Friday, December 29, 2006

My Books of 2006

The following are a few of the books I came across, and read, during the past year (mainly towards the end). I composed the first draft of this post in November, in response to Molara Wood's annual call to authors to send their favourite reads of the year. Her online list is published in Farafina Magazine. The print list is forthcoming - in some Nigerian dailies, I presume. (Apologies for earlier misposturing). Here, anyway, are a few of my engaging reads, with reasons.


NO SENSE OF LIMITS, by Araceli Aipoh

Why I like this book, I don't know. Maybe it's because I didn't expect much when I picked it up, yet I was pleasantly surprised when I finished with it - I'm finicky with cover designs - and I had not heard of the name much. "She's a foreigner who works at an Embassy in Lagos." My host had said. "You'll like her portrayal of Lagos. Take a look." I said OK and picked it up for the night. When I completed it the next day, it felt like watching an entertaining (and well made) Nollywood movie. I think I almost cried at one part even. Seriously. It must be towards the end when a relatively unknown grave-digging character found something familiar in a grave... (No spoilers here). Soon, I hope, the author would have the work at Amazon. I recommend it for reading. The story might not be so particularly Nigerian (as many reviewers have said.) You could change the names of people and places and still find it nice, equally as beautiful. The telling however is great.

ABOUT: I have said that it read at times like Soyinka's You Must Set Forth at Dawn and Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code both books which I read only days before, where all/most the action takes place within the course of the persona's journey through flashbacks and gradual disclosures. In Soyinka's case, it was a flight back from Exile while in No Sense of Limits, it was the femme fatale's drive through Lagos on a course of revenge.


THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES by Eve Ensler

Having heard so much hype about this book, I finally got a copy, and read it in a night. I must say that I did not get much impressed to equal the hype raised by critics. I am not a feminist. I read the book for information, and pleasure. And I wasn't disappointed. It is a nice book, though it could be kinda wierd holding it in your hand with the title sticking out so boldly in the presence of your parents and their church guests. You would save yourself the trouble of explaining if you would just put a paper wrap around the cover. My best part of the narrations was the funny/sad narration of a woman whose husband slept around ostensibly because the wife would not shave her pubis. If you would not read the book, you could watch Sex and the City instead. You wouldn't miss so much...!

My friends joke about a riposte, in form of the Penis Diatrible, (and maybe later, The Genital Dialogues) but, mischief and humour apart, it's always nice to read literature that seeks to defy conventions, and to shock. Great work.


ABOUT: A series of narrations by women, about their vaginas, and its influences on their lives.


YOU MUST SET FORTH AT DAWN by Wole Soyinka

Also so much hyped, this lives up to some expectation as a record of history from the view/angle of one man who should know because he has been there. So what can I say on this that has not been said before? I guess it's that it's another result of an incurable restlessness of the author, slamming us with a work of prose (the third, I think) in the series of his memoirs with the size of the complete works of Shakespeare. It is however engaging enough not to be boring, except the bits about Nigerian history, for those foreigners more enchanted with the mystery of the man than perhaps his political motivations. Towards the end, however, I was stuck by his continuous use of one word, "chagrin", and not for want of more suitable synonyms. The professor also gets the "block" sometimes.


WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Because why not? This is an account from a man who has lived life to the full, over and over, and his telling is, characteristically, entertaining. You'll know why the Ori Olokun in Ife is a clone of a lost original now in the British Museum.

Oh Paulo! And some other funny thoughts...

Oh Paulo!

"There was not anything that was not made without him." Paul Adefarasin 24/12/2006.

Tuface's Grass2Grace

His recent album has some really nice tracks. (I like about three: 5,9 and 12. Finito) But somewhere between justifying my likeness for his style and blaming myself for buying it, I was struck by his use of "Nigger" in a line. He said "Don't wanna come across to you like just another Nigger" in track 5. My mind immediately raced back to his first album Face2Face in which he sang "Just because... I no finish school/ some people take me for a fool..." and I thought, "OK, Maybe this is why!" Let's look forward to his next: Crass2Craze? Just kidding.

PDP

My brother sent me a list of meanings for the above abbreviation. I couldn't help but agree with a lot of them. Look below:

Perpetually Destructive Pestilence… Primitively Dignified Pigs… Professors of Devilish Policies… Permanently Delivering Poverty… Preferring Disease for the People…Pharaoh + Deceit = President… Plainly Dishonest Pack… Penchant for Detrimental Practices…Playing Dangerous Pranks… Possibilities of Disasters Persist… People Demanding Psychiatrists… Pioneers of Decadent Politics. Poisonously Decimating Policies…


and many more...

Disclaimer: I'm not a politician, but only a direct recipient of many indiscretions of the ruling party. The above does not represent the opinions of Headfirst into the Meddle and Bloggers. Use them at your own risk, and you are free to form some more.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

To Everyone

Here is wishing you a very merry Christmas and all the best joys of the season. May all your (good, sweet) dreams come true soon.

--
KT

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Some Quote

"The secret of genius lies in the clear and impartial perception of the objective, the essential and the universal. By seeing so far, he doesn't see what is near. He is imprudent and queer; and while his vision is hitched to a star, he falls into a well"

- Arthur Schopenhauer
German Philosopher (1788-1860)

2006 Nobel Banquet Speech


By Orhan Pamuk. 2006 Winner of Nobel Prize in Literature.


