Five books for po­etry lovers

Sunday Trust - - ARTS & IDEAS - With Eugenia Abu

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.

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