The poems in ‘THE CLARION CALL’ are knitted together. They are tale bearers. Very interesting is how they are looped to form a whole of everything. Almost everything is in this collection. Name them. The poet may have experienced all.
In this collection, every poem bears a story. Every story is a poem. ‘THE CLARION CALL’ (and other poems) is labyrinthine but lucid, it’s an array of varied realities.
The tie among these poems subtly poke at issues; these issues are about all and sundry. These issues pertain to our personhood and nationhood; they speak of survival, decadence, cultural essence, food, nostalgia and revival.
The collection begins with a tone of hesitation and of swift silent defiance. It is a clarion call and the poet persona must heed it.
“A clarion call it was
A call to serve fatherland
And swiftly I sprang in response…
…The journey took forever
As the bus swerved and jumped”
The collection dominantly chronicles the experiences of an NYSC participant. These experiences are mixed. This goes to show the muddling experiences that always follow the ‘compulsory’ NYSC programme. Over the years, this programme has been flayed. Agreed, the programme is very flawed. But, doesn’t it still somehow “unify” as its main objective is?
Albert Seraphin paints its beautiful imperfections. With a keen eye for the mundane and exotic, relatable realities are bared. I fell in love with this mixture.
Though starting with a tone of hesitation, later, there is a plunge into spitefulness and defiance. This spitefulness breeds detachment. In the poet’s airs of detachment, one realizes the ambivalent emotions the poet harbours for the national programme.
The poet separates himself from the lot. Here, he does not what to identify with the lot and so he says “See them…”
White fowls in Bende poultry
Shining like flamingos on a tree
Garnered by a regimental scheme
In a bid for patriotism”
There are other things to look forward to in the sixty-two poem collection. The collection explores all. There is lust and departure in “The Night Before Tomorrow”. “Department of No Work” makes you wonder at the monies being sunk into our national redundant departments. An example comes to mind – Local Governments.
In this government department, a typist collects his salary, he never types a sheet. A secretary gossips throughout the month and she is still paid. In “For Their Future I Weep”, “Hope and Survival”, and “Make Her Enjoy Life”, the poet is a seer and caring.
The feeling of nostalgia is most strong in “Home my Home”:
“…dreaming of thoughts of home”
“Illuminated Darkness” and “Unity” both delve beyond the crust of our national problems, dipping deep into the real rust. “Unity” reinforces Nigeria’s post-amalgamation core issue – disunity.
In a twist of irony, the 1914 amalgamation divided the country than it unified it for administration ease. I love “Unity”. I love its sweet simple images. See:
“If you asked Ṣàngó to bless Okoro
He would ask with fire in his mouth
“Who is Okoro?”
If you asked Amadioha to go save Igbos in Kano
He would ask if it’s a quarters in Nnewi”
Grim situations could push one off the edge. To save ourselves, to retain sanity somewhat, we latch onto anything that grants us an escape. Humour is a good escapist method. So when one of Nigerian dilemmas is humoured in “Illuminated Darkness”, you understand why.
“Refrigerators have turned wardrobes
Housing clothes, shoes
Our televisions have turned stages
Where rats throw entertaining performances
Dancing reggae to their highlife songs”
‘THE CLARION CALL’ highlights the deficiencies we struggle with. Most importantly, it touches down on issues that make us, us – Nigerians perhaps.
You should read this book. [CLICK HERE TO BUY IT]
Author: Joseph Omotayo
@omotayo is a Nigerian reviewer and blogger. Some of his works are published at criticalliteraturereview.blogspot.com and josephomotayo.blogspot.com.