Posts Tagged ‘Chimezie Chika’

by Chimezie Chika

Finding Q-dance Centre was what drove me onto the streets of Lagos
that morning. I felt something leap in me when I saw throngs of people
milling into the streets from the thousand avenues and nooks like
ants, saw yellow buses hop by, and their conductors howling in Yoruba
for people going to Mile 2, Mazamaza, Festac. Maruas trotting like
hungry dogs. Hawkers screaming. On the pavement, a bend-down-select
book vendor. I bought a book.
The bus left me at Tejusho market, at the corner of the modern
shopping complex. A kind tall mallam in a white skull cap directed me
to the rail line where I had to wait, with other people, for a snaky
rickety train pooh-ing in agony to pass by. The Okada I entered there
dropped me off at 194 Herbert Macaulay—a tall edifice with a blue

I was the first to arrive that day but, ironically, I would become the
prize-winning latecomer for the rest of the workshop. I was not really
looking at the young boys and girls who were cleaning up; I was
thinking about my not having had a bath that morning. Chidimma came.
She is a colleague at IMSU. We talked a little and then Basit came.
Basit—the smiling talker. He was silent that morning. The rest came.

I was struck by how young we all were. How our eagerness was moon in
our eyes. Eagerness is a character that has resonated with writers for
generations. We write it into our blood. Did I hear Dami?—everything I
say is subject to your personal acceptance; I mean, you mustn’t take
me seriously.
Dami: white-smiling all over the place, talking: medical doctor at
day; writer at night. Did I—or did I not—imagine him bending over
writhing patients—(psychosis, neurosis, Freud)—at day; sitting quietly
in a room and clanking away at his small laptop, the screen lighting a
limited vicinity in the dark. I think of Chekov, Ekwensi, Imasuen, and
all clinical people who find time for literature. There is something
about writing that erases professions.
My muse had long become this gathering of twin souls. I had not
thought of those ancient Greek scions of the imagination. My Aphrodite
is that amber-lit room; my Bacchus, that water bottle.

Ukamaka, in all her resplendent beauty, was, to my surprise, down to
earth. Qudus was passionate about inspiration. Mazi was so engaging. I
did not think these people had any drab illusions about what they do.
They were proud of it. Loved it. We were quiet and they talked. We
were quiet and drank in their wisdom. Some people are not talking

I wonder if I mentioned Socrates, the Kenyan brought-up who somewhat
acted like his Greek namesake. Socrates, adupe!

Lagos is so big. The maze of roads is confusing; snaking over each
other; bigger roads eating up the smaller ones. Brigdes. Too many
bridges. Under Bridge. The conductors gabble their words; so you might
miss your way.
I found myself in Ebutte-Meta, the railway headquarters. I walked
through that gigantic railway establishment, the industries associated
with it—they were in forlorn shambles.
Everyone was already seated when I arrived at the Centre for
Contemporary Arts. Punctuation. Dami reads his story to illustrate.
Tricky story. I think of John Barth, William Gaddis, and Pynchon.
Ukamaka reduced every literary equation to the simplest understandable
unit. She was so eager. You could see it in the way she talked, the
way she tried to build upon every point made. Marlon James—Point of
View: technique. Exercises: wonderful. Tolu (always smiling) wrote: I
am sitting here, hungry. I doubt if I will remember everything Dami
said in the next 24 hours.
I walked home with Chidimma.

There are some people you know only on Facebook. Uzoma was so quiet,
his chubby cheeks hardly moving. His eyes changed shades. Something
was going on in that head; you could tell.
Memories of the third day are muddled up. Maybe because I am writing
three days after the workshop, or perhaps, because I scooped some,
raw, and ate right there and went to toilet.
It was a Sunday and, on the way, I bought five books from a roadside
vendor. Winesburg, Ohio; VS Naipaul; Michael Cunningham; Junichiro
Tanizaki; others. The talk progressed seamlessly. Ukamaka, Mazi, the
charming Bola.
It did not end with any elaborate fanfare. But—but then we were all
happy. Something had happened to us: writing. For people to meet,
actually, in conducive Art-mosphere, to talk about writing is
uplifting. So we can now go home and sit at the desk and bleed? The
personal thing is that a picture—a horizon—has been enlarged.
I snapped a ‘wefie’ with Ukamaka, Dami autographed Clinical Blues for
me; I held a short discourse with Mazi. One thing about these people
is their lack of airs. They are so humble and helpful. I think of
Dami. Thank you. I thank all of them.

After everything, did we not sit down and talk? Did we not discuss
literature; our interests? Uzoma, Gbolahan, Basit and I. We shared
files, movies in the fore-room, talked about our work, of continuing
the Writivism ’15 spirit. Talked about Chimee, Olisa—Basit wants to
meet him. I said to Basit, You are so exuberant. Suddenly, we all
laughed. We started talking of how we saw each other at the Workshop.
Evening was descending, we would go. Downstairs, Uzoma and Gbolahan
climbed a bus to Ojota. I walked down Macaulay street with Basit. Then
he crossed the road. Goodbye, Chimezie. Goodbye, Basit. Buenos. We
shall meet again in the place where there is no darkness; someday,
somewhere, someplace, in this vast city of bridges.

