THE ART OF THE YOUNGER POETS

 

By Chin Ce

An Introduction to New Voices:

A Collection of Recent Poetry from Nigeria

 

 

 

See the Order of Appearance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE emergence of a younger school of poetry with distinguishing temperaments from the new Nigerian counterparts was a welcome development for Nigerian writing. In spite of the dogged inventiveness of these bards within the new tradition, critics had set off the usual comparisons between old and emerging tendencies. But if there was any artistic distinction in the newcomers from their contemporaries, the better promise was laid in the expressive power which lifts their presumptuous craft into what, a few decades now, might prove a more credible testimonial of the times.

Assertions: The Changing Paradigm

The younger poets speak from very deep convictions, not tongue-in-cheek, but boldly, clearly and with less ambiguity. This paradigm of poetic anchorage I have called the Assertions. As divergent as they come with their opinions on every aspect of life, they sound much like ideologues with whom the faithful may find a mutual and convivial association. Yet their purpose, as may be stated, is not so much again to highlight distractive and discordant tunes of ideological war songs and fervent politicking as to unify the diverse manners of expression or individual ways of assertion, the expression of the “I” in extension. Here, poetry is the focal point. Attitudes toward circumstances of the times mark interesting points of individuality; their faith is committed only to that imagination with which they fashion worlds on hills beyond the rising sun.

The younger Nigerian poets are able to achieve this psychic poise, where nothing can throw them off their course, or where doctrines are not worth the sacrifice of a busy schedule, all because of an inner calm. The poet must develop a personality sufficiently stable in the stress and strain he must inevitably meet. Of course, he is free to sing or be all that he has chosen. He may be the extremist whose whispers whip werewolves like wasps, or she may become the revolutionary demanding justice amidst squandered hopes, yet with a will that cannot be broken as easily as the beating inflicted on him for the sake of his unyielding quests. Yes. He (or She) may, as well, become the chronicler of yester-pillage by modern political brigands, or the recorder of the pitiful howling of fallen roofs.

All these assertions are germane to his conscious experience, because he has been, and still is, part of that society where pugilist overlords deal merciless blows on the people forcing the poet to cry out: ‘What is the meaning of this aimless business?’ He has witnessed the madness of this society where everyone fervently pleads to be saved from one and the other self.

So how does he feel?

Sometimes his voice roars from the bellies of dark jungles and the shackles of iron cabins to the four posts of existence, screaming blood, freedom and vengeance. His actions are dramatised successively in leaps and bounds devoid of hidden eloquence. Yet eloquent are his words; they represent some shining exemplar of virtue despite the virulent scourge of vice. He is the artiste making his own musical notes out of the word as surely as the critic must weave his own foray from out the same word. His own notes are vibrant, pulsating words; they are songs of freedom and innocence when all barriers are broken and experience is the single teacher of life’s lessons in love and laughter.

This song of innocence is thus an assertion of the purity of the soul unbound, not obliterated in the yawning void where danger lurks ready to close its jaws on the wary trespasser. With maturity, innocence grows into knowledge, and with knowledge an increase in poetic sensitivity. He had assumed an identity to champion the cause of change against the stagnation of his times. He had imbibed the spirit of coordinated action, becoming the fury of his placid age, the courage of his gutless era, the rage of his storm-less sea. This motivating challenge to his generation is imbued with the ferocity that dissolves mountains. The secret of success lies in seeking avenues and ways through limitations not really imposed by nature but, more significantly, arranged to stir the current of awareness that would jolt us into self-becoming, self-confidence and self-assertion, as they concur.
Thus the impertinence of the younger generation of Nigerian poets is not ended at all. If anything it has widened in dimensions of contempt or sheer distrust for the prevailing status quo. For Marxist thought, it was a dialectical and historical materialist struggle. For the poet of the new generation, the struggle more significantly, more psychically, must reflect in the subordination of the base, for the higher, self.

