TITLE: LET ME RUN MAD TODAY
AUTHOR: OPE DARA
PUBLISHER: WORDS RHYMES AND RHYTHMS LTD
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2018
NO. OF PAGES: 62
REVIEWER: EUGENE YAKUBU
Buried in this vivacious title are stunning words that can stir and command all sorts of emotions and feelings all at once. In an exquisitely daring manner, Ope Dara weaves her words carefully, dropping missiles in the most casual ways.
Let me Run Mad Today is the ‘straight-in-your-face’, ‘who- cares? (scoff) kind of poetry. It is neither politically correct nor traditionally pleasing but it says it like it is in the most ethical way and with biting sarcasm. The poet seems pregnant with a churning anger at her society with all the ills and plagues bedeviling it and just wants to lash out vituperative criticisms on her society.
She admits in the first and eponymous poem Let me Run Mad Today “I feel the urge to run mad/Let the alcopop of poetry/ Swallow me”. This poem introduces the reader to the poet’s mindset and it is obviously not a calm one. She wants to defy correctness and “…tell kings to their faces/ that they are handicapped leviathans” (9) who feed on the ignorance of the masses to exploit them and “reveling in the majesty of their motionless kingdoms” to subject […] [their] subjects”.
This first poem in the collection alerts the reader to prepare to turn the tables around and subvert popular beliefs and fixed categories. Dara is a daring poet and political blasphemy seems to be her business here.
What is even more captivating is that she does it with grammatical acuity and obstinate indifference.
Topics and ideas that many would consider too sacred or profane to talk about, she does with skilled and graphic appraisal. She wants to “… tell Nigeria to her face/ that though she is called ‘Eagle’/ she is but a butterfly” (10), she wants to “… kiss the sun in the face/ And tell him he is brutish”. She dares the oddness in the society, with nature and even with life. Her fearless poems are compelling and confrontational.
The poet challenges her “tutors” for being “too bumptious”, she calls them to be “… humble/ lest they crumble” for being patronizing. The poet reminds the reader to expect more of such pithy and daring lines “[f]or this is the beginning/ Of a budding literal madness” (11). However, her “madness” is rather a figurative one, pregnant with tumultuous words and scathing lashings at the “polithiefcians”.
Her poetry speaks with thunderous loudness, fearing no controversies. She isn’t just a political poet, she is a revolutionary. Her poems in the collection oscillate between the beautiful and the intense. She drags our imagination about Nigeria into the very depth of the imaginable. Dara’s Let me Run Mad Today tells us that poetry is a responsibility that goes far beyond the architecture of words alone. She writes politically charged poems. Of course, these characteristics flow from the belief that the writer is a writer in politics who cannot dabble into petty issues in the face of demanding social issues plaguing the society.
She is a revolutionary poet in the class of other poets like Odia Ofeimun, Tanure Ojaide, Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo and others whose muse must surely be militant and rebellious.
Dara’s lines may be cynical, but truthful. She sees her country Nigeria as a pathological drainer. In the satirically titled poem MIGERIA, the poet queries the nation as a land “[h]andicapped by the sophistry of its/ polithiefcians” where “roads are hungry wolves” claiming innocent lives every day, and where “[bomb]blasts are like lightened firework/ And dying is no big deal”.
The poet isn’t just a pessimist, she is sometimes optimistic and proffers here and now ways in which we can salvage our country from drowning in the ocean of corruption and social deficiencies. She calls on all compatriots to challenge corrupt government officials and politicians. She challenges medical doctors to “take their oaths with pride” and in a pithy but humorous analogy advice “scarlet girls” (metaphor for irresponsibly dressed girls) to “lace up their blouses” and tells men to “control their private detectives” (euphemism for penis) lest “diseases… [spread] like wild fire”.
In the poem Migeria, a neologism which most probably means “my Nigeria”, she calls on the police to cease being “road extortionists”, “the lawyers to be loyal to the truth”, and parents to take responsibility for their children, only then, she believes our country “can be better”.
The poem Religiosity tenders the subtle difference between God and religion. In a dramatic way, the poet uses the characters of a pastor, Imam and Sister Victoria to expose the folly of religion. The words are pregnant with meaning. She says the Sheikh, despite being Allah’s servant, still worships “under Amina’s holy hijab”. Also, the pastor who boasts he is called by God to serve him still “… sells counterfeit wares/ in the name of Jesus Christ”. An enduring theme in this particular poem is that not all that glitters is gold. The characters have a clean outer personality they trade with the world, but in their inner self they are wolves in sheep clothing. She, therefore, wants none of the hypocritical religion even though she “believe[s] in a Supreme Being (God)”.
The poem Alcoholism is beautifully written. How the poet could coin new words and still render them sensibly is applaudable. Her newly invented word “Alcohaulease him” seems rather presumptuous and farfetched at the surface. But if the reader scratches deeper, he would see the concealed sense in there. Even though the world sounds like “alcoholism”, it, however, is an apostrophic message to alcohol to release its helpless victims. In the same way, she coins the word “Alcoholprison” to mean the victim is held prisoner in a bar of drunkenness, shattered dreams, failed relationship and emptiness. The victim has been enslaved so much so that “[h]e has a problem that tells him/ he has no problem”. Generally, the figures of speech in the poem are profound. The similes are relatable. The metaphors are graceful. The poet invested more of her attention in this poem, evident even in the rhyme and rhythms in each line. The reader is guaranteed to enjoy this particular poem.
The natural tone of the poem Poetry is refreshing. The poem introduces her local setting into the poem. It has an African feel, maybe because of its reference to nature, but also because of its simplistic presentation.
Let me Run Mad Today isn’t just a poetry collection; it has chunks of pithy quotations and aphorisms by the author which the reader is also going to benefit from. She got the collection covered with interesting poems like Message from a Suicide Doctor, Fantastically Corrupt; This is me and lots more. It will never be a boring read for any lover of poetry, art and literature, as well as history and politics too.
This collection has history lessons we don’t get to hear in class but from the daring mind and acute words of an observant poet.