THE BURDEN OF POETISING (Part 1)

Can we agree that there exists this realm of creativity into which the artist’s mind must soar or descend before they can create? Can we also agree that this realm is a ‘restricted area’, accessed only by those minds that have found ways to locate the access ports, which might be what the music composer, Yanni, means by ‘the keys to the imagination’? Is it impossible to imagine poets as miners of imageries who have to erect derricks over the hard shell that incases the realm of creativity? Is it not reasonable to believe that the poet’s first attempts will either drill too deep, to reach the dregs, or go too shallow, to suck up the watery parts? If so, would it then not be unfair or premature to judge poets based on their not-so-impressive debut works since only through constant practice and perseverance can one master the art of projecting the shaft to the proper degree? Continue reading “THE BURDEN OF POETISING (Part 1)”

A Review of Nwachukwu Egbunike’s BLAZING MOON.

In a world where very few are increasingly being looked upon to set the pace for the rest to follow, Blazing Moon jumps onto the stage with the intention of doing the very opposite. From the moment the curtains part and light comes up on stage, we are ushered into a strange world altogether. In this surreal world, imagination is unfettered. Nothing is impossible.
One could rightly guess that the poet deliberately placed MY WORLD as the first poem in this collection in order to clear any misconception that the reader might be tempted to entertain. And as such, one only has oneself to blame if one comes out of Blazing Moon feeling disappointed in any way. The first two lines make that point as clear as day: “Let me take you to my world/ My own creation.” It is important to get one thing clear from the very beginning. At best it is paradisiacal, at worse it is fantastical. But either way, Blazing Moon is worth the time.
A discerning mind wouldn’t miss the politeness in the first line, a politeness which is by no means patronizing nor persuasive. Suffice it to say that this first poem, MY WORLD, is the border at which the reader must pause and decide whether or not he or she really wishes to take that dive into the poet’s world:
“Where the sea washes the streets
And little ones swim in the sands
Where mothers wash on sand banks
and fathers till the seas…”

Moreover, the warning comes early enough as the poet reminds us it is his “own creation”. Perhaps sensing that a few would still be disappointed with this book in one way or another, the poet forewarns us to not expect something of the extraordinary. Simply put, this world of his is one where:

“… so much is unknown, unsaid
where there are no mysteries
no boring into the skies
no flight into the earth.”

And to buttress that fact, the poem, Paint Yours, reminds us that the creator is at liberty to use paint on his canvas according to his discretion. If you are dissatisfied with the end product, instead of “staring and moping” and loving neither “the brush nor canvas”, there is only one thing you can do:
“Paint yours.” (Pp 14)

MY WEAPON is a plot to do mischief; a deliberate scheme to undo certain persons by simply drowning them in their vanities. This poem reminds me of Decius, one of the murderers of Julius Ceaser. At the peak of their plot, the schemers begin to fear that their target might not show up at the Capitol on the ‘D’ day. Decius steps in claiming to know just how to lure Ceaser to the Capitol, assuring his colleagues that he can

“… o’ersway him; for he loves to hear
That unicorns may be betray’d with trees,
And bears with glasses, elephants with holes;
But when I tell him he hates flatterers,
He says he does, being the most flattered.
Let me work;
For I can give his humour the true bent,
And I will bring him to the Capitol…”

The schemer in MY WEAPON is as much a gamesman as Decius. He will
“make them think:
They do better
They say better
They are the best

I’ll make them:
Want their way
Seek their way
Get their way…

Argue when they’re wrong
Argue when they’re right
Argue when they’re neither right nor wrong…”

He intends to fly them too close to the sun until their wings of wax melts and send them crashing down on hard rocks after which he will

“…make news of their failure
I’ll be the megaphone of their defects…
I’ll enslave them with my lies.” (Pp 41)

SMOTHERED TO ASHES is a requiem specifically for Baga but also for all the other war ravaged towns that don’t make it to the news as would Boston or Paris or London. The poem shines light on human (and media) hypocrisy of treating “third world” tragedies differently from that of the “first world”.

