Posts Tagged 'materialism'

Review of Biko Agozino’s “Today na Today”

By Noel A. Ihebuzor

Title – Today na Today

Author – Biko AGOZINO

Biko Agozino 2

Publishers – Omala Media Ltd, Awgu, Enugu

Year of Publication – 2013

I have just been privileged to read a collection of poems  most of them in pidgin English by Biko Agozino. Onwubiko Agozino (Biko), is a Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA

The collection, titled “Today na Today” is made of 36 poems, 31 of which are in pidgin English and the last 5 in standard English. The poems treat a broad range of contemporary social issues in Nigeria from life in our typical urban ghettos characterised by “face me- I face you” type of accommodation to protests over the conditions of host communities in the oil rich Niger delta of Nigeria. The issues covered are indeed broad but a common thread of social relevance unites them all. Take the poem “Fire the devil”. Here Biko slams with very biting wit the rise in a theology that seeks explanations for social failings in the unceasing interference of the devil. Or consider “Black sperm” where the poet describes and takes issues with the social consequences of new developments and possibilities in fertility management and reproductive choices, especially the whole issue of sperm banks and artificial insemination.. “Time na Money” starts off innocently on the title of a song by Okri but ends up with a deep and shattering broadside on an enlarging cult of materialism. Poor people pay more is particularly disturbing and contains lines that etch their words in the minds of the reader

“Them fit prospect for oil self right inside we wife and daughters’ thighs

We only beg make them rub small oil for we cassava leaves make them shine”

These are strong words. These are powerful condemnations of the activities of the oil companies in the Niger Delta  (ND) whose failures and negligence along with other failures explain the abject poverty of the ND.

One cannot in a short review of this nature cover all the poems in the collection but a few deserve special mention – Dialectical dialogue, Yabbis, Capital punishment, Slum dwellers, Odyssey, Below sea level, Too Much Generals, Knowledge be privilege, Again born again, You be witch and Brain drain all stand out. Each in its special way takes up an aspect of our social life and our experience of it, be it as voluntary emigres in God’s Own country or as forced prisoners/participants in the gaols of our country where social services are almost comatose, social inequities and cleavages are on the increase, misery and despair so palpable and a tendency to play blame games on the ascendancy and dissects this with a blend of humour, sarcasm, irony, wit and some compassion. But for my concern not to enflame current sensitivities concerning the Igbos and the Nigerian state in the 1967-70 period and even beyond, I would also have mentioned “Forgive” as one of the poems that stand out given its plea to the Igbos to forgive the wrongs done them during the civil war. I will keep clear of that. The topic is too delicate, but the theme of Victory song, a poem which celebrates the victories of the ANC and Mandela among others, is not. Read it and rejoice with the successes of the liberation struggles. Read it but please do not say “Cry, the beloved country” for some of the failed dreams, unfulfilled expectations and matters arising in the present from those brave liberation struggles of the past.

The last five poems in standard English (is there such a thing, by the way) – Abu jah, Say Sorry, Massa day done, Con and Blue – are a delight to read. Abu Jah is troubling as it reveals all the shenanigans and shoddy dealings in our new capital city, a city, where for example, one family gets allocated 8 plots of choice land out of 16,000 plots in a country of 160,000, 000 people and the person who was principally involved in making the allocation is either unable or incompetent to recognise his guilt and to say “Sorry”! “Say Sorry” is a listing of our failings in society, failing we should be sorry for and to turn away from. I could go on but it is best I stop here to allow the reader discover and enjoy this collection of poems where art is used to project social conditions, contradictions and challenges for herself or himself as I have done.

Biko has certainly enriched the literary world with this collection of poems. Some of the poems betray his Igbo origins in their choice of words, cadence and rhythm! “My water pot it done broke” in its form, structure, especially repetitiveness of lines, has all the elements of the akuku ufere –  akuku ifo  (poem tale usually with a refrain) we used to chant as children during moonlight plays –  “Ebele mu akuwala”.

I just have one problem with Biko’s efforts to write in pidgin – Biko him pidgin no trong at all at all – him pidgin na oyibo pidgin. Him pidgin na “ajebo” pidgin.  He mixes correct English forms with pidgin forms (he uses “them” instead of dem, for example). This is a weakness and a “corruption” of our “ogbonge” pidgin. But we can pardon this “corruption”once we realise that this professor of sociology and Africana plus poet at Virginia Tech, VA, grew up inside Naija but has lived outside the country for more than 20 years in places like the UK, the Caribbean and the US. (Incidentally, his  pidgin orthography is similar in many ways to the style of Chinua Achebe who used ‘them’ instead of dem in many of his novels).