Within this divide is contained the greed and materialism of both worlds. Often our anger is made to becloud these to give them a bent of dignity. So the business of greed that informs that scoundrel system that our national flag hides is equally comparable in scope of criminality – and deserving of interdiction – to, say, those energetic hands of our public servants who go to grab, cheaply, pay packets for work they never did. Both symptoms fuel the growing decadence of the age. Thus when these criminals come with pretended messages and promises of a better life in the name of politics, the poet can see through all the hype. He helps us to wear our suit of armour against such onslaughts upon our intelligence when he adopts a mien full of contempt and scorn for the perpetrators of this crime. In the warped thinking of failed leaders, for example, success is measured against the heights of their sky scrapers and the impregnability of their fortresses and security zones. Beef them up with grenades, the poet mocks; hide the truth with scrapers that touch the clouds. The local military and civilian surrogates of the rapacious West are natural targets for poetic scorn. The people’s response is not just out of righteous indignation, as they are often wont to phrase it, but comes in red hot spleen.

The poetic interdiction is against all those responsible for stifling the human essence. Humankind is both the pitiable victim and the cowardly aggressor. It does not matter if the one has grabbed the reins of power and amassed the political machinery for his personal benefit, or if the other is the frenetic armchair revolutionary scheming, and generally bidding his time. He may be a part of that faceless throng of a no-nonsense mob rallied for the heinous murder of probably another of his ilk rather unfortunate to be caught in the act. And when he has done his judgment with the tyre, he is there when they wear the ordure frost on faces that glimpse never the faded silhouette of modern opulence. He is also there struggling among the upward social class to reach the top, and he must also come down among the spectators absorbed in the throwing of fists at the crude antics of those on the other side pushing to the front. But is it not the irony of human nature that for all our plodding, nightfall overtakes us at dawn? It is all pettiness and vanity; it is all a wasted effort! they scream. But who dares hold the fire of the burning sun? Nature, unperturbed, stares with mockery at history’s fallacies. And as the earth rolls on its own infallible course, it comes with tomorrow and other revelations – from that permanent impermanence of states and conditions that terrorises the fool and his ignorant men.

It not just history that bears out the wisdom of the poetic assertions and interdiction; it is our perception of it – our limited partisan perspectives that finally reduce us to both victim and villain. The bard who is true to himself wants to be neither. He may afford to indulge in bouts of depression as well as flights of fancies. The world to him is that stage in which the drama of the absurd is enacted. People belong to the passing show. His visage is therefore ever-changing: snarling, jeering, amused, mocking, and always the aloof observer. Sometimes he is the clown who mimics himself. Other times, and rather crudely though, he jeers at the ugly faces of pimple-clustered sheet of eczema coats on our faces. Curiously, like the loud and vulgar preacher on TV too, his visage seizes upon morals: he yells about aborted blood kicking in the flowing streamlets of gutters.
Some poems may sound high-pitched in calumny but deliberate caricature of rabid xenophobia and the ignorance that witnessed petty tyrants decree the death on poets, or of that order of racial and cultural supremacists – the plundering wolf-gang of a blundering world. How about the fate of two applicants, one a gaily, pretty pearl, the other, brain and degree. What is it that would motivate the rating of her gait and face as worth more than his brain and books in the thwarted markets of the private sector? Is it also the strange logic that entrenched the clause of ‘state-of-origin’ in national administration and, in some parts of this country, placed the Pakistani in the position of judge of which Nigerian face constituted a non-indigene? It is significant to our poetry that no political system (in addition to those who would masquerade as champions of human rights) will bother to take a serious look at these and other little but highly important issues of tribal existence under one nation. It is thus important in our themes to have the perpetuation of corruption and bribery in many corridors of national power.

