Often when we are in a position, we fail to see how far we have come. It is often the case that when a man is climbing a mountain and looks down, he does not appreciate the heights he has attained but is afraid of what would happen if he falls.
Title: Promises on Sand
Author: Amina Aboje
Publisher: Kraft Books
Year of Publication: 2017
Number of Pages: 87
Reviewer: Paul Sawa
Although I write the occasional poem, I do not see myself as a poet. Avid reader that I am, however, I consider myself competent enough to review any form of literature. After all, I am the end user. The myth that only a poet can review poetry has long since been debunked. When all the lights in your house go out, you do not need to be an electrical engineer to realise that something is wrong.
I’ve always appreciated poetry, but have a tendency to be overly censorious of lyrical fluency and the depth thereof in much of what is expected to pass for verse today. The book which I am about to review, not only dependably delivers on both of these criteria, but goes further to embolden the believer, tickle the lover, and reignite any dying embers in the heart of the disillusioned patriot into a blaze.
The anthology, Promises on Sand, is Amina Aboje’s first published work. It is subdivided into four parts.
The first section, “The Glow,” is my favourite. It affords the reader a glimpse into the primary essence of the mime behind the rhyme. The reckless abandon of an unfettered childhood expressed in “Voice of the Wind,” which gives way to the first gentle tugs of young love on the heart strings in “Fusion” and “Never Enough,” is tempered by the idealistic purity of “Stay with me.” As a theist with a deep love and appreciation for nature, I am struck by Amina’s liberal use of natural imagery with occasional glimpses of the Divine revealed in and through the natural world.
The second section, “Of Loss and Hope,” takes on a more sombre note, yet in its entire sobriety, hope is never lost. Amina juxtaposes the reality of death and consequent effusions of grief with the hope of rebirth and reunion. In the six lines of “Except I die,” I see physical rebirth subsequent to death, like the seed in nature; I see spiritual death and rebirth as the hope and joy of the theist; and I see the daily process of dying to self and thereby awakening to another life. Then, of course, Amina has not neglected to highlight the miracle of birth, disappointments, betrayals and the perplexing paradoxes in this pilgrimage of life, for which she asks for direction in “Guiding Rod” – pragmatism garnished with idealism. Did I mention that this section is my favourite?
Section three, “Time Transience and Nature,” takes the cake! The brevity in style (each poem consists of only three lines) goes to reinforce the transience of time. Like a butterfly from flower to flower, Amina flits from one thought to another … universality, diversity, beauty, nature … as if to remind the reader, “Life is brief. Make the most of it.” It is amazing what three lines of poesy can do. This is, without question, my favourite section.
The fourth section, “Pangs of Nationhood,” strikes to the very soul of Nigeria. Despair translates to despondency which then begins to nudge at a realization that births defiance, as in the closing stanza of “Promises in Sand,” where the citizenry rhetorically inquire of the political class, “…how can you think there’ll ever be you without me?” “The Accomplice” sheds light on the dynamics of the corrupt class while “Musings” gives voice to the common man who laments, “How did I become so common?” The senselessness of internal conflict, the gaping chasm between the haves and the have nots, and the shamelessness of treasury looters as expressed in “Mindless Battles” and “Guiltless Shame” is still unable to quench the undercurrent of hope in “Still Green” and “Centennial Bliss.” Patriot that I am, this section is my favorite.
If I were asked to do the impossible by describing this book in two words, I would say … Unalloyed and Revitalizing. Amina Aboje has, in this book – Promises on Sand, somehow connected the profane with the profound and the sacred with the sagacious. It is an excellent read, and I highly recommend it.
(Paul Sawa writes from Abuja, Nigeria. Inquiries on the book as well as requests for interviews and reviews can be got from the author by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Amina Aboje is the winner of the Mandela Day Poetry Prize 2016 and lives in Abuja)
Next year… next
and time sneaked in
sweeping it all away:
leaving behind, only the fragments
of the memory
of a life and
of a face
too blurred for memory…
in the twinkling of a lifetime.
From the collection, One Day I’ll Dare to Raise my Middle Finger at the Stork and the Reaper (Karu: SEVHAGE, 2015)
Hyginus Ekwuazi, multiple award winning poet, scholar and film maker, teaches Broadcasting and Film at the University of Ibadan, Ibadan.
(for our lost ones…and elvis iyorngurum)
the night fires are no longer for fun tales
they are for the wake
of several deaths
not for the dead gone…
but the living with lives long worn
out like winds sapped from souls
theories fly from diverse lands
rubbing sand into our eyes
even as we keep these fires
are you a figment of our thoughts
a political statement
a stunt to destroy our famed luck?
the cold slaps us
as things get worse
hash tags fly but realities remain grounded
the days are still counting
yet the fires still crackle
as we wait at the wake
Poets. Are crazy.
The rain is falling.
I have work to do and all that plays in my mind is the tap of the rain on my roof – tap, tap, tap. And the cold that sneaks into my body from my legs. Why wear a cardigan and have shorts on with slippers?
I stand to dance. I put on music of worship to accompany the rain. The cooked sound soon ends with the track.
Now, there’s an orchestra outside. Drops to the ground from the roof. Drops playing on the roof. The ground and other rain hits… Those hitting against other objects and the window… They play accompanied by a calm cold that holds…
I hear it all and embrace it with the silence, then smile forgetting everything that is the lot of the sentimental soul.
