Category Archives: Writing

The Spoken Word Album “I AM” – A Literary Review

Speech is an expression of mental acuity, used as a tool to build communal understanding; and so is poetry in many ways. While the former may be commonplace the vehicle of poetry as a thought-process elevates speech to an almost-divine status. This is the gift and uniqueness of spoken word as a genre of literary expression and it is this unique gift that has emerged from the temperate ambience of Jos city through the recently launched spoken word album of Andrew Patience (AP) entitled I AM. The album I AM, is an experimental exploration of the human condition in search of the beyond, interrogating human existence and self-consciousness. It is packed with 14 creative works, dramatic in tone, laced by musical rhythm that aids their melodious expression.

In one of the works, “Africa’s Rape,” the artiste attempts to invoke the ghost of the celebrated African economic historian Walter Rodney, for a conversation about Africa’s historical deprivation and the complicity of Africans in the continent’s continued underdevelopment. The work “Goodbye Depression” draws attention to depression and insomnia, questioning related misconceptions that tend to foster a culture of silence and undermine mental health concerns. This is a beautifully rendered work of art, crafted with beats that tell the tick-tock of the clock as the writer counts the dark phase of the day “…1 am; 2 am; 3 am; 4 am…with no sleep.” While the emphasis was on depression, the crescendo built to a point of introducing insomnia, but this was not developed further, raising possible conflict about what theme was really being addressed.

The album is replete with diverse titles, such as “Who murdered me?” “The Conversation,” “Without Words, “Woman in Me,” “God?” “Annabel” among others. In “Tomorrow Never Came” AP debuts as a social crusader, angry at the plight of the children and women exposed to the vagaries of abuse and abnegation of life. AP’s maiden spoken word poetry is a three-course literary cuisine, creatively served with love to inspire and satiate relationships at the levels of the individual, societal interaction and encounter with the divine. It shows that spoken word is not just about entertaining the senses, but could also be an activist tool for challenging long-held beliefs about the human condition by bringing issues of societal concern such as child labour, global inequality and collective inertia and neglect to public attention.

The title track of the album, “I AM” stands out on its own as a piece on self-discovery and consciousness. It is a tale of affirmation of conscious experience, but like every seeker of the Truth, the discovery is never complete. The “I AM” track reminds me of the painstaking journey of self-discovery that Anthony de Mello invites us to embark upon in his The Song of the Bird. So, let us listen to AP affirming…

… I’m a living spirit…

Seeking light, preying on wisdom

… I am a strong, feisty goddess

With knees that bend

Eyes that cry

But self conscious in the

I am

… I am the universe and more

Because, simply

I am.

There are areas that the album could have improved upon to enhance its poignancy. The speed and rhythm of the performances could benefit from more distinctive pronunciation of words as well as editorial assistance to bring the listener to the state that the performer’s work desires. No writer writes for herself alone, much less a performance poet, whose aspiration is to reach the heart of the audience through the ear.

On the whole, the album I AM is a highly creative and imaginative collection of works by one of Nigeria’s upcoming performance poets with so much promise to stand on the world stage. In the words of Ellen Bryant Voigt, “the making of a poem is not a performance but an adventure, an act of discovery.” AP’s work clearly epitomizes this, inviting us to question our belief systems, explore our sense of consciousness and embrace the best in us while also accepting our sense of humanity. This is an invitation for you to set forth on this journey with the album and be rest assured that, if you pay attention enough, you will find a message that resonates with your person.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry, Writing