When the poets dissect these absurdities, they are compelling to some form of action people complacent in their own malaise, nose turned like the he-goat's, inhaling from putrid social wastes that do not better their conditions. Because our professed love for one another, both as individuals and nationalities, is like the spider's for the fly. The younger poets show they are never aloof towards these ‘mini-minded’ attitudes which, littering the streets like Nigeria’s mountains of rubbish, constitute eyesores curiously passed for modernity and civilization. The irony lies in matching the permissiveness of modern society with ours. There are some comic dimensions about our prodigal nationhood just as some attempts at pidgin seek to achieve unequivocal 'grassroots' communication. We can unravel the political innuendoes and comprehend the subtle contempt the poets hold for the penchant of indirection in our local, state and federal governments’ policies. And this is not a matter for cheap ‘Onitsha-market’ chap books alone. The task before us, in committing words and ideas to paper, can only be achieved by conscious artistic discipline, and it must be understood from that parameter. It does not even accept a second place situation.

Frontliners and Visionaries

Like soldiers at the frontline, the younger poets have chronicled the crumbling of such obnoxious systems as the apartheid regime of South Africa and the pristine capitalism of the emerging right wing elites. For apartheid, the resistance of its right-wing conservatives was but the lashing of a parasite whose fate, quicker than his puny struggles for survival, everyone had rather liked to be sealed for the greater good. Some poets here were writing in the dying days of that regime when momentum had long gathered in the direction of change sweeping through Africa and her Southern neighbours. To call them Frontliners here is in tribute to the spirit of African resistance in the face of imperial forces that threaten humanity’s survival on the planet. The downtrodden may only suffer for some time but the spirit ripples underneath every fragment of human effort. Even so, their suppression is only a matter of imposition within the physical realm.

We posit that freedom is a much more ethereal force belonging only in the realms where the essence of life is hence identified with the universal source of all things. Thus seeking expression in the crude regions of matter, space and time, it is but the pale reflection of that essentially unstoppable divine character which will, and must, prevail despite the circumstances of tyranny under which it is made to battle. The flaming wing of the eagle is freedom sped by justice; and from the ashes and brickbats of the violence, we can hear the cry of our spirit, pursuing its will, inspiring the song of the victim. The younger poets have discarded the sordid evidence of diabolical tortures and genocide which are hallmarks of chauvinist Boer and African governments. How beautiful the cry of freedom then sounds in the poet's ears. He is the cornerstone, the gold dust, the star in the garden swinging to freedom when the gates must have been opened with triumphal songs. The frontline is the poetic passage of history. It is a song for the roofless, recording the evidence of years of deprivation where, for instance, people eke out a living in thick standing papers and wooden racks, clamouring for a solid shrine to gather their scattered, battered lives. This is the picture of the world’s governing elites that have no housing policy for the people save for themselves, and acute is the pain of it. At the frontline, the poets record the mood of fighters. It is one of angst toward their leaders at the home front who had screamed thus at apartheid: ‘End racial discrimination!’ while denying their suffering people even the barest means of survival.

The frontline poets warn of consequences. There are consequences of our greed, they tell us, which often take entirely unpredictable dimensions. It is nature’s vengeance on tyrants who have no place in the dawn when galleys would not exist and where crops grow on common hills and valleys. If this latter assertion is an indulgence in poetopia, we find in the poet's inner conviction a statement of human triumph which stands against the opposing tendency toward despondency where the heart wills but is yet manacled, and where finally desolation is total.

The younger poets are visionaries of that which keeps man brimming with inspiration to brave the hardy. Theirs is not from the idle religion of the fanatic mapping out large portions of geographic disaster for ‘infidels’ or ‘unbelievers’ of his doctrine. Their seeing is rather of the constant experience of life; they are the vigilant observers who have come to note the pattern in the overall course of human destiny, a pattern such as that even-handed justice that commends the poisoned chalice to the owner’s lips, for instance – or that which excavates the ghosts of our secret crimes to stand face to face before us at the border of the unknown.
In this pattern is hidden the secret of African wisdom, of ancient riddles yet unanswered. They dare the brave and courageous to taste of it and swoon in the forest of thousand daemons where truth kernels abound. Needless to say it is a creative effort, not the cult-like ablution associated with some initiation in obscurant depths. When poets become artistes on the sketch board of life, their imagination lifts them above the world of mundane, of rigid rules and stereotypes, to that fluid and formless state where strokes and strokes can make impressions of joy and myriad possibilities.

