Via Negativa by Ian Duhig

In advance of the Oluwale Partnership Symposium on 17 April, we publish Ian Duhig’s Via Negativa, remembering David Oluwale.

Not circumcellion, beggar, gyrovague
but Lagos Christian college boy.
Not abbey-lubber but job-seeker.

Not City of God but Motorway City.
Not office career but casual labour.
Not Union member but Last In First Out.

Not My Father’s Mansion but Chapeltown slum.
Not Welcome Brother but rent up front.
Not Empire pilgrim but evicted vagrant.

Not Ambulare pro Deo but Wandering Abroad.
Not Ave Maria but Black Maria.
Not demonic visions but brain damage.

Not Church Latin but medical Latin.
Not Catechism but questionnaires.
Not Pentecost tongues but echolalia.

Not the African Fathers but the African Mind.
Not Divine Spark but ECT.
Not Cloud of Unknowing but Largactil fog.

Not confessional boxes but cardboard boxes.
Not the Body of Christ at Holy Communion
but the cold host of a Leeds moon.

Not via negativa but fugue state.
Not River of Life but Rivers of blood.
Not rosary beads but bubbles of air.

Not fisher of men but fished from a weir.
Not heavenly throne but pauper’s grave.
Not heavenly choir but football chant:

And you shouldn’t trust a copper
if your name’s Oluwale
and you can’t find your way home.


Ian Duhig (6)

Via Negativa is published in Ian Duhig’s  fifth collection of poems, Pandorama (2010).

We published Remembering last week, how Ian first came to hear about David Oluwale’s story and the mark it left on him.

You can read more about Ian here and follow him on Twitter.

You can follow the RememberOluwale campaign on Twitter.



Fiona Gell

Fiona is a lifelong reading enthusiast and book lover. Her career started as a bookseller and has never really veered away from the written and spoken word. It was a dream for her to be a founder member of The Leeds Big Bookend and the Northern Short Story Festival. She continues to be its Director.

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