Why do you write? This is the question I've been asked most often in my writing career. Most of the time they mean this: What is the point, why do you give your time to this strange and impossible activity? Why do you write... You have to give an excuse, an apology for writing... This is how I have felt every time I've heard this question. But every time I give a different answer... Sometimes I say: I do not know why I write, but it definitely makes me feel good. I hope you feel the same when you read me! Sometimes I say that I am angry, and that is why I write. Most of the time the urge is to be alone in a room, so that is why I write. In my childhood I wanted to be a painter. I painted every day. I still have that childish feeling of joy and happiness whenever I write. I write to pursue that old childish happiness and that is why for me literature and writing are inextricably linked with happiness, or the lack of it... unhappiness. In my childhood, I felt happy, painted a lot, and all the grown ups were constantly smiling at me. Everybody was gentle, polite and tender. I wrote all about this in my autobiographical book, Istanbul. After the publication of Istanbul, some people asked me this question: Aren't you a bit young to write your autobiography? I kept my silence. Literature is about happiness, I wanted to say, about preserving your childishness all your life, keeping the child in you alive... Now, some years later, I've received this great prize. This time the same people begin asking another question: Aren't you a bit young to get the Nobel Prize? Actually the question I've heard most often since the news of this prize reached me is: How does it feel to get the Nobel Prize? I say, oh! It feels good. All the grown ups are constantly smiling at me. Suddenly everybody is again gentle, polite and tender. In fact, I almost feel like a prince. I feel like a child. Then for a moment, I realize why sometimes I have felt so angry. This prize, which brought back to me the tender smiles of my childhood and the kindness of the strangers, should have been given to me not at this age (54) which some think is too young, but much much earlier, even earlier than my childhood, perhaps two weeks after I was born, so that I could have enjoyed the princely feeling of being a child all my life. In fact now... come to think of it... That is why I write and why I will continue to write.


Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Another Mail From My Inbox

From Mr.Lisa Jones.
Bank Of Scotland Ltd,
11-16 Cockspur Street,
London ,
SW1Y 5BL.

Hello Dear,

Best of the season! I was reading through your profile on the internet and found it interesting.Be so kind to contact me at your earliest convenient for a possible business deal involving money transfer of about £15 Million.I ampresently in London working as an investment consultant with the above bank at their London office. I am poised to work this deal out if we cando business.As at this moment, I am constrained to issue more details about this business until your response is received.As we have not met before, I will give you every details you need to know about me as weprogress with the business.I thank you for spearing moments of your very busy schedules to read my proposal.

Send your response to my email address. Thank you for your time and attention.

Warmest regards,
Mr.Lisa Jones.

MY COMMENTS: Do you Yahoo?

The Kwansaba

You can call this a sub-post. It is culled from the mail I received from Eugene Redmond, the Poet Laureate of East St. Louis.

"The kwansaba, a 49-word poetic form invented during the Writers Club’s 1995 workshop season (in East St. Louis), consists of seven lines of seven words each; each word must contain between one and seven letters. Exceptions to the seven-letter rule are proper nouns and some foreign terms. Previous issues of Drumvoices have featured kwansabas for Katherine Dunham (2004), Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez (2005), and Jayne Cortez (2006).

Following is an example ofa kwansaba from Drumvoices #13:

Neo Kwansaba in Barakan Verse(Mali Newman)
Poetree grown from stanzas tongues my ears
Don’t play Dough Ray Mi Vaso Latte
Unless Dada Doowop Dadaism is dead, unless
Trans (it) Blues in C, major or minor
Died by volumes twenty one times, don’t
Play scale up/scale down, while Baraka
Breaks off a piece of his mind.

My comments: You are free to choose your style. You don't have to write as complex as above.

Kwansaba submissions should be sent by Jan. 1, 2007, to Drumvoices Revue,English Department Box 1431, SIUE, Edwardsville, IL 62026-1431. Submissions should be in hard copies as well as on Microsoft Word disk.

For more information, send email to eredmon@siue.edu, fax 618 650-3509, or write EBRWC @ P.O. Box 6165, East St. Louis, IL 62202.Founded in 1986 and named after East St. Louis Poet Laureate Eugene B.Redmond, Writers Club trustees include Amiri Baraka, Angelou, Walter Mosley,Barbara Ann Teer, Troupe, Dr. Lena Weathers, and Avery Brooks. Trustees alsoserve on the editorial board of Drumvoices Revue. Deceased Trustees includeMargaret Walker Alexander (1915-1998), Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), andRaymond R. Patterson (1929-2001).The Club is currently celebrating its 20th year of twice-monthly meetings(first/third Tuesday), 6:00-8:00 p.m., in the Library (Building B) of the East St. Louis Higher Education Center, 601 J. R. Thompson Drive. Meetings are held September through May. All writers, from beginners to professionals, are welcome.

You can also send your Kwansabas by email to eredmon@siue.edu. Deadline is January 1, 2007

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

White Christmas Dreams

Written just now, to wear off the boredom on my hands

I am dreaming of a white christmas
whether of dust or biting fog or snow.

I am dreaming of a white christmas
Just like the one I used to know

I am dreaming of a white christmas
whether of flour, grits or corn flour

Or elubo, with all nutri-flakes of white
and the long grins of Santa's borrowed beards.

* This year, no one in my compound will visit Father Christmas, having all finally grown. And I live in a very large compound.

The Many Sense of Ogunlesi's Post

Let us for this moment ignore the correctness or otherwise of my English in the subject, and look below with a little patience. It is an extract from Tolu Ogunlesi's post to Krazitivity on the denigratory remarks the new generation of Nigerian writers have suffered from the many mouths of the older poets. I have read posts after posts of young/er and new writers in response to the many challenges of the denigration they often suffer from the mouths of their elders, the most recent being from the eminent Professor of Literature, Ben Obumselu (of the Imo State University) who many have accused of not having even read any of the works he so easily disparages: He is quoted as saying of new Nigerian poems: “boring, totally uninspiring, empty and without a story”, blaming the emerging Nigerian poets for their inability to create popular poetry that will stand the test of time.

No doubt an ignorant generalisation, arising from a general unavailability of the new works for the critics to make available in the forms understandable to the likes of Prof. Obunselu.

