Author: Su’eddie Vershima Agema
Date of publication: 2012
Poetry being one of the vestals of art, punches the human brain hard in every attempt to study and to analyse it. But here is a volume of poetry made simple by Su’eddie Vershima Agema. It is rendered not in mystical language but in the vivid lexicon of poetics. Su’eddie makes the writing of modern poetry as easy as drinking glass of water. It is a supreme act of imagination and intelligence, the restoration of lost stories. This collection saves us of the danger inherent in the loss of tales and the longing for them elsewhere. This might quench our immediate thirst for why Su’eddie tells the tales one shouldn’t tell but it is not enough. Further exploration might pose some helpful assumptions such as: it is either that the tales are bizarre to tell or they are too shameful to hear or a skillful artistry is required to tell them or rather an uncommon courage of a die – hard scribbler like Su’eddie’s is needed to narrate them in a grand style.
Whatever is the case and drifting away from the assumptions, this volume, however, reads ultimately as both testimony and injunction as it brings to the fore, an abiding sense of grief and disappointment. The tales powerfully show the weighting of life; the heaviness of heart. Su’eddie makes no mistakes in excavating the wounds of the past; a living manifestation of the catastrophe that was actually our past. This is an exclusive job of the ancient sage but the water needn’t be clean to quench a fire hence, Su’eddie needn’t the grey hair of the ancient sage or raconteur to weave his tales or connect to the wisdom of the old. This immediately makes him grow from a child – poet to an eminent poet of our time. We would have been stranded, no doubt, if not for Su’eddie’s courage and imaginative power to tell the tales one shouldn’t tell and also in the grand eloquent manner which he renders them. It is only when you are stranded in your own stories that you need a romance of origin. Remember, this ‘romance of origin,’ the longing to return to the old ways as a result of rupture or dislocation, is always the last resort of the defeated. This is typically justified in the lines below:
It comes to that day when we must all eternal dues pay
If that hour when we lose our way and don’t make it chimes today
Whether we fall in lands far as Rome
Please bring our casket home…
To join the pages of our ancestral tome (28).
It is sad that our defeat is marked even from the title: Bring our Casket Home… and as a shame, it becomes a tale one shouldn’t tell. The casket carries the remains of the defeated, lying idly silently in their lifeless bodies. Return is what one holds onto after he has been taken away from the origin lost. The promise of return is all that remains in the wake of exile. Come to think of it, why should we demand the dead bones to be returned when we know they can’t make any meaningful contribution to their original homeland? This ilk of return is absolutely not needed and we have no case to answer. However, the above lines in several ways, bear resemblance with other travel or emigrationist writings like, Harlem Sweeties (poem) by Langston Hughs and A Raisin in the Sun (play) by Lorraine Hansberry. The casket reminds us of a pain – filled memory, never to varnish. This totalizing claim is yet again evident in one of the poems entitled,Grave:
Where do our dreams go? In what transit [sic]
Do they jump out leaving us?
Does the reality of now
Indeed our dreams drown?
Do they stay with us
a strong force
telling of destinations unreached
in aging aches decaying (7)?
What is it that we are still in this quagmire of existence? Dreams never reached until we return in our lifeless bodies. In as much as stories open new possibilities of being, this kind of story cannot make our being hence shouldn’t be told. This is one layer that partly explains why the title reads: … Tales One Shouldn’t Tell. The poet, not a child of any race or nationality but an umpire of truth; tells the tales from an unbiased vintage point, however bitter they are.
There is another flip side of the above narrative that offers some shimmering light of hope and triumph. This gives us the balance scale of life as a marriage of sorrow and joy.
The sun is our smile
The moon our laughter
Our brother… (40).
In closing, no one goes to the river early in the morning to fetch dirty water; it must be clean water. Therefore, I encourage everyone to go for his copy as I declare this volume an all – time collection of poetry before it becomes too distilled by avid reviewers. It is still fresh and sweet like the palm wine. We know the palm wine tastes better while the yeast still bubbles.
However, no one needs to be told to discard the pot that can no longer boil water but as part of the job of the reviewer, I suggest that the grey areas in this present volume be looked at in the subsequent editions to make it retain the all – time relevance it has set out to achieve amidst several collections of poetry. Finally, we do not require either Fagg or Leo Frobenius or Ruth Finnegan or Benedict Anderson or even Frank Willet to tell us that this is fine a poetry. We know and indeed, it is.
Joshua Agbo, playwright and literary scholar is the author of How Africans Developed Africa: A Forgotten Truth in History and the play, Beyond the Dark Clouds. He is a lecturer at the Department of Languages and Linguistics, Benue State University, Makurdi. He can be reached at his blog or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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