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THE POET AS A VOICE OF CONSCIENCE: A THEMATIC ANALYSIS OF AGARAU’S FOR BOYS WHO WENT by Ayoola Goodness

TITLE: FOR BOYS WHO WENT
AUTHOR: ADEDAYO ADEYEMI AGARAU
GENRE: Poetry
NUMBER OF PAGES: 42
PUBLISHER: WORDS RHYMES & RHYTHM PUBLISHERS
DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2015
ISBN: 978-978-547-414-5
REVIEWER: AYOOLA GOODNESS

Often times, I do pause to ask myself, in the reality of it and if I should say, on the humour side, somewhere in my dreams, the feasibility in the creation of a changed world through the nib of the pen. Unfortunately, the cares here are apparent. The world aggravates unrepentantly at every ticking second. Writing, in this regards, becomes the constant balm of healing.

The question of ‘self’ here, however, is a perfect example to describe the amazing work of the conscience. The conscience—to do right—to think right. As a matter of fact, the term ‘conscience’ is an essential factor for the emergence of a desired world. Of all evils perpetuated in the world today, take a close examination of those behind them, you will find out, conclusively, that they are carried out by men of no conscience.

Undisputedly, the conscience holds or is the sense of right and wrong, but then, the beautiful thing about this is that there is a voice; a voice that harps on doing the right and not the wrong. Most times, it comes as that guiding still voice —and on other times, that yells of caution. Without gain say, the world begins a process of healing when humans become men of right conscience. Is it not sad then and indeed startling that the breeds of men in the world today are of seared conscience on a major scale?

This again brings arts into focus, a mirror for all men. And very quickly, poetry —and the poet. The poet, in this case, stands dual—a voice of poetry and a voice of conscience. Perhaps, for the conscience whose voice has been silenced? Needless to say, a poet is an unrelenting yet formidable voice of change. A voice that is a voice.

Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau’s chapbook, For Boys Who Went, is evidently a voice of poetry and a voice of conscience. The poet’s voice, spiced in the brilliancy of language, is such that creeps unconsciously into the human conscience, ‘mild’ yet ‘serious’; ‘still’ yet ‘loud’ with a very strong intent.

I must confess that the 19 poems, in this collection, are all encompassing in the explorations of pertinent issues in our world of today. To add that this voice is somewhat brave— in its challenge of the human conscience is not an exaggeration. Little wonder how true is the maxim that ‘man is the architect of his problems ’and if I should add, that ‘man is the solution to these problems’.


Hence, a reiteration, the voice that heralds high the poetic intent of each poem in Agarau’s collection is such that illuminates the human consciousness, that if our conscience is right, the world is right!

The book opens with the poem, ‘sea girl’, depicting the feeling of destitution, loneliness, loss and the urge of returning.

‘every tide that comes back from surf
brings a memory — of mother,
sister, father, brother, herself mostly
it goes back with the loneliness in her mouth?’
(Sea girl pg. 10)

‘Sea’, from the title index is, however, symbolic for wayfarers beyond the sea, their uncertainties and the constant longing for ‘home’.

‘sea shells like sea songs gather
and start a music from her palms
where are you now? what are you doing?
do you miss me?
is home still home?’
(Sea girl pg. 10)

The poet presents, in the poem, thoughts that prick the reader’s imagination to value ‘home’ as an inseparable part of human existence, that is, no matter how far or wide one may roam, the feeling of home will always be there; beyond the abode of repose, there is always the confidence of love, acceptance, care and safety at home.

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The theme of home likewise dominates poems such as ‘Seamen’ and ‘Pilgrimage’ where the struggles, pleasures and the overall experiences in the search for ‘a better place’ or ‘a better life’ only plunge us into the home nostalgia. The poet is loud here, if I must say, that there is nothing like, as commonly said, home away from home. Home is just home.

‘When you get
to your mother
tell her how long
it took you
to find home.’
(Pilgrimage pg. 39)

Our collective ignorance is spelt in the above lines; ignorance of our home as home, and like the biblical prodigal son we return to ourselves and understand that home is truly home. By this poem(s), the human consciousness is reawakened to duty, to value everything that depicts our home, to rise up to responsibilities and tackle the challenges therein as leaders and as members of the society. And cease exiling into alien lands for a bright future because after all, home will still come calling us. The titles ‘Sea girl’ and ‘Sea men’ are somewhat redundant, but then, it could be seen as a symbolic achievement to say that the long for home is the same with the young and the adult.

In addition, the poem, ‘For boys who went and never returned’, from which the title of the book is drawn, is more of a contrast to ‘longing for home’, in this case, the ‘home longs for us’ through the eyes of ‘mothers’ which is of a symbolic significance:

‘for dreams you left behind
are footnotes for mothers to read
when insomnia holds their eyelids
they are lyrics for chants
they are placards for notice
“who has found our children
they have these dreams and those
if anyone else is living them
please call the police
it’s plagiarism”
(For boys who went and never returned pg. 26)

The poem ‘end’ brings into a fusion childhood memories and dreams plagued with failures:

‘we were tired boys
knitted to our father’s names.
how we carved our names
on the sand towers
and gave ourselves big eyes
and big dreams and big faiths
and big distance’
(end pg. 16)

‘End’ is climaxed with the grope in the ‘night’ (at the end of the day) which implies an unsuccessful turnout in the ventures of dreams. What an ending! ‘Night’ is symbolic here, for dreams destroyers (human and materials) and/or the many hurdles encountered on a dream’s journey. This is relative to the realities in our world of today where dreams are killed and replaced by stringent measures of survival.