Here's Tolu, in part*:

"Chiedu Ezeanah is sometimes said to be the "best poet of his generation". What is the likelihood of Obumselu "stumbling" upon a copy of Twilight Trilogy anywhere that goes by the name of bookshop. I have never seen The Oil Lamp or Madiba in any bookstore in Nigeria, other than the copies that I saw when Ogaga was in town for a reading at Jazzhole in October. I think that maybe we need a non-profit specialist bookstore (in Lagos, in the first instance) devoted to the work of Nigerian writers. Such that you are sure that if I go to [whatever name it is called] I will find every work ever published by Helon Habila (the pre-Caine non-fiction book for example), or Voices From the Fringe, or Nnorom's Letter To God & Other Poems, or Oguibe's A Gathering Fear, or Chika Unigwe's Tear Drops."

And here's mine though not much on the challenge as on the solutions to create accessibility for our much "invisible" works:

We need more than a bookshop. Call it a resource centre. What is ANA if it does not have a record of ALL books published by authors in Nigeria? Like an equivalent of the United States Library of Congress? What of an online resource? Something managed by custodians of art's growth (this falls back towards ANA or whomever will assume the responsibilities) that has first of all a list of ALL published works by Nigerian Authors (those living in and those living outside). I am not in doubt that Macarthur Foundation or equivalent grant making international bodies will be interested in funding such projects as this.

The sense in the above, among others, is to call attention to the absence of a place (on earth) where works of all writers in the country can be obtained. But we should be able to get the works of ALL writers, from Acbebe to Adichie, Okigbo to Ogunlesi, from Soyinka to Shehu without sweat... It may be the very first step in making New Literature available to all, including those who wish to speak authoritiatively on the aquality of the issues we engage.

On the other hand, I think it will also become an index of our creative/literary development/advancement.


* Tolu Ogunlesi is one of the new generation's prolific voices in poetry. His letter is used by permission.

** My first book "Headfirst into the Meddle" is not available on bookstands for reasons not far from the issues above, and is not just "forthcoming" as published in my latest profile on Sentinel Poetry, and I am myself interested in any such initiative as can help the above cause.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Sentinel Monthly Challenge

Usually works like this. A monthly theme is suggested, and the form. (Last month's theme was "Movement", and the poem must be thirteen lines. This changes every month.) Now everybody writes in, then after the closing date of submissions, the poems are displayed in the listserve without the names of the authors (to avoid prejudice), and the moderator calls for votes of everyone to rate all the poems in the order in which they want them to win, leaving their own out, with points differing only in one integer. E.g Five poems entered. I vote for the four other poems leaving mine out, in this order: Poem 1, 5pts; Poem 2, 4pts, Poem 3, 3pts; Poem 4, 2pts etc. the points are then added and the winner disclosed. More information at Sentinel Poetry website. And at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sentinelpoetry


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Lessons in Language

There is a reason why I am always curious about other people's languages and it is not (only) because I read Linguistics at the University, but because my curiosities have always been pleasantly rewarded. Perhaps I will one day get my biggest wish: to know which language was first spoken by man and how precisely it came to disperse with the rest of humanity. Forget the biblical tale of Babel. Even there, it did not say precisely which language it was. Now take the following amazing similarities I discovered in Swahili and Yoruba, my own mother tongue, sometimes last year during my stay at the Eldoret campus of the Univerisity. Note, Swahili is an East African language while Yoruba is spoken in West Africa. Therefore, if scientific "theories" are to be believed, any similarities found in the two languages must only be explained as either a borrowing, or a movement from the East to the West. i.e. The Yoruba people, and indeed everyone in this side of the continent were once settled close to East Africa and had moved westwards over time. Of course, my pride won't allow me take this. I have numerous myths of Oduduwa decending with a chain in Ile Ife to support my insistence that, if anything, Swahili it was that developed over time from the people who had migrated Eastwards from here due to wars, discrimination etc. Anyway, the similarities are amazing, and there are many more i did not find. Look below.

Kiswahili/Yoruba

Lala (sleep)/Lala (dream)

Kufa (die)/Ku (die)

Nyama (meat)/ Nama (meat). What we call Suya, they call Nyama choma (roasted/smoked meat)

Ni (is) /Ni (is). So, to say Seun is my friend would be Seun ni rafiki yangu, like Seun ni ore mi in Yoruba. Same structure.

Pole (sorry) /Pele (sorry). The word pele in Yoruba is actually quite ambiguous, but it can be used to expressed apology, or care for someone who's just been hurt. But it doesn't mean the same as "I'm sorry". This is expressed as (E) ma binu.

Pole pole (gently or carefully) /Pele pele (gently or carefully). Perfect correlation.

Nini (what) /Kini (what)

Nani (who) /Tani (who). Linguists would find ways of explaining how N became T or the other way round, or K as above. But it won't remove the mystery.

Kwani (what is it)/ Kiwani (what now is it)

Jana (yesterday) / Ana (yesterday)

Kiboko (whip) / Koboko (whip). Koboko, in Yoruba, is actually borrowed though now, the source may be lost. But in Swahili, the meaning is Buffalo. That's where the whip is derived from.


I found these in a collection of over four hundred words of the Kiswahili language, and I am convinced that there are several others bound to amaze still. And such exist in other languages around the world, even those so farther apart than Swahili and Yoruba.

Some wonder!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

MON C'est Quoi?

I think it was Aluwe, that famous comedian in Nigerian home video who quipped, on being asked what he thought of his award as the Member of the Order of Niger (MON, a high honour in Nigeria), rather wittingly, that what he got was only the "MON" without the accompanying "-EY". I thought and laughed about it again last week when a poem I (re-)wrote lately, borne out of some love/career distress was said to have won an online monthly "Challenge"1. A sort of competition.

