By Babajide Michael Olusegun
The subjects of love and politics are obviously phenomenal subjects that man would have to grapple with for a lifetime. This is so because what drives man’s continuous survival is the ‘thingy’ of love and what sustains man’s order is the rule of politics; hence, the love-politics inevitability.
Literature as one of man’s greatest inventions has also learnt to stay alive and stay on the spotlights of readership because it has learnt to tweet updates and gists on love and political matters such that due to the universality of these cosmic subjects, Literature, and to mention specifically, poetry, occupies a permanent space in the reading society’s heart any day and any time it emerges for Literature exists not only to create imaginations but also to recreate experiences, feelings and events which the ever bustling activities of love and politics inspire.
Seven Loves, Seven Hates by Kayode Taiwo Olla comes as a testimony to the facts of the above such that despite the author’s published works of Literature viz Sprouting Again and Softlie which dedicates huge and considerable portions of their pages to the subject of love and the politics it plays, the unrelenting poet and novelist seems not to have had enough, he goes ahead to dedicate 42 pages of this chapbook to Love and Politics, not merely to restate what has been stated in centuries or to rewrite what has been written at different times but to re-view these subjects, regurgitate the memories on these subjects, redefine concepts attached to these subjects and question the shibboleths these subjects have transmitted for generations such that the reader asks more questions than can be answered and leaves with more convictions than confusions.
Written in the style of the epic tradition, the poems open with an invocation titled “Owuro” and ends with a benediction titled “Quietease”. In the style of a bard who knows his onions, the poet persona gives praise and adulation to superior forces knowing fully well the immensity and enormity of the tasks that lay in wait for him, hence the occasional repetitive refrains that garnish the lines of this invocation: “mo seba owuro” (p. 7), “olojo oni mo seba o” (p. 8). And having successfully delivered on this noble task, the author closes with “Quietease” which is full of wishes and prayers in the spirit of a Nunc Dimittis not to death but to retirement, perhaps like Shakespeare’s “Prospero” and not the bible’s “Simeon”.
The epical substance of this magnum opus lies in the author’s anatomical use of language through the poetic devices of parody, pun (see “Champagne Promises”) and dramatic monologues woven into a dialogue (see “Unpaired”) and the use of symbols which is clear in the figure of seven (7) which symbolizes perfection as seen in the subtitles “A and B” of the chapbook’s fourteen cantos. If there is one thing that equips an epic then it is the status of the language use and when language is not used as a creature but as a creator, then literature is not merely a commodity but also an industry. The author uses language in such a way that he makes sound and sense. His ability to play on words and parodize expressions give sophistication and freshness to the language of the author’s work. The effect of which is seen in poetic phrases like “champagne promises”, “Fiction 2010”, “7-P agenda”, “manifestoes that manifest slow”, fiction branded vision” inter alia. What makes these expressions remarkable is that the poet-author disguises the hate he feels for the political actors of his society in subtle but satirical words which are intended to injure and abuse.
What the reader may find disturbing, and which for me is avant-garde, is the trajectory discourse of love and hate in the light of love and politics. Why would love be perfect but halved and how can hate be perfect and halved? Could politics be the opposite of love? Is hate intrinsic to politics? Is love lost eternal and are political losses temporal? As earlier stated, love and politics are inalienable aspects of human relationship. While part A is full of cantos that narrate the un-daunting power of love, celebrates the beatific ardor of the object of love and laments the catastrophic and irredeemable loss of mutual love, part B comes out harsh and hard on the failures of politics and its juicy promises, the follies and foibles in and of the society, the struggles of the masses and goes on to conscientize and leave behind promising beams of hope enshrouded in the rousing lines of “if we sit and sigh” (B,VII,p.35).
It seems the poet-author tries to unearth the upsetting goings-on in the realms of the heart and the State using the tool of art and perhaps attempting to show their symbiotic effects on each other. After all, love requires suitors, emotions, acceptance and may end up in fulfilment or disappointment while politics likewise requires candidates, rouses emotions, requires approval and often brings disappointments and fulfilment of promises. More so, both love and politics climax in marriage vow taking and office oath swearing to love and to serve respectively.
Seven Loves, Seven Hates is a brilliant meshing of different poems written at different times under different circumstance. Kayode Olla’s ability to use two different subject matters of man to form a compelling story for man is remarkable. The simplicity of diction, the complexity of form and the dialectical balance of content in this work of art are commendable.
Having said all these, the author should have been consistent with word clarification especially when they concern words that are culture-specific. Words like “Eledumare, Eye Ilulu, omoge, orekelewa” were not given footnotes unlike “oba and afobaje” which had. Readers who are not familiar with the Yoruba language may end up being disconnected from the poem’s flow of thought and this could affect rich literary appraisal.
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