Note: The following post, written by Okoduwa Tanko (General Secretary, Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA), was culled from http://okoduwatanko.blogspot.ca; It was originally published on August 11, 2015.
As a poet, literary critic and writer, I have never stopped to wonder what might have bored William Wordsworth and his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to demand change and a new direction in poetry in 1798, when he Wordsworth published the first edition of Lyrical Ballad and other poems.
The greatest obstacle facing poetry and its growth in Nigeria happens to be literary critics, literary professors, academic doctors and scholars. As I have come to observe over time, people are afraid of change. And whether they like it or not, the world is constantly changing, and those that ignore change are bound to be left behind or swept aside.
So why should critics expect poetry to be static. The best lines that capture the rapid changing nature of this world and the attitude of those that live inside this globe can be read in An Island of Self (2013), a poetry collection by Mature Tanko Okoduwa: Changing world, unchanging people / Filled bus Station, no buses (pp.9)
I will be frank and blunt in my critical analysis of what I call Modern Nigeria Poetry: A New Direction. My research is ongoing, but I want to let you into my studies. In this piece, there will be no time for frivolities. I detest unrepentant literary critics that dread change and quarrel with anything new.
They reject experimentation in poetry and the new direction that poetry is taking. These satisfied glorifiers of Elizabethan, Victorian and Archaic types of poetry – the types that they are used to, have been left in the dark. But the interesting thing is the fact that these new poets (the new kids on the block) are not minding them. These poets all claim to be ‘filled with the breath of God.’ And so create electrifying and breath-taking poetry.
Let us retrace our steps backwards to revisit Wordsworth’s argument for the kind of poetry that he dished out to the world that glorious year 1798. In defence for what he had written, he said that if his poems contain ‘a natural delineation of human passions, human characters, and human incidents…’ Why should anyone think otherwise as to whether what he had written was poetry or not?
He went on to ask where poetry ends and prose begins, using John Milton’s poem as an example. This poem was highly received in that epoch. Wordsworth said only four lines were poetic.
In poetry, there is no destination. Poetry like life is best captured by Eda Kriesova, as only a journey with no destination. And yet our critics have found a resting place and final destination for poetry. It simply places them in the position of a king that everyone know is naked, but the king maintains he is clothed.’ What pains me most is the fact that they have not the first condition for true criticism, which is freedom from bias.
One of the poets of this generation that is making a bold and fearless poetic statement is Obari Gomba. His lines are so fluid and flourescent that a reader can travel through them into eternity: All my days I have / Sought to find you. / Not as though you were ever lost. / I have been the lost one. (Length of eyes, 2012, pp.21)
The poet persona is celebrating a loved one that has been a source of inspiration to him, one that has always reached out to hold his hand, to lift him up when he falls.
Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido paints a lucid picture of a barren woman in a way that her emotions affects the reader. The poet personae’s pain becomes the pain of the reader: ‘I wait still, impatiently and angry, those succulent breasts now / hanging low / The nipples framing my navel, shriveled! Un-suckled! Un-latched! / I wait still but now with a silent shame…’
But when she became tired and frustrated from waiting she picked herself up: ‘And now, I no longer wait for you, but for your father…’
Trust majority of African men. They cannot endure a woman who cannot bear them children. They find it had to face staring eyes and waging tongues.
‘In the heart collector,’ Onwutuebe Uche Omar Ucheoma, in a six stanzas poem x-rayed the relationship that a female’d had with four other males: I am a heart collector / Hanging the artefacts of every misadventure / Now my walls groan / Under the weight of each pain I’ ve created… /
These poets, Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido, Onwutuebe Uche Omar Ucheoma, Kechi Nomu, Rasaq Malik Gbolohan were published in ANA Review of 2014. This journal of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (New Series Volume 2) was edited by Richard Ali. The beauty of this journal has to do with the unique selection of poems – poems that represent the new direction that I have been writing about for a very long time now. The ANA review had essays, short stories, and drama.
Kechi Nomu, in ‘Seven letters to a poet from another time,’ carries her reader through the experience of forgotten art, the artists, and poets, but reminds all that art never dies rather those that try to kill art die before art: Art will not survive / in a house like this… / iv. The poet with her capacity for the infinite / and time on her hands becomes perverse. / She revisits the house without pretense / and takes commemoration selfies.
The immortality of a good poem or work of art is relived in the last couplets: …art will survive this, no? / And all of its houses? And all of its voyeurs?
While Obari Gomba in the ‘The Spirit Speaks to New Horns,’ urges the poet not to be afraid of ‘sages who are full of storms / They cannot tell the direction of their own senses.
But sees poetry as ‘the office of thorns,’ in a world without ears / But that the poet should ‘dare to take your bardic flight around.’
Rasaq Malik Gbolahan in ‘A dirge for dead bards,’ laments the sudden demise of Kofi and Austyn Njoku: This is a poem written on the / streets of tears. / For Austyn Njoku, the open page of poetry sweared / by the frosty fingers of death.
And the revotionary poet, AJ. Dagga Tolar in ‘Poetry on broken words’, reminds us of another kind of fight where silence becomes the weapon: I watch those who watch me / And laugh / Their handshake / I don’t turn it down.
It is a remainder of our adage that salutation is not love, that ones enemy might be the person that greets one the most and showers encomium on him always. The poet went on further to warn: Now that I have lost my name / To be able to knock your door / How can you find me? (Passport out of a Country of Words Alone, 2014).
Ikeogu Oke, in ‘Fear,’ pp,106 of In the Wings of Waiting urges man not to be afraid to err in a relationship or in life, as without failure, lessons necessary for successes will not come forth. Hear him: For fearing to err / We may make nothing / And surely cannot create love …
These lines give credence to the first line that ‘Always love, like progress… / Is a fruit that grows.
Amu Nnadi like Ikeogu Oke loves to write beautiful love poems that are succulent and gladden the heart, a garland for true lovers. As in ‘I gather my day in a garden.’ The poet talks of how his day is well spent in the best of places – the garden. And that ‘in your eyes of light they bloom as in Springtime.’ This poem is in pp.96 of ‘Through the window of a sandcastle.’
The beauty of change is that it affords all, (poets), the opportunity to try something else, and be themselves, thereby becoming the real artists that express rather than imitate. Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the artists have the right to change that.
And I am happy that they are doing that at this point in time. There are so many other poets that fall within this category: Su’eddie Vershima Agema, Saddiq Dzukogi, Iquo Diana Eke, Ifeanyi Avajah, Promise Okekwe, Ahmed Maiwada, Hyginus Ekwuazi, Slyvia Kankara, Odoh Diego Okenyodo, Seyi Hodonu, Uche Peter Umez, Emeka Agbayi, and not forgetting the beautiful poetry, ‘The Sahara Testaments’, a well crafted book, by Tade Ipadeola.