Chielozona Eze was born in Orji-Amokwe, Nigeria in 1962. At the tender age of five, while many other children of the world were either in the kindergarten or were getting ready for primary school, he had to get ready for a civil war, the Biafran war. For three years, 1967-1970, he fled with his parents and siblings from one village to another, from jungles to caves to escape bombs and warplanes and enemy soldiers. Like many Igbo children of his age, he survived kwashiorkor/marasmus, the disease caused by severe malnutrition and starvation. He owes his survival to the intervention of the Irish and German Catholic missionaries, Caritas International and other relief agencies.
The war left an indelible mark on him and his family like it did on many other Igbo families. Some were completely broken by it. With illiterate and poor parents, his options for education were severely limited. However, with the help of the Catholic Church, he was able to obtain secondary school and university educations. He studied philosophy, Catholic theology, comparative literature, MFA and philosophy/Literature in Nigeria, Austria and Germany and the United States.
He is currently associate professor of African and Global literature at Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, and considers himself a poet and philosopher.
Chielozona Eze studied philosophy at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Ikot Ekpene as part of his training for the Catholic priesthood. While at St. Joseph’s he read and became enamored with the works of Wole Soyinka and Albert Camus, and ultimately with literature. He began to write if only as a hobby.
While studying Catholic theology with the Jesuits in Innsbruck, Austria, he was lucky to find a psychotherapist, who diagnosed his bouts of fear, depression and insomnia as symptoms of trauma of the civil war. He took sessions of therapy that helped him overcome some of them. As part of his therapy, he was advised to write: journals, poems and stories, which he had been doing, anyway. That kept his love of literature alive. He eventually studied comparative literature in Germany in hopes that it would help him become a writer. It did not. On the contrary, it dulled his writing skills.
But then his love of literature never dimmed. In 2000, after he had given up the practice of Catholic theology as a priest, he began to study philosophy and literature in the US. He also enrolled in the creative writing program. He finally began to write on a more professional basis in 2003 at the sweet age of 41. A late, late bloomer.
Chielozona began to write poems on a more serious level after taking a class with the American poet, Marianne Boruch. Ever since then, he has been writing at least one poem a week. Well, some never survived the second revision. C’est la vie.
Like for Czeslaw Milosz in “Dedication,” it is in poetry that he finds salvation. Poetry for him is therapeutic; it is a way of making meaning of the absurdities of life. As he puts it, poetry is a way of making love to life because of its imperfections.
Chielozona Eze’s interest in philosophy was sustained by his desire to understand the moral impulses behind the deeds of the few white people he met in the Biafran refugee camps. Why did they risk their lives at the war fronts and in the jungles of Igboland just to save him and those who looked like him? He thus began to explore empathy, altruism, solidarity and other ethical issues that, for him, are the backbone of every civil society. He has published scholarly articles, essays and books on African literature and philosophy.