This is what poetry looks like when you have nothing to lose, when you speak from the heart, when you have spent years honing your craft so that you can be free. This is what poetry looks like when you are a word sorcerer, a linguistic swordsman, a metaphor-dazzler, a passionate creator of poetry as fire, as lament, as beauty, as reflection, as argument, as home. I was blown away by this book.
This first collection is a masterclass in subtlety: poems that manage to be tender, angry, vulnerable, sad, funny, yearning and interrogating of history, both recent and long ago, all at once. It’s a phenomenal piece of work about what it is to exist in this time, and his dissection of pop culture, colonialism, social interactions and the cruelty of the world, of men, of systems will be read and studied for years.
Ellams' fiery new collection rails against the evils of the world: everything from Boko Haram to his father's aneurysm is attacked with passion and verve.
The Actual bristles with energy. The square lyrics, prose-like in appearance, are consistently vivid, whether Ellams is taking on the biggest of subjects – Shakespeare, Trump, empire – or ruminating on quieter, more tender moments.
Rishi Dastidar, The Guardian
The Actual is a heavy-hitting collection that is audacious and unrelenting in its topical preoccupation. Ellams is surgical in his writing and will leave you breathless.
Caleb Femi, The Guardian
A gloriously diverse collection, taking in social and political history, pop culture and love and heartbreak. Inua is truly a superhero, but one unafraid to be vulnerable in order to harness his strength.
Nikesh Shukla, Vogue
Fierce, fearless, unapologetic ... The Actual is an intense, artistic, highly creative, 21st-century Frantz Fanon set in poetry.
Hisham Bustani, The Lonely Crowd
These are poems that sink and dive and swoop ... Ellams reckons with mythology, empire, constructs and their power, realigning their narratives, focusing our gaze on their consequences.
Seán Hewitt, The Irish Times