Scribbles on Inclusion and exclusion

By

Noel Ihebuzor

 

 

 

 

 

Societies are made up of groups. Each member has to contribute but not everyone must hold similar views. Good societies are built on the principles of

 

Some common vision

Some common bonding/cohesion

Some shared values

Some commonly agreed norms along with

a recognition of the need for individuality

a commonly agreed and shared purpose interacting

with a recognition for the importance heterogeneity and diversity

for without diversity and heterogeneity,

Uniformity would not only be stifling but also suffocating

 

These elements make up what we call social capital

 

Good societies recognize and accept all their members, on the understanding that unity is not the same as uniformity

 

Happy human societies are founded on the principle of:

 

·         Human dignity

·         Mutual respect,

·         Social justice

·         rule of law

·         equality of all before the law

·         Social responsibility

·         Equity and fairness

·         Mutual trust,

·         Cooperation and inclusiveness

 

Good societies are inclusive There is a danger in some conceptions of inclusiveness as demanding uniformity and zero diversity as sine qua non for its operation. This is a flawed view as it could lead to a loss of individual freedoms as an individual who fails to meet its flawed and narrow requirement is singled out to become a victim of exclusion. Exclusion is the opposite of inclusion. It is negative and highly destructive.

 

What are the dangers of exclusion?

 

Exclusion – why do we exclude – we exclude because of fear, prejudice, wrong information, ignorance hatred, envy, xenophobia.

features of exclusion, Exclusion as Us versus they, antagonisms, blame games ,scapegoating, hate speech, demonizing the other consequences of exclusion – physical, psychological, emotional (trauma, self-pity, fighting back),  ethnophaulisms, marginalization, intolerance, mistrust

 

the features of exclusion – Exclusion is irrational, hurtful, destructive and subtractive. It creates tensions, creates scapegoats, uses negative words, results in us-they world, leads to further incomprehension and misunderstanding, creates suspicion, can provoke conflict.

 

when people are excluded they feel self-doubt, self-pity, anger, hate, and frustration, bitter, resentful

 

a culture of tolerance for diversity.

 

difference and diversity are not enough reasons for mistrust between people

 

Tolerance is a virtue.

 

Tolerance breeds more tolerance.

 

Difference and diversity enrich, we can build on these. But to do so, we need to include others.

 

We are all unique and same at the same time different. I am like you, you are like me, but yet each one of us is different. The “Ebony and Ivory on the key board” song by Stevie Wonder brings out this enriching aspect diversity.

 

The principle of reciprocity – you accept me, I accept you.

Discrimination, bias, stereotyping make bad sense

 

 

 

 

 

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New meanings of political sophistication

by Noel Ihebuzor

Recent events in Nigeria are increasingly making me to believe that our politicians are now beginning, by their acts and omissions, to broaden the meaning of the term “political sophistication”  to mean any or all of the following  –

  • the ability to hold/live divergent political loyalties at the same time with no visible show of cognitive dissonance.
  • the effecting of political somersaults and display of inconsistencies not accompanied by any sense of remorse or shame.
  • the ability to step-down considerations and respect for your political icon for immediate short-term gains!
  • the ability to be consistently inconsistent and undependable!
  • the death of morality, honor, principles and decency in dealings on all matters political

we all are all the poorer because of these unfortunate semantic shifts and extensions because they signify fundamental erosions of values and a society is a robust as its values..

 

Poverty Porn or Pity Porn

By

Noel Ihebuzor

Critics often react differently to a work of art. Some react to the theme, others to the content and yet others react to the considerations that may have guided the selection of content whilst others react to the narrative style, the way selected content and themes are presented. Put such reactions against the backdrop of authors’ claims to some creative independence and some would immediately argue that the author has a right to certain autonomy in selecting what to write on! In situations such as these, the conditions are set for conflicts between an author’s claim to independence and autonomy and the assumed rights of a critic to make judgments on artistic production.

In the field of African literary aesthetics, the issue of poverty porn is on that has divided author and critic most forcefully and sharply drawn the battle lines. There are essentially those who argue for author autonomy and those ranged against them in battles; who preach moderation and balance in content and how it is presented. Such conflicts are not new. In the 19th century, Stendhal had commented through one of the characters in his book “The Red and the Black” as follows:

“Ah, Sir, a novel is a mirror carried along a high road. At one moment it reflects to your vision the azure skies, at another the mire of the puddles at your feet. And the man who carries this mirror in his pack will be accused by you of being immoral! His mirror shews the mire, and you blame the mirror! Rather blame that high road upon which the puddle lies, still more the inspector of roads who allows the water to gather and the puddle to form.”

Similar strains have been heard in defense of stories that have been rated highly in the Caine Prize for Literature. Habila, a Nigerian writer and critic, uses Poverty Porn to refer to a “certain kind of literary work that represents Africa as a space of suffering, wretchedness, and despair.” Habila expands on this view in a scorching commentary:

“I was at a Caine prize seminar a few years back and the discussion was on the state of the new fiction coming out of Africa. One of the panelists, in passing, accused the new writers of “performing Africa” for the world. To perform Africa, the distinguished panelist explained, is to inundate one’s writing with images and symbols and allusions that evoke, to borrow a phrase from Aristotle, pity and fear, but not in a real tragic sense, more in a CNN, western-media-coverage-of-Africa, poverty-porn sense. We are talking child soldiers, genocide, child prostitution, female genital mutilation, political violence, police brutality, dictatorships, predatory preachers, dead bodies on the roadside. The result, for the reader, isn’t always catharsis, as Aristotle suggested, but its direct opposite: a sort of creeping horror that leads to a desensitization to the reality being represented”

