Arts Reviews

Poetry Review: A Visitor Who Belongs Here

Gemma Cockrell

Impact Magazine’s very own Luwa Adebanjo’s debut poetry anthology A Visitor Who Belongs Here tackles topics of home, belonging, and the joy of surviving despite hardships that were thrown her way after arriving in the UK from Nigeria, alongside her struggle with hiding her sexuality. At the age of nineteen, she was diagnosed with OCD, a turning point for her as she began her journey of healing, converting her suffering into joy.

The anthology totals twenty-seven poems split into three sections, which gradually develop from tales of suffering, pain and trauma, to tales of liberation and celebration. Go Back Home, the second poem in the anthology, tells a tale that migrants will relate to all too well – her experience with being told to return to her native country. The poem doesn’t mask this story with any metaphors: instead, it tells it in very blunt and obvious language.

She Likes Boys, the fourth poem, is Luwa’s first mention of sexuality in the anthology. Throughout the poem, she repeatedly states that she likes boys, as if trying to convince others but mainly herself that she is heterosexual, because that is, as she puts it, “how it’s meant to be”. The poem ends with the line “For now, she likes boys” – she is no longer trying to convince herself that she truly likes boys, but instead predicting the opportunity for acceptance of her sexuality in the future once she is comfortable with it.

The second section is told “a little while later.” Poem fifteen, titled Bitter Forgiveness, tells a tale of the experience of an older Luwa, after experiencing insults, threats and racism after leaving a nightclub with her friends. The most heart-wrenching element of the story is that she was not surprised at all to experience this, and that even though it is evidently something she had experienced in the past, she was yet again “lucky to be alive, and lucky to be one piece.” However, in retrospect, she is able to forgive herself for feeling shame and anger about this situation.

Sexuality is mentioned again in poem sixteen, Truer Love. The opening line of the poem, “I once met a girl who loved with all her heart,” details Luwa’s first experience of love with a woman. However, it is ambiguous as to whether she is talking about falling in love with someone else, or falling in love with herself. Either way, the poem is a beautiful story of acceptance, and it is left up to interpretation. Personally, I like to think that she is talking about falling in love with herself.

By the end of the poem the reader is unable to have any misunderstandings about what the reality of living with OCD is really like

Poem eighteen is Luwa’s first mention of OCD in the anthology. It is one of the longest poems in the anthology, spanning five pages. The poem explicitly outlines what obsessive-compulsive disorder is, and why it is a completely different experience from those who flippantly use the term to mean something different – OCD isn’t being obsessed with things being tidy, its about things being clean. The poem tackles the misconceptions around the disorder, and by the end of the poem the reader is unable to have any misunderstandings about what the reality of living with OCD is really like.

Section three of the anthology is titled After OCD. This is where a real change can be witnessed in Luwa’s voice and tone. She is much more self-assured, and you can instantly tell that her diagnosis gave her power to want to make a positive change in her life. She is heading towards recovery, with Petition C For The Will To Live having a much more positive tone than the Petition A and Petition B that appeared in section one and section two respectively.

Acknowledging that these emotions feel better than being skinny feels

Poem twenty-one, Hunger, marks a real turning point for Luwa, as she acknowledges her desire for love, laughter, companionship and trust. She is no longer struggling with disordered eating, acknowledging that these emotions feel better than being skinny feels. Poem twenty-four, Race, speaks of a message which reflects 2020’s Black Lives Matter movement: as a black woman, she no longer wants to talk about race, now, “it’s your turn.

The following poem, Quaran-Teen, was also clearly written during 2020, as she acknowledges that she has grown up during the quarantine period from a teenager to an adult, who the younger members of her family refer to as “Aunty.” This is the moment where Luwa’s humour shines, as she begins to joke around in the poems, with references to Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite.

Further proving this acceptance, the anthology’s final words are “I think you should kiss the girl”

Poem twenty-six, a letter to her thirteen-year-old self, also plays around with humour, as she ends the poem with “P.S. You’re gay,” something she struggled to accept for so long, but she is now clearly comfortable with her identity to the extent that she is able to talk light-heartedly about it. Further proving this acceptance, the anthology’s final words are “I think you should kiss the girl.”

A Visitor Who Belongs Here is a rewarding read, allowing you to witness Luwa’s journey through short snippets into her mind. By the end of the anthology, you truly feel as if you have been on this journey alongside her – as if you have been a close friend or a witness to her growth at the time that it happened.

Her ability to portray this journey through short poems is fascinating – a true example of her rare talent to communicate vivid emotions powerfully whilst using a limited number of words. The anthology also recently reached the #1 spot on Reedsy Discovery, with a 5-star review – a tribute to Luwa’s incredible talent.

I highly recommend that you support Luwa’s work as a fellow member of Impact Magazine. The anthology covers topics which will be important and of interest to women, LGBTQ+ and BAME students and beyond. You can view Luwa’s website here, and you can purchase A Visitor Who Belongs Here on Amazon.

Gemma Cockrell

Featured image courtesy of Álvaro Serrano via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @luwa_adebanjo_creates via No changes made to these images.

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