If you ask me this question, I would say Growth and, sadly, Homogeneity are happening hand-in-hand. I will explain what I mean with a little backstory. Once upon a time, it was easy to separate poet from poet. Of course, there were not that many poets at the time. Still, originality formed an identity for most. I could read Su’eddie Agema’s poem without the title and guess he wrote it just as I could read Dami Ajayi, Oyin Oludipe and others.
Then came the revolution fired by all of us, and poetry became a mainstream art in Nigeria. The industry grew rapidly – GROWTH! With this growth came a widening of our audiences and on the heel of that something started – I have decided to call it the homogenization of poetry – which I do not think is good.
A few years ago, our poetry established a strong connection with international audiences – with fantastic poets like Romeo Oriogun and Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau on the forefront championing new styles and forms. International journals beamed their lights upon our poetry and, as our poets flooded into the circle of light, many were so much in a hurry that they left themselves behind. They sought shortcuts to literary greatness in the poems written by the ‘winning poets’ and decided to choreograph the words, themes, styles and forms.
We are in the era of poetry-Michael-Jackson wannabes, attempting to moonwalk with verses without first knowing how to move.
As soon as Agarau used / in his poetry all poems began to have more of it than alphabets. As soon as Romeo mentioned butterflies, the words of our poets began to flutter around with colourful and dusty wings. Because of this, “Wale’s poem reads like the one Titi wrote last month after reading Emeka’s award-winning poem which is a shadow of Sule’s poem that appeared in a journal sometime last year…” Now you read many poems and see one theme, one voice, one style, one structure.
As much as this pains me, a worse thing is happening: we are digesting and regurgitating phrases, metaphors and imageries from poem to poem and poet to poet…and mostly out of context. On one level, this is plagiarism. On another level, how do you people make sense from those metaphors you so proudly CTRL C and CTRL V?
Sometimes I think many of our ‘poets’ need to go back and read some basics of poetry before writing. An Imagery is “a descriptive or figurative language” and a Metaphor “is a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else”. These two are very essential to poetry. Now, the fact that you want imageries and metaphors in your poetry does not mean that you should (1) copy interesting phrases from poems you like or (2) string words together, perhaps beautifully, without any symbolic or descriptive value applicable to the context of the poem.
For you to use a metaphor/imagery in a poem, it must be (1) an intentional effort to achieve a meaning/image/metaphor (2) that is familiar or made familiar to the audience and (3) is, above all, applicable in the context of use. It is the poem (its theme) that dictates the metaphor or imagery to use. Your poem should demand its metaphors and imageries. Continuously borrowing metaphors and forcing words to carry it is mediocre, to say the least.
It is time for our poets to realize that a boy is not always a butterfly & our mothers are not all moons. Poetry is first an expression of self before anything. Be original.
You will not die if you write a poem without “a boy”, “butterfly” “mother’s womb” “weary moon” and all such poetry bitcoins that you are investing in. Dig inside for personalized phrases, use metaphors and imageries that tug at your heart, because you know them and they know you and those you write for.
Okay, I am done ranting. Forgive me if you feel attacked.
Happy Sunday to you!