In defense of the creative writer, one can ask bluntly – what is wrong with writing what you see, what you think you have seen so long as you are sure that what you write is what you see and not what someone has cleverly whispered into your ears or subtly manipulated you into thinking is what you see or what you must see? In the unfortunate case that what you write is what someone has cleverly planted in your psyche, perception is flawed and your scribbles are nothing but the echoes of another. Your narrative style is also likely to be vitiated. And that would be really sad. Similar sadness would also result if you were writing what you saw or see but presenting in a frame that conforms to or confirms another person’s judgment of your reality or his/her preferred image of your reality. In this second case, whereas perception could be objective, the presentation and narration of what is perceived is influenced by a desire to pander to the preferences of a target readership. Most stories written on African and about Africa have two target readership audiences in mind. There is the African readership and then there is the Western readership. The West has its own preferred images of Africa and the developing world. It is a world overrunning with images of poorly fed children, emaciated mothers and kids with running noses, singed copper-colored hair, shriveled limbs and bloated tummies vegetating in an environment filled with buzzing flies and overrun with dirt and signs of squalor. Other variants of the preferred images include images of cruelty, wars, famine, and machete-wielding red-eyed adolescents. These are marketed as metonyms for Africa and find outlets in programmes on TV and in publications by well-meaning but patronizingly condescending international NGOs who try to use such images in their fund mobilization efforts for Africa and the third world. Similar presentations of Africa and the third world have crept into the arts and creative writing where African realities are often presented as a series of unremitting tragedies, savagery, immorality and wretchedness.

Poverty porn is a term used by critics to describe works of art that attempt to depict a reality in such bold and extreme strokes that the reader’s response often becomes one of pity followed by an overwhelming sense of powerless. Like porn, the style is seen to be direct and with no efforts at diversion or depth. Sadness is layered upon sadness, bad situations fall on top of one another and a canvas of crushing negativity is imposed on the reader’s perceptual field as a result of the exhaustive description of sorrow and destruction which are projected ad nauseam as substitutes for critical distance, balanced narration, analysis and creativity.

Choice is one basic and foundational feature of every work of art. Every piece of writing involves a series of choices – at the phonological, lexical and syntactical levels. And a writer makes choices on what to present and the extent to which he/she goes presenting them. One feature of a good presentation is balance, and a presentation that lacks balance is deficient in many ways. Yet some writers, presenters and narrators carry on as if the concept of balance does not exist in their portrayal of realities. And this begs the question why this is so. Are some realities so strong that they overwhelm and force the descriptor or narrator to extremes in a bid to express the same shock that such painful realities imposed on his or her? One could well be reading the work notes of a morbid anatomist, enamored of his/her art and treating us to full screen presentations of malignant cells and dying and decaying tissues. Every line is so soaked in a suffocating dampness that depresses the reader, and this is true whether the writer’s prose is beautiful, elegant, cadenced and effortless, something which could give rise to the oxymoron “beautiful ugliness”. Whether written in beautiful prose or in deliberate destructive and discordant prose, the effect is the same – the layer upon layer description of poverty, of cruelty, of rot, of helpless souls trapped in it floods every bit of the reader with pity. It bathes you in a slow unending stream of negative images and imagery which ultimately wear you down. The unremitting negativity overwhelms and sucks you under. Sorrow triumphs at the expense of solution, surrender trumps any survival urge. Pity porn would appear to me to also be a good label for works in this genre.

Father Uwem Akpan’s book – Say you‘re one of them has been criticized as an example of this dangerous literary genre of poverty porn or pity porn. Published by Back Bay Books, it is a collection of five stories, all tragic and all overflowing with negative images. “An Ex-mas feast” is set in Nairobi and is a description of life, deprivation and survival in one of its largest slumps, “Fattening for Gabon” is set somewhere in the fuzzy land between Seme border and Nigeria and deals with child trafficking, “What language is that” is set somewhere around Ethiopia and is about tensions caused by linguistic differences. “Luxurious Hearses” is set in the north of Nigeria and is a tale of religious inspired violence and killings, and the last story “My parents’ bedroom” is a story around the genocide in Rwanda.

Apart from a few geographical and time inaccuracies in some of the stories, the stories and the research that informed them are pithy and informed by a commitment to realism. Yet one is overcome by a sense of sadness as one completes reading each story. There is no escape from the enveloping sadness, from the negativity that nibbles at the core of your being as you read about Africa.

One of the sharpest minds for now in African literary aesthetics is Ikhide Ikheloa. I am yet to meet him in person but judging from his many contributions, he is a man of great erudition, astounding intellectual depth, amazing energy, great wit and someone with a discernable social vision and commitment. He also has a strong aversion for poverty porn/pity porn and has deployed his massive intellectual energy, wit and sarcasm to come against any African writer he thinks is producing such. His views on Poverty Porn in the articles with link lines below are highly critical of Poverty Porn and its purveyors.

The comment below is sweltering:

“The mostly lazy, predictable stories that made the 2011 shortlist celebrate orthodoxy and mediocrity. They are a riot of exhausted clichés even as ancient conflicts and anxieties fade into the past tense: Huts, moons, rapes, wars, and poverty. The monotony of misery simply overwhelms the reader. …..The stories are uniquely wretched”.

Listen to Ikhide speak again:

“I am still fuming over the wretchedness of almost all the offerings on the shortlist of the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing. Aided by some needy “African” writers, Africa is being portrayed as an issues-laden continent that is best viewed on a fly-infested canvas. Memo to the Caine Prize folks: It doesn’t have to be all about issues. Just tell me a story, any story”.

