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Thursday, April 16, 2015

TRAVELING ON THE SPOT: REVIEW OF SEA OF MY MIND BY PROF REMI RAJI



Poet: Prof Remi Raji-Oyelade
Title: Sea of my Mind
Year of Publication: 2013
Pages: 85
Publisher: Kraft Books
Reviewer: Olutayo Irantiola

The anthology has a total of fifty poems which was divided into these subdivisions:  Introit, Waves, Ebbs, Flows and Recessional. It is important to say that this collection has many short poems; the longest of the poem is the Road to Gombe with 46 lines

It is only the sea that has these traits used in classifying the poems. The sea is the society and the mind represents the poet himself. The poet’s experience is hereby presented in this anthology.
The introit is a call to the literary feast is about the poet being a journey. The journey stated here could be psychological, emotional, academic, forced, fated or willing journeys. The poem opens thus:
Some journeys are taken without travelling;
Some travelling happen without journeying.

For a target-driven individual, some of the products of his journey include: path-finding, following. The poet also made a reference to the exploits made by his ancestry. Sometimes the result to be achieved on a journey is not known by the traveler but the mindset of achieving propels him. Our journey in the anthology is therefore a journey of the mind for the reader which would transport them beyond their thought from and still remain on the same spot:
I commit you, therefore, to the mind,
Of motion and encounter, of shuttling better spaces,
The surprising activity of discovery,
Of moving without moving.

This poem is concluded by the reality of human life where he encounters pleasures and pains of leaving and returning from any journey. Our lives are not entirely bed of roses with and without journeys.

The sojourner’s pledge is a poem of five lines divided into two folds- the first half is a prayer of success as he goes on the journey. As African, we pray about a lot of things regardless of the religious affiliation:
Arise my feet, do not go where the landscape suffers a rift
Don not hide, when the libation with earth is due, do not shift

The other part is the commitment of the poet to the journey he is embarking upon, getting solution to people’s problems irrespective of difficulties, to make meaning out of nothingness:
I make a pledge this day, to rekindle hope in the hard ground
To swim in dreams, breathe life, to find rhythm where a river is
Found.

There are instances of translations of Yoruba sayings in this anthology; these are from the day to day Yoruba nuances examples of these are:
“Arise my feet, do not go where the landscape suffers a rift” this is a major prayer for the Yoruba which is said as, “ka ma tele ni biti o ti loju”. This means that the poet cannot be separated from his cultural background. Snapshot is in five-parts; each of the poems carries complete meaning as short as it is. Snapshot I, page 23, is about inner struggle, the struggle seems so silent but it is very contradictive and it is individualistic in nature:
There is a noisy waking in silence…
Men walk in the thicket of their thought

Snapshot II, page 24, is about the seeds of songful crops which birds had fed on as such they no more lack words and they have great medley of words:
A thousand thickets of seeds
the birds who perch on my barn had enough
in their throats the brocade of songful crops
i know no hunger in the famine of words
i have swallowed a market of melodies

Snapshot III, page 25, is a continuation of the second part. The poet swallowed the throat of the songbird. The tongue now offers blessing to the land in turn. The sky is described as a “cotton of colours” which can be linked to the element of nature in rainbow after rain had fallen and this is in the last verse, “in the last breath of the rains, there you stand.”
Snapshot IV, page 26 talks about “the last wink of the day” which is the bright hour of the day that gives way to the wide-eyed moon in line 3.
in the last wink of the day, there you walk,
the wide-eyed moon, the coral brightness…
the rivers run because they hear your steps
now there will be a gurgling beneath
creatures in combat in want in dream in desire in longing…

Snapshot V, page 27, the person, who the mountain would appear to is unknown,  has a happy path, valley of dream which implies fulfilled expectations and the distance from the war game into the new ceremonies of light and love. The poem ends on the note of the different melodies from the birds.

In these series of poems, Snapshot, natural elements like thickets, thorns, limbs, foot, seeds, throat, crops, songbird, tongue, finger, sky, rains, moon, rivers, mountain, valley and birds are all used metaphorically. The beauty of these poems is the brevity of each of it, the ability to compress it all into one poem, the ability of each poem to stand on its own, the use of small letters to start the verses of the poem.