I’m a mother too

Mma Tata’s dark glittering skin had seen tough days, and that morning, it was clothed by the dust which spread as cars drove through St Bonaventure’s dual-passage gate under the dry weather. Beaten by the sun through days of sitting at odd and strategic roadsides, she was sweating through her pores, even at 9 o’clock in the morning. She felt sticky, yet wouldn’t care. It was a long walk from home; and everyday confronted her with the challenge to survive. “Why can’t I survive with ease?” she often wondered and asked herself. She had arrived the church gate quite early, in time to welcome the earliest comers. She wore a round-neck faded turquoise polyester blouse upon multi-coloured wrapper that had seen times and seasons. Her head was covered with a scarf of a different fabric. She was seated where she couldn’t be overlooked. Beside her, to her left, was a black polythene bag containing a few bread rolls, two litres of water and some naira notes, of higher and lower denominations. To her right was an enamel bowel, her offertory receptacle, inside which were one twenty and one fifty naira notes.
“Please, help us. God bless you,” she chorused, stretching out her beggarly hand repeatedly.
On her laps lay her six-year old son, face-down. She had her legs stretched out in yoga form. The boy wore no shirt, his upper backside covered with burns that seemed to have affected the dermis, darkened by some form of healing balm. There seem to be visible swelling, with the boy lying calmly, as one numbed by an excruciating and helpless pain.
“God bless you,” she prayed, as cars stopped, windows wound down and naira notes squeezed and thrown at her. Same was repeated as passers-by stooped to drop their alms into her enamel bowel. One could hear her sharp, coarse voice and see her left eye affected by cataract. She was visibly a woman in need. Periodically, her little boy writhed in pain, making tiny harrowing sounds. Passers-by could not help sympathizing with the little one who looked so helpless on the mother’s laps. She would draw the dark dirty blanket over his buttocks, using her left hand to drive off flies that sought to feast on the boy’s freshly dressed wounded back.
St Bonaventure Catholic Church was a highbrow parish, with parishioners comprising key politicians and high-flying corporate individuals. Even visiting businessmen and women to Abuja staying over the weekend would find St. Bonaventure homely to worship in. They would always see someone they want to meet, their business partners, top public servants, ministers and parliamentarians. The parish pastor even had a younger brother who was then the Chairman of Senate Committee on Public Accounts. The first Mass had just ended and the second one was about to commence. The entrance, which doubled as exit, was busy with people coming in and going out of the church premises.
An army green Audi, driving out of the church compound, slowed down close to Mma Tata, the glass wound down slowly and a lady, Mrs. Leeya Ekondo, a member of St. Bonaventure’s St. Vincent de Paul Association and the Parish Action Committee on HIV/AIDS (PACA), folded a one thousand naira note neatly and aimed at the woman’s bowel. She missed it, the note falling by the side. Mma Tata bowed her head in appreciation, chorused her blessing, stretched out to pick the alms, drawing the blanket off the boy’s backside. As Mrs. Ekondo adjusted her break from neutral to drive and the car rolled away gently, she thought to herself: Maybe I could help this woman. Today is first Sunday of Lent. It could be my work of charity. She turned off slowly on the main road, let the car roll some distance, and then stopped. She wound down the glass of the passenger side, picked her black handbag and turned to her thirteen year-old daughter who was seated with her younger brother at the back seat.
“Thelma, stay inside the car with your brother. I’ll be back soon. I want to help that woman sitting by the gate.”
“Alright, mum.”
“Mummy, are you bringing her home?” It was Cally, her six-year old.
“I don’t know, dear,” she said, as she stepped out of the car. “Maybe.”
She went to the back of the car, opened its booth, dropped her handbag and took out a first aid box that was inside the booth. Over her years of practice as a medical doctor, she has seen the first aid box as part of dressing code, never to go out without. As she banged the booth to lock, Cally was hanging from the inside, looking through the rear glass, then turned to Thelma, who was watching as their mother walked towards the gate.
“Sister, is mummy going to give the woman injection?”
“No. She’s going to dress her son’s wound.”
“What happened to him?”
“I don’t know; maybe he was jumping up and down playing, and when his mother told him to stop, he refused. So, when he fell down, he wounded himself.”
Cally, who was actually jumping up and down on the seat, stopped when Thelma told him what might have caused the boy’s injury.
At the time Mrs. Ekondo reached the gate, Mma Tata was stretching her hand to her, with her chorus “Help me, please. God bless you. Help me, please. God bless you.” Her enamel bowel now had a single fifty naira note with a few twenty naira notes. She couldn’t remember Mrs. Ekondo, it appeared. Leeya dropped her first aid box on the ground and brought out a set of gloves.
“What happened to your son?” She asked.
“Aunty,” Mma Tata began. “I went out to sell by the roadside one evening, as I usually do. I left my two children at home. Ukpa and his younger brother; I don’t know what happened o. I was just sitting down there at the roadside, when I heard screams…” She paused, sobbing and breathing in fast-paced manner. “I don’t know. This life; my sister, my son was burnt to death. Yes. Emma. His younger brother,” pointing to the boy on her laps. She drew the blanket to cover his wounds. She shook her head, faced down, grief-stricken, “When I reached the house, I was told Ukpa wanted to use the pit latrine and so, tried to light the lantern. It was the lantern o…,” her sobbing voice in a crescendo. “It was the lantern. Yes. Yes. My son, Emma; Emma died. In trying to save my family, my little property, I lost one eye. Now, I can only see with one. Ukpa is dying o. Help me, Ma. God bless you.” Her entire composure was sobbing.
Leeya spoke, “Calm down, madam. It’s alright. Have you taken him to see a doctor or to any medical centre?”
“Ah ah, madam. Where will I get the money? A neighbour helped dress his wounds.”
“But he needs to see a doctor. The wound could lead to swelling and decreased blood flow in his tissue resulting in destruction of structures in his system. The earlier he is treated well, the better. You need to see a doctor.”
“That’s why I’m here, Madam. To raise money and see how to survive.”
“I’m a doctor. Let me see the wound,” she said, as she bent down, touching the hem of the blanket with her gloved hands.
The woman became agitated, shoving Leeya’s hand away, her face stale and withdrawn, as though talking to a doctor was abominable.
“Madam, don’t touch him,’ she said coarsely. “He might infect you.”
“I can see he hasn’t infected you yet.”
“I’m his mother,” she said, drawing her polythene bag close to herself. She pinched the boy beneath the blanket and he sat up, with the blanket wrapped around him.
“I’m a mother too.”
The boy let out writhing screams, gaining the attention of Leeya. She moved closer to him and pulled the blanket. She peered to examine the wound, just when the boy stood up in a flash, with a shout of “Run! Run!” from the mother. In an instant, there was commotion around the gate. The little boy ran off, gleefully across the main road to the other lane and disappeared into an undeveloped plot of land. By the time those around could make sense of what seemed to be happening, Mma Tata was seen running down the walkway towards the direction of her son, so swiftly. She had packed her belongings in quite a well-rehearsed manner. Leeya stood perplexed, as some parishioners who had observed the incident gathered around. For a while, Leeya was spellbound.