This creative talent is like the tree whose fruits have ripened more bountifully with sublime joy. Sometimes it can be a haunting feeling captured in a quest, a light like a blazing fire, and the trail is lost when the mind balks at the immense possibilities that stand before it. It leaves that nostalgic feeling of something lost, exteriorised in our mutual parting of ways, as in a discovery, or a simple good night bidding to a loved one. The poet walks the narrow lonely road of the world and only he knows the dew of sorrow that haunts his inner being reflected in his exterior world of inter-personal relationships to which poetry aligns the vision. For one point, after all the regurgitations of mere intellectual knowledge of past masters at our own illuminated expense, we shall come to the point where we can rekindle the beam of true enlightenment. Will the redeeming hope expressed here supplant the boundless cruelty of despotic governments in the truest sense? When the lagging rope is burnt after the executioner’s gun blast, what will be left of cruel laws, of gaols and human rights nailed on the cross of judicial travesties? Or, as some have asked, what comes out of goal gobbled when clouds overtake the sun to steal the beautiful reflections in the mirror of our world?

There have been visions of war, thousands of cries echoed, and freedom lost; dreams of toxic deaths, and of the frustrations of climbers of the social mountain moaning and fawning in that manner that is the bane of the African elite. Self-spoilt and pampered, he had followed the allure of his nimble-footed white friends made in the modern wake of history. Deceived, he is abandoned to his own wits, and alone, is unsure of himself. The idea of mountain climbers as a parable of an African dilemma re-echoes the indictment against blind leaderships and the popular herd syndrome of their followers. One who has come to envision this becomes like soul at the peak of consciousness moulding dreams far above the crowded streets below. Upon the heights the vision is sharp, acute and reaches even beyond the times. It is then the prayer of the poet that no limitations should fetter the imagination. In such contemplation, silence is the thread upon which the thoughts run to stir in him the current of awareness and understanding. Here we seem to be treading towards the mystical and profound, which lies not merely in the words that form the tool of verbal communion but in the flowering rhythm of inner meaning. The poet is in communication with his own eternity, so to speak, because the image is more ethereal, more permanent; it belongs in the realms where space and time collapse and the dreamer is ecstatic about the discovery of whatever he had sought.

Dreams are thus the living image in the centre of the eye. We long for that eye of eternity in which lies the power that lifts the veil over all secrets and lays bare the shoddy crimes in the chambers of mind. The song bird is let free, let to roam over the whole world of consciousness. The tongue of the bard is loosened likewise, free with the power of expression, because he is communicating an essence that touches the very core of being, reaching beyond words, mere symbols, beyond the body which belongs to the world of matter. The mysteries appear to fade, for no longer is he a child of the world staring with rose-coloured eyes and crawling behind time; rather he rises beyond space and time, and true knowledge is revealed, mysteries understood. The morrow is no longer bound with a thick fog for this is the product of the mind of space, matter and time. But listening into the shadows and taking the lonely route of realization, he discovers himself. Friends are gone, and what is left to do is to play the game of silence which hides the wisdom of his being. He learns that shadows don't hurt. Instead there is the discovery of what is in the word, the word that had sung the fame of great men and women and bubbled in minds tortured by social limitations. The word turns him restless and often drives him to strange deeds, such as committing suicide on a rope, shooting self in a hotel room, or making a pact with alcohol. It is clear then that he does not have any diplomatic (or artistic) immunity against the heat and cold, the comforts and wants of existence in the world. But if it is the outside world we know that he sings of, then there will always be hunger and war, hatred and evil. Because it is a world of greed and pride, of sadness and contentment, lust and vanity. It seems then a foolish attachment to a world of myriad illusions for man to think that he can amass every inconceivable possession and actually identify his being with these fleeting products of material fancy. His physical body may be heading to the grave but his amnesiac mind does not even want to contemplate this. Frantically he runs to the cosmetics and paraphernalia that sustain the illusion of physical prowess. But for the bard, death bound is home bound. Has he caught life's thread of continuity beyond so real to our ancestral lords and kin? Is that why he proclaims rest not in peace against that commonly touted yet meaningless pronouncements by graveyards? With such a visioning comes knowingness, like the seed, buried in the womb of the earth and blooming into life. As the poet I know this by going within that silence where nothing is lost but the fears and frustrations that tie the mind to the impermanent world, and I declare: the tunnel of death ends at the gate of life.

