WHEN POET BRAVES ROAD INTO THE HEART OF CUPID: A CRITICAL REVIEW OF KAYODE TAIWO OLLA’S COLLECTION OF LOVE POEMS, SOFTLIE


Rahaman Abiola Toheeb

Softlie_cover_design

Prior to this time has been a little shift of interest, owned to wave of consciousness among the common men, and unquenchable flame of ravenous quest for new face of poetry, chiefly love poetry in lieu of politically cantered ones . Vis-a-vis  this awareness, contemporary writers have taken on the mantle and assumed this task thereafter creating a space for love poetry in their collection, despite the fact that they are still incontrovertibly aware of the political, brouhaha, shipwreck and imbalance, economic dire and melt-down, moral decadence, tyrannical display of power-drunkenness of post-bearers, and most importantly, the gladiatorial rancour and horn-knot among the over-zealous elder statesmen, especially in almost parts of Africa.

Without any scintilla of doubt or any iota of qualm, this conscious responsibility has breathed into life new voices of young owlets like Kayode Taiwo Olla who are mindful of the fact that  the common men like them need  not to always find their solace at the armpit of despair due to the contemporary blood-thirstiness of those paddling the boat of leadership in Africa, which young poets like Tosin Gbogi, and others of this same ideology and kindred spirit  have come to preach against, having got indoctrinated  into this poetic ideological spirit by poets like Niyi Osundare, Odia Ofeimum, and Franz Aig-Imoukhuede who have come to critic and kick-out against the post-colonial dilemma and contemporary madness of political jaguars and chimeras. But rather embarking on the new face of literature which will present love poesy for people who are in need of new face of literature that will confab on other aspects of life and necessitating factors for human succour and survival.

I have read the poetry collection for more than two times and have reached the conclusion that the poet, Kayode Taiwo Olla is of the Nerudan– a poetic ideology of late Chilean writer Pablo Neruda who has come to scribble poetry of love in between the bridge-gap  of political frame works and socio-cultural realities. And unquestionably this is the kind of ideology and orientation possessed by Toni Kan in his socio-political collection of love poem titled ‘Song of Absence and Despair’- a collection of poem which source and inspiration are traceable to Pablo Neruda’s ‘Song of Love and Despair.’

I believe Pablo Neruda was right when he said: Of all fire, love is the only inexhaustible one. .  love is a voyage with water and a star in drowning air and squalls of precipitate brain; love is a war of lights in the lightning flashes, two bodies blasted in a single burst of honey .’  Love, considering it from the real sense is the reason why we tend to live together as husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, families and friends; love is the unifying factor that depicts how passionate God is towards His creatures on earth; it’s the necessitating factor for universe to hold as world and man to exist in it; love is the reason why Providence had it, from the pedigree that the first man shouldn’t have been living alone without a partner who in him he will find solace.  I think this is the bone behind Kayode Olla’s poetry collection of poems, Softlie.

Soflie’ is a poetry collection of fifty-five pages that reminds us of the universal realities by taking us on a brief escapade into the mystical realm of love. The collection is a typical quintessence of unabated cravenness and wishes of man; an harbinger that opens us to the collective responsibility on the need to stand resilient against the individualistic ideology of the modern Age which has metamorphosed and transfigured us into clueless entities.  No wonder Gbemisola Adeoti, a renowned prolific award winning poet of the widely-endorsed collection of poetry, ‘Naked Sole’   and a pedagogue describes it as a collection which ‘images evoke cross-cultural experience  of people in the past and the contemporary Africa. This enables the poet to consciously interject what seems to be private with people and political . . .’

                                     When

                                                                    Poet falls

                                                                                                      In love.  . .  

For someone who has read the tragic play of William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, will never doubt the fact that love is more driven than the brief madness of over-drunkenness and excessive alcoholic in-take. What does it take to be a lover? Why do we fall in love? Are madmen surveying the longitude and latitude of boulevards better than a lover overwhelmingly propelled by the beauty of a ripe virgin lady delivering the message of Cupid to the world?  I believe these are the verisimilitudes of questions ‘Soflie’ has come to fill their vacuum with copious rejoinders.  The book is a fascinating collection of love poems spun into storyline with memories ranging from the lovers’ first sight till the present blissful moment of their platonic love.