2 Comments

Filed under Writing

The Mystical Dad

The memory of that numinously dated 12/12/12 can hardly be erased from my consciousness, memory of an aged man, gaunt and wrinkled by the years, hobbling into the cafeteria at Tinubu Square shortly after me who, by a twist of divine circumstance, found no other place to sit, than to share a table with me as I, observing him so intently, wondered about my dad long gone, how wonderful it would have been to share a table with him outside his cozy mansion submerged in chat about the insecurity that has plagued our country, foibles of self-discipline, indecisiveness of national leadership and entrenchment of materialism, listening to him tell of his life journey; but alas, my memory was brought back to the reality of the aged man, struggling shakily to lift a jar of water and pour it into a bowl to wash his hands before settling to enjoy his meal in silence (all before I could reach out to offer a helping hand) while I, wondering what I could do, decided, upon finishing my meal, to call the waitress aside and whisper to her that I wanted to take the man’s bill, only to be told that he had paid his as well as mine shortly after we placed our separate orders and I – with a deep sense of responsibility – turned to him to express my gratitude, but he gazed at me, his eyes strained by painful years, to speak beneath his breath slowly, yet with the gentlest voice I’ve heard in years, “my child, I’m grateful, for it has always been my desire to feed a son.”

8 Comments

Filed under One Sentence Story, Writing

The Bloom

The jasmine-scented path
With the deciduous cover
Recalls our first outing
When the hiss of your lips
Whistled in rhythm with the pine
And in the womb of the evening
Was born our virginal vow
To saunter in eternal tangle
And refresh our secrets
With these blossoms.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry, Writing

Sunbathing in Solitude

Hail enchantress, thy luminous posturing beckons
The launch of a thousand ships;
Hail Laura, Hath thou of Troy or Ilor’
I would play Theseus, though I be Odysseus.
My voice resonates from far away clime,
But I bring a trumpet in the behest,
Blowing beauty, showy and sprightly,
Nested and secluded by distance and isle
To counter the hold of Menelaus
And blur the trappings of Paris,
All of who saunter around in proximal touches;
I send these lines, with their didactic bits
Glittering; and resting in thy roost,
Thou may look far but,
Behold the rumblings of troubling voice
Sunbathing out in solitude for thee.
A reminder: the ripe words of Bacon.
Beauty is summer fruits, deciduous in time,
Though it satisfies the longings of virtues
When its inner reins hold sway its tide.
Would that I could hear or see thee,
Out here in the sun, at this beach
Calming the waves of rampaging voices
By thy visage cast upon my heart

Not: Written long ago, when the hand wouldn’t stop scribbling.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry, Writing

The Super Sweet Blog Award

A smile is a sparkle that brings forth light into the soul. It is a reminder that life can be approached from the most happy thoughts we nurse each moment. As a writer, I set out to express my thought not as recipes, but as a fragmented encounter that captures in wordy imagery my sense of appreciation of what comes to my varied senses. Through this process, I’ve come to know and share cherished friendships with others across the world. I’ve been only three months in this experience of blogging, but my heart has been touched.

