TITLE: BLACK ROSE
AUTHOR: SHEEFAH ZARMA
PUBLISHER: WORDS RHYMES AND RHYTHMS LTD
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2018
NO. OF PAGES: 116
REVIEWER: EUGENE YAKUBU
Black Rose is an individualistic collection of poetry by an honest poet whose poems are set against the backdrop of her experiences in life as a human being, a woman and a black woman. Zarma in her prosaic and endless sequence of epistolary musings on love, womanhood, patriarchy, and survival touched on contemporary issues in her poems.
Her voice resonates throughout the collection enlightening her readers and introducing them to her notions about life and her ideologies on survival. Her voice is entailing, yet educative; it is assertive and still compelling especially in her love lines in the poem Petals, where she beckons on her lover who craves her body to still yet go beyond her body to unfurl her heart and see the pain lurking somewhere in there.
Black Rose is a soulful meditation of love and romance, a feministic musing and a mindful search of identity by a woman who is overshadowed in a world immersed in patriarchy and male hegemony.
In Petals, the poet-persona declares her undying love for her lover, her amorous passions and wanton desires, her soothing fulfillment in his presence. Love is her dose of pleasure and pain, and her lover cures her emptiness with his assuring presence and enchanting demeanor. She declares her faithfulness to serve as an emotional tranquilizer to her lover, assuring him of her steady presence in his life, to be his “dose of tranquility in chaos” and “[his] stamina whenever … [he is] frail” (11).
Petals is a perfect love song because of its musicality and allurement. It addresses an unknown lover, known to the poet alone who is treasured and adored. And what makes the poem so compelling is that the poet opens up shreds of her heart, glorifying in her emotional neediness and sensual desires. Her emotions are honest and her passions are alive. Her love seems superficial but true, her lover too good to be true but his assuring presence assures her that she “wasn’t dreaming/ he’s real” (16)
In Thorns, a somehow traumatic and depressive poem, the poet-persona struggles with her inner demons and staggering emotions.
She lives in her soul trying to make sense of her place in the world and her flaky feelings of loss, emptiness, pain and surreality. She talks to herself in the sight of her mental imbalance and psychological trauma. Her mind is clogged with suicidal instincts and she finds solace “… in the arms of pain/ Realms of ghosts/ Plate of thorns/ [and] duvet of nightmares” (19).
Her craving for pain is relatable to her depressive feelings of emptiness and loss. An emptiness caused by the absence of love in her life. She reminisced about her lover and the good days when his love shields her. She sees his love as the sun which used to light her life brightly, but not anymore, for he is now the sun that burns her skin and the “diabetes that devours [her] soul” (19).
Thorns is a tale of a love lost in the face of disappointment, broken dreams and shattered hopes. It portrays the emptiness of a world without love and proposes that almost always; love is the lubricant that keeps the world’s wheels rolling on the street of happiness and joy. And a moment without it is fit to throw the world in a state of wild trepidation and chaos.
One dominating theme in the collection is the figment of the body, the poet’s clamoring to be felt not just seen, she wants her lover to see inside her, to scratch below the surface and look deep into her heart to see the pain and tribulations she is housing beneath. So, therefore, it can be deduced that there is always a part that is always hidden from the public gaze, the inner part of man that needs to be felt and realized. The tangible body isn’t all there is, but the soul is the reservoir of the heart and the eye the mirror into the soul.
Black Rose may not be the best of poetry for its overly prosaic nature and ambiguous vocabularies; it, however, talks to the reader and proffers solutions to issues rallying in the world. It talks, in that traditional simplicity and acute facticity of the pleasure of the body, the satisfaction of love, the bane of psychological trauma and the place of womanhood in the world. The poet drove her points home in each poem even with the scurrying lines and arbitrary ideas.
The poet is no doubt a feminist, and this collection will be a viable feministic notion that can be appraised for its dictates and notions on women, patriarchy, and feminism.
The poem Stem, the poet exposes her liberal views on feminism and tries to secure the woman’s place in a society drunk with patriarchy and subjugating women. The poem instigates her brand of feminism calling on other women like her to find a secured place in the world where they don’t have to be denigrated and subjugated on the notion of their sex. She tells women like her that they are not just women, “amazons”, “fighters”, “nature’s muse” but strictly “not just women” (83).
She challenges misogynist and draws on inspiration from strong women like Oprah Winfrey, Ngozi Okonji Iweala, Maya Angelou, and Zainab Alkali among others who have impacted the world and women.
The poet subverts the popular notion of the woman’s body as a pleasure-seeking thrall and offers that she’s more beautiful in her heart than in her body and calls on her lover to “undress” her mind not her body.
In the poem Roots, another worthwhile effort, the poet talks about identity, religion, culture, and customs even though in an unfortunately inartistic way, her ideas acuter than her diction, she, however, ignites the reader and tells him/her about his society and his place in the world.
Zarma’s Black Rose is an applaudable effort. Her stream of thought seems to dally around different but connected issues swirling around romance, love, womanhood, religion, and culture. Her diction is relatable and understandable.
Readers of this collection will be excused from the turgid language of poetry and introduced to free verses with boatloads of ideas on several topics. The collection has heart-touching ideas that can stimulate the mind and educate the soul.