“The Road to Gombe” , page 28, is a poem about the traveling experience of the poet to Gombe State from his base which is Ibadan, Oyo State. Due to the absence of an effect rail system in the country, such journeys are done on the road, the poet traveled this long windy road mentioning the many districts, towns, villages etc. The flora and fauna of the trip was also mentioned:
Past the forest,
Past the log greenness of Tigi,
To the lush valley
And the lustful hills and bends

Despite these good descriptions, the road turned deathtraps was also mentioned showing the dangers of such long travels on road, the dangerous bends and the road laden with potholes. The journey also experienced the usual convey of the campaigners, a reminder of the demise of Prof Festus Iyayi in the recent struggle of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) who died as a result of the head on collusion with the convoy of the Kogi State Governor, Idris Wada.

The journey to Gombe had other road facilities, animals, the availability of fireflies as the journey continued, the checkpoints as speed-breaker and likewise a source of interrupting the sleep of the poet-persona. The road eventually ends for the poet to disembark and gently go to bed since it is a very long journey from the base of the poet.

The Ukrainian Day, page 32, is a train poem that shows movement in the same direction. The first 14 lines was upturn with little changes. It is a fascinating piece that shows the depth and skillfulness of the use of words by the poet persona. The first line of the poem goes thus:
                                                The morning moon
While the 28th line of the poem reads:
                                                Oh, the morning moon of my passion.

The last six lines of the poem implied that the flora and fauna of the town has “unforgettable beauty”(line 34).

Soft bite, page 37, is a poem that reflects the state of electricity in our nation and the “bite” associated with a damage Personal Computer that has taken a new name, Personal Companion. The first four lines capture the flow from the memory of the poet to the binary punch that captures his thoughts. The monitor of the system typifies the “monitors of life”, “the silent hum of the hard disks” and ultimately the interwoven life of man with these “tiny things” referring to the smart phones and other gadgets that gets us to “open books and faceless groups”. Men is now perceived as “children of virtual hi-ways”. The origin of the “soft bite” was the destroying voltage of electricity.
The peculiar information technology words in the poem are bytes (line 3), binary (line 4), monitor (line 5), hard disks (line 7), virtual (line13), virus (line 14), batteries (line 15), saved (line 16), delete (line 17).

All of me is people, page 38, is a reminder of the Yoruba saying that “eniyan laso mi”. The poem is an appreciation of those who wishes the poet well on his birthday. The people included members of the internet community and the University community. The poem evokes emotion discussing the enormity of the love shown to him, the depth of his feelings which transverse through the “nerve, bone and blood” (line 7). However, the birthday is a reminder that age is advancing anf it is a call to do more. The poet sums it up that regardless of the loneliness and need for more care, he knows that: all of me is people” (line 15).

EBBS
The second part of the anthology is titled, Ebbs. Ebbs is about the depression thoughts of the poet about happenings in the society most especially when the poet is not around. In the poem titled, “News from home”, it is a poem on elections in Nigeria. Summing up the totality of what is happening in the nation; the poems used the word, “some” to categorized the various groups namely the voters, the thugs, the propagandists, injured, the murdered and some deflected to other parties. Others were those who caused post-election violence, rigged the election, protested, cursed, cried because they lost, some prayed and politicians on exile expressed dissatisfaction from other countries. The poem concludes that all these had led to the “death of Silence, forever” in our country.

Our fragments, page 45, is a poem that has 6 lines with the phrases written together defiling the rule of orthography. The poem looks at the various angles to which arguments are drawn and concluding that it is all from the same source.

Three Desperations, page 48, is a poem that discusses three categories of people. The first group refers to those who are hunted but mute on their way to damnation. The second group refers to those who fled into other nations as far as Australia which is one of the utmost part of the world from Nigeria and the third group refers to those who feed fat on the national treasury. In Nigeria today, these are the three groups: the populace who have no voice and are being led by the political class dogmatically, the pressure groups and the opposition had left the country while the political class keeps enjoying their dividends of corruption.