I want to thank Sue, not for nominating me for The Super Sweet Blog Award (http://scvincent.com/awards/) but for the liveliness and creativity her blog has breathed into my moments. She deserves this award more than anyone else.

So, in thanking Sue, I am also thanking all those who have liked my posts, followed my blog, commented on my posts and inspired me by their blogs. Your interest has challenged my creativity and rewarded me with humility.

Thank you

The rules for this award are as follows:

Thank the blogger(s) who gave you the award and link back to their blog.
Nominate other blogs for this award and let them know.
Post the award on your blog.
Answer the 5 questions

My nominees for the Super Sweet Blog Award are

http://scvincent.wordpress.com/
http://nzesylva.wordpress.com/
http://charity-spring.org/
http://damiige.wordpress.com/

20130109-124050.jpg

So here we go, my answers to the 5 questions!

Cookies or Cake? Cake, not the icing actually, but chocolate cake or creamily buttered one. Pouring vanilla ice cream on it could inspire a dull brain.
Chocolate or Vanilla? Both have their appeal, but vanilla ice cream has won my heart several times.
Favorite sweet treat? Ice cream is my favourite especially under a hot weather.
When do you crave sweet things the most? Mainly late at night when I’m struggling to drag my brain to follow my fingers on the keyboard.
If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be? I’ve often thought of canonising Socrates were I to be the Pope. Socrates sticks, but I’ve been called SweetCakes.

2 Comments

Filed under Writing

Portrait of a Smile

You are eternal portrait in my heart
Sculptured delicately on its walls
That each passing day, I behold you
And run my hands along your cheeks
To feel their subtle graces and the smile.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry, Writing

What I Never Told You – A Review

I walked into the bookshop to check a title for a friend and ended up picking another for myself. It was a small book of just 88 pages coauthored by Michael MacDonald and Titus Ndiritu Kihara published in 2012 by The Paulines Africa. On the blurb of the book was written “What I Never Told You is the first memoir in Kenya’s history to tackle the taboo subject of sex addition.” It was a book I could finish while standing at the bookshop, but I chose to buy it and head to the fuel station to fill up my tank. It was in the long queue that I delved into the book. I would say it’s a self-absorbed autobiography of the secondary author, where he presents his story of descent to the abyss of sex addiction following his abuse at the age of seven and subsequent addiction to alcoholism and drugs. Presented as a diary of events with a probing penetration of the autobiographer, the writers provided an anecdotal map of addiction and the damaging effects. It’s a tale of secrets and darkness, of death and rebirth, of despair and hope, of pain and pleasure, of parenting and responsibility. Above all, it’s a story of second chances.

Reading Ndiritu’s story brings to mind the various addictions people are subjected to – alcoholism, smoking, sex, kleptomania, among others. But, as the authors say, alcoholism might be considered as a bigger problem, but sex addiction is the bigger secret. As one reflects on the book, an image of male domination comes to mind – the man that society has falsely adorned with mythic superiority status, fanning his ego and nudging him to seek to dominate not his sexual desires, but the sexuality of another. It’s a pitiable journey with Ndiritu along his personal loss of self-identity, need for help, struggle for life and recovering process. Though pitiable, it does not invite pity, but self-examination. I read the book as though I were walking in his shoes, asking myself what would have happened to me if I were exposed to the same conditions like he was. Would I have lived differently? I don’t know and I can’t say, but I’m more inclined to doubt. As one reads about how he was abused by the housemaid at the age of seven, it seems natural for one’s memory to flashback to that period of one’s life, wondering what happened to one then. To have a different experience other than abuse is to be blessed, to be preserved, something to be grateful for.

