TITLE: HOW TO VIEW THE WORLD FROM A GLASS PRISM
AUTHOR: SALIHU MAHE
NO. OF PAGES: 34
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2019
REVIEWER: EUGENE YAKUBU
Mahe shows great ingenuity with words. His wittiness does not just end at crafting elaborate metaphors and grand literary figures but at having the ability to have his words echoing in the reader’s mind long after reading. His lines— arranged in metrical verses, are like musical chords striking against each other and vibrating in the reader’s mind. Even though his ‘how-to’ poems might elude thematic signification, they— for themselves as words on paper alone, are beautiful artistry and pieces of creativity weaved together.
How to View the World from a Glass Prism leaves the reader meditative after each poem. It’s like the reader is trying to digest the word and feels each metaphor, each figure taking up space in his mind and eventually shedding meaning and lightening his soul. The poems are surreal, like something in a dream, dissipating like mist and seducing the reader to step out of his head and go searching for meaning.
Like every good work of art, How to View the World from a Glass Prism allows the reader to pick out diverse meanings in each line, hence different writers can step into Mahe’s world and leave with different meanings, each depending on how or where the poem strikes him best.
This is a commendable feat, for after all said and done, no two readers leave any work of art with the same meaning. In the first poem, the poet seems carefree and indifferent, like someone making an off-hand comment, but think deeper and you’ll see that in those four lines and eight words are snuggled elaborate meanings. The undertone the poem seems to be screaming is: to live in the moment and have a bite of life as much as one can.
Mahe’s poetry has the ability to drop necessary meanings in little lines, and of enthralling readers with carefully chosen diction.
Even though Mahe’s poetry isn’t the kind of poetry that literary critics, especially social realist would enjoy scrutinizing, it however would be a perfect raw material for formalists who are very interested in the structure and beauty of a work of art. While the words are there— beautifully crafted, the meanings are distant, phantasmic and dream-like, only striking at abstract ideas and the emotions.
A notable theme in Mahe’s How to View the World from a Glass Prism is the ethereality and fleetingness of time. As read through most of his poems, time’s chariot will keep moving and every moment, every hour, must be beneficial and appreciated by man. In the poem This is How to Make Memories 1 & 11, the poet calls on the readers to “seize the moment” and to “Never let a second go by without/ Plucking a feather from the hands of time.” These images are of a world that never stops moving and of time that keeps ticking, hence we must learn to “create moments that glow in the dark/ like fireflies” and to “flirt with time.”
In Burial made Easy and How to Live and Die, Mahe’s pithiness is applaudable. His ability to fit in a whole idea in just lines remains till today a feature of good poetry and he has shown skill with this art. His wittiness and sarcasm are revealed in the poem How to Find a Wife. Worthy of mention is the reader comes fully into this collection, as geared by the titles of the poem, ready to learn ‘how-to’ or ‘how-not-to’ but Mahe ends up leaving the ball in the reader’s court, in a way saying: this is what I preach, but you must decide what to practice.
As much as the titles might seem patronizing, overzealous, and maybe even evangelical, the poems are subtly ironic, allowing the reader to be cautious as well as to decide what to make of the poet’s never-ending ‘how-to’s.’
With topical, crucial and even objective themes, I believe Mahe is a poet to contend with. He has the language and the creativity, even the mastery of literary figures, however, his themes, his ideas, which he has watered down with emotions and abstractions— almost like the romanticists poets, needs to be as strong as his structure and form in order to be relevant in this contemporary world of art.
How to View the World from a Glass Prism will be an epic piece of literature for formalists, connoisseurs and even readers generally obsessed with aestheticism in art and literature.