The collection is published by a small publishing house, Omala Medsia, based in his home town, Awgu in Enugu State, Nigeria, and it can be ordered from www.lulu.com but I look forward to when this collection can be re-published by a more renowned publishing house but this is beyond the control of Biko or any of us. Decision for that lies with the publishing houses whose choices on what to publish are driven less by literary worth of a manuscript but by consideration of economics and market realities. But here, I stray and dabble into the difficult waters of the sociology of publishing. Happy reading.

An additional treat is that Biko Agozino recorded nine of the poems, mostly at Harry Mosco Studios, Lagos Nigeria with just one recorded at Paramount Studios in Nashville, TN. To listen to the recorded poems, follow the link here.  Enjoy.

Noel A. Ihebuzor

@naitwt on Twitter

Cycles and circles

By Noel Ihebuzor

 

The tragedy of a journey on a hunch back road,

slippery, muddy filled

with slime and grime

tired limbs trudging round

in unending cycles and circles,

on this sterile,  empty, barren highway

smeared generous with a coating

slippery,  of thick  okro sauce,

now souring

 

Truth does not walk this road any more

lies lie in wait for the unwary,

from all four winds and corners

fetid fumes and foams

frothing from ogbono coated tongues

hollow throats, mirroring hollowed consciences,

deformed by elephantiasis of the soul

 

the festering cancer enlarges

feeding off a bottomless greed

that has gripped the strong breed

ripped their souls grim

with the grim reaper’s blade

moral paralysis now spawns

new barren creeds of

chop comot make we chop

on a betrayed people,

trapped in endless cycles and circles

 

 

IDPS RDC-est

 

Mbandaka 2009

 

 

 

Song of a Child Bride – a duet

By Susan L. Daniels and Noel A. Ihebuzor

I am a girl.
Eleven years ago
I came too early for you,
but I was yours
as nothing else was,
and I grew under love
brighter than the sun.
I am still growing.  I am green
& unripe fruit, unready

I am a girl,
I long to play, feel
and unfurl.  I run after butterflies
I wave after birds in flight
I dwell in innocence
I harvest smiles and stars in all I see

I am a child
my eyes carry hope.
I feel.  I dream past this body
and carry in these bones
a life that hums promise
and walks joy

I am a girl,
body, soul and spirit,
and human
not a piece of flesh
not an object for peace
not an object to be priced

I am a girl,
though lately this body bleeds
and these breasts can make milk
I am too young for this business of women
my hips are too narrow to balance a child,
too slender to push one out;
my mind too new to mother another
and I will break beneath a man’s need
my young body if forced to yield will only hurt,
weep in pain and shame

I am a child,
I long for safe spaces
to draw and discover my dreams,
to live them, and to sing, joyful
as I discover the marvels of the world,
my world expanding

I am a child.
I dream of books I have not read
and the only seed I am fit to hold now
are those of the mind, scattered to work deep;
not the body choked with seeds of a man
I must accept but carry in fear and bitterness.
Death will bloom inside my body, not life
if I am planted now

I am child,
not a wife
marriage at my age will drown me
twist my bones
pierce my body
and break my spirit

Mother, father
I am your child.
Your flesh made and fed me;
to send me to a husband
is to send me to a slaughterhouse
where the floor is stained
with the blood of so many cattle
listen to my words, words
eyes speak but mouth cannot;
words my body shouts in trembling
your eyes can hear if they open.
I beg you to answer past my fear
and shield me with your arms

Father and mother
ignore the clutter of culture
spare your daughter this chain of torture
Ignore the clatter of the appeal of gain,
remember our  bond of blood
before you cause me pain,
before your decisions tear and shatter my developing body
and eventually spill this innocent blood

 

Intro to this duet by Susan  on her blog – >

**You guys had to know this was coming, right?  Noel (regular text) and I (italicized) have created this duet, using the voice of a child.  Though it was, as always, a pleasure to weave lines with Noel, the subject is not one that leads to much joy…no matter how talented your duet partner is.

