Poet lamenting LOSS OF green paradise – The Sun Nigeria
By Henri Akubuiro
A of Africa’s most famous and prolific poets, Professor Niyi Osundare made a triumphant entry into the Nigerian literary scene with a collection of poetry, market songs, in 1983. So far, he has published 21 volumes of poetry and won a number of literary and other prestigious awards, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa and the ANA Poetry Prize. He was a recipient of the Fonlon/Nichols Award for “Excellence in Literary Creativity Combined with Significant Contributions to Human Rights in Africa”, Nigeria’s National Order of Merit Award, to name a few. only a few.
Over the years, Osundare’s poetry has maintained a fidelity to the cultural heritage of its original sociological base, particularly the Yoruba oral tradition, unfolding it as an intrinsic canvas to reach the world, as well as enriching his writings with a hybridity that appropriates foreign cultures. without conferring legitimacy.
Recently, Professor Niyi Osundare presented two new collections of poetry: Snapsongs – Home Moans and Stranger Flares and Green: Sighs of a sick planet —to the bibliophiles of Lagos. The two collections of poetry, published by University Press, Ibadan, and Black Widow Press, Boston (2021), testify to Osundare’s relentless quest to save the earth. Kneeling before the altar of reason in his bardic mission, the poet refuses to be deceived by the scheme of banal things. Carefully he makes a swift ferret for those ennobling things of nature – of green and blue – which build up the universe. For Osundare, the universe is the local and the local is the universe. Collecting one is a stepping stone to saving every creation and rewrite desperate history.
A social critic, Osundare is like anopheles to the ears of bad leaders and non-state actors. The odiousness of corruption, mismanagement and the growing chasm between rich and poor do not excite him as a humanist; therefore, he mourns the death of innocence, the colors of the societal sepulchre, ridicule the sad state of the planet.
Snapsongs: Homegroans and Foreignflares
So far, many poems in Snapsongs… (2021) have been published in different media outfits around the world, but they are united by similar motifs across its four sections. While the majority of them are nature poems, others are interspersed with social critiques, with ever-changing past chronicling perspectives, as well as a detailed examination of the power game as it affects the world.
Also, most poems in Snapsongs are quatrains. There are no deliberate rhymes in this collection, but many poems show enhanced prosody with a fertile imagination. Obviously, music meets poetry when an Osundare is involved. He is a crooner whose idioms are introspective, from the epigrammatic to the parabolic.
Osundare appears as a seller of words, and m words have consequences, as the poet peddles his wares through the streets of absent ears. Some of the poems in this collection contain anachronistic words of wisdom, formulated in traditional idioms. Frankly, some verses read like pastiches of an old baba. Take for example, in “Set the Night on Fire”, you will learn age-old truths: the butterfly cannot count the dazzling colors of its dress: the centipede glides on legs that move by millions of magic. In “The River Sleeps in Its Bed”, the truths echo that if you quarrel with the moon, you must learn to face the devil of darkness. And don’t forget that the mystical cloak of night hides a cache of rattling knives.
Osundare is not a conformist. In “If Eden Were So Benign”, he poses some tough questions that demand answers. These are declamations that do not lend themselves to jejun but rather interrogate things we take for granted about existence and religion. The Bible tells us that the Garden of Eden was a wonderful place, but Osundare is confused as to how the Serpent was smuggled into this idyllic place, thus: “…What was the Serpent doing on his tree/D’ where did he get his venom/Who was the Gardener/… Who gave Satan so much power//Who planted this Tree with the Forbidden Fruit? (page 11)
The inquisitive voice seeks to know in what strange language the Serpent cajoled his audience (Adam and Eve) and what primal electricity to be fed the glow of Original Sin. He continues this search for answers in “There’s a God in Every Man” when the speaker of the poem asks who told you that God is a man. It boggles our minds that the bearded, white-faced patriarch in the books is nothing but the figment of the imagination of a wild and biased imagination. Maybe heaven is also overcrowded with wishful thinking. However, it would be wrong to call this a nihilistic resignation.
In this bardic project, Osundare projects a better understanding of life and its hidden meanings. Life is an enigma, needless to say, and what isn’t said is often stronger than what is said. When you pray, do you channel your prayers to a God with a year-old beard or clean-shaven like a millennial monk? The poet dwells on the truth we fear, the only straight line on the horizon, the thousand lessons of the valley, etc.
In the Homegroans section, the bard speaks of a “wonderland”, a land of miracles where anomalies reign supreme, with the authorities mortgaging the future of the dystopian African country by always thinking of number one. The voice in this section is incisive, constantly calling on them to provide darkness instead of light, to sink the nation under water, and to be delinquent defectors across party lines. ‘O to Gee’ is the anthem of rebellion against the Senate king in a recent political debate dispenses in Nigeria. There are scenes from a Nigerian political circus, while the cantos of “Juin 12 and Its Children” recall a tearful political past woven by a political Maradona. This section is full of political satire.
From foreign rockets to parables of power, the cultural overlaps of Osundare manifest in the verses, with a watchful eye on racial issues and socio-political convulsions elsewhere. When you read, towards the end, “Parable of the fingers”, based on the palaver of the nuclear red button, one distills that it is no longer paranoid to think that the apocalypse can be triggered at any moment by non- conformists against our will.
Green: the sighs of our sick planet
The second volume of poetry, Green: Sighs of our sick planet, is a volume of poetry woven around ecocentrism. Osundare’s environmental concerns are taken a notch higher here. From cover to content, the poet’s ecological sensitivity and awareness of his rape reaches a steady peak. It is undoubtedly a fascinating offer for students of ecocriticism.
Structured in nine uneven sections, Osundare paints disturbing images of our dying planet, the culprits, in most cases, being man and his industrialization, actions and inactions. Osundare also recognizes some important artists and ideologues who made interventions in nature decades ago serenading us with enchanting verses about the beauty of their world/our world, but which have turned into mere whims today. today.
In Green: Sighs of our sick planet, the poet launches a plaintive cry to save the planet, praising the beautiful seasons around the world. The poet immerses himself in these seasons, making himself an eco-hero above common point.
“Hole in the Sky” tells us about the degradation of the ozone layer caused by the greenhouse effect of factories and automobiles thus creating a domino effect which has had an impact on all living beings on the planet and inanimate things. It is a “flaming and blinding hole / In the garment of heaven” (p. 10). Many years ago, humanity sowed the wind. Now “The Tourbillon is ripe for our carefree harvest” (p. 29). It is a climate of fear, a simulated mountain and a dying lake.
Osundare laments a fallen tree and the Amazon fire. He is displeased with a forest of faded glories, with shrunken roots in the heat-harassed earthly crypt, amid withered leaves fluttering in the wind.
Osundare remembers environmentalist and writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, who fought and died to save the environment in his Niger Delta. Unfortunately, today, “the door of the Delta trembles in its weak frame” (p. 51). There are other references to Gabriel Okara and his aquatic poems which, juxtaposed with today’s reality, would blur the lines.
In the sixth section, Osundare serenades the fruits and food we eat, garden and harvest. In the next, he celebrates the seasons, from West Africa’s dry season to the Western world’s autumn. In the eighth section, the poet renders aquatic verse, while he sings of life beyond the geography of pain in the final part.
It is a consummate work that enlists Osundare among the world’s finest nature poets who include, among others, Robert Frost, William Wordsworth, John Keats, William Blake, Alfred Tennison, who sang of the wind, divined in the sky, embracing it, and making the moon appear on simple plates. Osundare Green…is an indirect attack on humanity and its hostile relationship with nature. Isn’t the man mortified? Osundare poetizes for redemption.