I have read somewhere where he blasts Father Uwem’s book as another example of poverty porn. Is this fair, I mean this effort to classify to classify Father Uwem Akpan’s book as belonging to this genre of poverty porn? Is Father Akpan wrong in describing what he sees or is his vision biased or his depiction exaggerated? Is the critic right in castigating a writer for choosing a point of view? And in response to the critic’s lambast, could the writer simply not respond by saying: You may not like it but that is what I saw and what I felt when I confronted the reality that prompted and released my creative impulse? Before such expostulation, can the critic not simply ask the creative writer to go check his/her eyes? Would such exchanges not raise key philosophical and epistemological issues about the objectivity and subjectivity of reality and perception?

We all know that life and reality are a blend of the good and the bad, of hope and despair, of wickedness and kindness or nobility and knavery. A good storyteller must then seek to capture this dual face of life and reality and not just focus only on the ugly or the good. Focusing only on the positive and optimistic can be as damaging as focusing on the negative and pessimistic. Voltaire’s “Candide”, for example, is a riotous routing of the dangers in unbridled and unchecked optimism! Voltaire Candide checked that unhealthy tendency and in many ways prepared the ground for the emergence of realism. Is the rage against poverty porn driven by a similar impulse to call out and check the sprouting of effusive negativity and pessimism in artistic depictions of the African reality?

If the answer is yes, the question then becomes how to distinguish works we can define as poverty porn. How is it different from other works of art? Could its distinguishing feature then be a deliberate choice by the author to exaggerate negativity without making an effort to balance such negative images with strategic injections of rays of positivity? For in life, there is sadness but within sad situations, a narrator who looks hard enough could find something that ennobles and which contains the seeds for the defeat of despair. Is one guilty of prescriptivism if one then suggests that the duty of an author could be to seek such balanced presentation even when one allows the author a right to betray a preference for giving the upper hand to the tragic?

I have lived experiences with backgrounds similar to those of two or three of Fr Uwem’s stories. I can say that these experiences can be presented in manners that do not create a numbing stasis and inability to respond creatively to life’s challenges?

The first one was sometime around 2002/2003. It was one of those slow mornings in a typical UN office I was heading. I was going through implementation reports line by line and also checking up to see which of the partners that we had advanced funds to had satisfactorily accounted for those funds. Then all of a sudden, all hell broke loose. The police had intercepted a vehicle loaded with children headed for the Idi-Iroko border. The stories the children told were not too satisfactory. They all claimed that the lady they were traveling with was their aunty but on close examination, the story turned out not be true. The lady was the wife of a highly placed person and was clearly well connected and the children were from Kaduna. She claimed she was taking the children to the Republic of Benin for a vacation project but again it was difficult to believe that as schools were still in session. This was beginning to look like a case of cross-border smuggling gone wrong and in the end, the children had to be returned to their parents with the assistance of the Ogun State department of Child welfare to Kaduna state. So child border smuggling is real. Uwem has a story that deals with such a situation – the difference is on the layered incidences of unremitting sadness in his story. It is such unremitting sadness, the pounding presentation of a sad reality that dwells extensively on negative episodes that in a way threaten to reduce the literary value of Uwem’s storytelling and to paralyze our ability to respond to it. In the case under review, I refused to be discouraged, always assuring the children that they would soon be united to their parents and doing my best to see that they were fed whilst they remained in the protective custody of the Ogun state government. Sad event, but positivity results in a happy ending.

My second experience was in 2004. I had just arrived Nairobi and after a few weeks living there, I decided to visit Kibera. I had two reasons to do this. The first was to satisfy my curiosity. The second was more professional. In 1996, I had directed a UNESCO funded project to produce a module capable of teaching urbanization in secondary schools in a manner that would reflect the innovative strands from the Rio, Cairo and Beijing conferences on the environment, population and gender respectively. Tall order! But I managed to assemble a very strong team made of demographers, sociologists, educationists, environmental experts and curriculum developers and we came out with an output that we were very proud of. A book of readings titled “An EPD approach to teaching Urbanization in secondary schools” edited by Professor UMO Ivowi and myself was also published. A lot of our background stuff on urban settings were gleaned from Ajegunle, the jungle.

Kibera, another slum, was thus my opportunity to test whether the “truths” we told about one slum had universal application. The visit to Kibera shook me to the roots. It brought tears to my ears. The poverty I saw there tormented me. It offended every sense of decency. Kibera’s inhabitants were more like animals trapped in a place with no exit. Later to achieve some catharsis, I wrote a long, rambling, poorly structured poem – A song for Kibera.

Later in 2005, I chanced upon “Say you’re one of them” and I was amazed to notice how despite the differences in genres, Father Uwem’s images and mine of Kibera had very strong resemblances. Was I doing poverty porn or writing down what I saw in this poem? Yes, I now recognize that I deliberately ended the poem on a note of rebellion, a note that affirmed my hope and prayer that the Kiberas of this world must no longer be allowed to exist and that social policy could put an end to Kiberas and wipe them off the face of Africa. Hence, my poem ends with a choice of positivity over negativity and optimism over pessimism.

What is my point? Two authors may confront and be inspired by almost identical realities but choices made all along the narrative trajectory could produce a difference in effect and could determine whether one is doing poverty porn or simply engaging in an exercise in realism.

There was a country

(I share my review of Chinua Achebe’s book – There was a country TWAC – a review I wrote so many years back.)

Chinua Achebe’s new book “There was a country, a personal history of Biafra” (TWAC, for short in the rest of this essay) has stirred up and continues to stir up considerable furore in Nigeria. Reactions to the book cover a broad spectrum of emotions – from over-enthusiastic reception at one end to outright rejection and even condemnation of the author and his book at the other. We are a nation with unique proneness for extreme positions on some matters. My purpose in this essay is to attempt a review of this book as objectively as I can and in the process identify whatever utility the book possesses for Nigeria in its efforts to manage its challenged present and chart its future in the current haze of colossal national dysfunctions. Any effective charting of such a future must, in my view, depend on a proper understanding and acceptance of her troubled past.

