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The Poets cover photo

The Poets 2017


Distributed by Distributed by Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by Produced by Chivas DeVinck
Directed by Directed by Chivas DeVinck
DVD, color, 88 min.

High School - General Adult
Japan, Popular Culture, Music Trade, Singers

Date Entered: 12/11/2018

ALA Notable:
Reviewed by: Reviewed by Kathleen Spring, Nicholson Library, Linfield College, McMinnville, OR

It’s not often that filmmakers choose to make documentaries about poetry or poets from any country, so it’s heartening to see two established African writers, Syl Cheney-Coker (Sierra Leone) and Niyi Osundare (Nigeria), as the subjects of The Poets. Directed by Chivas DeVinck, The Poets reinforces the idea that words have very real consequences.

Filmed in Sierra Leone and Nigeria, DeVinck successfully selects footage that captures the lush landscapes as well as the longstanding friendship between Cheney-Coker and Osundare as they travel throughout each country visiting schools, childhood homes, and other places of personal importance. Conversations between the two poets about their writing and influences are interspersed with voiceovers of the poems (subtitled, and read by the poets themselves), providing ample opportunity for viewers to engage with each writer’s work.

Where The Poets falls short is on the production side. DeVinck opts not to use captions to identify people throughout the documentary, and this choice impacts the film negatively. In fact, the viewer doesn’t know for certain which poet is which until a full one-third of the way into the film. Additionally, The Poets would have benefitted from a bit more editing in order to tighten up the film’s relatively loose narrative structure; doing so would likely have brought the professional interplay between Cheney-Coker and Osundare into greater relief and would have made the impact each has had on the other more evident.

Despite these shortcomings, The Poets is still a worthwhile resource, particularly as an introduction for students who may be unfamiliar with Cheney-Coker’s and Osundare’s work. The Poets would be useful for both creative writing and literature courses, especially when paired with Poetry of Resilience (2011), in addition to courses in other areas with social justice or free speech themes.