Look at it from this side, poems are often agonising expressions of some present reality. They may be enjoyed, praised, adored by others, but they are oftentimes foremost a private self-bleeding and aggresive paring of the author's soul. This was why when I saw the notice, I was not much surprised/ecstastic. I myself, in private sanity, had heaped praises on the author for such craft. (I do that sometimes). But instantly the headline, "K...T... wins October Challenge", brought back those deja vu reveries of some sweet vanity in the midst of pain.

It reads in part:


Oh what to give to move the bridge, even Christ spoke alike.
A human bond which though we feel we cannot reach beyond.
Once false, once real. It stretches through a burning filial bond,
just like a mile of rage sewn thin astride a path of spikes.


Poetry never saved anybody! And this is what Omo-Alagbede said:

"Wanting to meet a writer because you like their books is like wanting to meet a pig because you like pork".

I think he was right.

The work will be published in December at Sentinel Poetry Online Magazine, and I will now get, as gift, a book, "Of Man", by Thomas Hobbes, and now, I can disagree that MON always come without an "-ey"!?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Drunken Poets/Drunken Posts II

DRUNKEN LINES

Even these lines dance with my drunken trot.
In stupor,
In loud consonance with agreeable
belligerent voice right beside me,
Within known Chrises, I trot in staggering gait.

Morals leave me now

Windy dive into drunken throes moves us all,
delinquents, across frail life planks.


Written in Stupor: March 2005

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pranks

I made the following pranks calls on my friends yesterday in the night.


1. Call up two unrelated people and link them in a phone conference.

Result

TGO: Hello, who's this?
SS: Hello
TGO: Who is this?
SS: You called me. Who are you?
TGO: No, that can't be possible. I have not used this line to call for the past one and a half months. So it could not have been me who called.
SS: [Sleepy]
TGO: Who is this, please?
SS: [Click]
TGO: [Click]

2. Call up two former NYSC lovers using a hidden number, and link them up in a phone conference.

Result

LMD: Helloo. Tani (Who's it)
AM: Iwo ko lo pe mi ni (Wasn't it you who called me?)
LMD: Emi ko o. (It aint me). It appears to be a conference, and the convener's number is hidden.
AM: Hello?
LMD: Can I call you back? I will. Promise.
[Click]
AM: O daa (If you will).
[Click]

Note: I was really really bored, and all the interlocutors are friends. And calls are free now at night for local calls. And... I may not likely do it again. Except I can get the phone numbers of Governor Ladoja and Governor Alao-Akala - and I really wish this to happen - or I'm that bored again.




Thursday, November 16, 2006

What Milosz Really Said


"I have read many books, but to place all those volumes on top of one another and stand on them would not add a cubit to my stature. Their learned terms are of little use when I attempt to seize naked experience, which eludes all accepted ideas. To borrow their language can be helpful in many ways, but it also leads imperceptibly into a self-contained labyrinth, leaving us in alien corridors which allow no exit. And so I must offer resistance, check every moment to be sure I am not departing from what I have actually experienced on my own, what I myself have touched. I cannot invent a new language and I use the one I was first taught, but I can distinguish, I hope, between what is mine and what is merely fashionable. I cannot expel from memory the books I have read, their contending theories and philosophies, but I am free to be suspicious and to ask naïve questions instead of joining the chorus which affirms and denies."


Source: Zacappa.com

Czeslaw Miłosz won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980. The above extract is from his book of essays "Vision from San Francisco Bay."

Drunken Poets/Drunken Post

A DRUNK WITH A LIE

The poem

"What white flood jolts the supposed adept swimmer?"
And what wavering froth founders the ark, the son, on its bubbling fluid?
None. Only vile men can trot on borrowed snow-white horses
When drowsy wind blows others on striving quests.
Ogun's child, I have lounged in mistier drowning for days
And long hours when hope moved like wallowing mill. Long awake
I have held long-standing iron poles at ancient smith sheds
When, like goats, we ask of strange laws in lands of lust.
Blackboy, do not run from me to hide behind faded lines
While dry leaves break upon your back in dusty swipe.
You were quite drunk and so were we all too, abi,
And you would have fought back, if only you could.


The Story

March 2005. Chris had always boasted that he could drink better/more than everyone else. He was a masters student in my faculty in UI at the time, so when the opportunity came to dare, we couldn't wait to get it over. The nearest joint for good palm wine was just 20 naira bus away, at NISER, a shed of good cold palmie and hot pepper soup.

Well, I enjoyed the evening, until, on our way back, Chris was going to get us into trouble with some hubris plus the drunken edge that eventually defied rationality. What he got as punishment was to be wacked with dry leaves by equally drunk but offended pedestrians whom we had prodded offensively with our running mouth when we passed them by on the way in. You can call it a stupor gone wrong. Well, almost cos we escaped being lynched. We did not even know that those other guys were equally "high" when Kris (another friend) and I gestured rudely at a couple, member of another group that we passed on our way in. We all drank too much that evening though I still managed to write later as I got to my room.

I still remember the scuffle vividly: Chris pushing wildly through a crowd of hostile yet drunk fellas, without any caution, urging us too to "do something". To "not be slack", he "had seen more crises in LASU" and is "not afraid to fight on UI soil" etc, even in the eye of the futility of it all: we were just four. They were like seven, and they were hitting back. He easily found a formidable opponent in one of the guys who promptly brought out a stick with dry leaves and started wacking him. The problem was, we really didn't have to fight. We were in the wrong. They had been offended by our slighting of a female member of their group with a rude gesture. And that was my fault. And that of Kris.

I still picture Chris right now prancing, "This are students" I remember him say, referring to us. "My students. You guys are nothing. Go and ask of me in the department of English" etc. I had looked at Kris, lost at what I was hearing as I tried to ensure calm. Chris my teacher!? No way. It was funny nevertheless. Demola Dasylva, his only "student" there had quickly found his way far away from the heating spot as soon as it all started.