At last poetry is on the streets is a short poem written on 4 pages with seven parts of four lines in the first six parts while the last part is just a line. The first part is a discussion on the prevailing darkness but the poet will keep muttering the sound regardless of the obvious truth. The second part is about the prevalence of pretenders; however the poet would not give in to jests or become a coward till they are confronted with the truth. The third part shows how the powerless had revealed our deeds, evil and shame to the world. The fourth part compares the political situation to the following murder of every opposition, provision for arms like the military and there is still abundance of bloodshed. The animals used to depict bloodshed are the Cheetah and the Hyena. The fifth part is a prayer to those inflicting pain on the citizenry that any other bloodshed on the streets shall be that of their children. 
The sixth part is the hope that one day with the prevalence of truth, words that will pull the trigger and the seventh part ends with the line:
at last poetry is on the streets…

Poetry on the streets denotes that creativity is going to fight the battle for the electorate in a state where selfishness, ethnicity, lack of accountability reigns. This piece is one of the reinforcing displays of the uncompromising tweak of the society by the 3rd generation poets like Remi Raji singing change to the hearing of the recalcitrant leaders.

FLOWS

The third part of the anthology is tagged Flows. This part has 16 poems. The poem that made the title of the collection is in this segment. The poem is dedicated to mother. The poem has end rhyme. The word, “Naked” is mentioned seven times in the poem. The poem contains a lot of pathos as the poet see the passing on of his dear mother:
You whispered me to life and now I hear your last breath
The mother is eulogized for her beauty,
Fairer than the oils of gods, you are the last incense,
I am lost to the dream, to time and moral sense.

The sea of the poet’s mind is ever full of the memory of his mother. He alluded her remembrance to drinking water.
                                    Naked, every day I drink water, I remember you.

Sky scenes, page 68, is a reminder of the beautiful display evident in the sky from time to time. The colourfulness of nature is portrayed thus:
Bright now, then blue, dark and a light redness
a geography of sensations.

Thunders and other lightning elements is the all contained in the cloud, rain and drought all reside with the actions of the sky and the potential of raining without stopping till it leads to a typhoon resides still in the same sky. The poet ends it by his positive determinism of weathering storms.

This poem is romantic in nature as such the poems in this part of the  anthology are dedicated to someone or something.

There is no beautiful poem like you is a poem of anticipation of who a young person who be in the future based on her present carriage, disposition and exposure. The bright display of the person the poem is addressing is expressed thus:
                                   
You came shining
                                    Like transparency of the day

The place of mentorship and guidance is also embedded in the poem:
                                   
                                    But I remembered watching my legs
                                    lead in your direction

The anticipation of who the person will become make the poem end in parenthesis.
You’re the poem not yet written
Waiting to be…

Abebi is another poem in memory of the poet’s mother. It could be tagged delusion but it is the reality of what profound memories do to people. As the Muslim do periodically by praying for their departed ones by praying for them, the poet does the same:

Tonight all the saints and spirits bless you, my mother
                                    I see your victory above vanity

May the wind follow my plaintiff wish is a poem is a poem about traveling. The poet enjoys traveling and wishes that every time he travels to have a safe trip. The restlessness and the desire to accomplish daringly is reflected in the poem.

THE RECESSIONAL

The recessional is a poem in two languages written and translated by the poet. It is a play on word by the Yorubas, which is called Iforo dara. The poem is about the enormity of what can be done with words. Words are so powerful, this is illustrated in the poem with the following features of words:
“Bend, tear and break” line 4.
“You break, you tie, you swell, you burst” line 9
“The word is sword against power” line 10.

Other forms of strength displayed by word are boneless but pricking, toothless but bear the fang, armless but blast the face.

The recessional is a conclusion of the literary voyage that we have embarked on from the Introit in this anthology, the word used by the poet has done exceptionally well in its ability to marry the song and be the midwife of words.


It is a laudable thing that Sea of my mind was nominated for the NLNG  prize, 2013. The mention has shown that the quality of work churned out from the stable of Professor Aderemi Raji-Oyelade is an addition to the body of literature. 
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