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)”

ARTS AS A TOOL FOR SOCIAL CHANGE: REVIEW OF DUMEBI EZAR EHIGIATOR’S WRECKED

 

 

Title: WRECKED

Author: Dumebi Ezar Ehigiator

Publisher: Winepress Publishing

Number of pages: 201

Year of publication: 2016

Category: Fiction

 

 

 

“Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or an amusing craftsman, an honest or dishonest tradesman. He has no further claim to be considered as an artist.”

Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man under Socialism. Continue reading “ARTS AS A TOOL FOR SOCIAL CHANGE: REVIEW OF DUMEBI EZAR EHIGIATOR’S WRECKED”

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

SERVIO’S BOOK OF LAMENTATIONS

(A Review of Servio Gbadamosi’s A Tributary In Servitude)

One is tempted to say that A Tributary In Servitude is a tribute to the Congolese poet Tchicaya U Tam’si (1931–1988), whose works are basically on the (mainly negative) effects of foreign religions and traditions on Africa. Three out of the six sections that A Tributary In Servitude is divided into open with quotes or excerpts from Tchicaya.
On the one hand, Servio Gbadamosi delights in playing the griot and curator of the nation’s history/ traditions. On the other hand, he stoops under its crushing weight and bursts out in frustration because he doesn’t seem to have many, or even any, compatriot(s) willing to share his burden. And one of the wonders of this book is the way the poet fuses these two states of mind without seeming to suffer any cognitive dissonance.
A Tributary in Servitude is a dirge from a crushed spirit and a broken heart. I have wondered why or how Servio Gbadamosi could even afford to sing (albeit a sad one) bearing this crushing load. I remember the book of Psalms 137:4 where the captives at Babylon asked: “How shall we sing (the Lord’s) song in this strange land?” But then, I also remember Samuel Beckett’s: “When you are in the last bloody ditch, there is nothing left but to sing.”
The poem IRRITATIONS IN THE OYSTER is the outburst of pent-up anger and frustration. Indeed, every messenger despairs at one time or another in their prophetic career? The prophet Jeremiah has this confession to make: “… Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in his name.’ But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.” Jeremiah 20:9
The burning passion and zeal locked up in the heart of the persona in IRRITATIONS IN THE OYSTER eventually bursts and pours out in a wake-up call to the wayward country, nation and people:

“… the waters tumble

out with armoured fists to tame

a prodigal.

My country wobbles

fumbles, tumbles, crumbles…”

While showering encomium on the revivalist who diligently and tenaciously fashions out a new generation, he dismisses the present turbulence as labour pains that precede the birth of something good:

Hurray for the potter foraging clay

by the burrows of crab…

who, drawing from the ticktack

interpreted the friction within as

irritations permeating an oyster

just before a pearl is born.

He then calls on the new creation(s) to in turn liberate their brethren who are still in bonds of iron:

“O hatchling, o fledgling

crack with thine feeble beak

the bonds of their iron-

come taste the newness of dawn. “

The nostalgia in this book knows no bound. Even when in love, the poet doesn’t desist from looking back to the very beginning when he was still innocent; when he was “still holy to the bone”. By then, a woman was more or less something to be laughed at and teased; a hand to be shaken condescendingly. In the first movement of the poem TORRENTS FROM SILENCE the poet argues that it is not always a butterfly in the stomach “when two look at two”, be they civilizations or opposite sexes. For some people, it can be a rumble. Or even a hurricane. Which is why the persona begs this queen of hearts to desist from tantalizing him because “my passion jumps at your fickle light”. The persona is such a die-hard that despite being in love with this charming lady whose fickle light he cannot help but trail even to the point of dashing his toe and bleeding, he still mourns that:

“… suddenly

they now appear the guide

piloting the music of my dreams…

where is my innocence?”

And then, as if on second thought, he admits that not only does he enjoy loving her and that “she still leads the way to my morrow…”
There are times that A Tributary In Servitude reads like the transcript of a griot’s notebook. Or put more precisely, there are times the book reads like the transliteration of Yoruba incantation.

.

“I salute each nut

with a wand of rock.

I salute each nut

with a wand of rock.” (pp 44)

hus begins the poem, PRELUDE TO TEARS, which talks about ‘us’ and ‘them’; how ‘they’ robbed ‘us’. It is a mourning of lost pride and heritage; a mockery of naivety and gullibility. If the poems in this book were to be arranged chronologically (and who says they aren’t?), perhaps PRELUDE TO TEARS would come first. For me, it traces the very beginning of the end.

“Dreams die to the glory of famished gods”

Basically, there are two reasons why people abandon their gods: (a) when the gods under-supply peace and prosperity; (b) when the gods over-supply peace and prosperity. An instance of the first case is in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God where the people of Aninta destroyed their deity, Ogba, when it stops doing what it is looked upon to do. The Old Testament section of the Bible is full of accounts where the people become lax in their devotion to God once they begin to enjoy peace and prosperity for so long. But for whatever reason, once the gods are put away, calamity is bound to befall the people to the delight of the abandoned God(s).
A people in disarray is a people heading to the rocks. They get busy making so much bang with little impact; so much flash with no fire.

We were busy shouting

We were busy swearing

And things are busy falling apart. Will Durant (1885-1981) couldn’t have been more apt when he said “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.”

“If you examine the stories

And force them through a sieve

You will see what I see-

The pot was leaking before it broke.”

And then:

“They laughed, we laughed, and they laughed

we cried, they laughed and laughed and laughed;”

This calls to mind some lines from David Rubadiri’s Stanley Meets Mutesa:

“No more the burning heat of the day

But song, laughter and dance…

The gate of polished reed closes behind them

And the West is let in.”

And then, things began to fall apart.
The most dangerous wolf is that which comes in sheep’s clothing; those who wave white flags while hiding daggers under their trousers. Perhaps, the situation would not be hopeless if not that:

“We walk backing the sun that makes us proud

We sleep looking the sun in the eye but

Receive no illumination for our awkward hearts.”

We walk away from our heritage. Even when we manage to look at them it is to spite them, no wonder we become lost. That is the danger of throwing away the baby and the bath water. The children of the world (referred to in this poem as “the tortoise”, an animal famed in folklore for its acute cleverness) has always been wiser than the children of the kingdom.

But do you see them

my story-telling fathers

they adore the surface

and swear at digging.

If they see a thing

a line of puzzle

they do not understand

they will cook a myth…

It is interesting to note that A Tributary In Servitude is Servio Gbadamosi’s debut. It is a daring move which, though might not have hit the bull’s eye, but is surely not far from it. I must warn prospective readers to brace up; to ensure they’re equipped with a complete set of cutleries before diving into the dish. The unprepared is bound to experience turbulence here and there. In some places, one might sense a strained effort to create metaphor and excessive use of colours in painting of imageries. A chain of words bound together by hyphens might be crystal clear to the poet but they can easily make an average reader lose track.

“Icing-sugar-laced” (pp29)

“The king-on-bundles-of-leaves” (pp44)

“Jesus-Christ-of-Lazarus

Father-of-the-bulky-albino” (pp48)

“pope-amongst-all-kings” (pp52)

“king-on-bundles-of-leaves” (pp81)

“the-breeder-of-life” (pp81)

One of the offences that virtually every poet makes is assuming that other people have their kind of mind and therefore ought to understand their poems even when it is written in codes. I suppose it is the same thing with every other guild. Soldiers are wont to forget that they are of a different mould from the civilian. One of the ways out of this is to make poems as simple as they can be without losing the qualities that make them to be called poems.