Let me start by presenting the structure of the book.  TWAC is in four unequal parts with a postscript (on the example of Nelson Mandela as an icon of leadership in Africa) and an appendix – Brigadier Banjo’s Broadcast to Mid-West. Achebe claims he is writing the book for the sake of the future of Nigeria, for our children and our grandchildren. Let me then attempt a synopsis of this book.

Part 1 recounts Achebe’s early days, his education from primary school days, his secondary school experience at Umuahia, his days at Ibadan, the beginning of his literary career and his meeting with Christie Achebe, his wife. Part 1 also examines the January 1966 coup, the army, the counter-coup, the reprisals, the pogrom, the worsening tensions, attempts at peace, the failed Aburi accord, ethnic tensions, and resentment. It ends with a sub-section titled “the nightmare begins” where we learn of the creation of states by the Gowon led Federal Administration on the 27th May and the proclamation of Biafran Independence by Ojukwu on the 30th May, 1967. There is a lot of nostalgia for the good old days in some portions of part 1 and some of the sections here are teasingly brief and telegraphic, especially his meeting, courtship and marriage to Christie!

Part 2 deals with the Nigeria-Biafra war. It presents a fairly detailed account of the war, Achebe’s wartime activities and his role in the Biafran struggle. We also get to learn of his association with Chris Okigbo and the death of this great poet. Achebe’s narration of this death is so subdued. Part 2 also provides glimpses into life in Biafra, starvation, death, air raids, war casualties, Biafran ingenuity, the Ogbunigwe, the war efforts and theatres,  the role of external parties in the conflict,  the Uli airstrip, the airlift operations and a host of other details.

Part 3 narrates the economic starvation and blockade, the vicissitudes of the fighting and takes the reader through to the eventual collapse of Biafra.  It also addresses the very sensitive issues concerning the use of hunger and starvation during the war and some economic decisions taken by the federal authorities both during the war and at its end. This is the part that has caused most offense in some quarters in Nigeria and also provoked a torrent of ethnic driven and emotive responses.

Part 4 looks at Nigeria in the present and the writer’s hopes and aspirations for a renewed Nigeria shine through. The prose in each of these parts is interspersed with his poems, two of the most haunting being Refugee mother and child and the vultures!

I am Igbo, lived through the war and may therefore not be in a good position to be neutral about TWAC. But I think that Achebe has written a fine book, a book in which he makes every effort to be factual to the point of adopting what I call a flat clinically detached narrative voice in much of parts 1 and 2! One of the strengths of TWAC is the detailed historical referencing and openness to a diversity of sources! The creative writer in Achebe cedes place in major portions of parts 1 and 2 to the cold and detached historian. This is not Achebe that we know, the animated storyteller who knows how to make words come alive, dance and sing with the same virtuosity one would ascribe to Obika in his Ogbazulu obodo role. Not only does he subdue personal voice in large portions of TWAC, Achebe also succeeds fairly well in managing any biases. For instance, he does not spare either Ojukwu or Gowon in his judgments, laying the blame for the conflict on the pride and personal jousts between these two colonels. For someone who served Biafra in such elevated and personal levels to achieve this level of objectivity in a personal war memoir is commendable

In much of TWAC, what we therefore see is the subdued artist surrendering his impulses to the discipline of facts and available evidence. So great is this surrender to the demands of objective historiography that the personal comments one expects are not delivered. Rather the writer presents the views of others even when these challenge the Biafran position! This historical disciplining appears to have been lost on the writers of some reviews who have tried to fault TWAC on grounds of faulty historical methods. One reviewer even went as far as accusing Achebe of Awophobia whilst another accused him of senility! These are good glimpses of how serious minded some of our reviewers in Nigeria are! Incidentally, one also wonders whether some of these reviewers really read the book! I suspect some did not,  given the timing and content of their reviews.  But this suspicion does not in any way reduce my admiration for such gifted folks who can review a book without ever reading it! They are proof of the abundance of paranormal capacities in Nigeria!

Achebe’s voice returns from p.222 through to part 4 of TWAC. With the return of voice, the book then comes more alive. TWAC is inconvenient though useful as we grapple with nation building. It forces us to think of our past.  To move into the future on firmer footing, the present must go back and catch up with our troubled past and learn from it. We cannot deny the reality of the pogrom.  We cannot say that children did not die of hunger and starvation during the war. It is also unproductive to seek through convoluted sophistry to exonerate certain persons from the consequences of their actions or inactions. We need to confront our past, accept our mistakes and learn from them and move on.  This is the inconvenient message of TWAC, its beauty and its social utility. Truth is bitter but it heals!

Incidentally, some of the issues in TWAC had already been touched upon in part in Achebe’s earlier works notably – “The Education of a British Protected child”, “Home and Exile” and “The Trouble with Nigeria” books which overflow with wit, sarcasm, erudition, intellectual energy and boldness! Yet the reception to these books was not as hostile as the one accorded TWAC. A discerning reader noting the focus and thrusts of the hostile reactions will easily know why!