In my room later in the night, thinking about it all, Kris decided that Chris deserved the beatings for not keeping his mouth shut. I didn't think so, but it still makes me laugh, how an evening out with pals could have gone too badly for lack of cooler heads.


In Vino Veritas

Do so now then and do not wait. For more days call
And we do not yet have the world safe within bodied grip.
Come around muse into strange recess of shadowed world.
The heart is game only when the will is strong. Odd?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Roam was not built in a day!

The guy who wrote this where I copied it from obviously did not know the difference in the spellings. But I did, and yet have not found it negatively impacting on my appreciation of the witticism in the slip. "Roam" indeed. A verb that means "to wander" is now nominalized to endow an otherwise common statement with some wisdom. Think about it.

Today, the second petition created to kick Borishade out of Government got Funmi Iyanda's signature. (I'm guessing it's her cos the person signed as "Funmilola Iyanda"). Her name was only next to mine, which, by the devilry of the erratic internet server had been displayed three times. No other name yet. As at today. This is not too discouraging. My sparse publicity since last week had only been directed at helping the first petition, which initially sought only to remove Professor Borishade from the ministry of Aviation.

Anyway, anyway. We're gonna step up the publicity. I'm gonna write to all of my activist friends from the University. We'll get there. After all, roam was not built in a day. What does that mean, anyway?

Thanks Funmi.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

My Spell Checker

Spell checkers, I have found, are the most fascinating indicators in computer technologies that machines would always be machines. They have never failed to fascinate and amuse, especially in their responses to African names and expressions: you type in "Seun", a Nigeian name, and what you get as suggestions for correction are English words, "seen, "sewn", "sawn", "sean", "spun" etc to your own very amusement. (I've been somewhat lucky though. My name has never been subjected to such electronic scrutiny since it seems to have aready equivalent in the language of the machine: Kola for kola nut). But I ask myself, is there any good in the computer therefore for the African man who has come to embrace globalisation and technology as the answer to the primitiveness he has often been tagged along with? Because, as we have sadly found out, technology doesn't speak in our tongue nor tolerates the structures and nature of our names!

Anyway, I got this poem and I want to share it with you. It's one other result of the perfectionistic insistence of the English spellchecker. I hope it inspires you to deeper thinking on the absolute dependence on computer and technology.

Titled: Eye Halve a Spelling Chequer

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rarely ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect in it's weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

-- Sauce unknown


End Notes: I have written a more detailed article on my chance enounters with the humour and mischief of language in technology, like above, upcoming soon in Farafina Magazine.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

So who am I?

I have been giving some thoughts to this question lately. When I make poetry submissions to journals, they ask me for a bio, a short description of myself, and I wonder what to say. I am me, a human, I always want to say, believing that all I have acquired or done do not really say who I am beyond circumstances. Instead, I rack my brain and fill in details of some recent occupations, and hope it satisfies the curiosity. I know however that nothing in those words could describe what I think I am.

The following was published at Subjective Substance in March 2005.

A Fool As Old As I

Looking around alone
while others strive
marks me out
from this human race
as a swollen face.

Contacts made and doggedly kept
through thick and thin
stands tall in made truths
of my still, staring stance.
with sparse naira chance

Regular looks of piercing blur
and charming gleaning dents
or hands promptly stretched
are doors closing yet
as I look between this net.

I wave a lone flag
at a long, flowing crowd.

"The secret of genius lies in the clear and impartial perception of the objective, the essential and the universal. By seeing so far, he doesn't see what is near he is imprudent and queer; and while his vision is hitched to a star, he falls into a well" - Arthur Schopenhauer

Source: Subjective Substance. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 30, 2006

How to write a poem

I have never really given much thoughts to having to explain the process of writing a poem to anyone. I never even believed it is possible to do so, not having taken any such lesson myself anytime before I wrote the first line of what I chose to show the world. But here I was online last week when someone - a user called Basic - stalked me (and not me alone) successfully on Nairaland for days in an attempt to get me read a poem he wrote. Honestly, it is always very hard to comment on another person's poem, and I often find myself having to explain that, for one with very eccentric taste in poetry, it leaves me in a very tight spot. I do not like all I read. And I do not think all words written in lines are good poetry. But it is hard to make this point to the author without unnecessarily pissing him off or sound too rude. Luckily for me, he displayed some thick-skinned tenacity and a disposition to hear whatever I had to say, so I proceeded. His work was one very hopeful start. A good attempt, but not good enough for the public. We could tear it off, or write it again. I decided it was worth rewriting, and I proceeded to do so myself. This writing is a record of the procedure.

Note, these are my opinions/craft. In the end, it is still up to the author to decide what he wants to say, and how he wishes to say it. Read other user comments on The Rudderless Ship at Nairaland.com. I recommend the process for reading, especially for anyone interested in developing their craft of writing poetry. The only original parts of my post are my suggestions and advice. The rest are links which would help whoever considers poetry a sea good enough to swim in. At the end of a honing excersice, a tirade against man in the least attractive words ended as a cinquain. Look below.

The Rudderless Ship by Basic (Unedited)

What a huge success man had recorded
In mastering the material world
A success achieved at the expense of failure!
The failure of man to disciplione himself
On the moral and spiritual planes

Indeed founded is Western Civilisation
On a materialistic philosophy of life
Which like a vanquished soccer coach at his boys
Frowns upon all that is spiritual
And against all moral and spiritual values revolt

Like as a prayer warrior in supplication
So had man become engrossed
In this materialistic world
Of disillusionment and frustration
Of many problems by man caused

The pursuit of carnal pleasures
And the gratificatification of his sensual desires
Are what man had made his goals in life
Totally had he forsaken the spirituals
And the morals he had eschewed

Man's existence may now be likened
To that of a rudderless ship
Drifting aimlessly in a vast and stormy sea
The sea of the unknown


Editing

First thoughts were that the lines were too winding in expressing a simple opinion, so let us replace each verse with a line.


