Book Reviewer: Carolyn Banks
Title: Softlie: Love Poems Spun Into a Storyline
Author: Kayode Taiwo Olla
Publisher: Syncterface Media, London
Pub. Date: December 2013.
Softlie is fascinating collection of love poems. Kayode Taiwo Olla addresses the issue of love in an uncommon, dramatic way with a fusion of poetry and prose. Traditionally, love poems are usually written as separate and district monologues with (maybe) a single character which often times is the poet persona. A love poem explores desire, passion, lust, deceit, heartbreak and the likes associated with love. The act of love is a stereotype phenomenon that plagiarizes man and will continue to as long as man continues to exist.
Olla with his literary ability has been able to break through the conventional barriers restricting love poems to a dramatic monologue and he explores the themes of love, deceit, passion, betrayal and lust via a technique similar to that of prose and drama genres of literature.
‘It takes two to tango,’ goes the cliche and love is all about symbiosis or symbiotic exchange in a relationship. This exchange is what is explored in Kayode’s sixty-five paged Softlie. This book of poetry is not only an embodiment of the goodness and positive aspect of love, it is also a reflection of the subtlety of love – the evil side of love that brings all the drama in this collection.
The title of the book as rightly stated by Professor Gbemisola Adeoti can be pronounced either as ‘Softly’ or ‘soft lie’. ‘Softly’ when pronounced as such is invested with the meaning of gentleness, tenderness et al and ‘soft lie’ – the full consciousness of the fact that lies, drama and duplicity are often the tripod of the Achilles’ heel of love.
The book is divided into what can be referred to as chapters with titles and subtitles. It contains a prelude with the title:FOR YOU and a subtitle:To her who is mine. It is assumed that this piece is addressed to the real lover of the poet personal (i.e. Kayode himself) who is indicated in the dedication as ‘Omotola’. This piece gives insight to the reader as to what the content of the other pages of the book is. There is juxtaposition between the prelude and other parts of the book. They share a similarity in the theme of love and distinctiveness in their eventual end. The length of each poem varies differently. The subtitles can be likened to stanzas as they contain distinctive dramatic monologues.
Softlie is a collection of poems with characters: Aremu, Arewa and the Ayekooto Bird. They are Kayode’s puppet strings. Aremu and Arewa are University students who fall in love with each other. Their relationship and relevance in the poem is subject to the dictate of Kayode’s muse.
‘Here, we see ourselves every week…
May be everyday….
Everybody see ‘many bodies’ here
So somebody can’t just remember
Everybody when back home
University they call this place
Aremu plays the romantic, he makes a flashback on how they (i.e. him and Arewa) met. This is a literary technique original to drama and prose. Aremu in the second phase of the Inception: ‘Let’s walk’, not only invites his lover Arewa to walk with him but the reader. He invites the reader to walk with him in the road of love in which he treads with his love.
‘Ah, please come with me
Away from the formality
and the artificiality of ballrooms dancing…
Yes, to the intimacy and close relationship
in free walking,
in love beyond law!’ (pg 10)
‘Come with me to nature!
…and now please, Arewa
put your hand in mine
look into my eyes…
let’s walk.’ (pg 11)
Arewa’s role in the poem is typical of a shy, confused and lovestruck lady, a maiden who in her heart is involved with two men. There is trace of biblical allusion in her act. She suggests Eve, who though loved her husband fell to the whims of the serpent and thereafter, brought about the falling away. The same goes for Arewa, who though loves Aremu still adores her ex. She willingly falls prey to his lust in her husband’s absence.
‘yes his oh my! his broad broad
shoulders deep rough deep
voice oh my goodness! his hard
hard iron pinning someone down his
keen masculine keen penetrating
perfume poured inside me as i
just opened my secret door for
him after all
God! what are you thinking girl!’ (pg 40)
Her single act of carelessness brings about the breakup that sends Aremu faraway from her and their only child, who in her father’s absence is lonely, confused and yearns for him.
The Ayekoooto Bird plays the role of the poet’s mouthpiece, an omniscient narrator of the events surrounding the lives of the characters. It only appears three times, in pages 37, 46 and 47.
Softlie with its uniqueness is however not without flaws. Though written in a simple language embodies complexities. The reader is immediately confused with the sudden change of the poems setting from a university campus to that of a village:
‘Down the path she walked to the river
An earthen pot on her bare shoulder
And around her body she had a wrapper! (Pg 16)
The reader is stunned because he begins to wonder if this sudden change was purposefully infused by the poet to create an African imagery or it is a continuation of Aremu’s flashback.
Another flaw, is it excessive use of the language of prose and drama, thereby rendering the poem, ‘poetry unlike poetry’! At some point, the poetic flow is lost due to the conversational style and simplicity of language employed by the poet. The reader is not given the chance to explore his imaginations. Everything or rather word is written out plainly and almost rendering the collection boring.But being a fine piece, Kayode was able to sustain the excitement from the beginning to the end via the drama of lust, betrayal and breakup.
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Carolyn Banks studies English at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. She is freelance writer, a poet, a songwriter and a lover of anything art.