The poet has successfully broken the jawbone of conundrum by easily ‘blending poetic with narrative and melodic with the dramatic- Aremu and Arewa.’ Starting from the first poem till the last there is subtle arrangement of different subject matters paramount to our daily living and existence, beautifully expressed in diction so subtle, sublime and simple so it reaches and suits the mind of common man. Considering the book from the social view, the book merges love with modern reality common among today’s youths, and the poem ‘If It Is Love’ is a close portrait of this reality.

Softlie correspondingly talks on the general truth and cultural reality by extending its wing across the issues of sexual life and matrimonial problems. The poet tries to talk on the general needs for everyman to love and to be loved no matter the odds and exceptions. He says:

The hardest, stoniest heat

Has a soft spot

The most stoic body

Inwardly yearns for a loving caress

Men’s deepest wish

Men’s deepest longing

Men’s deepest desire

Is not power or prestige-

I have seen it is to feel loved

We all want it badly!

(We all want it – pg 14)

The cultural reality is manifested in the poetry through its celebration of typical African traditional marriage. This is due to the fact that the poet is quiet aware of the richness and beauty of African culture, having hailed from the black nation where matrimonial rites are incumbent upon the bridegroom. As decreed by the customs, bridegroom is expected to observe some marriage rites and sacramental rights before the nuptial tie will be knotted.  The poem reads thus:

Can I find a good expression

For your lovely good looks Arewa?

Ah take me to know your mama

Take me to know your people

They in whose eyes you matured. . .

A bag of beads, a pot of kola nut

A gourd of palm wine, a keg of palm oil

(Love Song- pg 24-25)

The poetry is a lamentation of chronic malady and epidemic syndrome daily plaguing the society where the poet hails from. Without any doubt, Softlie is a glaring epiphany of different ironies that are webbed with the destiny of human being fighting for survival like candle in the wind, especially in Africa where many are being mesmerized by western viruses that have taken on many colourations. Subconsciously, the poet expresses different ironic parts of human existence ranging from the world of opulence to that of poverty; from political reality to social truth; from cultural view to moral decadence, e.t.c. the poet says:

The beggar sleep in cold night, unsheathed

The rich man suffers from insomnia in bed

.                            .                                .

The adolescent virgin is tired of keeping herself:

The womanizing guy is wishing to marry a virgin. . .

Some people rape, some people eagerly open laps-

And they forget there’s always an ‘after waiting. . .

Or pilling!

(Life of Ironies- page 48)

The fact that the book runs from nuptial knot to general barrier plaguing modern marriage, shipwrecking some blissful homes and rendering the children of estranged couples clueless at the cross-road shouldn’t be marginalized. Softlie gives us a clear portrait of the afore-mentioned problems and how the affected children are deprived of parental affection, leading to psychological imbalance and bizarre performance of many of these children in school perhaps.  It reads thus:

I played and played in your lap

Till I slept off and still dreamt about you

.                    .                 .

I would wake up one day

And won’t see you no more

Oh daddy come back!

Couldn’t guess why you and mummy had to part

Your baby is crying!

Oh daddy why not coming back today?

(Love letter of a broken-hearted kid- pg61)

A critical assessment and in-depth evaluation of the book from the diction to thematic pre-occupation prove it worthy of being called poetry and what modern world wants. Admittedly, there is no disputation that the collection of poetry turns words to music, owing to its rhythmical employment of words in uncomplicated way that provokes emotion from the mind of common man. I am also keenly interested about the philosophical embellished axiom and sayings denoting the real self of man and the reality of his world which he can’t afford to jettison.  The poem ‘There are No More Words’ and ‘Life of Ironies’ are close portraits of this philosophical view. The poem reads:

Sorrow is not at its depth

When it can just be expressed

With tears

Joy is not at its height

When it can only be expressed

With laughter

Love is not at its best

When it can still be expressed in

In words. . .

(There are no more words –pg32)

However I found the diction of the collection unpleasing to me. The exploitation of language in poetry is usually more intense, frequent, and more discriminate than we have in other forms of literature. Poetry shouldn’t be what you read at a sit and the meaning comes with ease. This is the reason why literary scholars like Edgar Allan Poe and William Wordsworth are of the opinion that poetry and its language should be ‘allusive, concentrated, embellished, heightened, imagistic, metaphorical, paradoxical, suggestive, symbolic and polyvalent to the depth so as capture the complexity and full panoply of their thoughts and feelings.’ The prose-like style-switch technique employed by the poet makes the book more mind-numbing and monotonous at a point.

RAHAMAN ABIOLA TOHEEB

                                                                DON RABTOB

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