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The Serenity of the Niger Delta: A Review

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Author: mozimo AMATAREOTUBO amas
Posted to the web: 8/30/2006 7:10:36 PM

Book Title:         Poetry World - An Introduction

Author:               Christian Otobotekere

Publisher:                   Deltaprint Reproductions, Yenagoa, 2006

Pagination:        29 pages
Reviewer:                    Mozimo, Amatareotubo



What better way can we celebrate the 85th anniversary of a sage - a literary one at that -than by the use of poetry? What can best soothe the nerves of guests and well wishers to this august occasion in celebration of a literary legend (not only for the Izon nation but for the world at large) than by the use of aesthetic and imaginative recollections of words - words woven in imagery that reflect the rich colours of aquatic life that give credence to the Niger Delta as the cradle of Africa’s rich cultural heritage?


Christian Otobotekere’s anthology, Poetry Word-An Introduction is indeed a welcomed masterpiece aimed at continuing the legacy of Dr. Gabriel Okara in the world of poetry. As a foster child, Otobokere’s poetry takes the form, style, linguistic and aesthetic impetus of Okara’s “Call of the River Nun”


Embellished and shrouded in a pot pouri of marine coloured imagery, and clouded with the elements, the thirty-four short poems contained therein are not only filled with moral lessons of life and nature, but more so, written with such lucid and candid expressions that leave the reader gasping for more.


Divided in six clusters - with each cluster containing five poems - the anthology’s cohesive style is so organized beginning from the prologue that opens with a celebration and invitation to the world of poetry:


                             Poetry is a world.

          A world of joy

          A ringing calling joy

                   An open door


          To the beauties of nature

          To the reaches of the mind

          To the riches of life

                   You must enter.


The first cluster celebrates life and nature. “April Joy” is a poem about the joy of a bountiful harvest season. He recounts thus:


          This the month of months

                   I know, I know.

          Month of rebirth

          Month of new breath

          Of living green

          And of slim light:


The second cluster also celebrates nature. ‘Bird Jingle” is poem about the sweet melody that emanates from birds. It is written with a touch of onomatopoeic style: listen


          A little kookoo here                ‘kookoo’

          A little kookoo there               ‘kookoo’

          That melody’s merry jingle,

          Off a bird I know not which.


“Twosome, Threesome” is poem with a didactic undertone. It lures readers to learn from the experience of birds as they move in twos and threes - in unity, love and communality for the betterment of their lot.


“Flood Wash Down” lays bare the issue of environmental degradation and erosion plaguing the coastal lithosphere of the Niger Delta while the insatiable quest for a meaning to life is brought to light in “Life.”


The third cluster highlights the mystery of rivers in “Ancient Rivers” and “Tumbling Brown”; while the timelessness of the elements are pictured in “Out Here-Out There”. “On my shoulder” encapsulates the serenity between man and bird as a bird perches peacefully and with naivety on the shoulder of the persona thus showing the love, unity and peace that exist between man and beast.



In “An-Wan-Wan-Ye Eh”, the poet uses a vernacular style that is worth commending. The refrain “An-Wan-Wan-Ye eh” is used to underscore the use of oral poetry in our traditional African community. This style is also adopted in “Face Upwards”- a dirge reproduced here to show the beauty of traditional and rhythmic poetry as buttressed by the chorus:

          Adidia-ma-o adidi-ama

          Adidia-ma-o adidi-ama


With the use of this vernacular style, Otobotekere shows us that poetry has always been with us - here in Africa. By maintaining the original Izon language of the poems, the beauty and value are preserved thus debunking the view of anti-Africanist like Trevor Ropper who only saw darkness in Africa but not the aesthetic beauty of words and language he never understood to appreciate.


