Poet: Prof Segun Adekoya Genre: Poetry Pages: 172 Publisher: ANOL Publications Year of Publishing:2012 Reviewer: Olutayo Irantiola This is a voluminous anthology of about sixty poems in total that is subdivided into Here, There, here and There. Here has a total seventeen poems, There has twenty five poems, while Here and There has a total of sixteen poems. The whole collection discusses the various facets of life between the Nigeria and the Europe. The anthology opens with a poem titled Big Building Blocks wherein the author uses different elements of nature such as water, star, straw, tree, toadstool, leg(s), valley, slope, moon, serpent, wings and lightning(pgs 1-2) to describe the depth of the creator. All of these allude to the Bible in Genesis 1:31 that says, “And God saw thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good”. All the elements of creation attest to the mightiness of the creator, himself.
The first poem in the subdivision Here is Hope in Growth; Grow in Hope. This is about Africa and it’s stunted growth cum stuttering. The sound effect in this poem is also seen in the stanza.
The growth of Africa has been stunted and her learned ones have eloped based on the slumbering of the continent. May of the educated ones have gone in search of greener pastures. The utterance of “Baba” which means the “Father” has come up to his responsibility. The educated ones have savoured the person that can make them flourish, as such, they move towards the Atlantic which inversely breaks the chain of limitation as they move out of the continent. The pains of many years are left behind as the person gets healed of all injury, injustice and incapacitation of many years.
The poet discusses our nation in a poem titled Another Waste Land which is a contemporary writing in response to the experience by T.S. Eliot who wrote the poem titled The Waste Land in 1922. The Waste Land is a modernist poem that has 434 lines. It has been called “one of the most important poems of the 20th century”. Despite the poem’s obscurity-its shift between satire and prophecy, its abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location and time, its elegiac but intimidating summoning up of a vast and dissonant range of cultures and literatures-the poem has become a familiar touchstone of modern literature. Another Waste Land is a poem of 210 lines. The poem is an analysis of the Nigerian situation which is highlighted below:
Nigeria walks on her head
Dyes her eyes ice red.
This stanza on its own is a reflection of the abnormalities in Nigeria. Things have gone seriously lopsided, injustice and wickedness has become the order of the day. The poem continues to describe the various forms of abnormalities which in bloodshed, embezzlement which he called “loot lovers” line 6, page 6, the wanton disposition of the soldiers, the new air of superior assumed by the President. On page 8, line 10, “dogs that bark are seized for treason”. These dogs are the journalists, the social commentators and critics, the writers who “bark” examples of people who have been “seized” for treason are the Wole Soyinka, Nelson Mandela amongst others. Eventually, many papers are “self or government” censored partly or fully.
The poem continues with description of what the military had done with decrees. Ethnicity is also mentioned, this is the bane of development in our country as a whole. Coup d’état which was the hallmark of the successive military administrations in the country, the scrambling for oil wells, eight years (line 20, page 9) spent in office by President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. The ways in which the soldiers keep destroy the nation with various coinages. Industrial strikes too were showed in the piece which is the language of force understood by the military. Then the former military leaders still come remerge as democrats leading us through the same pattern of woes.
Nepa Night is another thought evoking poem about the state of electricity in Nigeria. This is a situation when electricity keeps going on and off, the first two lines states
NEPA writes its might
Strikes, edits out its light (page 28)
Then, an alternative is sort which is “a pale, poor, yellow glow upon the white page:” (lines 7-8). This state of darkness allows man to sleep with mosquitoes all around him.
St. John’s Odosimadegun is a eulogy to the primary school of the poet. He has a nostalgic feeling of his formative years in the school. The school has lost its place because of the economic pursuit of the teachers who want to make some money and the rural-urban migration that has made the school deserted. This has been the main source of underdevelopment in many villages and towns while some states and state capital has become overpopulated.
The next subdivision of the anthology “There” is about his experiences abroad. Exile, page 74, is about his newly discovered culture. He is not around his locale; as such he has to come to terms with the new reality. He considers himself as a “lone bird” in line 3, page 74. The best way of escaping what he does not understand is an inscape, that is, refusing to join them since he is yet to understand them sufficiently. He sees his exile as a reality and that he is surrounded by winter. This poem is a reflection of an Africa who has found the difference in culture, difference in weather, difference in other spheres of life as he is “exiled” from his natural habitat.