First verse
Man, to change the world, has often failed to change himself

Second
The West spits on all we hold hallowed

Third
Like in a trance, man rolls in the mire of waste his own hands have wrought

Fourth
he now runs to lick the lust of his rebel heart

Fifth
He floats, drifts, now on a vast stormy sea of the unknown


Next Step

Now, with five lines that makes some sense, I thought to include rhymes. Afterall, why not?

Here's what we came up with, finally

The Rudderless Ship (Final Version, by Gwatala)

Man, to change the world, has failed to change himself
The West he blames who spits on him with fangs wide apart.
Like in a trance, he rolls in his mire of waste like a drunken elf,
and he runs with glee to lick the lust of his rebel heart
He floats, drifts, now on a vast stormy sea from where he can't depart.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Writing (Poetry, and pretty much everything else) is beautiful.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Books I have lost

By lending, I have lost contact with the following books. Have you seen them?



1. DR. ZHIVAGO, by Boris Pasternak.

I saw the film much later after I lost the book. How I missed those so called "Poems for Lara". What a shame Pasternak had to decline the Nobel Prize! In losing the book, I lost a chance to compare the work with its portrayal in the Hollywood flick of the same name. Something still tells me the book is with Sola Olorunyomi, and he'll actually return it... someday! On the bright side, I still have his film, EVITA with me.

2. SATANIC VERSES, by Salman Rushdie.

Bought in the UK, (since the ban/fatwa prevents it from being sold here in Nigeria) I lost this one too in the University of Ibadan, loaned out to a friend who refused to return it :(. I had read it halfway and gave it out only because I was busy with other issues. I'm on my way to getting another one. Rushdie is a genius with prose-poetry.

3. MY UNCLE OSWALD, by Roald Dahl.

My first encounter with Dahl, I found this one of the best sex writings that is not only clean, but enchanting and with sustained humour. I only wonder what he wrote in his children's books. I'll miss this book more because it is signed. No, not by the author but by the German friend who gave it to me. :(

4. HOUSE OF WAR, by Dare Babarinsa.

Signed this time by the author when I met him during my tenure as president of UCJ (www.ucj.zzn.com, www.ucjnigeria.org), he was always staying late at his office in Ikeja so I got some time to conduct an interview and secure a promise from him to come to the University to contribute his quota to campus journalism. A promise which he kept. I carried his comprehensive first-hand narration of the Nigerian crises of the early eighties with much jealousy, until it moved by itself out of my room at A52, Mellamby Hall, UI, not to be found anymore.

SURELY YOU MUST BE JOKING, MR. FEYMNANN, by Richard Feynmann

For all who are interested in the life and times of the curious character that was Richard Feynman, the 1965 Nobel Prize-winning Physicist, famous for his practical jokes and off-handedness with serious issues of physics, this is the book to read. Written in his own words. If you think scientists do not have fun, you'd be surprised and have a change of mind. He died, I think, in 1998. I bought this at a "bend-down-bookstore" at Dugbe for 100naira from someone who apparently didn't know what it was worth, and now I'll have to pay a fortune to get it at Amazon. I know who this book is with, but I doubt she'd give it back, having got a taste of its contents. :((

6. DEATH AND THE KING'S HORSEMAN, by Wole Soyinka.

I'll buy another one.

7. COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE

I have another copy.

8. OEDIPUS ON THE ROAD by Henry Bauchau

A prose work that continued the Oedipus story with much imagination. It's quite moving, and recommended for reading, to anyone interested in a well written sequel to the Sophoclean trilogy.

9. PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAYS, by Sanya Onabamiro.

I got this one, and another one of the same title by Tam David West as a gift/inheritance from my father and now, my friend who took it without my permission will no more return it.

10. TIMELESS TAI, a collection of Tai Solarin's articles on education.

It's red, it's laminated. Now it's lost. There you'll read why nSolarin was called a thinker. Or a "confused" one, as Soyinka said in The Man Died.

11. THE MAN DIED, by Wole Soyinka

The black edition. I heard that this one I now have - the brown one is an edited one, with original parts deleted. Worse are the errors! Too many typos to count in a work of an accomplished writer. One of the ills of publishing in Nigeria, I would say.

12. LISTEN TO THE GECKOS SINGING by Tolu Ogunlesi

Ah, I almost forgot how an authographed copy of a friend's work went mysteriously. If you read this Tolu, you may wanna ask for my postal address...!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I shall not change the world

Today I finally realized that I will not change the world. Not that the feeling is new, but now it has dawned on me afresh: I do not have the faintest idea of what will save the world.

I have been out of the house since morning, went round town in search of one thing or another, and all I got is the same feeling that there really is no change. The world will go on to justify the doom already fortold. If there is hope, I can't see it. And my little ideas - no matter how I try, as I will try - will not save anyone. We will go and we will return to see that there really is nothing new under the sun.

But...

This too shall pass, a drape across the sky
of the mind, what is seen is a repressed swirl.
This rote shall fade, a foot chiseled as a pearl
and the ground will shine to melt this steadied lie.