But beyond providing a history of a piece of our troubled past, TWAC, especially pp39-61, represents an important contribution to African aesthetics. It therefore extends Achebe’s thinking presented in his books “Home and Exile” and “The Education of a British protected child” on the role of literature and the artist in reclaiming the past, understanding the present and building the future. I find the notion of beneficent fiction in TWAC (p57) to represent a useful African position on the role of literature and writers in social engagement! For Achebe, the writer must be engaged as a moral obligation and must not “ally oneself with power against the powerless” or run the risk of producing “elegantly tired fiction” TWAC p.59

But TWAC is not only about criticisms, social or literary. Achebe addresses current issues including corruption and Boko Haram. He laments our cult of mediocrity which he believes is at the base of our present malaise. He argues for checks and balances to reduce the decadence, corruption and debauchery of the past several decades (p252) He argues for a strengthening of democratic institutions and for free and fair elections and looks forward to the emergence of a leader humbled by the trust people place on him/her and who is willing to use “the power given him for the good of the people?” p253. Achebe has been prophetic in the past. I hope GEJ and JEGA are listening to him. The successes of Edo and Ondo already encourage and challenge.

Noel Ihebuzor

@naitwt

 

A song for Susan

Noel Ihebuzor

Something touches a key.

The touched key comes alive and moves,

humming stroking and caressing,

 

Soon, it blends notes and nuances,

nudges other senses to move and dance,

like alija, like nubile hips stirrred by ngelenge,

 

suddenly the soft shadows of a new song emerge,

fleeting inchoate,

some gentle touch by the potter,

and the new song explodes,

 

reason, rhythm and rhyme join hands

skipping along, spraying flowers,

red roses sing along

softliest and are heard most,

 

purple hibiscus, furl and unfurl,

hum shyly and wave

Rosemaries, Queens of the night

Explode and lather the awakened day

 

The aroused frame

whetted ears and noses aflame

with message laden bouquets

 

dripping deep messages,carousing

that caress our aroused eyes and ears –

with the beauty of Susan’s Poetry,

coated in the dazzling polysemy of an engaged voice.

 

****This is a piece I scribbled for Susan Daniels, my duet partner on Feb 15, 2013. Saw it in my archives this morning. Long may she live. Long may her poetry flourish!

Fizzy feelings and Fuzzy physics – a series of duets with the poet Susan Daniels.

by

Susan Daniels @susan_daniels and Noel Ihebuzor  @naitwt

 

Fizzy feelings and Fuzzy physics: # 9 Friction

By Noel A. Ihebuzor and Susan L. Daniels

In every straight and curving path of life
the interaction of opposites flows, friction,

its opposition
a delicate assurance of traction,
resistance and grip, always present
allows us to stand and move

same resistance slows and stops us
allowing motion, yet retarding it

the rasp of surface against surface,
smooth against rough,  rough to rough,
smooth to smooth; each raises heat,
awakens a force
moved into being by edge scraping  edge

the gliding plane
our movement through air as friction

the soaring heart,
the pounding heart, ventricle and atrium
pumping, pulsating and pushing life blood,
in never stopping motion,
constantly overcoming friction and resistance,

harp strings tremble, plucked and stroked by knowing
fingers
, the wailing saxophone,
the streaking trumpet,
the tickling tinkling piano strokes,
slides, glides, and breaks its chords
all raising hammers to strings
and frictioned strings to sound

the whispered violin

all engineered friction fusing with air,
music born of friction, peaks and troughs of sound
throb in our ears

the ship slicing through waves,
opening and parting them in bowed surge
the wetted measured friction
has the waters parting, gushing, rushing round
singing in joyous roars that fill, fulfill, and enflame
basking mermaids slithering and lulling in the waves
of plunging passion

our fingertips, too, on skin, are friction
we call pleasure, touches we arch under
the language of groans and sighs also moaned friction
of heated air rasping vibrating cords
in the throat, just so

and then tensing to yes.

the pleasure of the plough plunging deep,
digging deep into gripping soil
gratefully opening up to tilling, for seeds of life
to be planted, so that in season, a rich harvest would birth

and how our voices rejoice, secret yielded as fruit
the shared complicity in
friction and pulling,
plowing, plunging and planting

the stone grinder, the blunt edge,
engage in perfect frictional resistance,
sharpening, short lived stars shooting and flying dazzle,
heat rising to combustion points,
sparks flying with each roll, the spinning grind

the resistance of the pool
the waiting surface tension
the perfect contours of its ribbed surface
 pierced by the perfect dive,
the ripples and return heave of frictional resistance
the suckling suctioning into parted spaces, bubbling,
warming and enfolding heat, in the cool dive defeating friction, thawing,

how resistance melts down
into dissolving softness,
like a warm bread knife,
pressed deep into yielding butter,
soon bathed in golden cream…. 

the touch as fingers run through skin tense,
the kissing caress
lips slowly rubbing singing skin
bodies locking, unlocking, interlocking,
passions painted in colors of friendly wrestlers
locked in a tussle of mutual entanglement and enlargement,

grasping, clutching, gripping
skins toned, glistening, unchaining and liberating
expanding voices, accelerating motions of
perpetual ebbs and flows, surges and suctions
hurrying to a waiting harbor, destroying energy in liberating bliss

and incomprehensible scribbles
on the resisting vibrating surface of the bewitched air

all need your collaboration
demanding energy to overcome
though energy would be felt,
drowned in flowing pleasures

without friction there can be no pleasure
stuttered, stalled, sullen and static
journeys without boundaries

life a languid limp limbo
resistance and restrainer
you increase work and heat
liberating positive energy in seasons of amity
but when time and pride corrode the good
and anomie sets in
and thorn weeds sprout and spike in polluted hearts
painful friction, spawn and install in stubborn hearts
spout-spawning spiraling masses of negative energy,
spurning joy, acerbic simmer, toxic swelters, choking
as corrosive friction multiplies and you deepen your roots
the good begins to dissolve, the ugly enlarges

our edges dry and wear down;
stripped tongues heavy and cracked like warped wood,
hearts unmoved,
and our communications collapse

as enlarging frictions fetters and freezes the feet of amity
to resist and retard the swelling of heart
and bodies that once vibrated and throbbed as one 

***And here we are, at our last piece in the fizzy feelings/fuzzy physics series and Susan and I close it here with a flourish.  The theme friction is one that lends itself to diverse explorations and exploitations and we have not stinted in any way here in these :) and we hope you will like what we have tried to make of it!

