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ISBN: 978-1983663437

“Art and love are the same things: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.”
― Chuck Klosterman

One of my favorite books of all time explores human conscience. It is Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) authored by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. I hated that book as much as I loved it because it was written so skillfully, in a way that tortures the reader while informing them of the intention to torture them. Beyond the renewed moral sense I gained from reading the book was my attraction towards the art of being human and the structure of moral difficulties that Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson forced me to experience.

I found this same quality in Marie Chidi Okorie’s The Men That Couldn’t Love Me. She did a great job in torturing the reader in the first pages, while creatively exploring a lover’s endless cycle of wanting despite not being wanted: imagine reading “I want you” in different languages and other words for about a thousand times.

Personally, I felt emotional and upset about my desire to know how things will end, while also admitting my awareness of the author’s intention.

On the matter of style, Marie used a lot of repetition to emphasize her intention. In a poem tagged `20, she writes;

Once I loved you,
A million times you liked me.
One day you loved me.
I did not know what to feel.
I thought it was love.
I thought it was love.
I hate how you ruined me
I fed on nothing.
You fed on me.

As empathetic as I felt for this character, I thought that her love was strange. It was so selfless that it became selfish. On the surface, one may assume that the book is about the person she was giving all her love, attention and affection to but received none from. However, through another perspective, one would discover a narcissism this person had.

Going by the latter perspective, the book is really just about her; how she feels deserving of a person because of all, she was willing to give away of herself. Although her words describe and divert attention to a failing lover, her uncountable use of “I” reveals a subtle narcissism that she isn’t admitting. This book is like a puzzle and the more attention you pay to subtle clues hanging around corners, the more interesting you would find it.

In the poem ’30’, Marie writes;

I will not write about
you and me
I will not write about
How I sit at the very same spot.
Would it seem I am unwell?
That I still think of you?
I will not write how I think
you are thinking
what I am thinking-
This is torture.

In this poem, the persona seems like her and us; very relatable. This is us when we are sad, yet search for “slow, sad songs that will make you cry” on YouTube, and then we cry and feel bad for feeling even sadder and cry more that we are crying.

The persona says “I will not want you…” The tenses in her expressions to prove freedom from this emotional and obsessive bondage reveal a procrastination of certainty. Despite communicating liberation, non-verbally she is saying, I have the power not to want you, but right now I will want you and later, let you go.

On a page tagged 32, Marie writes:

Sometimes I wonder where I get it from.
The abundance of unreasonable hope.
And though life has dealt me too many blows,
Somehow, there is a ray of hope.
Marie Chidi Okorie | Facebook

Here, upon seeing both perspectives, I am uncertain if it is an unreasonable hope that she will be loved in return or that she can let go, none of which is coming to pass.

In my thoughts about love and relationships with other people, and through The Men that Couldn’t Love Me; I made these conclusions:

  • You can’t have a love of an overwhelming ocean and think that people with teaspoons will come to bear your outpour. They could dip in and out for a taste and to quench their thirst but never to stay because your outpour will devour their existence.
  • Second, I concluded that sometimes, we owe it to ourselves to love someone enough to stay, and love ourselves, while this same love is needed enough to leave or let go when needed.
  • Third, when you constantly choose to make yourself available to pain or to the absence of something or someone you desire, you deny the responsibility to choose to be loved, happy and move on.

Towards the ending of the book, on a page tagged 43, Marie writes;

Between you and I 
is what lovers will never be.
Between love and lovers
is what we’ll always be.
Between you and me
between love and lovers,
between our love,
between that love,
is something we’ll never know.

Not all affections, or people that walk into the doors of your heart, come to stay. Some are just visitors, and some travelers paying for your time with a desire for them… when their time is up, you must learn to open the doors and let them go. Open your windows and air their spirits out.


Physically, The Men That Couldn’t Love Me is beautiful. Its structure and the lack of pagination – which I suspect was intentional – contributed to the poems’ persona’s feeling of being lost. I love it.

I recommend that you purchase a copy of Marie Chidi’s book. It is available on Amazon.

Author: Oyindamola Shoola

SHOOLA OYINDAMOLA was born and raised in Ibadan, Nigeria. She is a published poet, a feminist, a mentor, a blogger and Co-founder and Resource manager of Sprinng Literary Movement. She loves to writes poems, essays and her non-classifiable opinions. She uses her writing skills with her feminist drive to discuss the gender injustices that need to be fixed. Her first collection of poems is titled “Heartbeat”. Her second, To Bee A Honey, was published in 2017.

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