Around the pole of fate this stump will turn
And we, at last to glimpse a trace, will then be born.

iGwatala

Monday, October 02, 2006

Another Graffiti

I saw the following today at a cybercafe in Ibadan:

"Roam was not built in a day"

Definitely Hilarious, a timeless graffiti!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Self Immolation and Co

Dear ABC,

Today, much of my past and recent memory flashed across my mind like from a fast moving car. Actually it's not unlike before. I have been here many times over and over, turning in a doorless quandary. What however flashed repeatedly is my image as Johnny Cash, or Capote. I read that article again today in Ibadan, I wondered if I have not laboured tirelessly these past years in a vain exercise to prove one point, to defy a recurring dark blanket on my mind that taunts that I cannot do this, do that. I have done many things that now I feel were just to prove that they were not after all impossible: UCJ, Okigbo, University of Ibadan, University of London, writing poetry, writing prose, making a mark, LinguaBoard and the distant contacts made there, WALC2004, MacArthur Scholarship, Kenya, Census, translations. etc. If I do not attribute the extraordinary efforts I spent doing these to some defiant repressed memory, I would have said that I was not a human being, but a freak spirit who only missed his way to earth on his way from Creation. But I digress. There must really have been something I have tried to make the world see in those instances, something seemingly opposed by an ubiquitous force - or maybe not.

...

Mother will attribute this to having read too much books and having finally got lost in the quandary of my own creation...

...

Maybe life is short. Maybe it's long. What I am sure of is now, and the realities are as dizzying as equally unsure. Have I lost a step? Have I lost it? Let me say that for now, I am still locked in the great struggle of understanding current reality, and if you don't understand, I will not take it against you. Below is part of my most recent self-assessment:


I do not blame you for a life badly spent, badly lent. No I dont.
I only worry, for me. The map is lost which brought me here.
Time will tell, maybe to slit the dream and show what's hidden there.
A rolling stone will always fall while climbing a winding mount.


Be well.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Reading Signs

Nomad that I am, I have learnt to read road signs and other notices written in places around the country. Not only in Nigeria though. During my stay at the Eldoret Campus of Moi University, Kenya, I was immensely delighted at the farce conversations on the bathroom/toilet doors. Graffitis, being natural blogs open to all, are forever going to remain a most fascinating and enlightening public noticeboard. Reading signs here in Nigeria has rewarded me with one private satisfaction - that Nigerian English possesses immense ability to entertain even when not so deliberately used. The following are a few I manage to remember now. I hope to one day back them up with photos.

1. "BEWARE OF YOUR HEAD."

Seen at the quadrangle of The Students' Union Building, University of Ibadan since 2004

2. "ONOH WAS SAVED HERE"

Copied from behind the gents' room door at Mr.Bigg's Restaurant, Jos Terminus. 2006

3. "Please have your sit until is your turn. No standing in the cafe."

Notice pasted on the wall at a cybercafe at Iyana Ipaja, Lagos. 2006

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Said He to the Fly

In the corners of a lonely room, where the only contact with the world was a bad colour-television and an uncharged mobile phone, the author would look around and think of nothing more to do than count the squares in the ceiling. And this not for too long, for the size of each of the nine was often large enough to pass over, and sometimes too small to count to the end. Time ticked, trickled like water leaking from a rusty pipe. On the wall was nothing but two drawings of him, each of which bore different semblances of his different moods, but nonetheless a product of one and the same picture. He savoured erratic temperament of the artist's muse which had failed to for once be consistent when the artist worked. Or how else would he explain the very obvious discrepancies even in the age of the subject of the two pencil drawings but to believe that it could actually have been another god - maybe that of wine - who brought the mischief lag in-between two drawings. The reasons given for making the second drawing at all was that he had atone for the rough handling of the first. Afterall, the poet had paid only for one, wishing all night that a self-portrait in pencil will achieve a quality desired and worthy of some future use. But what the artist could not explain, but was now obvious more than words could express to this commissioner, this poet, was why one of the drawings, made from one and the same photograph depicted him younger than the other. It was him alright, but the first one - the one roughly done, perhaps in vino tinto, showed someone stern, focused, and quite like a pensive poet he would not mind to portray. The second had a smaller head, same posture, same shirt - actually from the same photo he took on the lawn under the tree where the Kenyan photographer taught him swahili a little over a year earlier. But this version somehow had a younger, naive and quite innocent look. He surely had looked like that at some point in his life, but surely not here, and he had not commissioned a drawing to underrate his admired pose in that solo photo. The visitors to the room who, out of curiosity, had peeled off the top cardboard to glimpse the other one behind it never for once agreed on which one represented him the most. And only a few agreed that it was not just vanity that made him prefer the older, more serious look to the other. They agreed, however that whoever did the drawing was good. And indeed he was.

Mosquitoes ruled the night. In addition to the cold, he reviled them. And in his angry swatting at the air in the dead of the night, his shirt as a tool, he still thought of the human error to kill a wrong fly. Maim an innocent fly while scouting just for those mosquitos that would not even keep quiet to hide their presence but would taunt him awake from a much deserved rest.

"They would blame themselves alone for looking like a mosquito." He thought.

Èmí-in mi Èmí-in re

The following is a translation of the poetry of a Yoruba poet/ewi chanter. One of his most famous pieces of oral poetry released in 1984(?) and published in text in 2002, "Èmí-in mi Èmí-in re" is loosely translated to My love, life (is) your life your love. The following is only a part.

All rights for this translation is reserved.

My love is your love, there's none else on earth.
Come home dear and sweeten me in splendour.
My dear, eyes in a pair do see clearer
and feet in twos walk better in grace.
Beaded waists, being double can sit gloriously.
Oyinkanola,
Hold me now
Let our bodies touch, for good.
My heart is your heart; there's none else alive.

An ear does not befit the head
--nor one sandal the leg.
Rid of the thumb, the hand is but one ugly stump,
and without ears, our head will resemble a useless log.
Ears-glorify-the-head, that is what I call one who loves
and is loved in return.
So let our heads touch, and lips too
let's lie on each other and let our chests embrace
in sweet dialogue.

You are the snail and I the pot,
I long you to cover up, where lies your exit??.
You're the shrub and I the squirrel,
tonight, I climb you to the top.
You are the shooting star and I the moon,
this evening, I take you to heaven's gate
where lights surpass each other
and till dawn will my moon outshine the stars.