Love, Nature and Sweet Remembrances

Now how about the eternal subject of love that has baffled tyrants and amused sages for generations? The subject of love is the attempt to recover the gallant chivalry of poetry in a world reduced to a mere materialistic equation. Consider the child's reminiscence of that age of the cradle hands clasped around mother's, ear rested between her breasts evoking a tenderness perfect with mother and child. Or the boundless love of God for man as in the rhapsody: ‘See! Your tears are in my bottle stored, and when you grieve and feel distraught, my love fails not to flow... .’ Love is also the paternal exhortation to a new born baby, or the love of friends epitomised in those giggles of long-gone years ringing in the loving heart. It is the crown the mate of the goddess may wear when deepest yearnings are filled and reaching to heavenly heights. Nothing could ever hinder these reflections as does the poet by the lamp side. It renews the dream, it is the warmth in the night that the poet edifies in his love verses. Even the doctrine of sin can find a hope of remedy in this love, symbolised in the sun whose rays brighten the days of gloom. Yet love, the poet shows, can be a refuge for the hypocrite, his rationalisations and monumental deceits. This latter sense of disillusionment is part of the general paradox. Love is sought even in the dream of a soul mate where any affair, for the poet, becomes like truancy in infancy, no longer needed within the circle of perfect harmony that comes with graduation.

And love is ambiguous. Its ambiguity is of a kind built on language and mind. But it is one that may be transcended when all fears are pushed back and hope is allowed to assimilate the meaning of the message framed with care. The poets of these verses are, thankfully, seeking to lend verbal and auditory expressions to thoughts and visions that normally seem like idealism – proving that rabid materialism has not totally swept our generation away. To be regained here is the true sensitivity which, even when piteously quixotic in modern times, truly ennobles our lives. In seeking the well-being of others we imbibe the timeless virtue of loving care. So the young poet asks: What is as strong as love? rhetorically, for the unseen force that shapes lives and gives a few men the courage to do invincible deeds, heal unhealable wounds and cure incurable sores. It is the power beneath the swift’s endless flight, and the graphic play of bowers in flight, and the dance of the lek birds so cooly, so unhurriedly. Love is the rare bird with bright colours. It is nature in motion, lost to mundane and artificial perceptions; but now recovered in the picturesque imagination of poetry, the scope and meaning is most unquantifiable in simplistic terms. Yet its persistence, despite its elusiveness in the circumstances that force us to part from our beloved, is transcended by hope and faith. To be fondled and admired forever, or to be given a name; to be free, depends upon the enduring hope and faith of love. Like the candle that kindles the light of knowledge, love illuminates all doubts and dark corners of the soul. It glows with excitement; it throws beautiful patterns on floors and walls. Its essence is like the water of life which flows to sustain life in every universe; and without it, what calamity, what hazards and disaster and doom would befall mankind; how could we face the world without it?

As in his love, the poet's sympathy to nature is a widening of the scope of poetic inspiration which is more than just Romanticism. Indeed this is, if anything, the age of materialism where every value is being eroded in the survivalism wrought by global preying on human and natural resources. But still the poet may fantasise on the moon or rain in a manner of imagination that cannot be interpreted within the theoretical stream. Even if his purpose is to experiment with word and sound, the splash and slash, the slushing and cascades, the rush and bubble and rumbling and babbling are creative attempts to translate the auditory and the visual into strong, almost palpable reality.