“When news broke in Boston
Theirs was an instant reprisal
No speeches made…
Justice was served with no appetizer

Yours was otherwise
Lost in the Savannah of Borno
None to sing of you…”

And while both government and rebel forces keep trading blames and claiming victimhood, Baga is “…Tossed in the middle/ as the sacrifice to the gory god of blood.” We learn that even when it makes the news, it is only for a day before some other news upturns it. But it is the resignation to fate, the learned helplessness in the last stanza that shatters the heart:

“One more
Who cares?
Numbers only create numbness.”

As Joseph Stalin would say: the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.

THE TWEET OVERLORD is a beautiful poem. It is a mockery of blind worship and followership; the deification of the 1% by the 99%. The poem mirrors the asymmetrical relationship between idols of the social realm and their fanatical worshipers. This poem makes you wonder: what makes one a god? Is it the ability to stand apart out of the sea of humans? Is it the ability to acquire certain degree of notoriety irrespective of whether it is in a good or a bad way? Otherwise, why would these blind followers be

Amplifying my uncommon sense
Applauding my gaffes
Admiring my imprudence”? (Pp 99)

That has become the trend in this age of hero-worship. I am reminded of Edgar Allan Poe who holds that “No hero-worshiper can possess anything within himself; that man is no man who stands in awe of his fellow-man… In general, the very smallest of mankind are the class of men worshipers. Not one out of this class has ever accomplished anything beyond a very contemptible mediocrity.”
In another way, THE TWEET OVERLORD touches the core of human nature. The unanimous majority who lacks the courage to differ cannot help but notice and even revere whichever individual that has the effrontery to upset the norm. But why admire someone else’s imprudence if not that we are implicitly imprudent despite society’s continuous efforts to ensure we don’t fall out of line? Understand this, and you will no longer wonder why good girls fall for bad guys. Might it be more prudent if “followers” took up their own voice rather than wanting to hop on their idols’ wings even to the irritation of the latter? Maybe, maybe not.

“I tweet
They retweet

I tweet
They follow…

I tweet
They hashtag…

I tweet
They tweetfight

I eat
They starve”

Perhaps it is necessary to make it clear that the persona in Blazing Moon is not a total sadist who is only bent on shaming and ridiculing others. As a matter of fact, it might be more accurate to speak of “personas” rather than a “persona” since the voice in Blazing Moon switches between that of a male and a female’s and between the first person and second person. These personas are also interested in the environment, the society, geopolitics, ethics and religion.
Blazing Moon looks like a mural with motifs drawn from the ordinary to the extraordinary; from the natural to the supernatural. With hardly any room for frivolity, the world it intends to depict is so orderly it seems dangerous. And that, for me, is a cause for concern.

AFTER THE ELECTIONS, THEN…?

“It’s an election year,” people kept saying. “That’s how conventions turn out on election years,” some of them added as if it should justify every shortcoming that beset the recently held convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) at Kaduna.

The convention offered opportunity for old friends to reunite and also for social media friends to finally get to meet in person, yet the social aspect of the program was obviously subdued by the politically charged atmosphere. Every group of two or more persons was most probably campaigning for their preferred candidates rather than discussing literature and the ways to advance it. Not a few attendees (especially first-timers, including yours truly) were disappointed by this turn-out. It was so bad that once the elections were conducted and the winners had emerged, the convention literally came to an end. For some reasons I cannot say, the winning entries for the various prizes were not announced. Imagine the disappointment of all the shortlisted authors who had hoped to be declared winners and get to pose for photographs with friends and well-wishers. Imagine the disappointment of millions of people who spent that entire night combing facebook and twitter for updates on the prize result. Bear in mind that this has nothing to do with the Local Organizing Committee which did everything they could to beat the odds and see that the convention actually held.

Now that the elections are over, the new administration must see to it that the next convention will not suffer such embarrassments as shortage of financial (and other) report copies. They must see to it that state chapters of the association are better supported both in cash and in kind to come up with and carry out projects that will help members’ career and also attract the thousands (if not millions) of writers outside the fold. At the last convention, the outgone president stated categorically that his administration would be bequeathing millions of Naira to her successor. I think that can get a lot of things moving.

Now that the elections are over, the new administration as one among her top priorities, the movement of the association’s land project from the drawing board to the ground. The past administration must be commended for the giant strides she took towards reclaiming portions of the land which had been lost to both human and natural forces.