Thanks again to Susan, my partner in poetry and co-creator, for challenge, co-inspiration and for such gorgeous use of the language!

Fizzy feelings and Fuzzy physics: #8 Particles

By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

Lately, conversations,
learned or elementary
about quantum entanglements
resonate & bring to mind
you

rich in kinks and curves
to the eyes straight
mirrors of us imperfect in perfection
reluctantly splitting in medium dense
elegance bending in fine angles

And  tonight I lose sleep
to deep speculation

wondering at which point
and  how

particles of pure energy
roaming space free, opening places
penetrating spaces and crevices

the flowing and roaming  particles of 
our matter collided

breaking barriers
upper and lower limit
vibrating stream of energy

yes, streams that crashed
and colluded
to synthesize
this synchronized turn
& counter-turn
between us

how across distances
the color of angel robes
the bow of the sky

this awareness continues
bundles of colors at different energy levels
streaming to lighten, to loosen
a delight

past an elemental level

indefinite until measured

 

** As usual, It was such wonderful fun doing this duet with Susan where we explore the relevance of aspects of particle theory in physics to communication and bonding across space, place and cultures. Susan says it better in her usual eoquence in the words below. Noel

***Quantum entanglements, or the theory of, was the inspiration for this duet between my bolded friend and I (italicized).  I believe it describes nicely a friendship and affinity that stretches across the globe :)

As always, hope you enjoy our fuzzy, fizzy exploration between particles and people — I know I had fun writing it with Noel, hope you enjoy reading it.

Fizzy feelings and fuzzy physics: #7 Energy

By Susan Daniels and Noel Ihebuzor

Raw or refined,
Raging or reclining,

Coiled, uncoiling, recoiled
force and power, taming and untamed , kinetic and potential
constant in final summation
never lost

Eternal borrowed magic
forged once and never destroyed;
only shifting form,
released or recaptured
in new attachments

Transmuting, changing, converting
fields always present
in us, force field, flooding
all life is you, dancing

 Whether rolling, roaming, roaring or lulling, tangible proofs
of your occasional intangible presence
we sense the voice singing you
sketching or announcing your passage
either as silent footfalls or thumping poundings
reminding us to be, that we are,
we are beings because of you,
primal mover at the beginning

and still being, celebrating and echoing the command
to be, and you are and remain
being in your  bounding, binding,
pounding, driving, falling,
tumbling, stumbling, climbing

the invisible hands drawing the earth’s pull taut,
the rise in slopes, hunger also rising;
rivers rush, stream, and sing your name

and here, we pull together in equal force,
meeting and blending these shifting fields
other disciplines call spirit
but I name simply us;

a measurable magic
weighed in breath
and silent singing of neural nets
taking in and releasing

perfection enacted, beauty embodied
tumbles joyfully to waiting limbs of estuaries,
your torrents delighting, passion swirling

and in the heart pumping blood,
necessary and rhythmic expression of muscle
exalting, exulting, and moving 

pure life energy 

beating and pushing
the energy of the heart

and this energy can push, also,
the pulse of hate, the politics of rage
the power to heat up, hurt, harm
and strengthen the impulse to heal, help

raw and caged in dams, you exist, taut, waiting
leaving us free, agents with choice
to channel you for good or for bad or for bland

We  draw from you the means for
tearing down or building
and weeping as our hands itch for and grasp the former 

and you weep in fits at our failure and our fate.

***My co-creator Susan’s voice is in italics – mine is bolded.  Again, we had so much fun with this when we created it–hope you enjoy reading it.  As always, a treat to write with Susan whose energy and creativity added life and flow to what is  difficult concept in physics !

Fizzy feelings and Fuzzy physics: #6 – Time

By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

Monosyllable rich in polysemy
endless, stretching fabric enfolding layers
of meanings, deeper than the infinite
finite, endless, far and near
seamless unity, past, present, future merged
was, is and will, history and hope
defiant of human labels

Eternity the endless is;
neither forward nor back,
but everything now, old and new
the cry of creation echoed
by foothills wrapped in morning mist
reflecting the hum underneath sound,
an ageless shout

Stretched out in space
travelling and rolling
never straight, never monotone, velocity varying
in your kinks and loops,
you dance backwards to lace and trap the minds
of the traveler looking backwards from the present
reaching backwards to embellish images and events
with generous sweet strokes and paintbrushes, dripping nostalgia

We can only chart your path,
a journey from now to the less-now
colored by memory–beautiful,
instructive, instinctive;
more art than accuracy
in the retelling.  Still, we rise
from what we think shapes us
to this moment, the moment now past

The beat of the pounding heart
the chimes of throbbing bodies
measure of rhythmic flows
the pulsing vibrating instruments
ogene, piano, ekwe, flute all sing and hum
with you, imperfect mirrors of your rhythm and soul

Yes, we keep time,
counting in fours and swings
and steps, our imposed order
an accompaniment
to your dance through and with us

Measure of intensity, streaming shooting jet
fast as light, often twice as swift
for those in present passion
crawling slow overweight snail for those who wait
rhythm ancient undying
constant motion, flowing streams
defying all our puny efforts
to trap, define and fix your roaming endless stroll
numberless, units without limits, objective
us subjective
the time traveler’s delight, mind shuttles between epochs
gone to relive, coming to feel and anticipate and feel
through frosty crystal balls,
shady mind prisms and tired eyes permitting
astral and mind travels
mind dragging body

