Book Title: Cries From The Ocean
Author: Enoch Ojotisa
Publisher: Africa Arts House / Winepress
Year of publication: 2016
Reviewer: Adeniyi Taiwo Kunnu
Sixty four poems are spread on eighty nine pages, making the figures a cross of even against odd numbers. Enoch Ojotisa presents to connoisseurs, a blend of the peripheral dissonances to the complex cruxes of societal upheavals, mindful also of the weighty matters of the afterlife through religious inclinations.
Prelude, Incarnations, Of Love and Of Fatherland are the divisions of this work. These are perhaps, the symbols of the four representations of the equator and an entrenched balance of thoughts and expression. Notably, the collection begins with the question about the definition of poetry. What is Poetry may be a sort of curios cliché, in which repeated posits cannot be grasped in a sentence or two, as it could infact differ from William Wordsworth’s “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility”. In lines 1-3 and 5-6, we read thus: “A puzzle it turns out / That we in turn, turn in at crossed roads of answers / Fighting not to be fought with mockery …. / Poetry is nothing but an imagery of a crazy man
We all are crazy, what makes me a / better crazy fellow, is poetry”
From the first line of ‘What is Poetry?’ the author establishes the maze that accompanies the art. By implication, poetry is a problem of possibilities, whose relevance comes with answers that resonate. The poet is however not free, since he/she is a product of the troubled society about whom he/she writes, then there cannot be acclaim to being the “Mandela in Apartheid South Africa”.
The poet ascends in cogitations when he begins the second part in the title ‘Death Gives Life’, being the second poem under the Incarnation category. The Paradoxical statement is not pregnant with meaning, rather it boasts of offshoots indifferent hues. Lines 1-7
‘When I die because I may die / Maybe if I die because I ought to die / Or should I die if I die / Let mother earth be a cool room for the cadaver / A piece of cloth would do / A drop of tears will I permit not / Not even from a dear.”
The musicality of the lines could be a relish in one’s mind’s eyes, but a thorough read reveals the rooted meaning astride man’s ephemeral life. First are the jocular remarks about death in what seem as though a conversation was on. Second is how death has been reduced to a trifle, an inevitable companion when its time of visit is due, and the needless show of teary emotion at the juncture of departure. Here, the mystification of the afterlife has been reduced to the cool of a breezy morning, prompting an allusion to the Christian Bible’s. ‘Oh death where is thy sting, oh grave where is thy victory’. Also, the Holy Sonnet 10 of John Donne comes up in allusion, Death – should indeed not be – proud.
‘I’m a Feminist’ also brings the reader to the ideals of the present, a non-collision course with those who over the years have thought less, lesser or not at all about women. Although many women are at the fore of influencing needful change regarding the general disposition towards what concerns ‘our’ women, a good number of men are part of the happy throng and in this wise, the poet persona.
‘My greed for them / Maybe that’s why my flesh will never cease to prickle / My love to have them around / Maybe that’s why I desire lots of their bodies / I am a proud feminist / Maybe that’s why my smell favours my passion / A good feminist I am / Maybe that’s why I married so many / But also an intelligent feminist / Maybe that’s why I gave birth to none / Nonetheless a careful feminist, / So that no male feminist like me will feminize them’
The excerpt above calls for serious questioning, from the expressed greed in the first line, to the lust for their bodies in the fourth, then his smell favouring his passion in the sixth, to polygamous identity he wields in the eight, then the fact that he gives birth to none, leading to being a careful feminist, who will eventually prevent other males from the duty of ‘further feminist reproduction’. It can be misleading to conclude, that the poet persona denounces women-hood, but away from it, as he deftly dramatizes the various pointers to the concerns of the feminist.
The fourth part of the poem unfurls in reality, wading through the aqueous maze of meaningful lines and meaninglessness, with a view to striking a balance of answers, carefully driving one away from the ‘bus stop’ of ‘sermonisms’, to the existentialist point of logic and interrogation. Quite true, humans are themselves gods, having recreated the terra firma where they have been molded and made to occupy since ‘sand received shape and air caused it to be alive’. Religion is here mooted, a chronology of, amongst other faiths, a most followed faith.
In African Tale of Holy Bible, the poet writes, “There was this day / The day of the Lord / There was this reign / The reign of the gods / There was this war / The war of the angels / There was this likeness / The image of the lamb / There was this death / The salvation of man / There was this tenure / The tenure of anti-Christ / There was this gospel, / The gospel of Christ / There will be this Jerusalem / The glorious triumph of God and the Holy Saint”
In all, Enoch Ojotise traverses the planes and vales of creative effusion. Words put together in fluid and effortlessly comprehensible language. This work is about the people, their struggles, spiritual and physical contentions, and hopefully some form of meaning to their lives which is full of many yet-to-be answered questions.
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