Man is a restless spirit and true to this, there is always that point in time where a man, whether of noble or lowly birth, young or old, begins a search for a sense of knowing and fulfilment. This search, however, still depends on individual choices which invariably determine the possible outcomes. A man’s search may turn out to be either positive or negative.
And here the search for meaning comes in. This search for meaning is held close to the light of seeking for A life—a good one, to be precise—a kind of turning point. Talk of love, peace, joy, tolerance, goodness, all positivity breathed into the consciousness of man.
A life of meaning, or better still a search for meaning, is the ability to shut down the power of negativity; to bring under control the constant peeps of inhuman traits in us—and breathe life indeed on the positive.
In addition, searching for meaning is a journey that begins on the road to freedom (without the abuse of it). It is a question of what to do with life—finding purpose and keying into it. Vicktor E Franlel puts it down in such a beautiful way:
‘It did not really matter what we expected from life but rather what life expected from us’.
This means there is an expectation from us as humans to life (life, in this case, is a metaphor for the mutual dealings of man to man) and if we must deliver and deliver right—meaning is paramount. To search and find meaning to that which is right and doing it —to handle with wisdom our knowledge of good and evil—and maintain our transition into a life of positivity— poetry, therefore, and of course, the poet are points of light. This reality of these as instrumental to a meaningful search speaks for itself in Kenn Amaechi Jnr’s collection of poems, The Quest (A sequel to Echoes of Conscience).
The collection of poems is picked from the points of spirituality, life (social realities) and trappings into the human consciousness. It is of a note that these poems are largely drawn from the poet’s experiences (engaged quests and found answers). The poet, in his presentations, underscores man’s thirst in the light of seeking answers to issues of life.
The poems ‘Life I-II’ (pg. 16) and ‘The Quest ‘(pg. 17), where the title of the collection is drawn from, saliently put it to the readers that life, in itself, is a quest and there is an end—death. The emphasis on death here is a subtle caution for man to stir in the right direction in his quest for answers .There is also an examination of the change sequence in life and the juxtaposition of contrasts which are constant to the human quest.
‘life is sweet
life is sweat
life is ugly
life is beautiful’
(Life II pg. 16)
The elusiveness of peace is described in ‘Shreds’ (pg. 18) as ‘everywhere but nowhere’ because of the incessant failure in its achievement. The poem holds a climax that this failure is responsible for the world in disarray; what he described as ‘un-peaceful’. The question is of hope—now that peace is not peace again:
‘…and left us with a world
spilt from the middle
into un-peaceful shreds’
( Shreds pg.18)
Liberation from the confines of traditions is focused on in ‘Beautiful Sacrilege’ (pg. 21), where the poet thinks traditional orientations should be flexible in its injunctions to allow for love and mutual co-existence. The poem also demonstrates the mightiness of the power of love which is able to break boundaries, bend rules and cannot be subdued by stifling laws or traditions.
In addition, this sustains the sense of individual freedom, not inhibited or restricted by stringent societal rules and regulations. This very point justifies the intent in the poem, ‘In their defense’ (pg. 23), which focuses on the limitations and stigmatization of children born out of wed lock in the society and at the same time fighting for their societal freedom.
This power of love is likewise demonstrated in ‘Evergreen love’ (pg. 76), Farewell to Mama’ (pg. 77), ‘The Precipice’ (pg. 78) , ‘Silent Wishes’ (pg. 79), Fragrance of Love’ (pg. 80) and ‘ The moment I beheld thee’ (pg. 81), where the poet expresses the moment of passions, the beauty of falling in love, the grip of love and love at first sight and reminiscences of once adored love.
Childhood plays an important role in the life of man, especially the beauty that it holds. The poetic voice presents this as more of a ‘childhood quest’(to push forward a standing for the fact, that searching for answers is not limited to a certain stage as earlier pointed out, actually, it begins from here). ‘Shadows’ (pg. 84), ‘Song for myself’ (pg. 86), ‘Reminiscence’ (pg. 88), ‘When I was a child’ (pg. 90) and ‘Childhood Paradise’ (pg. 92) give insights into this.
