Tolu Oloruntoba | Each One a FurnaceReviewed by: Melanie Hewson
Tolu Oloruntoba lived in Nigeria and the US before settling with his family in the Coast Salish lands known as Vancouver. He spent his early career as a primary care physician, and currently manages virtual health projects in BC. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, while his debut chapbook, Manubrium, was a bpNichol Chapbook Award finalist. The Junta of Happenstance, his first full-length collection, was the winner of the 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award for English Language Poetry and the Canadian winner of the 2022 Griffin Poetry Prize.
Is there such a thing as a poetry page-turner? I believe there just might be.
Perhaps because I am not normally a poetry reader, the poems of Tolu Oloruntoba hit me deeply, emotionally. Normally, I consume poetry through song, but strip away the melody and add some density of thought, and here in this book of poetry you will find communication of feelings around important topics that fiction and non-fiction can’t convey. This collection of poems, centered around migratory finches, covers much ground about the migration of humans, unrest, violence and struggles of those who migrate, or immigrate.
In his poems, Tolu Oloruntoba communicates how it feels to leave, arrive and be in transit in a world that is not always welcoming, but can also feel safe and right. A rare glimpse into the heart of the bird, or person engaged in this flight. It gives insight well beyond statistics and news stories and brings the individual and collective experience into your heart. A much more meaningful read than we usually get from a story or newsclip. I am so looking forward to meeting and hearing from Tolu directly at the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival. We hope you will join us, and also experience this wonderful poet in person.