A REVIEW OF JIDE BADMUS’ OBALÚAYÉ BY EUGENE YAKUBU

 

 

Title:                           Obalúayé

Author:                      Jide Badmus

Genre:                        Poetry

Publisher:                  FlowerSong Press

Year of Publication: 2022

ISBN:                         978-1-953447-48-7

No. of Pages:              65

Reviewer:                   Eugene Yakubu

 

Badmus’ ability to disturb our long-held ideals on love, power and lust remains undiminished in Obalúayé, his third collection of poetry. He has cemented his reputation as a poet whose meticulous diction reveals more than what the reader can perceive in one reading. The symbols are revealing, and the metaphors are implicative, immersing the reader in the writing as well as the reading of the poem where they come out of each poem soaked with the meanings condensed in curt sentences and lines.

For one thing, Badmus has never been afraid to experiment with new styles. He has created an entire language of poetry that is predicated on sensuality, corporeality, and libidinal energy. In Badmus’ poetry, the body takes on different meanings that readers would otherwise not have access to if Badmus hadn’t written a poem. So, a worldview is shattered and another reframed. While there might be references to the body here and there in the collection, the bigger picture that Badmus is trying to create is of memory and escape, loss and hope, beginnings and endings, intangible spaces that we always inhabit but rarely have pause to think about in this busy world. Badmus has offered it to us right on our palm and he leaves us with enough mental images to make a lasting philosophical impression on our being.

In Obalúayé, it might be the body seeking pleasure in another body, but it is also the body seeking escape in another body, “become[ing] water/ seeking a miracle” (3), and also the body looking for a taste of beginnings and endings “on the walls within/ her thighs—my grave, my cradle.” Despite devoutly referencing the body, the metaphors in Badmus’ poetry are of the body coming to terms with the self and the soul.

Badmus has written on several topics, each of them related poignantly. In the poem ‘Running’ the poet lends his voice to the possibility of life after death, of the soul moving in a cycle, unending, a life after life, giving voice to philosophers like Aristotle and Srila Prabhupada who had written extensively on the theme of reincarnation. For the poet, a seed dies and is reborn/ … A chorus keeps running/ as long as the song is on…’, the soul changes states but it never withers, never dies. Badmus’ poems are pregnant with meaning, eternally leaving you in that surreal state between dream and reality. You always guess that a word connotes more than what it says, avoiding clarity like a dream, yet the meanings are not delivered in your palms. You have to do the work by picking pieces of meanings and stringing words and symbols, uncovering metaphors and syntax because, for Badmus, every word, every rhythm and every punctuation means more than it says. This is captured in the poem ‘Running’ where the poem hints at the possibility of an unending life that never stops and ‘A chorus [that] keeps running/ as long as the song is on[…]’ and hence the poem ending with an ellipsis, just like the poem signifying a unendingness.

The poem ‘Home’ is both short and witty. Here, the poet argues that peace can only be found in death, which, of course, is the way of every man. The poet manages to leave a reverberating message with carefully chosen words to point out that the body is connected to the grave as the umbilical cord connects the fetus with the placenta. Badmus’ poems seem haunted by a palpable melancholy that is felt in the verses. He speaks of shadows and echoes, emptiness and loss and “Days [that] are void of light” and “cruel words” and a “world hungry for light” to show the ethereality and fleetingness of time. For the poet, life is absurd and only in living in the absurdity do we ever find meaning. The poet, like classical poets, deflects clarity like a dream. Even though the poems can be read without much strain, the points they make are barely nipped, keeping the reader at that spectral point of elusiveness, of knowing within mystery and decrypting subtle poetical codes and literariness. His ideas are phantasmic, enthralling readers, however, the point they tender seems ungraspable and dreamlike.

In ‘Paranoia’, the poet brings us again to a time when the entire world was connected by a singular fear. Of death and disease. In the poem, we are disconnected by the things that connect us, which all of a sudden seem lethal and we are desperate to return to the time when we could touch and relate with each other like always. The poet captures how humanity “die for touches…/ fear strangers a little” and flinches at the touch of people. In ‘androids’, the poet sheds light on the extent to which technology has eroded human relationships, and how ‘humanity is dying and no one seems to be bothered about the destruction of human relationships. Instead of bringing people together, technology is creating more bridges to the extent we can’t even remember what living seems like.

In Obalúayé, Badmus proves, yet again, that his poetry demands a lot more from readers than merely reading. While the poems seem disconnected from society, the poems dig deeply into the ‘self’ and bring different personalities for all forms of readers into the poems. In Obalúayé, the idealist and the realist would find themselves, the moralists and the absurdists, the nihilist and the believers too. Badmus has a message for all kinds of readers and he does it so masterfully, assuming to himself an autonomy with words which are only seen in the most sophisticated of poets.

Badmus’s poetry says more than can be understood, hence a perfect material for a psychoanalytical reading. The poems always mean what they do not say and say what they do not mean, hence leaving the reader in that eternal state of knowing and unknowing, and thus forcing them to spend more time gestating the poems in their heads. Obalúayé, is a fulfilled collection that achieves all that it set out to do. The diction is poetic, the words are original, and the theme is revealing, hence lending credibility to the poet as an artist willing to dig into his deepest emotions to create a worthwhile experience in words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIO

Eugene Yakubu holds an MA in English literature from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. An alumnus of Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus Creative Writing Workshop, he has been shortlisted for the Gerald Kraak Prize, Writivism/Koffi Addo Prize for Creative Nonfiction, and Goethe Institut/Huza Press Writing Gender Residency.

 

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