The Poetical in the Political

Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Lucidity of Absurdity by Olumide Olaniyan; Kraftgroits, Kraft Books Ltd, Ibadan; 2017; 82pp

The well-worn saying by Aristotle that man is a political animal is of essence in the poetical offering of Olumide Olaniyan. The poet makes his voice count in the public space as opposed to private-hewn obscurantism. There is no ambivalence in Olaniyan’s renditions. The clarity of his vision does not suffer any escape into affectation.

Divided into five parts, namely, “Of Politics and Power”, “When the Earth Cries”, “Humanity – Slavery and History”, “Aches and Balms”, and “Aspects of Humanity”, Lucidity of Absurdity represents a sturdy attempt at making meaning out of the opposites that shape the world as we know it. Olaniyan undertakes the arduous task of fetching the lucid from the absurd, finding kindness in death, and getting joy from insanity.

The first poem, “Succubus”, sets the stage for a daring journey in uncharted waters. Succubus, as our study of mythology tells, happens to be some evil spirit of the female species that consummates the sex act with a man who is fast asleep. For Olaniyan, “Succubus” renders the land to wastage:

 

Succubus’ sway smothers us daily

Till we lose the power to think or act

Our ethos, our land, our being, they decay direly

Death now our freedom from her dart

 

The poet then forges ahead to yet another destructive creature in the poem “Octopus”:

 

At its behest

Virgins trade off their flower

Priests alter creeds to New Age tenets

In vain, the masses crave for flour

Octopus strangles our land with its paws.

 

It was the musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti who depicted some leading political actors as “animal in human skin”. The poet Olaniyan somehow makes a connection with the late Afrobeat legend in the poem “Déjà vu”:

 

This is the season of the beasts

Who mask as humans

And mingle with the people

They vow to give honey

In barter for power

 

In a land of plenty, it is a great pity that people are dying of poverty. A very concerned poet, Olaniyan does not hide from pointing out the contradictions of Nigerian society as he notes in “The Forlorn Palm Tree”:

 

The forlorn palm tree

Perched beside the delta

Surrounded by creeks

Yet thirsty for water

 

This is reminiscent of the immortal lines of Samuel Taylor Coleridge in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”: “Water, water everywhere/Nor any drop to drink.”

 

Olaniyan is unafraid to delve into controversial themes such as Slavery and History. In the poem “Slave’s fear”, he laments:

 

The slave thirsts for freedom

But fears to dare the fiefdom

 

The slave prays for wealth

But sits back and mourns by his hearth

 

The slave desires a wife

But quivers at the sight of a bride

 

The slave wants new garbs

But fears to cast away his rags

 

The slave loves freedom

But only laments his doom.

 

For Olaniyan, it’s not all doom and destruction and lament. He has also in his quiver the tenderness of love as he limns in “A Night of a Thousand Dreams”:

 

This is a night of a thousand dreams

I shall shackle time to thwart the coming of daylight

As my tongue stretches to stroke and savour your torso’s cream

Let me be your slave tonight

 

“Musing All Night” is a paean to lost love in a most heartrending manner:

 

Tonight I chased away sleep

I paced and mused as time crawled by

Helpless to hurry the day to break

A rival has lured my pearl from me

 

The title poem “Lucidity of Absurdity” lays bare all the contradictions that stand in the way of equity within the commonwealth. A world made impossible through riddles will in the end reduce humankind to wondering for ages on end over the puzzles. Pessimism rules the waves:

 

Truth-seekers pluck at their eyes for a better sight

They entreat with words to reorder the world

Their pleas rot, for the world trades not in words but gold.

 

Lust is the evil to escape from as the poet denotes in “The Magnetic Repulsion”:

 

It seduces my being to kill my soul

It pulls my sight to vanish my vision

 

It flashes ecstasy to filch my essence

Blurring the thoughts in my head

To swell the vim between my legs

 

This tempest that fuels my lust

To trap my lost soul

I shall flee from your safety

And ignore your yearning arms.

 

The collection ends on the platform of “Sleep”:

 

Rest

The tonic of all souls

The tired soul needs a dose

The right dose sharpens the wise

A little too much warps the unwise

Spirits are revived at your harbour

But only those with the right measure for their labour.

 

Olumide Olaniyan’s Lucidity of Absurdity is an endearing offering in earnestness. The poet’s concern for his age and community is of the top order. He obviously belongs to the class who insist that poems must not just be but mean.

 

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