Our error
the attempt to capture
or predict your movements,
when we should simply
play within your loops
that wrap us loosely
and then tighten; you are truly
Ouroboros,
constantly swallowing your own tail

the measure of seasons, defying seasons
ebbing and flowing
value and value, always subjective, never same,
the marriage of intensity, attitude ,
people, person and place parade and prance in your amber
producing passion, patience and pleasure
thundering and thumping

Like you, we should
open these mouths to swallow the past
in endless loops of hunger,
taste what has been
on the way, strengthening us
for the race to what will be

your rolling boundless presence
a glimpse into eternity
no boundaries, binding, bonding
all who live, breathe
feeling raptures and ruptures
departures, returns, beginnings and endless endings without end

the eternal dance and mystery of you

** Susan has wonderfully summarised the genesis of this duet on Time in her post below! Need I say more? Except the obvious – that it is always a pleasure to sing with Susan. My voice is in bold, Susan’s is italicized!

***My duet partner caught inspiration for this jogging on the beach in Dar es Salaam; sent me his lines, and I answered from Eden.  The actual time it took to write this piece together was under an hour, I believe, and I love its spontaneity and movement!  Hope you do too. (Susan)

Fizzy feelings and fuzzy physics: # 5 – Heat

By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

Dense  with entropy, warm interplay
life’s strumming is thermal,
made in heat and made with heat
beginning in fusion and fission of stars
heat riots everywhere, all ways
stored in bonds and energy fields and folds 

Heat, energy, pure warming
source and inspirer of life
your touch sparks us and enflamed, we glow

the slow movement  to love  is fever, seething
body temperatures rising
(Like cold blooded creatures
Basking on sun teased stone, slowly warming)
and thickening blood like magma;
forest fires on skin

our flowing emotions awakened too;
relationships are about heat energy and transfers
warm glowing when souls converse and caress
when bodies melt, flow and fuse,
the scorching joy song of molten gold passion

yes, the constant shifts within us and without us
in traded heat;
radiations, convections and conductions
we conduct, we conduce the  flow
nodding to the  first law
,
nothing made or lost, only changed
from one form to another

high energy charged points to lower points, 

seeking release
we free and burn slowly
and with caution

Rising beyond limits, you transform to scorch,
burn, melt all matter past form and shaping;
shuddering volcanoes, molten heat as rage reigns  

everything in its path ashes
and twisted metal;
what took years to frame consumed by flames
and past all salvage

Heat energy change
throwing sparks, breath of TOR,
blazing like thunder, causing conflagrations, blazing and burning

Hot burning scorching when hurt installs hate
and envy, spears, poisoned arrows fly, flames burn down

Better flash fires than maximum entropy;
where, lifeless, immobile
we drift further, with no sparking between us
in  slow, heavy heat death;

ice cold and indifferent when  separated lovers, love burnt out,
now strangers co-habit the same space
invade their naked bodies  and feel nothing,

no warmth, no flow, no energy
save ice particles on bodies seeping from the cracks of frozen hearts 

***another in our series from physics, hope you enjoy the warmth of this one!  We certainly did! Susan’s voice is italicized, mind is in bold! Enjoy the heat!

Fizzy Feelings and Fuzzy Physics #4: Motion II

By Susan Daniels and Noel Ihebuzor

All life is motion compelled to move;
you and I, we must move too

even in apparent stillness
our atoms vibrate

past vision and all senses, rearranging with
the simple harmonic motion of elements,
the inner rotation of the subatomic
like mirrored, miniature solar systems
the shift of season into season,
the pulls tides answer, and strokes of waves

all singing life
every motion has brought us
closer to this motion today
where we move in unison 

your voice in mine and
mine in yours

your tongue vibrates, feels
and feeds my throat motion;
fluttering, trembling, all kinetic and stirring
and we move, the rhythm of us a motion

born of force and attraction

by polarities that pull
create this swirl, tremulous gyrations, vibrating, oscillating
where merging in vertical and horizontal flows
we reach forward and beyond
with hastening speed

and now, with vectors charting
direction, force and magnitude
this joined velocity singing and ringing
still accelerating, celebrating
the influx and efflux of creativity,
its season of release 

** Our second duet on Motion! Susan and I hope you will  enjoy reading this duet as much as we did writing it.  Susan is italicized and Noel is bolded.

Fizzy Feelings and Fuzzy Physics #3: Motion (1) – By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

Three balls dancing in space
in place lace us to the larger cosmic circles
of perpetual motion

The blue pearl spins on its toes
in never stopping rolls like a top
held in space in distant but constant hug
by the sun radiating
surges of magnetic and force fields 

Locked in predictable patterns
but always surprising us;
the times of sunset known
but not its colors,
the exact flush and spectrum flash of sky
as the axis spins and shifts it to night colors

Rotating and revolving
centrifugal and centripetal discourses
neatly balanced as ordained though slightly inching
imperceptible

Our mother an eye, soft and smiling
a constant blue gaze unblinking,
but kind, a glowing awareness
logical in her turning;
her light beguiles and seduces
in its soft sparkling
as the moon, her hills, and blue seas
use their pulls in equations
to twirl, whirl, and swirl

Caressing and awakening the sleeping ocean
stirring, causes waves, tides, and surges
three balls hanging apart in space, moving
yet linked by invisible forces flowing from them
and causing motions and emotions to rise and ebb

And you and I, also
feel the pull, the irresistible forces
that draw our blood beneath skin,
that grasp our hands to lift and turn us
so we also spin and dance like these,
hoping that our weaker movement  too
will birth waves
and pools 

***Once again I thoroughly enjoyed braiding lines and interlacing voices with my duet partner, Susan, whose beautiful voice shines here and who succeeds to breathe life and plenty of movement into a difficult topics in physics – motion! Susan’s voice in italics and mine in bold!