Let the rainbow be an inspiration of wonder hiding the secrets of ancient wisdom and the puzzle of positive, negative and neuter elements of the universe. Such too is the nature of the stars that their luminous smiles around the galaxies operate on realms beyond the ignorance of the seeing and blind. What other secrets lie behind this calm composure of an unfailing cycle of nature? What truths do nature and creation endow the heart that experiences its bliss? Our love for nature would ultimately lead us to that longing for the childlike state wherein beauty and the grace of intuition and joy, explicit joy, all become the temperament from which our emotional fabric may always be cut.

We can learn from the nightingale, singing the same tone as ever, a fidelity that even a preacher may never have. A consistency in the peace, love, and sweetness of nature is reflected in lunar tenderness and gracefulness. Thus it is not an act of ordinary emotion to ejaculate about nature so good, nature so kind. Rather it is an awakening to higher truth, recognising the infallibility of nature’s order in all things. How close our perception, or how keen our perceptiveness, depends on our different levels of awareness. It can be as keen as the poet admiring the cyclic regeneration which permeates all life including the many countless wide ripples in nature and existence. This philosophical dimension of poetic perception suggests another look at the other end of the scale, the negative aspect of the rainbow which tends to fight the other side of nature so harmonious and peaceful. Indeed, there's two to life, as poets tell – even when they complement or seem to negate: the storm and the calm. The purpose, as may be seen, is to find a balance at the point where the poet calls the middle bearer.

Poetry is the eye of reminiscence, and a complex one too. The poet is involved in a kind of introspection, a communication with his own self and the extension of this self as reflected in others with whom he shares mutual experience. He may be reaching out into his box of memories as far back as a little incident of childhood, recalling the feelings, the mood of that singular moment in no mean feat with words. For those dramatic incidents of life, which jolt us out of complacency and leave a permanent imprint, like a scar, upon our subconscious mind, may appear incomparable in inner depth and significance with that subtle, very normal incidents that had been long overlooked but now unearthed in the mind's screen when looked upon with the eye of the moment. A fresh insight is gained, the lessons subtler and thrilling to discover; its discovery more than measures our present growth: point B against that previous stage of history: point A. It could open up a wider frontier of viewpoints for understanding of our own self, our experiences, our associations, our loves and hates. The spiritual realization that may accompany this experiencing is in every way limitless. What is that force that pulls strangers together in a definite place and bids them interact like old friends? Had they really met before in a distant time; is that parting a re-enactment of a some experience in the dim past and which must recur in some future with that timed mathematical ordering of the universe?

What is it that we harbour in our memory-bag of history? A life of distant years which remembrance may be triggered by the most casual events and actions as in the flight of a bird? A poet's land of red soil where homesteads clustered together and lizards moved in their pairs? Such a land of laughter, hunting and merriment often haunts us with its romantic symmetry. This re-experiencing of memory, these reminiscences, would unearth subtleties of emotional states when contrasted with harsh physical realities: anger at the rude awaking of a nation by idle military adventurers or indignation at the invasion of the peace of a continent and subsequent imposition of alien values on a people – that flagrant violation of personal spaces – in what has been called colonialism and, in religion, evangelism.

Memory is history, yet a more intense kind of history. Its re-experiencing focuses the attention and magnifies the feeling to the extent and degree of our focusing. Thus the pangs of SAP, that symbol of our economic slavery, had marked the time of dogs and registered the insipidity and lifelessness that trailed our poverty and corruption in its most monumental scale. In Nigeria, SAP was that promise unfulfilled, leaving the masses dying before the promised recovery of market laughter. SAP or SFEM: a negative inspiration for poetry. Its vaunted acronym was shown to be essentially depressing and the poet does not relent in pointing this out. Under SAP all remains of nationhood was sapped in oblivion, leaving a deep trail of cynicism and hopelessness. Lying and still running in the projector of the poet's mind are the skulls of souls silenced on the acrid journey to the altar of power. And like SAP, Koko came to symbolise the indolence of a nation under the illusion of its size and military strength which it foolishly turns on its own citizenry. Here was a nation caught napping when huge drums of toxic waste were being imported and dumped on its soil.1 Issues of national significance did not pale with the reality of private experiences within which had lain the hope that the cries of yester years may fade far into the dying flames. The lost emerald of hope is regained at last. In fact within the personal world lies a stretch of possibilities – love and mutual giving of self, travel and adventure, meeting and parting, places distant, strange treeless lands and deserts, friendships made, cherished, and friendships lost after the parting.