Now that the elections are over, the current administration must do all it can to not betray the confidence of those that had trusted her with their votes. The administration must strive to do better than her predecessor in every way. Most of all, efforts must be made towards intellectualizing ANA more than politicizing it. Needless to say, the political aspect of the problem plagues the association down to the chapter level. You have people more concerned with occupying positions than actually moving the association forward.

Now that the elections are over, I expect ANA to start thinking of doing things differently from the past. It was obvious that a number of the shortlisted authors were not at the convention probably due to logistical reasons. One simple thing the association can do is decide henceforward to foot the transportation and boarding cost of shortlisted authors. I believe that the association is capable of doing that. If Saraba Magazine did that back in 2011, then I wonder what excuse ANA will want to put up in 2016. In addition, it wouldn’t be unreasonable if the winning prize money was increased to something above One Hundred Thousand Naira, and also if some provisions would be made for the first and second runners-up? We are talking about prizes organized by the largest association of writers in Nigeria and probably in the entire continent!

THE QUORUM IS BEING FORMED

If you are not HERE, it then means you are NOT here. HERE is Kaduna. HERE is the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Convention, 2015. HERE is the gathering of eagles and falcons, and of eaglets too. It is one of those rare occasions that bring together under one roof a good number of the literati, both established and emerging voices, both writers and publishers, and even the critics. HERE is the roll call, sort of.

It is good that the Convention has finally kicked off despite the slight setback it suffered earlier on. The Local Organizing Committee ably headed by Friday John Abah, and the Chairman of the Kaduna Chapter of the body, Usho Smith Adawa, must be commended for their immense effort. ANA is the umbrella body of Nigerian authors (creative writers, mainly), even though her membership list will hardly claim to represent half of actual Nigerian writers as untold millions are still outside the fold either because they don’t know about the existence of ANA or because they have lost faith in the body. As such, much still needs to be done to win back the confidence of the disillusioned and to also inform as many as are still out there in the dark.

Making it more interesting is that this is an election year and two contenders stand out: Denja Abdulahi and BM Dzukogi both from Niger State Chapter. You must have been aware of campaigns and pseudo-campaigns going on both at your State Chapters and on social media. I don’t want to comment on the campaign style of some persons, which is actually below the belt. Since yours faithfully will not be voting (not because I am apolitical, but because I am disenfranchised), I can only pray that the voters shun religious and ethnic sentiments and elect someone that will best serve the interest of the body.

I am happy that Kaduna is hosting this year’s convention because it affords me the opportunity of getting to meet with some of my social media friends for the first time. Dami Ajayi tells me he will be (unavoidably) absent. I would have taken him to go see DR Ink as himself and Adebiyi Olusolape did to me some years back in Lagos. But there is consolation. Servio Gbadamosi is already here as I want to believe is Su’eddie Agema.

I have read some of the books shortlisted for this year’s prizes and I dare say that they all good to clinch the trophies. Merely making it thus far is proof enough that you are remarkable. Below is the shortlist for this year’s prizes.

ANA PRIZE FOR DRAMA

  1. The Last Ilari –  Tunji Ajibade
  2. The Last Prophecy of Omu Nwagboka – Obumse Amechi Chiedu
  3. Unstable – Dickson Ekhaguere

ANA PRIZE FOR POETRY

  1. Blazing Moon – Nwachukwu Egbunike
  2. Clinical Blues – Dami Ajayi
  3. Euphoria of Sophistry – Terseer Samuel Baki
  4. A Tributary in Servitude – Servio Gbadamosi

ANA PRIZE FOR PROSE FICTION

  1. Bongel – Maryam Bobi
  2. Don’t Die on Wednesday – Michael Afenfia
  3. Long Shadows – Mnguember V. Sylvester
  4. A Pelican of the Wilderness – Jacqueline U. Agweh
  5. Satans and Shaitans – Obinna Udenwe

ABUBAKAR GIMBA FOR SHORT STORIES

  1. Fire on the Tip of Ice – Halima Aliyu
  2. Smithereens of Death – Olubunmi Familoni
  3. The Bottom of another Tale – Su’eddie Vershima Agema

ANA/CHILDREN’S WRITING PRIZE

  1. Ada Marries a Palm Tree and Other Stories –  Charry A. Onwu-Otuyelu
  2. The Leprous King – Daniella Clinton
  3. The Magic Mirror – Nnenna Ihebom