Fizzy Feelings and Fuzzy Physics #2: Inertia – By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

We drift in habitual wobbling circles
hobbling like feet poorly cobbled, feeling
neither earth nor one another, stranded
arid motion free stretch of ever elongating slippery
quicksand highway, without grip or traction

Smiles stiff and still
not sparking eyes, sparkleless
exhausted, shambling, soulless routines once so fresh
now stale, sour, and old
constant motion long past dancing

Radius, diameter and circumference in grating logic
circling each other in yawning cycles

We roll unresisting into a heavy, unpiloted slide
remaining in these present states easier
as with each change comes resistance
which must be swept across
or persuaded into action

what is held still craves flow,
though frozen and powerless
to break old bindings
and change direction

We shuffle limp on a limping highway
limp unable to rise nor flow, trudging on a treadmill
threadbare, going nowhere

The mournful sky wraps above and around us
mourning our uninspired mornings
soggy flat in colorless monochrome
borderless without hope, our soulless soles
burdened, weighty  and weighed down
at the border of the deadening present and a feared future

Eager to depart, move on and move apart
and resist its own yearning,
and though we have breath and pulse, we lie inert

The half-life of what lived long past
in search of direction,
going nowhere, unable to live
unwilling to leave

Habit a tripwire trapping our feet,
a seething past that teemed,
boiling over, over-run with energy heaves,
now idles
empty of steam and wind

With no wand to wave to will us forward
we live as hollow shells
in endless cycles of repetitions
that weep and
wait for that external force to move us
either backwards or forward,
to push us on or push us over Inertia

 

**While a pleasure, as always, to write with Noel, I can’t wait to move on to more dynamic physical concepts in this series we are working on

Again, Noel’s voice is not italicized, mine is. (Susan)

****Susan and I explore in this duet a concept in physics that dates back to Newton’s seminal work. Inertia is essentially about the inability of an entity for internally generated change and movement in the absence of external impetus.  It is a great joy to feel how in this duet we have been able discover some life and truths about life in Inertia!  Always a pleasure to sing with Susan and to feel her voice, soft and delicate,  blend with mine, gruff and often strident!  (Noel)

Fizzy Feelings and Fuzzy Physics #1, Waves: A Duet

By Susan Daniels and Noel Ihebuzor

I want to ride this wave
suspended in stroking flow, the way a child
rocks to sleep at night, body remembering
the forward shove, the dragging back

The mind surveys, questions the source
the ends, the purpose and where they end
this timeless travel, unceasing pulling
Constant pushing and tugging

Your mind brushes infinity, reflected
In a wave with no beginning
that never breaks, but meets invisible resistance
and release in reactive crests and peaks;
The raw push forward, still with softness,
Rocking and wrapping everything that swims
within light, inside water, coiled inside sound;
all the patterned peaks and troughs that invite and incite
with throb and force, always present within a wave–
should we resist or should we swim inside its logic

There is a logic to its heaves
the pull of the moon
stirring tides, stirring blood surges and longings
in its genteel stare bewitching

Let it come, let us call it forth–
summon it to strike and shape
the substance of song and sighs;
the drag of magnets siphoning bitterness,
drawing pure substance to pure substance,
energy flowing  forward without resistance.

The waves moving, endless motion,
the to and fro of each wave,
each wave inching deeper and closer
moving us and the world with it

If waves are change, let this one birth a tsunami to crush
and carry away the proud
the assured who stand opposed
but a wave that can with tenderness lift up,
splash and cleanse those
who gently cling at her rolling hems, hide their faces
in her soft skirts

Let us then ride and roll on her foaming wings
as the world rolls and spins
and advances  in its waves of ether
moving always and the world forward

***Trying a little something different here with Susan, my duet partner, in a series where we explore the possible applications and implications of concepts from physics to life, living and feelings.  Susan’svoice is the one italicized, and Mine is the one not.  As always, it was a pleasure to co-create with Susan and to blend my voice with hers!

A Tribute for Mohammed Ali – The champ is gone, long live the champ!

by

Noel Ihebuzor

 
I just learnt of the passing of this great man, this super athlete, this wonderful fellow who contributed in raising the status of boxing from that of brute pugilism to that of an art comparable to ballet. Yes, it is to Ali’s credit that he was able to transform what was before him an ugly physical sport into a delicately executed dance form with its beauty, its engaging fluidity, its glides and slides and its captivating elegance. Ali had this ability to execute what was a complex move with speed and grace and make it look simple!

The king is gone, long live the king! Here was a man who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. Here was the athlete’s poet to whom poetry came naturally and instantly and who bequeathed the world with strings of unforgettable lines. He sang and danced as he demolished Liston…he jabbed, jibed, jived and joked as he took out Foreman. With him boxing was art, it was fun, it was movement, it was strategy. And like all great people, he did great things and made them look simple.
He was the best, the prettiest, the smartest and the fastest. He even used his art, yes that was what his boxing skills became, to combat racism in his country and around the world. And this was no easy task – just read “To kill a mocking bird” to get a sense of the weight of racism that African Americans had to contend with in the states and which Ali (then Cassius M Clay) had to deal with as a young person. He refused to be put down by it, and even challenged it. When Parkinson’s disease assailed him, he parked it je-je in one corner and I remember watching him with moisture clouding my vision as he struggled bravely to carry the Olympic flame during the LA games!
Champ, gaa na udo! Iwu dimpka asato, okunrin mewa, iroko tree, gaa gaa na ogwu! You were that brave candle that defied the wind and whose flame shone in the worst of storms showing light to others and brightening lives.
Gaa na udo, Nwoke omam. The champ is gone but he lives on!
++ My unworthy tribute for one of the world’s greats!