Regarding Oseloka Obaze’s ‘Regarscent Past: A Collection of Poems,’ 2015

346

I have always had a hard time writing poetry, committing to paper poetic epitaphs, epigrams, short or long hands of reminiscent thoughts, emotional outbursts and/or figurative flights of fancy. For that art form forces such uncompromising economy of words that you either have what it takes or you don’t. There are no middle grounds. Reading people’s poetry is harder for me still. What monstrous constructions, compositions, conjugations, convolutions and indecipherable abstractions am I going to be subjected to? Because for me, after authoring fourteen works of fiction and non-fiction; I have two unbending literary rules carved in stone: coherence and beauty – of language – in that order.

And both must be present at all times, not one and not the other or a little of one and a whole lot of the other; but both in equal measure at all times! Otherwise, I close the collection in hard bound cover, never to be reopened by me until kingdom come! So, when Oseloka Obaze’s publisher gave me his collection of poems to read and write a review on, I saw the dreaded monster rearing its ugly head! Yet, once I accepted the complimentary copy of the collection and gave my word to do a review, I was duty-bound to grapple with the monster which I expected to be a full scale wrestling match. And so, I braced myself for the worst: a psychotropic wallow in the author’s egomaniacal miasma of word-images and metaphors.

I admit it took me a few days after being given Obaze’s collection of poems, to actually open the book to start reading its contents. First, I perused the blurb on the back cover of the book, and then I read the bio on its author, his Acknowledgements and his Introduction; as though trying to read everything else before having to confront the dreaded verses. Then, I ran out of blurb and bio, acknowledgments and introduction; and there was nowhere else to hide. I had to confront the dreaded verses head on.

On the third day, I opened Obaze’s collection and began to read the first poem in the work of seventy-four poems. Any reader, especially of fiction, knows that the opening paragraph or two or three, is the dealmaker or breaker between a reader and an author. One might argue, with good cause, that you should no more judge a book by its cover than by its first, second or third paragraph; and one might be entirely right. However, except for aficionados and battle-tested veterans, the rest of us mere mortals live by that rule of thumb. Thus, no sooner had I finished Oseloka Obaze’s first poem, Alumuka, than I felt in my gut I was in for one heaven of a treat!

Poem after poem, the quality of expression, thematic clarity, parsimony and elocution, remained solid. The dreaded verses had turned into exquisite ones. Obaze’s poetic snapshots of the past, present and future; of nostalgic pain and promise, of ancestral and national nativity and global commons, of politics and pathos, and of disappointments and hopeful ebullience; covers a wide-ranging and beguiling canvas. It is arguable that the appreciation of poetry, like beauty, is ‘in the eye of the beholder;’ hence our preferences for the best ones in a collection, will differ from person to person. Yet, while I concede a stubborn truth to that well-worn desideratum, I wager anyone who avails themselves of the privilege and pleasure of Obaze’s marvelous collection, that they will find a surprisingly high consensus of its finest gems with those on my shortlist!

And my shortlist is not to say that I found his other poems to be beyond the pale. That was hardly so. Assuming some, most or all my shortlist picks makes your own shortlist, there will be plenty more from whence they came! In fact, exactly forty-seven more! Still, I have one final thought before I stay my garrulous pen. I feel disappointed even deprived that this scintillating poet did not try his hand at the novel, for  as I read through his beautifully crafted poems, I could not help feeling that Oseloka Obaze might be one of the few able to breach the false divide between and betwixt poetry and prose. Here then, is my own shortlist of his sparkling gems.

  • Alumuka
  • Introspection at 42
  • Nigeria
  • Millennium’s Last Summer
  • CKC: The Eton on the Niger
  • An Ode to My Igbo Origin
  • Life’s Prices
  • 20th Century Oxymorons
  • News
    • An Epitaph for Abacha
    • Okokon Ndem’s Voice
    • Philosophising
    • Culture Shock
    • Faith
    • War Crime at Ubakala
    • Ogbunike Cave
    • The Blind Minstrel
    • Fear
    • Ngozi’s Face
    • Diochi
    • The Maasai
    • Lagos
    • PNC Okigbo
    • The Chads
    • The Comrades
    • The Regarscent Past
    • Ojukwu

© Copyright, Emeka Aniagolu, 2015.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Emeka Aniagolu is a professor in the Black World Studies of Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio, where he teaches African and African American History and Politics; he is also an adjunct professor in the African American and African Studies Department of The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. He is the author of fourteen books—seven novels and seven works of non-fiction—and is the recipient of several awards including, but not limited to: The Ohio State University Teaching Excellence Award, the Living Faith Award in the State of Ohio, and the Martin Luther King Commission Educational Excellence Award in the State of Ohio. He can be reached at: eaniagolu@yahoo.com.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here