TITLE: THE ILLUMINANT
AUTHOR: ABDUL WAHAB LAWAL
NO. OF PAGES: 82
PUBLISHER: WORDS RHYMES AND RHYTHMS LTD
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2019
REVIEWER: EUGENE YAKUBU
The Illuminant, like its title, seeks to brighten up its readers’ judgment and understanding about God, Love, Religion, and Life with philosophical questions and answers on existence. Lawal’s poetry has deep religious undertones which extend even to his love poems, but nonetheless, the point they always seem to tender is God is omnipotent and man can never ever comprehend the nobility of God. Lawal believes that even though a man “wonders and ponders” he can only “drown” in his sea of incomprehension, for as the poet asks “how do we describe Him (God)?”
Lawal’s poems remind the reader of the vanity and surrealism of existence. In most of the poems, man is always reminded of his shallow reasoning and his mediocre stance as compared to God. Lawal views man as one who opposes and challenges doctrines “think[ing] they know better” but “At the end, they fail” (11) and realize how incontestable God is.
The Illuminant has moral and didactic lessons. The poet is almost like a seer who is trying to align mankind with morality. Even though the themes are basically simple and archetypal, they, however, leave lasting impressions on the reader’s mind and remind him of his ever-present battle between good and evil and his moral bidding to conquer evil and uphold righteousness. This might seem like a potpourri of religious and spiritual notions, but the philosophic style of representation allows all sorts of readers to savour in the beauty of this art.
The collection is an enmeshed testament of assorted topics and each of them running into different poems so that you could barely tell when one poem ends and another begins, but this style, which most critics would frown at portrays the poet as one not encumbered by conventions and one who has authority over his topics and can meddle in and out of them.
The poet shows adroitness in his love poems: the mental images, the stirring rhetorical questions (especially in Agbeke), the subtle representation of love as the most cherished emotion in life. For the poet, love is “the choice we make:/ to stay and to always stay”. The poet uses his love’s bosom as metaphor for “home” which he sees as a “perfect picture”.
Like I said, the themes are the normal, archetypal, everyday kind of topics still yet the poet crafts them with so much refreshing vigour that the reader has no option but to forget himself in the collection till the last page. Lawal defamiliarises everyday language and topics and offers them to the reader in a totally innovative manner and hence manages to create a feeling of déjà vu in his readers.
The diction of the collection lacks striking appropriateness and sometimes the poet uses words just for the beauty and not necessarily to drive his point home. This allows for a lot of unnecessary language and words. Phrases like “inimitable hell” and “inimitable pleasure” are as ambiguous as they are needless. “Fruitful fecundity” (pg.65) is tautological and one word would have stood in for the other.
I must commend the poet for his original metaphors and similes which proved to be as fitting as they are apt. for instance, in the poem Certitude, the poet says “Time and men glide/ Like ageing skin/ And how it wears men.” And the poem Family is Gold, for its striking use of conceit and appropriate metaphors: “Family is gold: Even when the heart gets cold/ And power lines are down/ Family is gold”.
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The poem “On our way up the stairs” is a must-read poem and demands rumination by every reader. This and so many other poems in this collection have questions for atheist, agnostics, nihilist and even believers alike. Lawal shows promise as a poet and I believe this collection shows enough grandness in craft and art to hold any reader spellbound.