In the fourth cluster, silence is personified and made to speak and sing in “Music of Silence.” In “Upon the River”, the beautiful quietness of the river is the uniting knot between Christians and Muslims:


          Here is silence that explodes

          The glory of Allah

          And the love that beclouded

          Silenced Calvary


Cluster five opens with a clarion call by a silence that paradoxically speaks in “Un-silenced”. “What of those Games?” is about African traditions of moonlight tales, games, masquerades, festivals, dances and singing that are all fading fast with the passing of time. In glowing nostalgia he recounts:


          So pulsating were

          Those very bells,

          We displayed and quaked

          Under sunshine, or rainy cloud;

          Irresistible, irresistible

          Amid clapping maids

          Amid drumming drums!

          “What do you do”?

          O kids, O compatriots

          What now?

          In active memory

          Of our merry days?


The poem “Cut Down, from Behind” bemoans the lost glory of ANA – the Association of Nigerian Authors. It challenges creative writers and poets alike not to be cut short like Igeniwari - the young football rising star whose fame was short lived - but to live up to the legacy of literary icons like Dr. Gabriel Okara - whom we are celebrating here today - as he vouches to continue the task:

O beclauded hero, fledging wings

Of Igeniwari hue-

Hero of doused fame,

Even if the clouds descend

Your fax massage

We shall relay

Spinning through


To ensure that this literary-poetic legacy does not die, Otobotekere, herein, has included in this collection, poems from two young prodigies. In “Life”, the fourteen-year old Miss Soso Nimi Wilson-Jack beautifully and antithetically portrays the paradox of life filled with ups and downs, laughter and tears, good and bad, love and hate, friends and foes and the like. Young and talented Master Adeyemi Oyanekan (the grandson of the author) also celebrates the beauty and majesty of Africa’s flora and fauna in his poem, “A Backdrop of Nature”.


The sixth cluster is a social critique of issues ranging from rumour mongering in “Rumour” to conflicts, wars and persistent restiveness as brought to limelight in the poem “Two Cocks”. While “Bird song ii” enjoins all to look for positive solutions to life’s problems; “Life is Beautiful” encourages us to make life worth living by allowing all to live and let live.


In the epilogue choruses, “Closing Fast” is a futuristic rendition that challenges Niger Deltans and oil producing communities to look beyond the present into posterity when oil shall be no more and when their lands might have been devoid of natural beautiful endowments like the rivers, lakes, streams, groves, flowers, palm trees, creeks etcetera and as such the dire need to make hay while the sun shines.


In all, Otobotekere has demonstrated his prowess in these Lyrical lines. The poems are simple and understandable, even haters of poetry cannot help but fall in love with them. One is compelled to read and enjoy the poems due to their lucidity.


Otobotekere’s style has been to leave the poems open at the end thus ensuring that suspense is utilized. His cohesive and vernacular rendition gives credence to the fact that poetry is part of the African heritage. The marine imagery and the use of the elements to merge the oral literary techniques bring the poetry home to every reader.


Abstract phenomenon such as rivers, moonlight, silence, etcetera are concretized by his concept composition of words. The onomatopoeic use of “flip flop”, “Clack Clack Clack”, “Cricket in Thought”,  “Kpouwa a ah”, “Koo Koo” and others all add to the heightened oral recitation of the poetry.

In order not to lose touch of my sagacity and not to be an all time praise singer, I have looked deep to find some errors in the anthology knowing that no human is perfect. But to my dismay, I found none. I looked deeper but again all I see was more beauty in descriptive and encapsulating ambience. Not deterred, I peered through the Iines the more, and alas, what I saw amazed me.


The one fault that looms large us one reads this collection is the tendency for the house wife to leave her soup burning on the fire while she reads and enjoys the poetry; and the danger for a male bread winner to sit and read and read and read without minding if its time to go to work. Quite ironic, you say?


Who is she in “SHE”? What does “at his 85” mean? In “Where-O-Where”?[sic}, is this an inquisition about the creator’s whereabout? The open endedness of most poems is a bit vague but still gives some suspense that only the reader can fill.


This anthology is indeed a worthy dedication and celebration of the life of Dr. Gabriel Okara as it reminds us of his style and aesthetic comportment that have been brilliantly emulated here as another addition to the corpus of Niger-Delta Literature. What better way to end this review than in the words of the poet himself:


Time passes

But love and poetry

Linger on.

Thank you. 

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