Today, in Idoto, a small literary festival is being held in honour of Christopher Okigbo. It is nice to know that poets and artistes find the grace of remembrance. One of the poets there gracing the event isChijioke Amu-nnadi who has kept pouring one new verse after the other on his road to that river, Idoto, self-confessed mother that inspired our Okigbo. I drank of this river, drank of Okigbo, took some amu nnadi too, and a few lines not worthy of any of them came up. Here’s my sharing.
echoes of idoto (a poem)
(inspired on amu nnadi’s wall; a poem in chants for christopher okigbo)
the field grows as sounds bellow
no longer will collected thoughts
stop at few pages
for a lengthening grows
from idoto’s river
as spirits bestride the trove
at heaven’s gate
new verses and old merge
as the rivers flow
testimony to the waters
of that one who now has blessed us all
ending even imagined drought…
there’s a shrill…
the field grows as sounds bellow
the elephants march
silencing every tertrach
there’s an echo…
and our hearts beat the verse
…at midnight You arrived home
wearing Your tiredness like a coat
after a seventeen hour shift
Your eyes met my shivering frame
and motherly instinct undressed Your weariness
to pick Your boy
Your feet became wings to fly us both
to the nearest hospital miles away
Ah! I woke to discover something strange, see me see trouble oooooo!
Someone is growing older…and finer, despite the creasing waves that decorate her forehead and the other aches that cross her soul… You should see this sister of mine, juggling a million things while being a super mum, great sister, friend, worker, wife and all… How do women of our family handle so much? Aondo! You alone are the magician who gives this grace…
Dotta, you shall find peace, you shall find ease on these roads that lead us to the abode of every man. You shall find happiness, contentment shall crown your worth…
Mercy Njideka Okafor, Adeduntan’s best addition… You are more than what anyone knows or can dare comprehend. Hug the sun today, for its warmth was sent to drive away every cold. In this new year, summer will be your theme.
Happy Birthday to you and all the lovely children who you have birthed for your entry to these plains was the start of their own journey. Live long, live young. We are with you nwa nnem. Happy Birthday.
The news flooded our plains
drowned our peace
and taught lessons on time
Yesterday will never be new
but today grants grace
where we can water memory
to squeeze laughter out of our despair
Even as pain’s strain strangles you
know I am here to give all my joy
to paint a rainbow if nature wouldn’t
For now, hold on Love
we will sail through this season of grief
Hey guys! Really sorry I have been a bit off… There has been lots of stuff to catch up with. There was an interview I had with the network service of our Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) which I travelled to the capital for… Ah! That was something else. The way it is done, the interviewee usually has to host the session. I guess the idea is to ensure the interviewee is ‘much at home’ with the interview 🙂 Oh well… So, I drove in on that beautiful Tuesday, for the interview. Mehn, you should have seen the traffic. It was the day for the official inauguration of the National Assembly… It seemed all their supporters had to come to Abuja. Well, I got to town and headed straight to my lodgings. When the NTA guys were through rearranging my room, I had to wonder where I was!
Oh well, it was a beautiful interview and I had to answer a set of ten or so questions like three times! Phew! I read a story, ‘Simply Mortal’ from The Bottom of Another Tale, my collection of short stories… three times! Performed three poems including ‘An Anthem of Pain’ (from Home Equals Holes: Tale of an Exile), ‘Awambe Awambe’ (a war poem in Tiv and English), and ‘If the Sun wasn’t so mean’ (the last two from my first collection of poems, Bring our casket home: Tales one shouldn’t tell. It was soooo much fun. And yup, you should have seen me doing the theatrics! Yaaaaaay! The interviewer, Dooshima, was wonderful as was Alex Omanchi (both in the picture above). We kept on talking and cracking jokes in between sessions and all such that I hardly had an idea that about three (or was it four?) hours had gone.
The interview aired on Thursday of the same week. Really cool. Don’t worry, I might get to post the video online at some point. Just remind me to do so 😉
After that, I was able to catch up with a lot of people including Ben Ubiri, TJ Benson, Hymar David and Cece Ireneh, among
other writers. Yes, there were family and friends to meet but why bore you with that talk …
Since then, there has been a million running around and you don’t want to know the half of it. At a point, I thought my butt was going to scrape off. Thank goodness for family, my parents, friends, my lovely sister and yes, the belle.
Now, I was in Ibadan too and met with a million people that I cannot start mentioning! Maybe I should put that in a different post… Ah! What a town! There was the Niyi Osundare event I posted about earlier… At that place, I met everyone – well, nearly everyone. There was Anita Ikhifa who I hadn’t seen since my reading in Ibadan two years ago… There was Peter Akinlabi, Akintunde Aiki, Femi Fairchild Morgan, Servio Gbadamosi, Tosin, Jonah Obajeun…Iya Ibadan too (yeah, I know you don’t know them but Google might help small…that or Facebook. Lovely award winning writers, bloggers and peeps there)…
And the men themselves, Hyginus Ekwuazi and NIYI OSUNDARE! When I was going to perform my poem at the event, the
renowned poet and Professor, Niyi Osundare stood up to greet me and gave me a hug while offering a handshake. Big honour. He said he had read me…and when I completed my performance, he gave good constructive criticism. Same as he did for Richard Anyah, who had performed before me. Prof. Osundare said Servio and I write alike… Hmmm. Strange.
Somehow, I got back with Debbie, beautiful friend/thought stealer and invaluable colleague, who I had been traveling with after sneaking to go pray with my loved ones in Ife. Sometimes life teaches us to always value our health, our loved ones and those we hold dear more in certain periods. Maybe you should thank the heavens for any and every one who you have with you right now. Never take any moment for granted.
Oh well, there’s been much since then. As the Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors, I was able to conduct an inter-secondary school competition in Makurdi, Benue here. Had support from writers like Anselm Ngutsav, Debbie Iorliam (both were judges), Ene Odaba, Tersoo Ayede… Mount St Gabriel’s came first.
Now, I have ranted on and on and on. Bottom line: I am back. Did you miss me? I missed you. I still do. So, do quick, get back and let’s continue with this, yes? Okay. #hugs