Love is the biggest commandment, people.
People, let's make love.
Only love can keep six people in a small room.
Without love, there's strife. Let's strive.
Strive to keep our loves burning hot...

The weevil that eats the vegetable leaf is probably justified,
Oludoyinsola, my love, I tell you,
there is a limit to the leaves' extravagant beauty.
...

My love is your love, none else exists.
Hold me now like pillars hold the roof.
My heart is yours and for none else alive.
Touch me now, like spider webs and shrubs bind themselves in the jungle.
Hold me now; beloved,
like sperm and ova embracing in the dark bosom
towards becoming a pretty infant babe.
Two on two, perfect on perfect,
let our eyes meet, let our lips touch;
face to face, the border's clear;
My heart is yours, yours mine, my love, there's none else alive...

...

Now come home, like it's done,
sweetie, why wait, come home.
As you have heard:
You are old enough. Do come home.
The yam that delays loses the company of long fish stew.
The rain corn that waits vainly
will only miss the joy of bean cake and fried bean ball.
That damsel that stalls needlessly
is only denying herself the prompt ritual of a new born.
You are old enough, one with graceful breasts.
Don't wait to level up with the farmer,
Ajoke Oyindamola, come home and retire.

...

Odidere is the cult, others are the uninitiated.
When you enter the ant's nest, I'm with you.
Even if you go into the soldier ant's underground cave
It's you and me.
Now, it may even be heaven's large yard - dear -
With a palm nest rope, I'll climb with you up there.
Only he who can count the fishes in the deep
can count all my heartfelt love for you.

My love is yours, and my heart wholly too;
There's no such else on the surface of the world.


Postscript

Sixteen whole brakes
is what women are known to have
But the man who takes the first away
surely too must possess the second.

A woman is not seen useful
during pleasure and fanfare;
Let's wait till it's bad and discomforting
to see the darling, longsuffering wife.

The acquaintance can never be compared to the road guide.
When the guide turns and leaves,
When things become too hard:
Only true acquaintance will show us out.

Trans. 2005/1

Headfirst into the Meddle

Headfirst into the Meddle
ISBN 978361427, Khalam Collective, Ibadan. 2005/3

Growing up never has been easy and most of us have experienced some sort of bewilderment as one enters this weird adult world. An aversion to melt with the main flow, to lose one's individuality and freedom can lead to hesitation and mere mimic of the required initiation rites. Thus, although appearing mature and confident outside, a person might still remain a child within and with a child eye's s/he then sees the world and with a child's mouth questions it all. Days of high spirits and the sense to see beyond the plain material then can be chased by hours drained in low esteem and the fruitless search of some worthwhile ambition. Furthermore, in later years, love sneaks in and clouds one's mind, especially when nobody seems to love one back. As you might agree, such egocentric contemplation only disturbed by worlds bad news can wear out even the strongest mind.

The work compiled in this fine collection, is a testimony of many idle hours in which the author Tubosun with nothing more than a pen fought against those inner demons and an environment hostile towards juvenile dreamers. Some of the pieces created in this way were inspired by his own childhood and later years on campus, while others are completely fictitious but nevertheless add the picture of the so-far made journey which still uncompleted will cause the reader to reflect and wonder.

Anja Choon
March 2005

Enquiries to iGwatala@gmail.com

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Poet and Nomad

Nomad? Yes, but not in the sense of true homelessness even though I have sometimes had to battle with the thought of a deeper kind of "lostness" and ubiquity. This nomadic ubiquity - or the desire to always be on the move, and see new places is from a far deeper consciousness that I am yet to be able to understand, or explain. And even within movements such as one that has sent me up north to cold Jos pleateau on National Service, I have found chance meetings with the past in empty abandon of restless trivia which belongs only to a time almost too long forgotten. In this cocoon of constant procession is the shuffling pack of what was, and what would be, without a thin line that blurs all the difference. Imagine Moses on the mountaintop with the best view of Canaan ahead but locked in a least-explainable dilemma of his own place in the multitude below.

CULTURAL CRAZE-FLUX STROLL DÉJÀ VU

Forward moving in paces mothers laid
Are steps taken now on paths trod times before.
A road winds thin here as new beginning
Though ever yet as constant trampling floor.

At once new, at once old, time flies
Once set free, once browsing on strange human ties
Old times bred new by fresh human forms
Still move me to recurring life paths of stray norms.

Being here, divine flesh onward on preying hands
For true meed meal had wandered free alive,
Shapes of mores mixed breed with human dream bands
All fly apart anew, again on real, now needful strive.

I can only wish, only vainly hope:
Real storms still drive on time's twenty-rope.


(Written in stupor on attempted reflection. The accomplices on the late-night binge were Benaiah Eluma, David Brown and Chris Ihidero March 2005, Niser Ibadan.)

Poem

To Her Father's Lover

Wonders seek way from hard, heartless tones
and stronger strangling laws that bid me stare
as weight of sleep hangs on mind twice depressed:
my only love lay on her father's chest.

I stare, blame, with all futile strength
espoused to filmsy flames of some sealed settled woe
betide. Twice reclined moan. She's laid there spread:
it confounds thought from lately tired head.

What do I say when sand fills the mouth
and rote replaced by nods to earlier claims?
Drum rolls away for the dark drapes drawn
to fast forestall a well deserved dawn!

You talk of love, despise my noble fear
to rid this smell since now more tears appear.

Graffiti

"LOSS OF HAND-SET IS AT OWNER'S RISK PLEASE TAKE CARE."

Seen at NYSC Orientation camp in Jos, 2005.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

You're Welcome

I intend to use this portal to share with you my thoughts and impressions on life and work as a linguist, poet and wanderer, while also trying to learn from your thoughts. If you would condone my nuisance for a little longer, I'll also try not to bore you too much.

My website is here for now: www.tubosun.de. There you can read more about me.

Sincerely yours.

KT