Poetry. Poetry. Poetry.
Beyond a doubt the art form is experiencing a resurgence like nothing before. Is it coincidence that the NLNG Prize decided this year (2013) to reward poets (congratulations to Tade Ipadeola, winner)?
Following in the line of Iquo Diana Abasi Eke (Symphony of Becoming, NLNG Prize Nominee) & Su’eddie Agema (Bring Our Caskets Home who also has a blurb on this book), Orange Crush Prize for Poetry 2012 Winner Kukogho Iruesiri Samson conversly asks the question ‘What Can Words Do?’
In this tale…
cold ovens bake bread,
earth fights itself,
tongues fool thumbs,
men chew seeds of discord,
they forget how to live.
There, a poet finds himself,
facing death with tears,
he looks love in the eyes
…and finds God.
It is hard not to wonder what informed the above – and then wonder; indeed, how dough would become bread without heat?
Or is the poet asking another question entirely?
Following Kukogho gets tricky at times – but not because of language or obscurity on his own part. He comes across as a conscious poet; which means this moment you may find him waxing enthusiastically about fresh-love’s carefree nature (Souls Adrift), the next moment he’s inspiring Nigerian activists to occupy (We Shall Occupy) which gives a sublime dating to some of the poems – but detaches from their messaging not in the slightest.
As you go deeper within the book (spoiler alert) you will come to find that the book is split in sections; each section introduced by a poem started from a line from the introduction. In case you find that confusing, check the following examples:
cold ovens bake bread
who can bake
after the heat
in the oven
is long gone?
‘Cold ovens bake bread…‘ being the first line from the introduction and hence; forms an introduction to the first section which is filled with an expression; mostly of frustration with relationships gone wrong. Wedded and Weeded is a narrative of the joys of the wedding day, that then lead to unhappiness and eventually – DIVORCE.
A quite familiar path these days it would seem.
What I enjoy most about Kukogho’s writing is his constant smattering of local vocab in his writing. My favorite piece; incredibly hard to choose though it is, is Eni Binu Mi; a yoruba phrase that means ‘The One Who Hates Me’ literally and is usually followed with threats and even curses. The poet decides to leave the bulk of his as threats, delivered fluidly in a coherent mix of Yoruba and English, a sweet menagerie of words. The Baby is another show-stealer, a piece about arguing parents from the hungry baby’s perspective. Hilarious.
What Can Words Do? does not spare anything in answering its own question, gorging itself plentifully; almost excessively on fanciful words. But don’t let that touch you – even though words are the swords of poets, very rarely have they been used so powerfully, expressively and poignantly.
What Can Words Do?
A lot, obviously.
Available where good books are sold.