If indeed love is that powerful to turn a person into a poet, then lovesickness can turn that person into a sick poet, which I wager is the more dangerous. The persona in this chapbook is lovesick. You should know what to expect.
Whether or not poetry is merely the twice-removed imitation of the ideal reality, as Plato concludes in Book X of The Republic, the taste/texture of VELVET-BLUE & OTHER UNCERTAINTIES seem so real that at worse we would called it a brilliant fake.
Saraba Magazine, which celebrated her seventh anniversary just few days ago, must be commended and encouraged for persistently uniting writers and readers. Needless to say, a great many of us got our first literary exposure courtesy of Saraba Magazine. This time, she has sent us another brilliant mind who, obviously, is so fine a poet you would wonder how long he had been in the field. Tunji Olalere mastery of word embroidery could only be attained by rigorous tutorship and practice. Not too far into the chapbook, I encountered words and phrases (Senghor’s Woman, ambrosial, etc.) that I remember from Tade Ipadeola’s THE SAHARA TESTAMENT.
I am afraid that the opening poem, Senghor’s Woman, risks being termed misogynistic in some quarters. And it would be such a shame for such a beautiful piece to come under such abused and ambiguous term as misogyny. On the 27th of December 2015, Ikeogu Oke came under no small fire on facebook for posting a poem containing a line that reads: “The bells of your bosom ring me to silent awe.” His critics hold it misogynistic to liken a lady’s breasts to a ‘metallic’ bell.
I don’t believe that works of art (literary works, especially) necessarily reflect their creator’s state of mind, which is why in my analysis I prefer to focus on the persona(s) than on the writer. That is not to negate the fact that the artist’s works reflect aspects of his/her socio-cultural roots, roots that are more adaptive than hereditary. Moreover, Kolawole Ogungbesan state that “the writer is a member of a society and his sensibility is conditioned by the social and political happenings around him”. With that said, not a few bigots would be surprised to hear the poet (who is Yoruba and probably born and bred in the south-western part of Nigeria) to first identify as “that man for whom beauty is/ The well formed derriere of a black woman”, and later claim to:
“not know why I love what I love
How sturdy legs and a deep chest command
A fairer price than size 8, figure 8,
Or other anorexic frames that shame food.”
VELVET-BLUE & OTHER UNCERTAINTIES is a virtual communication between lovers sundered by time and space. Approached from another angle, it isn’t too far from sex chat and its ensuant temptations.
“… Hugs and kisses
Were taps on keyboards –
Where were you
When Eros spilled dew
Between my thighs?…
But it was you
Who hovered in this ionosphere
Of arched backs and tremulous orgasms…”
Tongue of the gecko,
You lick me like fire”
Time was when I tasted you
Dark Muse on a swivel;
The prisms of your cross-eyed nipples
Yielded perspectives, shaped horizons –
(A Postcard From Paris)
You said, go softly as you enter.
You said, faster, faster…. Faster!
You would not loosen your grip on my buttocks –
That you loved me. All of me.
(Love is a Texture of Chin on Palm?)
Truth be told, VELVET-BLUE & OTHER UNCERTAINTIES is graphic. Provocatively graphic. But then, thank God for sublimation.