TITLE: ECHOES AND SHADOWS
AUTHOR: ALOZOR MICHAEL IKECHUKWU
NUMBER OF PAGES: 82
PUBLISHER: WORDS RHYMES & RHYTHM PUBLISHERS
DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2016
REVIEWER: AYOOLA GOODNESS
Life, in the actual sense, matters. And for this sole reason, I hold a strong point of view that it is unnecessary to bind this eternal truth to the interrogative of ‘when’. Life is an endless process. It is timeless to be held or defined by time. Life, in itself, is extremely relevant here and beyond.
But then, the merge of ‘life’ and ‘time’ has become inseparable in recent times due to the loss of sanctity in the human world. Talk of the rage against individual existence, freedom and choice and the inability of humans to pin down a responsibility to life—to live and let live. This is all encompassing—and poetry is the answer. Does life really matter?
‘When living matters’ is a call to appreciate the neglect—a fragrance to the stench of mortality wired into the human consciousness—an illumination to blindness that has murdered the human in us and perhaps, existence. And, again, poetry is the answer—a ready channel.
Alozor Michael Ikechukwu’s Echoes and Shadows is a sustained voice to this stance of ‘a living that matters’. It brings to the fore the realities of our society. Each poem is weaved to bring about a redefinition of humanity in all ramifications; life, love, orientations and values squeezed into our ventures into echoes and shadows.
‘Echoes and Shadows’ (pg. 82) is a journey into the human travails—the good and the greed— fashioned in such indescribable desperation. The errors we create— the impulse of creating problems where there are none, the pursuit of the unnecessary, the value of vanity—and all that it entails.
‘Cymbals and beagles, drums of war
Whereas there is no battlefield
Huge and heavy feet flying for food
Each and all, awash with greed’
(Echoes and Shadows pg. 82)
‘On a night like this’ (pg. 48) is another poem that brings into the picture, storms and trials as ‘gods’ and the need for providence, ‘God’.
On a night like this
When Boreas, Notus
Eurus and Zephyrus
Are out to amuse Aeolus
As Hesperus gives way to Eosphorus.
On a night like this
When our ship violently dances
And all has resigned to rest in peace
My God be with sailors
On a night like this’(On a night like this pg. 48)
The metaphysical symbolism of human challenges in the poem is quick to bring us to a summation—the gods are to blame after all. Gods, however, is not far-fetched, humans are defined here.
Spirituality is established by ‘providence’ to hold a value to life—irrespective of the lines of devotion— and not denying the sovereignty of a Supreme Being. The poet, in this collection, does make this intent as a testimony of his religious inclination in few of the poems. There is a strong message looming in the nib of the poet; that living is owed to a force; such that consistently brings the essence of existence into a reckoning.
The poet presents a personal state of confrontation and confusion in ‘What should I do with you?’(pg. 27), where he examines the contentions experienced in a bid to bring justice to the negligence and the collaboration of those who could have prevented calamities, however in the end, resorts to nature (death):
Should I be judge-enforcer to bring them my justice?
But it was you that welcomed them into our heritage!
Thus, I’m forced to wait upon nature to claim you
I will – if I survive this consuming conflagration!
(‘What should I do with you pg. 27)
The focus on confrontation and confusion based on societal realities through the voice of the poet is extended in poems such as ‘Ode to the clouds’ (pg. 70) and ‘To whom shall I yield’ (pg. 28).
You have denied us of our freedoms
We are forced to retire to our rooms
Go away! Come back when we want
No, stay, lest your lack invite drought
We’ll go about our work and play
For we know not when you’ll go away
(Ode to the clouds pg. 70)
Yet, this confusion does not excuse the poet’s confidence to question death in ‘Excuse me Death’ (pg22). It is very much like telling it to the face of death that life matters. One is not faulted to assume here that the poet is experienced in the occasions of deaths in the reality of it or otherwise.
‘Why do you strike deals with mortals
Allowing them to summon you at will?
How did you become cheap, so weak
That you respond to any mortal’s call?’
(Excuse me death pg.22)
Love is a dominant subject matter in Ikechukwu’s collection, from the departure to the arrival. Of a note, the issue of love is treated in its extensiveness, the love in love, the nurture of passion and love unrequited. Poems like ‘No Single Morsel’ (pg. 76), ‘One Day’ (pg. 60), ‘Tonight’ (pg. 54), ‘Forever and a Day’ (pg. 53) and ‘Love Saw, I Did Not’ (pg. 14) are evidences of these.
Ikechukwu does not fail to bend his nibs to touch political issues and misconduct in the country in few poems. In ‘Apples on our Rock’ (pg. 16), he brings a flashback on the Abacha’s regime fall in the Nigerian political experience while in ‘We Shall Grow’ (pg. 11), he examines the society as a constant victim of the exercise and abuse of power.
‘Polluted water, contaminated food
Gaseous wastes, acrid air
Are their gifts to us for daring work our fields
Field they’ve marked for their wasteful parties
See! They offered us another land
A land full of promises of prosperity
A land founded on milk, cast in honey
A fertile land…with no access road!’
(We shall grow pg. 11)
There is also a striking awareness on acceptable social values (both young and old) in Ikechukwu’s Echoes and Shadows. In addition, the collection dishes out instructive insights on the issues of liberation (freedom of self), hope and the condemnation of social vices such as prostitution, corruption and the likes; as these define living and its sustenance.
The poet’s glorification of language; the use of indigenous and ‘pidgin’ English, is laudable in ‘Elda we no respect imsef’ (pg.77) and ‘Everything na double double’ (pg. 56). I consider this as a deliberate break away from the confines of the English language by the poet. This move, however, is not strong enough due to the poet’s obvious inability to use the English language ‘in the poetic sense’ whereby the intent of some pieces in the collection are a bit watered down, most especially at the climax, by opinion statements and platitudes.
While it is obvious again that some of the poems experimented in poetic styles and forms are burdened with forced rhymes and unnecessary use of refrain, the fact that the use of indigenous language in some poems in the collection is not translated, where I think a glossary should suffice (though, this could be discharged as a flowery of language), is fiddling with language superiority in the real sense (in that no language is superior to another). One may not be wrong to think that the poet has a targeted audience for these pieces and ultimately files out the non-speaker. For instance, in the poem ‘ỊJE MU NA GỊ’:
‘Ịje mu na gi malitere
N’okpuru ndò nke onwa
Ebe ihunanya gbazee obi anyi
Obi anyi na-eti di ka out’.
(ỊJE MU NA GỊ pg. 20)
Nevertheless, Ikechukwu’s collection of poems, in its overall intent, is not in any way limited by the observed weaknesses—it is a poetic voice certain to drag our deadness to life—even as we travel through life’s echoes and shadows.