Five books for poetry lovers
I know how poetry came to settle in my bones. It came from the many books I read, mostly poetry books as a young girl and my English teacher who was Caucasian and tall and pretty and poetic in many ways. Mrs. Whittle was that teacher who introduced me to this new world which has kept me entranced all these years. Rhythmic and self-assured, she introduced me to the beauty and the hidden delicious meaning of an art the uninitiated find befuddling. I love poetry, the use of language in its most austere form, the twists and turns of meaning, the crashing of waves and the delight of clouds, the heady poems of love and the challenging language of War. Everyday life takes a new meaning and meanings tend to take different perspectives. Poets continue to dominate landscapes of many nations in peace and war and they also serve as the conscience of nations. I write poetry and have a collection published, the critically acclaimed, Don’t look at me like that but I have always buried myself in poetry books enjoying the play of words, the message, the language and its deliciousness. For all those like me who enjoy poetry, here is a collection for to savor and enjoy.
1) Rime of the ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge remains one of those poems that have stayed with me from when I read it as a twelve-year-old. This is the longest major poem by an English poet written in 1797. It tells of a sailor returning from a long sea voyage who makes a stopover at a wedding ceremony and enthralls the wedding guest with the incredible tale of his sea voyage. As the story progresses the guests are at first bemused then they are impatient and then fascinated. At some point the poem tells of an albatross considered a bad omen which was killed by the sailor and then a measure of difficulty befalls their ship. The albatross is hung on the neck of the sailor as a sign of the terrible deed he committed to bring them all bad luck. A burden. At the point of the killing of the albatross the poem turns to the drama of the aftermath of this terrible deed.
“Day after day, after day/ we stuck nor breath nor motion/ As idle as a painted ship/upon a painted sea/ Water water everywhere/ and all the boards did shrink/ water, water everywhere /nor any drop to drink. I read these rhymes so often that I memorized half of it by heart. I was taken in by the adventure, the rhymes and the most unbelievable tale of the sea voyager. A truly amazing read.
2) Eaters of the living by Musa Idris Okpanachi is the award winning collection which catapulted Okpanachi to our consciousness. Described by most as the angry poet, Okpanachi’s craft has indeed propelled him to welldeserved recognition. His collections set you thinking, gets you following, and gets you entertained by words in such fine delivery, your eyes water. Serious issues like politics are delved into while love is elevated to great heights of onomatopoeic resonance that you cannot fail but be lured into the folds of his sentences. A caress here and there and the bangs when angry that although shout from tree tops gently directs you to his message. In an interview with Uche Peter Umez, the associate professor of literature lets it be known that his love poems are platonic as a woman’s love is both spiritual and intriguing. He also says that “No one can pluck from you what you have not said and no one can take back from the ears what has been uttered”. He is also intrigued by the enigma of silence and believes that silence in itself is a weapon against tyranny. Some of his poetic words “I was once a word, then a syllable, now a silent letter in the fist of sphinx” Okpanachi is as profound as he is gentle. I recommend both his books for your maximum enjoyment.
3) Lola Shoneyin has earned her place in literary development in Nigeria by organizing many literature festivals, but it has poetry that has me singing particularly her third collection of poems, For the love of flight. This collection has deeply personal entries, like the loss of a child through a miscarriage, a tribute to parents, and some political entries to include poems about Nigeria’s many political troubles. Here are snippets from the poem on a miscarriage titled “For Kiltan” This at the point the Doctor examines the woman and tells her the fate of the baby “…She prods my prince’s imperfections/ And tells me that his nerves will never ripen/ And that his brain is shriveled like a rotten nut/ I fall to the floor like an over beaten mat… Let him be enthroned in a crystal jar/ To be observed and revered like a fallen star” A collection worthy of exploring. Although the jury is still out as to whether the poems truly reflect Lola’s personal story or they are stories from her poetic voice.
4) Paradise Lost by John Milton. This was required reading for my A-level literature but I was taken in by one of the most ambitious epic poems in blank verse by a blind and impoverished English poet who wrote this poem in1667. The entire poem is really about the biblical story of the fall of man, the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of Satan as an angel of God before pride and hard headedness got him out of the kingdom. This is a book all poetry lovers should read. Very engaging.
5) All poems by the late President of Association of Nigeria Authors, my big brother, Abubakar Gimba. As a prolific author, he wrote many books, Essays and fiction but his poetry are profound and are now in my library as limited editions. Find one, own one.