However, ‘a lover’s error’ and ‘farewell’ are drawn on the thematic focus of love, lust, freedom and separation. In both poems, the urge is killed based on the absence of mutuality or misunderstanding of individual differences. A lady shackled by the opinions given to her by her mother and grandmother about ‘little boys’ and perhaps, falling in love at a tender age, is bound again and again at every sexual advance of her lover. Her lover’s inability is expressed here:

‘you asked that I suck your
memories away
so i began from the beginning — navel
i touched it like feathers on the wings of a seabird
you floated and ached in your bones
you shivered and woke in your skin

i nibbled your nipples
and you and your mother
and her mother moaned’
(a lover’s error pg. 15 )

This portrays the power of knowing and indoctrinations and the lasting effect (a haunting conscience to do the ‘right’). This is a moral standing, chastity, to be precise. It is however disheartening that this is lost these days where moral decadence is the order of the day, especially sexual immoralities among the young. But then, one would want to ask what the poet means by the title ‘a lover’s error’; is this lust or a poet’s inability to unshackle the doctrines of his lover or the deprivation of his lover to exercise of freedom of self?

‘Farewell’ is ‘broken homes’ symbolized, the structural experimentation of the poem is an addendum to the intent. The poem examines primarily the failure of partners on mutual grounds; a fusion between tolerance and individual differences. Such cases, if not rightly handled, are always occasioned in the later end with both parties parting ways.

‘this is not what every book called a lover’s body
they say it is not everything I find here
what you/i find is not what you/i have come for
— let’s switch places and find peace somewhere else,
(farewell pg. 17)

The separation expressed in the last line of the above excerpt connotes the essence of mutuality which is Peace. Peace can only be achieved by our mutuality as humans, accepting and understanding our differences and diversities in love. Living a life of sacrifice is therefore expressed in the poem ‘body’ which suggests that as humans we are knitted by the desires to live for one another.

My body is no home to me
It’s for boys broken likes split river
It’s for burnt men whose ashes are butterflies
colouring the graves of mad men
It’s for another poet finding his voice in a pile of old
books’
(Body pg. 38)

‘Convent Secret’ is a metaphor for the prevalence of immorality in sacred places. The society of today is full of evil schemes and surprises; you find out that those that are entrusted with the responsibility of sustaining moral uplift in the society are the perpetrators. The poet has this to say:

‘I drank a cup of light
and I ended up in a convent
where women eased my bowels
with their tongues’.
(Convent Secret pg. 21)

This, however, through a convent setting, is an indictment to desist from hypocritical lifestyles as humans in our daily endeavours, be it domestic, official, religious or political.

The poems, ‘the thing that drowns us in ourselves’ and ‘you may not find me tomorrow’, introduce us to human experiences of agony, pains depression and death. ‘You may not find me tomorrow’ focuses on cancer patients. The poet specific pick on the focus is in a way of identifying with others in their travails and loss. ‘How to dance’ is a shift in focus; from the themes of loss, death and everything odd that life delivers to liberation or maybe, setting oneself free. To take the rigour and find the joy within oneself amidst challenges, storms and trials. To dance away every sorrow and find happiness in every situation. Somehow, this way, hope is reborn.

‘but wait, throw yourself in a song’

‘lose yourself in this forest of becoming
you must find happiness in every soul’
(how to dance pg. 28)

‘Fresh gods’, ‘rose for your funerals’, ‘dying again ‘and ‘life house’ examine the themes of racism, wars, terrorism, tribalism, power tussle, political subjugation, death and loss drawing references from recent happenings, for instance, the Atlanta incidence that brought about the black lives matter revolution alluded to in the poem ‘fresh gods’. These, as a result, have given rise to dread, insecurity and persistent subjection to silence which are currently experienced virtually in all parts of the world. The challenge here is obvious, the need for world peace, the need for mutual coexistence and sanctity of life which practically defines humanity.

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‘Timeline’ is a focus on the political wheels of Nigeria. The poem depicts the socio-political issues associated with Nigeria’s political timeline till date. The reader’s imagination is conveyed from the shift in forms of government to loss of lives and properties through wars, religious bigotry and militancy to the climax of recurring events. ‘Timeline’ gives a point of reflection to break away from these constraints and continued trust in errors.

The poem, ‘Not survivors,’ introduces us to the subjection of the woman in the society. The poetic persona, in his thoughts, takes a swift shift from ‘the trafficked women’ to his mother to symbolize domestic traumas and societal bondage experienced by the women folks. The stereotyped implication is also addressed which leaves the women dangling between survival and living. Consequently, they are shut into a forever silence which by default is transferred to the children. The poet’s intent, however, is a call for women emancipation.

On a final note, Agarau’s For Boys Who Went is a profound experimentation of diverse themes, an uninterrupted calling of the human conscience to light. A recommendation for the darkness of this time and beyond.

Ayoola Goodness is an Award-winning Poet, reviewer Literary Scholar and International Director for World Union of Poets. He is the author of acclaimed collection of poems ‘Meditations‘.

Author: Goodness Ayoola

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