The human truth in these experiences makes for their reality, the deeper significance appealing to the humanity within our universal essence. For instance, how does the poet succeed in evoking an ironic feeling of nostalgia in the poem of the ‘been-to’ living ‘in a kind of quarters’? We can enjoy the soft rhyming of the lines and the philosophical contemplation which endows truth upon what may have been a mere subjective escapade.
Let us concede that life consists of these many journeys. Through the many different planets, continents and worlds men and women have travelled, crossed many waters and bridges, traversed space and journeyed in time. Each experience leaves a definitive stamp, an image, and like a screen-sheet filled and stacked with them, they haunt us with their grim and grotesque distortions. Our recall of them comes in parts, and it comes to take the unconscious shapes of our own nature. It could be the smoking chimneys in the harmattan mist. Here the tool of perception is, as always, the poetic sensibility. The couch heading up North assumes a snaky steady strain mingling in the oratory of commercials and vistas of living greenery and parched yellow plumes. What brotherly flight of fancy links this rhythm to the Negro gospel? And what imagination metamorphoses the rocks of Jos plateau into bare backs of crouching giants, grim monarchs hunched in colloquium? We capture the hoary transport crisis in Lagos, and Onitsha creates a picture of people who build their powers on pillars of pain beating limitations to make their millions. The journey takes us to Abuja and to Umuahia where it evokes an invitation to a war that had been fought and ended: Umuahia, once the capital of Biafra, home town of Aguiyi-Ironsi, one of Nigeria's murdered leaders like Balewa and Mohammed before and after him. We traverse Lagos once again, the commercial nerve centre, Nigeria's New York and repository of a fearfully tumultuous traffic lagoon. The image resonates in the pattering of raindrops in that crowded city. In our journey, thoughts are meteors, events comets which seem to take us to our destination even before the blink of an eye.

Sometimes visualising can really become tactile. It is like transcending the limitations of the present and entering into that state which is visualised and finding inside it a reality that is irrefutable to the experience.
Here in this collection we are also witnesses to a few nursery poems. In the past it had appeared that the nursery was a less creative activity than the general themes that deal with social conditions. The question of profundity had tended to be exaggerated, so also the indulgence in obscure poetry. What concerns the poet of nursery is the peculiarity with which familiar themes are expressed, their general lucidity and lyricism. Nowhere are these qualities exemplified than in these poems where a pattern of repetitions and parallelism, very familiar in oral poetry, is experimented with striking effect. There is some a kind of entertainment in the rhetoric which, though simple, does not suggest naivete – the charge of chauvinists for the complex and mystical. Nor must rhyming be forced. Rather to flow without exaggeration or inducement is the candid deal. Consider the straight assertiveness of some lines of ‘Going to School’ and ‘Gentle Birds.’ In marking a little spot for the child audience, the editor has rightly considered that poetry can essentially assume the auditory medium of expression which can stimulate greater interest by the virtuous arrangement of verbal and other sound effects, and, at the same time, remain accessible to the sensitivity of the truly younger generation to leave a lasting legacy for the future times.

And so here, in the assertions of the younger poets, here, in the art of the new generation of Nigerian poets, we have become frontline men and women... and visionaries... and lovers of all that may be true of all ages, among all nations, all races, all cultures the world over. Here then lies the art of the younger poets.

 

  

 

See the List of Nigerian Poets