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The Actual

Inua Ellams

"Poetry as fire, as lament, as beauty ... I was blown away by this book."

Bernardine Evaristo
published in deluxe paperback with french flaps, gold foil and illustrated endpapers

The Actual is a symphony of personal and political fury — sometimes probing delicately, sometimes burning with raw energy.

In 55 poems that swerve and crackle with a rare music, Inua Ellams unleashes a full-throated assault on empire and its legacies of racism, injustice and toxic masculinity. Written on the author’s phone, in transit, between meetings, before falling asleep and just after waking, this is poetry as polemic, as an act of resistance, but also as dream-vision. At its heart, this book confronts the absolutism and ‘foolish machismo’ of hero culture-from Perseus to Trump, from Batman to Boko Haram.

Through the thick gauze of history, these breathtaking poems look the world square in the face and ask, “What the actual—?”


Our price £ OUT OF STOCK
RRP £9.99
Please note: due to the recent change in tax regulations, we are currently unable to ship to EU countries.
84 pages
ISBN 9781908058782
Published 5 October 2020
Cover design: Liam Relph


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.
Bernardine Evaristo

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.
Nikesh Shukla

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 Telegraph

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

About the author

Born in Nigeria, Inua Ellams is a UK-based poet, playwright and performer who has written for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and the BBC. His latest play was an adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters set in Nigeria, staged at the National Theatre. The Actual is Ellams’ fifth poetry release, and first full collection, after Thirteen Fairy Negro Tales (flipped eye, 2005), Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All Stars (flipped eye, 2011), The Wire-Headed Heathen (Akashic Books, 2016) and The Half God of Rainfall (Fourth Estate, 2019).

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