“City Angels” is a poem about the reality of sex and the prostitutes in the society. The City Angels are on Fifth Avenue and Broadway, however Broadway reminds one of the Matthew 7:13, “broad is the way that leadeth to destruction”. In order to avoid the dreaded HIV/AIDS, a global phenomenon, men now use condom. The poem on “AIDS” discusses the restrain it has brought on man to exercise his sexual desires, the supplication to “Olodumare” line 1, page 93,not to allow one suffer sicknesses that defeats all drugs. The moment of sexual activity is ‘gorgeous and gay’. The poet finally advocates that victims of AIDS should not be discriminated against.
Homage to Dr. Hofrat is a poem dedicated to a skillful surgeon who has conducted surgeries of success. He concludes by saying that Dr. Hofrat is also mortal. “A Night at JFK” is a poem that centered on the discussion by some Africans at JFK Airport. The topics flirt into the woes of Africa, American dollars, Europe and her transformations. The man from Holland got the contact of others, the American who fed them, the “eagle-eyed” security woman. All of these made it obvious that JFK was a tourist meeting point for all of them. They were able to discuss various topics, they made friends and the memory of that occurrence is still fresh in the poet.
In the subdivision of the text, Here and There, “Peace” is the title of a poem (page 138) dedicated to Bob Marley. Bob Marley is described as a full moon in the sky of my soul (lines 2 and 3). The assassination of Bob Marley by a fellow black and consequently he bled to death. It is worthy to note that the poet describes himself as a sky, the singer is also described as “natty rugged reggae star” (line 12)
Another short poem in this collection is “A Sports Meet” (page 141). Sports events are usually colourful with each team in their own jersey. Each team also with their supporters’ club. The bodily performance of the participants, their movement to and fro the spectators singing and being cheered in return for their display.
Colours call on colours! Drums and rumps roll!
The participants in their corporeal performance
March past fast into the grinning green bowl,
Like fleeting ghosts glimpsed from a distance,
Singing, Staring, I hear in my rear crumbs
Of laughter of kids exploding yoghurt bombs
The poem titled Here and There is the longest in the collection, it has 456 lines in total. The poem opens with what is universal.
Here as elsewhere
The sun is fun,
Its rays make gay the day;
The moon is a boon,
Its light mellows the night.
One tempers the day
The other tenders the night (page 149)
Then, the comparison of different places and similarities: Times Square and Tinubu Square that both have fountains but one outshines the other. The inevitability of natural disasters but the difference in the management of such occurrences like: Tsunami, (Hurricane) Katrina that destroyed New Orleans, Tornado that destroyed Texas. The thought about man’s immortality is expressed in the following lines.
We rise as we fall
We fall as we rise (page 152)
Other phenomenon like abiku was likened to the governance in Africa. The endless promise of wage payment or increase which can all be summed up as “better life” for her citizenry. The podium, which is called bridge in the poem, is a metaphor of the position of those leading and those being led.
The bridge is the seal of division (line 117, page 154)
Nigeria is referred to as a prostitute although it is not the sole dispenser of AIDS. The poem returns to discuss what is universal in governance. Information management by those in governance in which the governed keep moaning in solitude while institutions of the state is used against the masses
The multitudes moan in solitude,
Their shepherds pad it the right attitude (lines 330-331, page 162)
Another universal thing identified in the poem is man’s strong attachment to faith, the activities of a priest, the invocation and the hypocrisy of the faithful worshippers.
Here as elsewhere, faith is brazen,
Cheap and fake-a penny a prayer,
The powerful pummel the poor
As their pockets propel their pleas-
Aided by priests who prey on the pulpit
On the upward swing to the King
Who laughs last at hypocrites’ piety.(lines 430- 437, page 166)
The last universal phenomenon highlighted here is the laughter. The poem ends on the name that laughter should lead our prayer, this is a call on everyone to be free-minded to others before ascending the throne of grace through prayer.
Here as elsewhere, laughter is a slayer,
Let laughter arm and lead your prayer! (lines 455-456, page 167)
The poet ends the collection with a postscript which equally can be considered an important part of Here. The poem is about Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni heroes who were hanged in their quest for environmental degradation from the adverse effect of oil spillage. The poem is a reminder of this gory history in our nation. What Ken Saro-Wiwa was fighting for is still being fought for today by the committee on Environment and Ecology in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria headed by Senator Bukola Saraki while there are other people like Nnimmo Bassey, an Eco-critic who is leading this cause globally from Nigeria.
Sleep on while we war, sleep on; adieu!
Ken and company are gone but their memories remain fresh both by the writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other writings that has been done in their honour as this poem.
This anthology is a mirror of man’s life just as it is expected of any works of arts. The poet has writing from what he has experienced in his travels within and outside Nigeria. It is equally important to say that travel writing and other mode of transporting the mind to various places has gone a long way in opening the mind of contemporary writers.