It’s July. 32 degrees celsius outside as I begin to write this review inside our small well-ventilated house in the suburbs of the city. I’m indoors, trembling lightly, with the windows closed, blinds drawn, listening to wails of the whirlwind. I flip through Yewande Adebowale’s second poetry collection and I find my mind connecting my body to the weather and the environment, evoking strong emotions that sweep through my mind as I contemplate the transience of the world.
“Knowing as beings in time
we do not merely become,
unveiling intense trajectory of deep
in one, in all
high and higher”
So begins Yewande Adebowale’s second poetry collection “A Tale of Being, of Green and of Ing.” Highly Inspirational, meditative and all-encompassing, this collection will undoubtedly become an unrivalled historic catalogue of how it is to live — and die. This is what a reading experience is all about, Yewande touches, lures, pushes, strokes, inspires, and I have given this priceless book my heart. This is poetry that shakes off first glances, that opens its arms to the reader, inviting full engagement. The poems hold out against our persistent mode of poetry-interpretation by refusing to state their intentions: the ‘meaning’ is often vague, forcing the reader to participate in the creative process by filling in the sense-gaps. I have hesitated about explaining my interpretations to Yewande because the beauty of poetry is for each reader to find individual meanings in them.
Gripping and elemental, this treasure trove of poetry and art lays bare a richness of relationships between mind, body, soul and the great universe. Shunning conventional, simplistic narratives about mankind conquering the highest this, or the deepest that. It tells us that we have placed this world on a false pedestal, calling upon us to re-examine our minds’ illusions. In her wise words, “pseudo pedestals – when falsehood feels freely true and the illusions appear real; smokescreen in a haze through life’s maze as a house erected with straw and bamboo sticks comes crumbling down”
With each word, you are able to feel a connection between your body and the universe that reflects and celebrates the potential depth of meaning in any ordinary experience, whether it is in feeling your heartbeat as you dance barefoot to a wordless song or in telling the tale of your youth, when your skin stood firm, defying age, stress and wrinkles. In a rather clever way, Yewande introduces the concept of time, describing it as slippery as the catfish wriggling away from each loose catch to be seen no more. Is it a call to ‘seize the day’ uttered by someone starting their life with the end in mind? Yewande travels into the future from the present and sees herself telling tales of the past. Her words, powerful and emotional as she describes the painful reality of growing:
how these greyed up locks of hair were once
brown-baked-golden by the morning sun
and this skin glowed brighter than a twinkle
my little audience on that day shall laugh and laugh
But Yewande is not only philosophical, her poems are also a deep reflection of reality, representing a multi-modal effort to bring logics of existential relations into textual play that seems to divert our attention from reflection into an active acknowledgement of some of the struggles of being. In her poem “Sisterhood”, Yewande highlights the struggles of being a woman.
XX struggles ever so intensely misunderstood
formed from the delicate rib
Together in shared bond of sisterhood
are daughters and mothers
these XX bloodlines run deep
Achieving more in terms of the descriptive, existential or political means for the urgent need to improve humankind’s sustainable intimacy with non-human life, Yewande infuses an itinerary of vibrant ecospheres, landscape, marine and volcanic, that proceeds along with a supplementary project to this necessary collection in a new vein. But, apart from its visual aspects, the work invokes other senses — smell and sound, as well as the heavy push to live life in all its glory and imperfection. It offers insights into the strange workings of the human mind, as mini-battles play out between its different parts — the dreams that are never far away, and the baby steps that become giant strides despising not days of nothingness. She recognises that sometimes, in order to truly live life, we have to fight for the freedom to do so. She brings out vivid descriptions of real-life unrest in Nigeria in her poem “Numb-Nimby”:
fly incessant by night sky
across Biu, Shani and Hawul
Buratai is without walls!
orphaned amputees of land mines
of warlike cause
litter like lush lands”
If anything, these emblematic texts reveal Yewande’s true quest or natural concern toward the displacement and dehumanization of humans and the need for freedom, written from a place many readers will understand as an ambiguous piece in which neither understanding nor connection is so easily claimed. She speaks a different kind of truth to power, one which explores the detrimental consequences of civil unrest. The need to fight for freedom having painted a vivid description of the pain and sufferings of humans becomes clear when she aptly fleshes out;
“chant the freedom song
amidst armoured guards.
Dust stained feet
protest parading street by street
to chant the freedom song
till freedom for all is enthroned”
Yewande’s switch between clarity and ambiguity is a brilliant style, the work of a poet who writes for herself, and for us, and who addresses — even wonders whether she belongs eternally among — the living through a spirit that never dies or among the dead through a body that begins to die the very day we are born. Multi-vocal and Multi-Layered, you can discover a truly lovely collection of poems celebrating our existence. With this 174-page collection of sixty-two poems, you can read one a day, or splurge out and just read until sated.