Tuesday 10 May 2016

Book Review: The Sun Shall Soon Shine by Adejoke Ajibade- Bakare

When I was approached by the author, Adejoke Ajibade- Bakare to review her book of poetry, I was a little nonplussed. I love books, especially straightforward and fast paced prose, but poetry is another matter. I am never sure if I am missing something, a metaphor of some kind or an allusion to some deeper truth that the poet is revealing. I rarely read poetry, although I do love the poetry of the Sufi Abdullah Shah Qadri, Maya Angelou, Grace Nichols and the great Pakistani poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal, but I did not feel qualified to comment. Then I came to the conclusion that I don’t have to judge the structure or technique of the poems, but I can describe how it makes me feel and what it evokes for me. 

The book opens with a poem about a poor mother whose children are hungry, one line stood out: “Necks extended, a plea to the steel pot”, as the children look to the empty pot for food. This poem reminded me a little Maya Angelou’s style of writing and set the tone of the book for me. 

The book is split into five sections, along broad themes, the first “Womb Tales” is around the theme of women and motherhood. I enjoyed these lines from the poem Aye (meaning Life): 

Up and about 
The adogan 
Cracking sparks of fire 
As the ogi dances 
To the rhythms set by blind hands 

I really liked the use of Yoruba words, I love that at the bottom of each page, there is an explanation of each word that is not in English. The poem gives a glimpse into a busy morning on a normal day, the poem gives a sense of a life that is not easy (“battered feet”, “blind hands”), but at the same time gives a feeling of energy and busyness (“Splish splosh into the amo”, “Cracking sparks of fire”, “busy hands”). 

The poems in this section talk of pregnancy, birth, motherhood, and loss alluding to miscarriage. There is a loving and benign father figure that appears through some of them. Often the tone is melancholy occasionally there is a glimmer of hope. In reflection of the private nature of these themes, the poems are often not clear, but allude to events in a subtle way. 

In the section called Childhood Dreams, the tone changes to a more upbeat one. “My Emmanuel” stands out with its lovely description of a young man: 

Strong arms 
Fast legs 
Broad smile 
Grinning ear to ear 
A handshake 
To show gratitude 
A hug 
To show love 

The sentences are short, clear and full of energy. The kind of poem I would love to dedicate to a beloved son. 

The section called Woes of a Nation again feels different: with more wide-ranging themes such as patriotism (Woes of a Nation: “And is there for all to celebrate, The celebration of Nigeria Anew.”), these poems have a lyrical, epic feel. Some of the poems are inspired by national tragedies such as a plane crash or the kidnapping of young boys and girls by Boko Haram, making them feel quite poignant. Others mention the land and earth, war and poverty: 

A scenery of fear, poverty and destruction 
Earth shattering sounds 
Hitting hard, sinking deep 
Like hot rocks 
Splashing blood

The last lines (from the poem “Aleppo”) make a powerful impression and invoke strong images. Many others, remind us that we should not lose hope in Allah (SWT) and that tomorrow is a new day full of hope. My favourite poem in this section was Arise Naija, for the way it ends with a call to the people to rise and claim their land. 

The poems in the part called Soul Talk are about self-reflection and self-love. They are spiritual in nature and touch on the relationship with Allah (SWT), many of them try to inspire and motivate us to use out limited time well. Some of them spoke more deeply to me than others, I suspect this will be largely a result of where the reader is in their own journey and what resonates. 

The last section, Life’s Palaver, speaks of how we get caught up in everyday troubles, of work and missed opportunity: 

Sooner I should I have come 
Much sooner, I should have come 
The fish waits not for the fisherman 
The fisherman that is yet to come 
(From the Fisherman) 

Some of the poems describe the hustle and bustle of every day life (The Alms Seeker, Far Gosford Street, the Street that Never Sleeps), with descriptions of noisy traffic and the smell of food from restaurants, most often the narrator watching it all go by. A number of the poems in this section are about children and childhood (Golden Child, The Prince and the Pauper, Lost Time Not Found). These touch on the way children are affected by poverty or parents that are too busy for them. 

I had my reservations, but I came to enjoy reading the poetry in the concise and accessible book, I enjoyed getting a flavour of Nigerian life and I was moved by the tributes to the people of the country who have been beset by tragedy.

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