Posts Tagged ‘Osundare’

POET’S PROFILE

Osundare

Osundare

I discovered this poem when I was surfing other sites dedicated to African poetry. As I have already indicated here on this blog, Osundare is one poet whose works I hold in great admiration.

Osundare was born in 1947 in Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State, Nigeria. He is a prolific poet, dramatist and literary critic with degrees from the University of Ibadan (BA), the University of Leeds (MA) and York University, Canada (PhD, 1979). Previously professor (from 1989) and Head of English (1993–1997) at the University of Ibadan, he became professor of English at the University of New Orleans in 1997. He has a lovely wife Kimi and 3 children, two girls, one deaf, and a son who still lives in Nigeria. His deaf daughter is the real reason Osundare is settled in the United States. She could not go to school in Nigeria so they found a school in the U.S. for her and so Osundare could be closer to her they moved with her.

This poem is a wakening tribute to a concept which might pass overlooked by many an observer. But as is the duty of the bard, Osundare dotes upon the unsung and brings its music to the ear of the listener. Here is his tribute.

WAITING

Long-
er
than
the
y
a
w
n
of
the
moon
in
a
sky
so
brown
with
heels
of
fleeting
fancies
a
diamond
tear
waits,
tremulous,
in
the
eye
of
the
cloud,
dropping

REVIEW
This poem by Osundare is marvellous more for its structure than for its content. The entire poem is one long run-on; a single sentence that blabs on till the end, leaving the reader both amused and asking for more.

But the poem’s title contrasts with its structure. A poem titled as WAITING should have been a tedious read, with lines closing after a long winding, and holding brief for a tiresome, monotonous culture. It doesn’t! Instead, the lines come to a quick close after a few alphabets – just one in some instances – which makes you jump as fast from one line to the next in a sense of hurry rather than of wait. The most striking of such use is where “yawn” is split to make an alphabet per line, giving you a sense of yawn, even inducing a yawn in you if you should read the poem a few times over. That is the quality of the word itself and as Osundare spreads it over the page, the mind of the reader is effectively lulled alongside.

So what is the poem saying? Take it in here: it only tells of rain-drop! A Rain-drop so glorified and extolled in lines as sacred as those above. Immortalised!

To add to the mystery of the poem, Osundare begins it as though he has been saying something all along that we know nothing about, or have not been listening to. He says that something is waiting longer than the moon yawns in a brown sky. A brown sky then should be a boring sky, holding not very much excitement. And when he adds “with heels of fleeting fancies”, we understand the boredom much more. Fleeting fancies are preferences that change with every next moment. One minute you want to do this, the next minute your mind is changed! A true epitome of boredom!

He now tells us that what he talks about is “a diamond tear”. But from whose eyes? We have no idea. The tear is waiting, as though holding on for an increased pity for the one who bears it. Truth be told, unshed tears increase sorrow as much as they invoke greater pity.

We only become aware that he talks about a rain-drop, shaped in a diamond configuration, when he concludes that it is “in the eye of the cloud” and as it is, it’s getting ready to drop. Then we understand the bigger picture that Osundare is trying to paint. He has successfully brought us to compassion with the period before everyday rainfall, likening it to the burden of sorrow which he has caused us to bear in the somehow sad and melancholic lines of this poem. Another great piece from my favourite poet coming out of Nigeria!

POET’S PROFILE

Osundare

Osundare

Today, I review my favourite Nigerian poet, Niyi Osundare, whose works strike the same cords with me as Kwesi Brew of Ghana.

He was born in 1947 in Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State, Nigeria. He is a prolific poet, dramatist and literary critic with degrees from the University of Ibadan (BA), the University of Leeds (MA) and York University, Canada (PhD, 1979). Previously professor (from 1989) and Head of English (1993–1997) at the University of Ibadan, he became professor of English at the University of New Orleans in 1997. He has a lovely wife Kimi and 3 children, two girls, one deaf, and a son who still lives in Nigeria. His deaf daughter is the real reason Osundare is settled in the United States. She could not go to school in Nigeria so they found a school in the U.S. for her and so Osundare could be closer to her they moved with her.

Osundare believes that there is no choice for the African poet but to be political. He has accused and protested against generations of corrupt Nigerian leaders and this poem following is a testament to his bluntness. He doesn’t hide his statement behind humour or wit. He conjures the intended feeling with the straightest words. Not My Business was written in accusation of the murderous dictatorship of Gen. Sanni Abacha from 1993 to 1998.

NOT MY BUSINESS

They picked Akanni up one morning
Beat him soft like clay
And stuffed him down the belly
Of a waiting jeep.

What business of mine is it
So long they don’t take the yam
From my savouring mouth?

They came one night
Booted the whole house awake
And dragged Danladi out,
Then off to a lengthy absence.

What business of mine is it
So long they don’t take the yam
From my savouring mouth?

Chinwe went to work one day
Only to find her job was gone:
No query, no warning, no probe –
Just one neat sack for a stainless record.

What business of mine is it
So long they don’t take the yam
From my savouring mouth?

And then one evening
As I sat down to eat my yam
A knock on the door froze my hungry hand.

The jeep was waiting on my bewildered lawn
Waiting, waiting in its usual silence.

REVIEW
This poem ends poignantly. From the beginning, Osundare is a commentator. A passive viewer who cares little or in fact, has little power to change what he sees. And what he sees is not pleasant.
A man is taken early morning, beaten and then driven away in a jeep.

Osundare is not bothered, supposedly. Once his yam still reaches his mouth, there is no need.

The next time, it happens at night! A man’s house is terrorised awake and he is dragged away, not to be heard from anymore for a long time. Osundare sings his chorus once again: what business of his is it if nobody has asked him.

Slowly, line by line, we see the decadence that characterised the brutal Abacha regime. Rather than tell us global and general stories of how people suffered during the period, Osundare marches with his pen into homes and draws out stories of individuals he names as Akanni and Danladi. By this deed, he puts a human, everyday face on the people so that we can identify with the terrors of people who bear our names and do our everyday tasks. Every time it happens around him and he reports it, Osundare is telling us that it is marching towards him and it won’t be long before we don’t hear from him again; not long before his poem will cease!

So imagine that Chinwe has also lost her job with no explanation. This is representative enough and tells of what could have been happening all across God’s own Nigeria! It is so common and widespread that it happens to your neighbours. Some serious mischief was afoot in Nigeria and in a time that writing poetry was censored, it was guts that made Osundare an icon. He said later that no dictator could be his friend!

In the last two stanzas, see someone come knocking on his door as he sits to eat his yam! His time has come and the jeep waits for him on “my bewildered lawn”, to a future uncertain. Why is the lawn bewildered though? Osundare should have expected this long ago. Maybe, that’s why he wrote us this piece. Beautiful poem by all standards.