Books and Writing

Esther Iverem’s new book is Olokun of the Galaxy. In it, poetry and visual art is used to tell the story of Olokun, an African spirit of the deepest ocean, as s/he is born when Earth’s oceans are born, as s/he witnesses the Atlantic Slave Trade, industrial revolution, pollution of the planet’s water and, finally, as s/he takes off into space to swim on other planets and moons of the galaxy.

Click here for the press kit or to order the book online or from your local bookseller.

“Esther Iverem’s Olokun of the Galaxy is a creation myth for an earth abused by slavery, capital, greed, human waste, excess and the neglect of nature in favor of concrete and death. Iverem, as djeli, links our global climate crisis to the Black Holocaust. She gifts us an epic for the ages that rages through syncopated lines with syntax swimming and singing through our synapses, giving us hope in the midst of the abyss.”Tony Medina, author of I Am Alfonso Jones

“Olokun of the Galaxy, by poet and artist Esther Iverem, is a richly imagined work drawn from the West African Yoruba tradition that offers a way to comprehend what is broken and breaking around us–while also conjuring hope, meaning and significance. Grounded in history and culture, this is storytelling that reminds us that what we do matters. The vision within Iverem’s book is urgent as we humans struggle to re/learn how to respect the natural world and how to continue to live within its grace.”Melissa Tuckey, editor, Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology

Author and artist Esther Iverem developed this hardcover, beautiful book, suitable for older children to the oldest adults, to accompany a series of award-winning Olokun figures she creates from jeans and other reclaimed materials. She has exhibited these “pants dolls” across the United States since 2012, sold them at pop-up shops and online on the website for her studio and through the studio shop on Etsy.

Honoring indigenous water protectors and the Movement for Black Lives, some of these “pants dolls” wear medallions that read “Water is Life” and “Mni Wicomi” or carry small photos of African Americans such as Eric Garner or Miriam Carey killed by state violence. This series and book takes Olokun from this earthly home to other oceans in the universe—including the waters beneath the ice of Europa, the methane lakes of Titan, and the far-off star system of Sirius. Olokun is an ancient and medaled hero and heroine, both matriarch and patriarch, a conduit for embrace, safety and regeneration. S/he is also protector of humanity, urging us to save and conserve our water, which is life.

Click here for the book press kit.


Esther Iverem’s film book is href=””>We Gotta Have It: Twenty Years of Seeing Black at the Movies, 1986-2006 (Hatchette Book Group) and she is the author of two books of poems, The Time: Portrait of a Journey Home and Living in Babylon, (Africa Word Press).

A former staff writer for several publications, including The Washington Post, New York Newsday and She is also the recipient of numerous honors, including a National Arts Journalism Fellowship funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and artist fellowships from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Living in Babylon is Esther Iverem’s critically praised second volume of poems. Her first book of poems and photographs, The Time: Portrait of a Journey Home, also received positive reviews, and she has been featured in Black Issues Book Review, on and on the Tavis Smiley Show. She is a contributor to numerous anthologies, including Step Into a World: A Global Anthology of the New Black Literature, edited by Kevin Powell and The Garden Thrives: Twentieth Century African American Poets, edited by Clarence Major.

Her poem, “What Do You Believe In?” was broadcast internationally as part of the October 2003 March on Washington on the National Mall.

Esther Iverem “asks the most important question of the 21st century—which America Is America? Iverem teaches one how to turn pain into power and power into poetry” 
—E. Ethelbert Miller.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


To purchase a signed copy of Iverem’s book, Olokun of the Galaxy, Olokun figures or other art, head to her shop on Etsy.  If the art or book you are interested in is not listed on Etsy, please use the form on this site and/or the email listed, to contact Iverem directly. Also, please support the soft launch of On the Ground‘s Patreon site, which will allow us to continue producing the show. Thank you for your support!

Iverem’s quilt, “Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares,” is touring nationally with “Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms,”  sponsored by the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA.  At the  Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI, until January 13, 2019; George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, Washington, DC, February 2019 – May 2019; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, December 2019 – March 2020; Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA, June 2020 – October 2020.


The Great March of Return

By Esther Iverem

Come and see./ Come and see this new mound of dark corpses/ On which we plant the American flag./
On the body of an eighth-month-old/Suffocated blue from tear gas./ And on the teenager with half his head gone./ And on the woman, curled fetal
who will never be a mother./ Come and see as the dead fall in Gaza./And as the American flag rises.

Come and see the flag waving in Jerusalem./ The Marines color guard goose stepping./ The high-heeled standing ovations on occupied land./ Come see this ceremony and bold killing/ At the new shrine of empire./ See this parade of White Supremacy/
The hideous pageantry of Nazi science,/ Of apartheid science./ Where Lieberman knows every bullet/ And where every bullet landed.

See the murderer Netanyahu standing/ Spewing lies about peace, his tongue revealed/As swarm of maggots that devour his head./ See Jared Kushner, an ignoramus in a blue suit./ Parroting the party line. Like any average SS/ He has become death, the destroyer of worlds./ See Ivanka Trump: See, it is not all about Hitler./  But about those who followed and believed the lie,/ and repeated the lie and passed the lie to their children.

Come and see the trained, cowardly IDF snipers./ High up in canopied bunkers of cement/ Looking through their scopes./ Cursing, laughing and, now and then, taking turns/ Shooting across three barbed wire fences./  Killing children and journalists, Targeting the legs,/ Knees of thousands, creating an army of amputees./ Come and see these cowards point across/ Three barbed wire fences and shoot.

And so come and see thousands from Gaza/ Coming from ruins of a thousand bombings/ Coming from concentration camp rubble/ Where there is little water, little food, little electricity./ Where there are no jobs and there is no money./  Where farmers are shot trying to farm./ Where fisherman are shot trying to fish./ Where the sick just get sicker, wither and die./ Where, as the prisoners try to escape, they are shot.

Come and see the two million prisoners/ tired of dying and unafraid of death./ Come and see another dark people mourning,/ And then fighting back and choosing their land!/ Come and see them returning to their land/ Of dates, figs, pomegranates and oranges./ Come and see two million prisoners coming home/ To Haifa, Jaffa, Acre, Safad, Ramle, Lydda, Al-Majdal, Askalan, Beersheba, Beisan and Jerusalem./Come and see two million prisoners returning./ Returning, returning, returning. Returning home.

© Esther Iverem 2018