There is a yearning in the voice of the poet in the quest, and this is pointed to the axis of holding a spiritual understanding. The reference to God is dominant in major poems in the book, it is as though, the poet is trying to pass across that for a man to be successful in his quest, or perhaps, live (in that life itself is a quest)—the supremacy of God must be revered. Through the lens of this focus, we are captured into the poets’ experiences and strong standing in his belief in God. It is quite revealing that the poet does not falter in his intent that holding a godly stand is essential to finding a life of meaning. Poems such as ‘Not my song’ (pg. 25), ‘Apocalypse’ (pg. 27), ‘The Good Shepherd’ (pg. 28), ‘Tell them (trilogy)’ (pgs. 30-33), ’Give me a Song’ (pg. 35), ‘I seek you’ (pg. 36) and a host of others are evidences for the thematic supremacy of this intent in the book.
The poetic persona in his quest deconstructed ‘night’ as against the general belief in the negative light. To the poet, however, it is:
Though you scare
Your breath breezes
Virgin hope’ (Night II)
As much as this adds to the insight of the literary journey in Amaechi Jnr’s book, The Quest, that night is part of a man’s quest, it is also important to state that within this ‘night’, he sees closely into ‘Birth to Death’ (pg. 55), where he summarizes the individual’s take on quest—each man for his own self. Yet in this night, he traps the lessons of vanity (material wealth) from ‘Riches in Limbo’ (pg. 56), envisions the state of bliss in ‘Bliss of Paradise’ (pg. 57) and retouches nothingness in ‘Death of an empire’ (pg. 58) .
‘My hero’ (pg. 59), ‘Akachi’ (pg. 103) and ‘Happiness in creativity’ (pg.60) are poems that foreground the impacts of people on us in our quest through life. However, we are thrown into a brief pause to reflect as the poet introduces us to ‘Pocket your anger’ (pg. 65), where we are opened into an inability to question or change some aspects of traditions and cultural orientations. Even if we try, the effort will only result in vain. This begs the question of our total freedom as individuals.
There is a caution sign in the quest painted by the poet in ‘Lost’ (pg. 20), ‘ AIDS’ (pg. 67) , ‘Beast of Extinction’ (pg. 68), ‘Caro’ (pg. 69), ‘Nkosi Johnson’ (pg. 71). This in actual sense is metaphorical for the errors man falls into due to uncouth desires. The chaotic experiences of the writer in ‘Chaos City I-II’ (pgs. 72-73) and ‘Oshodi’ (pg. 74) symbolize the challenges in finding meaning to life in the human journey through life. These experiences are extended in poems such as ‘I wept’ (pg. 61) and ‘I learn with tears’ (pg.63), where the poet is divided between dreams.
While the poet draws a focus on selfless service to mankind coupled with the unpleasant experiences to justify our giving back to life in ‘Service to fatherland’ (pg. 105), ‘I am a banker’ (pg. 112), ‘Expect great things’ (pg. 109) and ‘Me’ (pg. 113), in ‘Time flight’ (pg. 49)s, ‘Time message’(pg. 50), ‘Twilight’ (pg.52), ‘Historians’ (pg. 95), ‘Sunset’ (pg. 99), and ‘Let’s make a choice’ (pg. 110), he expresses thoughts on aspirations and achievements in the quest to have a life. Although these are majorly drawn from the stand point of academics in the collection, it is a way of giving importance to the acquisition of knowledge, be it formal or informal. This however elevates that in the quest of man, knowledge is light; it is power!
‘Dear friends, learning colleagues
the sun is set
Our night is light
The stars and the sky is our dream
Our destiny beckons’
(Sunset pg. 99)
This analysis will be incomplete, if I do not point out that the poet struggles in giving titles that relay the subject matters in most of the poems, for instance, in ‘Shreds’, the title is a total thrown away from the intent of peace portrayed in the poem. Another flaw observed in this collection is the redundancy of ideas. There is also an overuse of clichés which makes the poetic intent and voice in some poems not strong. Some of the poems are just statements broken into lines and not near ‘mere poetic statement’ as stated in the preface of the book and also the part where it is said that ‘the poet claims no superior poetic prowess than what is presented’ is what I find very unnecessary to mention. I wish to also add that the use of simple language for an understanding perusal does not justify the inability of a poet to use language in ‘the poetic sense’.
Above all, Kenn Amaechi Jnr’s, The Quest, is a journey of experiences and lessons—a symphony for a life of discovery!