Chimezie Chika

Chimezie Chika


What Can Words Do?
Kukogho Iruesiri Samson
Pages: 84 pages
Year of Publication: 2013
Reviewer: Chimezie Chika

There is a cliched saying that goes this way: ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’. In no place is it more exemplified than in Kukogho Iruesiri Samson’s debut poetry collection.

In Kukogho’s collection a lot happens. Cold ovens bake bread, earth fights itself, tongues fool thumbs, men chew seeds of discord, among other things.
The first poem, ‘Wedded and Weeded’ illustrates domestic discord, a situation in which the original sweetener of a marriage is no longer there.
In the first stanza the poet observes:

‘He wore a tie, she wore a veil.
And yes, I looked, no face was pale
As both of them walked down the aisle
In sweet rehearsed musical style.’

And yet by the third stanza the poet tells us in first line:

‘He shouts and throws two angry fists’

Here, the contrast is obvious. Just like other poems in the first part, the poet kept asking the question: Who can bake after the heat in the oven is long gone?
In such poems as ‘Beggar Without Choice’, ‘Souls Adrift’, ‘The Baby’ ‘Broken Webs Still Stick’, among others, the poet’s question pops everywhere:

‘How long will you remain
A beggar without choice’
‘Are these not they that breathed hot
Last night, here in the same smoky hut?
Did they not whisper and tangle arms?’
‘Did not the voice bid you change?
Now you die alone on a bed strange’

As one journeys through the politically concious topography of the collection the poet gets more and more angry and poses more and more questions.
In ‘Men or Beasts’ he asks:

‘Why then do men–demon possessed pack,/Merciless Humans that do humanity lack–/Now slaughter on whims and plunder at will?’

In ‘The Shame Of Man’ the poet mocks mankind’s pollution of life with mundane avarice. ‘A Stench in the Nose of God’ poignantly begins this way:

‘Man against man, no one knows another.
Woman against woman, all is put asunder.
Brother against sister, the cord is broken.
The scion forgets that his breath is a token’

The poet went on in the poem to lament and decry the fact that man and God are no longer moving in parri-passu; hence, Man’s farts has penetrated the nose of God, leaving a hideous stench.
The leitmotif of man’s desecration of the original order things as God wills it runs through much of the poems. The poet in moments of tear-jerking lyricsm observes:

‘For now we stand at the edge of the cliff/And we flutter in the wind like a leaf.’

The poet asks another question in my favourite poem of the collection, ‘Where is the Breath of Fresh Air?’
As the poets anger intensifies he, in straightforward deadpan language, confronts those that subverts social values and norms.
In ‘The Voter’ he mercilessly accuses:

‘You are the fool that sold his people for crumbs’

From here the poet’s anger gets the better of him; his inherent socialism comes to fore, so that the overt recommendations of revolution as the means of acquiring a breath of fresh air cannot be totally ignored in such poems as ‘The Land is Ours to Occupy’, We Shall Occupy, Poet’s Rage’.
This revolution is not so much a war of Kalashnikovs and bombs as it is a war of angry pens and smouldering rage at the impunity of our leaders in their continuous and daft perversion of the collective values of a nation; trampling upon the masses; and looting by chewing seeds of discord. As the poet lyrically wishes in the second stanza of ‘A Poets Rage;

‘If I could rhyme you death/And enjamb your stolen laughter/With spells of lingering tears!’,

it becomes immediately apparent what the poet’s festering anger points at. Not unsuprisingly we begin to see such poems as ‘Widows of War’, ‘Hate’, and ‘When We War’, where poet, in vivid lines, paints harrowing pictures of scenes of grief–the antecedent of which is discord and gun-mongery.
Harrowing pictures follows other harrowing pictures of rape, of loot, of privations. It is not far-fetched to say that we are dealing with a socially concious poet here whose anger seeths and whose grief in such poems as ‘Salty Pearls’, ‘Lamentations’, or his resignation in ‘Full Stop or Ellipses?’ and ‘From Dust to Dust’ brings a rare humanity to bear on his work. Inspite of the total annihilation of equality in our society, among other things, the poets makes us understand that there is redemption in true love as he illustrates in ‘Forlorad’:

‘Come, love, come to me.
Come, marry your voice to my ears.
Come plough my frame.
For I am, now, but a fallow land.’

But, even then, this love is blighted by the poet’s scepticism. He wonders if love is not a twist–a gile–which our leaders use as a weapon in their incessant striving to create a divide, as seen in ‘Inanity’:

‘I stand before you, empty.
My heart with love,
Or ‘disvirgin’ it
With the bile of rejection.’;

In the poem; ‘Don’t’:

‘Don’t love me
Like the shadow
That stays only in the dark of night
and flees
at the break of dawn’;

…among others.

In end the poet tells us that God is the ultimate being, the supreme judge. Whatever we do, we should acknowledge the fact that we are going against his statutes. According to him, if we listen when God speaks we ‘ll have peace in our hearts. The poems here–‘Tempted’, ‘Sinking Within’, ‘The Shackles, The Weight’, ‘Man vs God’, ‘Did He Hang for Me?’–tend to be metaphysical.
But then in a poem that poses the central question that pervades the collection, the poet ends on an inquisitive note:

‘What can . . , words do?
. . . Could they be worthless ink stains
Corpses on paper plains
That flies won’t inspect
Ghoul-feast reject
Lacking stink
Wasted ink?
Tell me!’

Can you answer that question?


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