, as I was wondering how I was going to compose an upbeat email to the school about my decision, my eyes somehow wandered off and settled a photograph on the far end of the wall. It was a picture of a Fulani woman I took years ago in northern Nigeria; she was dressed in bright clothes and had beads on her hair. After staring at it for what seemed like hours but was only a few seconds I heard a voice in my head about a girl who liked many colours but would only wear blue when she went to see her grandma. Why? Was it because she liked blue or because her grandma liked blue?

I grabbed a pencil and paper and began writing. I didn’t know if it was going to be a short story or not, but I remember reading it back, and it felt like a poem with sprinkles of intensity and imagery, which surprised me a lot.

So, I wrote and wrote, I was very thankful I had something to do during the first Lockdown, and that was how I came to write my first poem titled What are Colours to Adaora!

Then, I wanted to write more poems children would enjoy, as much as I enjoyed the stories our mother and sometimes our grandfather told my siblings and me when we were children in Nigeria.

Sing Me a Song, Ma - cover image

See the e-book here…

In December 2020, I published some of the poems online, as a collection, titled Sing Me a Song, Ma.

Two of the poems, especially Grandma’s Tree, are about nature, and the way we treat our trees. It was inspired by a conversation I had with our late mother about her favourite avocado tree, which didn’t produce any fruits for a long time.

Another poem, Rain, is about water shortage, people in low-income countries often struggle to get enough water. During the dry season, when rainfall was rare, we bought water from a well, but in the raining season, we saved enough rainwater for cooking and washing, which lasted for several days.

However, some of the poems are lighthearted, for example, Sing Me a Song, Ma, is about a child who doesn’t want to go to sleep, so she comes up with a brilliant way of staying awake by getting her mother to sing her song, “A song that will make my eyes wake up and…. A song that will make me dance.”

Finally, I hope Sing Me a Song, Ma, will be an e-book for children and their families to read aloud together.

Ifeoma Onyefulu



Ifeoma is a children's book author, photographer and writer. Follow her world journey on this blog. You can visit Ifeoma's main web page here.

Writing, images, workshops and support for children's literacy? Contact Ifeoma today.

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