I’ve seen the power of addiction on the lives of people, but I’ve often been quick to play the blame game, silently wondering why people would choose to destroy themselves so deeply. I remember talking to a friend about addiction to alcohol and he reminded me of the second half of Alexander Pope’s quote: “…drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring.” I quickly added that there was an omitted first part which says “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” It didn’t make any difference to him and I was quick to blame him for his alcoholism. But reading this little book has queried the basis of that blame, though it doesn’t erode individual responsibility for choices and actions. Somewhat, I’ve come to realize that we share a common trait as human beings – our capacity to be vicious or virtuous, to do the best or the worst. Hence, understanding addiction calls for sympathy. To put it in context, I checked up the meaning of addiction and thought I should share. The American Society for Addiction Medicine explained the term as “the primary, chronic diseases of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry…characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioural control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviours and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”
20130104-084108.jpg
Sobriety isn’t an easy journey. Struggling to get healing is more demanding than never being in need. I’ve heard and shared the ancient wisdom that it is easier to find someone who has never committed a particular act than to find one who has done it only once. The book is a story that moves, admonishes and heals. I read it with empathy, trying to relate with the story in every way I could. I’ve come to think that this is one way the book was intended to be read. Incidentally, the book brought back memories of addiction that was close to me. I recall how my eldest brother, a retired soldier, had sent me to buy him a pack of cigarettes. As a teenager, it was a taboo to refuse your elder a task, but I couldn’t bring myself to carry out the errand. I knew enough and told him so. He was surprised by my boldness as I risked being beaten. I knew he was addicted to smoking and only did give up after it had destroyed his health and led to other complications before he passed away.

It’s my assumption that we should personally try to relate with addiction in some form, not necessarily by being addicted to sex or alcohol or smoking. Reading this book with the empathy it calls for can help us appreciate the struggles many people are passing through. But, the best way to deal with addiction is to admit it, not to conceal the secrets. This is the message that should be instilled in everyone that is vulnerable to abuse. I have had friends who have been abused and exposed to emotional imbalance in varied forms. Some have been lucky to overcome the experience and lead a “normal” life, but some have not been so lucky. I’ve seen some become addicted to the very abuse they were exposed to, struggling to be delivered from its claws. This experience underscores Ndiritu’s assertion that “most people go to God because they want to go heaven, but not addicts! We go to God because we have been to hell.” How true. As he recounts the effects of addiction on his family and relationships, the effect of such on him could easily be overlooked. As he chronicles his pains, he courageously admits that he has lived a life of shame, but telling his story has been cathartic. At a societal level, his story has sparked a wave in Kenya as many who were suffering similar conditions have begun to admit the truth and seek recovery. When an addict gets healing and recovers, the society heals. Our commitment to ending abuse implies working to end addiction too. This healing is our collective responsibility, our way of protecting the society from itself and protecting our own sanity. Reading What I Never Told You: Memoirs of a Recovering Addict reminds us of this need.

11 Comments

Filed under Health, Writing

shadow of a hand

I’ve always known being a parent isn’t an easy task but it all turned real when I swapped positions by becoming a mother of an adorable two year old whose father had followed the desire of his loins and renounced responsibilities and I, on that fateful afternoon of December Twenty-First (after busying myself with a lot of chores) was so tired that I could only struggle half-asleep to play with my daughter who was so active that I didn’t know when I slept off until I was woken by her repeated coughing only to find out that while I lay napping she had played with my purse that was close by, removed a key to a drawer and swallowed it which resulted in her choking, leaving me with full consciousness that being a parent is a full-time job that one must not shirk off because I almost ran mad in the wake of the moment when I carried her in my arms in deep confusion and walked down the road in search of a means of transportation, finding all the cabs fully occupied, wondering why bikes were banned in the face of poor transportation system which delayed my arrival at the hospital; after finally arriving, found that the doctors were too busy to attend to me as an emergency since there were many of such cases and when one did eventually come through, ended up telling me to wait for another thirty minutes for them to arrange fuel that would power the generator as there was no electricity to conduct the x-ray which later showed that the key had moved down and settled around her abdomen with an assurance that all I needed to do was to take her home and wait and wait and wait while feeding her some medication and specified foods – a waiting that was emotionally draining as I watched her play gleefully without my being able to bring myself to play along until four days later, when she stooled out the key and I, in uncontrollable excitement, almost ran out of the house nude in praise of God’s miraculous hand.

Note: This is another of my one-sentence short story.

4 Comments

Filed under One Sentence Story, Poetry, Writing

a grateful spirit

I’m grateful for the tears of the year
They’ve proven I’m human after all;
I’m grateful for successes attained,
They’ve strengthened my faith in me.

I’m grateful for friends that stayed
There’s some purpose in our bond;
I’m grateful for those that fell aside,
Our purpose had run its course.
I’m grateful for new friends found,
They prove that help is always around.

I’m grateful for each word I’ve crafted,
They’ve been my sublime guide.
I’m grateful for all I’ve read and learnt;
They’ve enriched my dance steps with life.
I am grateful for family, near and far;
They’ve remained great pillar of strength.

I’m grateful for the air and its breath,
The conveyance of life and freshness;
I’m grateful for the Truth I seek,
The embrace of my soulful dance.

6 Comments

Filed under Life, Poetry, Writing