****Let me only add to this intro that Susan’s talent is infectious, and that it has been my luck to be so infected by it! 🙂 

http://susandanielseden.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/duet-for-the-girl-child/#comment-12719

Urban Jungle Blues – A Duet

By Noel A. Ihebuzor and Susan L. Daniels

Another wandering day finds worn out minds
worrying on a wavering road wound tightly around anxious
feet lost and soles tired, tiring,
endless stomping, souls emptying, core eroding
trapped penniless in hard bone want
rides and crosses opulence heaving full breasted
never meeting anywhere or nowhere, desert islands, different
indifference, whether in narrow winding slums spawning hovels, grime, crime and anomie or in suffocating metallic structures that pierce the sky
seated on wide arteries on gridlocked checker boards
where automobiles choke the lungs with fumes of affluence,

Here, this city no longer smells of steel galvanizing
but oats baking into cereal O’s, and the main street
pedestrian mall frames four tracks for trains that do nothing
but run from the banks to the university
in a 30-year straight line, all the stores closed
except pharmacies, pawn shops, Chinese take-out,
stores that sell bright synthetic shoes for drag queens and prostitutes
or lottery tickets, cigarettes, and beer

The city sprawls, growls, as grim faces with automated smiles
and ATM voices greet and grit set teeth
co-travellers on the subway, rush without seeing, not feeling
and when seeing move on before sunshine thaws well frozen
protector shields of indifference and anonymity
to open a space now dreaded in this place where we pace
in a metal jungle of tubular bars, well rehearsed smiles,
a maze that breathes fear
behind stale glass windows or airless hovels
that color eyes and imprison minds
and minds stagnate in the stupor of sterile promises
that become hazier as mind become heavier, and stubborn dreams
slowly tip to cheap end points, needles, skins, threads and ropes

This is my downtown, my city of brown and black faces
strangled by surrounding white arms, where all the jobs grow
past the bus lines and reverse commutes from suburb to suburb;
but still in this heart blocked by abandoned factories
rises an energy.  Students fill the coffeehouses and jazz clubs,
wrapped in black, borrowed sophistication after a night
in the theatre district or gallery parties, and warehouses shift to lofts
and still more galleries, pop-up shows mushrooming between the cracks of sidewalks

like brilliant intoxicating fungi
as street festivals paint the air
with basil and cinnamon, mixing with those oats

urban centres call
sell hopes that reach for a sky
darkened by hard hearts

those sidewalks

littered landscaping
of trash cans never emptied
dreams full of promise

so emptying

***Susan and I explore the challenges of urban life in this duet. Though our backgrounds are different, our duet brings out some of the universal features of life  in an urban setting  – hence, the title, Urban Jungle Blues. As always, this was fun!  Susan’s voice is in italics, Mine is in regular type. Kindly let us know what you think of the duet!

Crying wants

By Noel Ihebuzor

 

Weeds of woes grow

 as wants groan and drone,

flourish when frail shallow deeds

 dance and dither puny,

piddle and idle, while

needling needs over-hang heavy,

in a darkling sad sky,

 

hunger hovers,

rages and glowers,

as hollow bellies rumble,

howling; needs shout

harsh, hoarse

hard to hide

 

begging vision with action

 to unbind the bound,

not flash bulb shallow flourish,

done to impress,

impotent sterile whimper

dripping like dribble,

trickling away

like treacle stored

in a beautiful raffia bag

Haiku – Slum

By Noel Ihebuzor

 

Souls stuck in a cage,

seething with savage rage, as

hope drifts and minds roast

 

barren space,

yet lush in crime, grime

running wild

 

festering red sore

child of  need and greed

slowly choking life

Circles and cycles

By Noel Ihebuzor

 

Eyes buried deep in hollow round sockets,

the sagging sack of bones speak for bodies

clothed in loose fitting tired plastic skin buckets

drooping like tired jute bags, brown, crumpling floppies

 

Buttocks shrivelled and feet

Swollen ungainly, dragging weeping frame around in now ending cycles

the circling flies, whirling after twirling running tummies meet

mums in panic, running around dazed in dizzying circles

holding on to and hoping, slowly hopes withering

yet stubbornly clutching to withered hopes, wilting and dithering 

 

Close by, on well manicured lawns, watered

tenderly by cycling swinging sprayers,

in circles of encircling and overflowing affluence

Pastors, prophets, politicians co-habit

preach, pray, praise, and pontificate

in voluminous waffle, clogging spaces with sterile volubility,

consciences clogged, hard hearts twisted,

greed terraced mindscapes and bodyscapes, carousing

in convoluted cavorting

 

Waste dances indecent

in the wining and dining,

want swells, ballooning

sweeping fragile frames and staggering souls

their mother whining,

along to painful grinding end points

 

a procession preceded by a small wooden box

announces the end of one cycle,

the prolongation of the circle,

the festering sore enlarges

speaking the language of a cycle of infamy

and a dooming narrowing circle

closing in on the undying hope of mothers with dying children

their throats and lives throttled by the plump hands

of greed, callous, grabbing and choking


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