So, Dami Ajayi has released his chapbook of poems – Daybreak and other Stories… sorry, other poems. Wonderful (said in Tiv accent).
Why does this boy like causing trouble? Now, he has drawn line in the sand for two of my best friends and favourite people, Elnathan John and Pa. Ikhide Ikheloa.
On the Ikhide side of the divide stand all the people who agree that “the book is dead/we no need book again give us facebook and twitter/ok ok, we gree say make you write book but you mus publish am online with links to my blog and wharrefa.” #seen.
Dami’s book is only available online; and so free you could breathe it. Pa. Ikhide is pacified. When Fifty shades of Me interviewed Pa on this issue, he answered with a laconic “Great.” Curious coming from a man of so many words. But I will take that at face value. Great it is. Pa. Ikhide is famous for bearing a grudge against all the younger, dapper male writers who are chasing after all the okpekes he is chasing after (or are chasing after him, if he is to be believed), except that they are driving cool cars. He, alas is wobbling along, trying to catch up with his undersized bike, Asymptote. The name of this bike is really curious. Is it a metaphor for the life of its owner who will always almost be a writer? (Scratching my head).
But, don’t let me fool you, this man is a brilliant, um, writer. And literary critic. He is as afraid of African writers as they are of him; he has nightmares of the upcoming Ake Book and Art Festival where he is certain that roadblocks are even this moment being set up specially for him. He forgets there are as many who would kill for him. I am one of them. Read him here. That’s his blog, but he holds forth on facebook, where he has many e-children who are as devoted to him as he is to them.
On Elnathan’s side where he stands alone looking dejected, are all the people who agree that blurbs are a nuisance, that books will sell themselves, that “money grows on trees, people live in peace and everyone agrees.” Wait, I said he stood alone right? Right.
Elnathan will pick up this chapbook, read the first two or three pages and fling it so far across the room it will bounce off his pretty bookshelf, Magdalene – I think. (At a time in my life, my name was Magdalene, named for my maternal grandmother, but try as they might, the name didn’t stick).
First, just in case Elnathan needs an introduction, I would stop at saying he is the Don Juan of the Nigerian literary scene (don’t call him a Nigerian writer to his face), but that, unfortunately is not all he is known for. He is famous for his political satires, he is famous for being shortlisted in the 2013 Caine Prize, but the award for his popularity may go to his cutting article The consequences of loving Ngozi, wherein he redefined Cocoyam; we will never think of cocoyam in quite the same way.
I say the part about the blurb to say this. This book, Dami’s (yes that’s what this is about, remember? i get distracted so easily. . .) is a blurb lover’s heaven.
Here are a few examples;
“Sometimes dense, sometimes dark, Daybreak and Other Poems present a mélange of poems that are tectonically rhythmed, symbolically graced and clinically eroticized. Invariably laced with a terrific lyrical fluency, the poems in Daybreak announce a grand arrival of one of the ―experimental brothers‖. Haunting; indeed haunting!
Tosin Gbogi- Author, the tongues of a shattered s-k-y”
What kind of wahala is this? All I can see is Eroticize and Tectonic. I used to think it was Tectocnic. Tosin, thank you o. You are a very brilliant boy, go to the head of the class.
“Daybreak is apt evidence that echoes and re-echoes the sublimity of Dami Ajayi’s nuanced poetic voice. His unique style, tone and diction make him extraordinaire amongst his contemporaries.”
Echezonachukwu Nduka–Musicologist, Poet, Author
Dami has bribed this one. Moving on.
“These poems breeze you on like fine narratives laden with the beauty of verse. The telling is bold and unpretentious packed with today’s talk and everyday emotions particularly at midpoint. Dami’s verses here definitely stands in a downing space of its own. Some daybreak for sure.”
Su’eddie Vershima Agema-Author, Bring Our Casket Home: Tales One Shouldn’t Tell.
Mtscheew, you are not in this competition. Park well. Too simple jor, we are awarding marks for big words and confusion.
“Daybreak is a fired bullet-suddenly here, suddenly gone, but not without smears that will never leave—the sensual, martial, audacious truths of a poet we must attend.”
Tolu Oloruntoba, Publisher, Klorofyll
Tolu, are you an obscurist? (I just coined that word I think), or a serial killer? Dami is a doctor, a care-giver and you are here describing his poetry with bullet. God is watching you.
“In this collection are dreams, memories, love, lust, and longing, beautifully woven in the author’s lively vice around a series of places and people. As part of a yet-uncompleted mosaic of a rich and daring experience, the work is a testament to promise. Present in Dami Ajayi’s work is a vibrant preview to a lithesome charm of a style, coloured with playfulness and derring-do.”
Kola Tubosun – Editor, NigeriansTalk Literary Magazine
“Short, sharp, tangy, leaves you yearning for more, every word tugs at memories, you smile. Dami Ajayi is the face of new poetry.”
Ayo Olofintuade, Author of Eno’s Story
Notice the two comments above. Let me just say that Kola is very tall, and Ayo is not very tall. She even managed to mention ‘short’ in her comment. I rest my case.
“In Daybreak and Other Poems, Dami Ajayi stravages from dystopic noir themes to transcendent discourses of daylight and the sun. The burrs sticking to the poet’s field clothes bear close inspection as witnesses to his wanderings. Most, not all, who wander are lost: this poet has kept his bearings with remarkable presence of mind.”
Tade Ipadeola, Author of The Sahara Testaments & Winner, Nigerian Literature Prize 2013
Hian! No wonder this man won the NLNG prize. I had to stravaig to my dictionary and ask it very urgently what ‘Stravages’ meant. God dey.
You see why this book will make Elnathan mad? Made me mad too.
Now, one would have thought all of this was more than enough. But no, Emmanuel Iduma, author of Farad had to write a 2,094-word Preface. The preface come long pass the book o. Hian. Dami, why you go gree this kain ting? Are you a learner?
Anyway, I started reading.
Here’s what I think.
1) I agree with all the blurbs above
2) No praise is high praise for Dami Ajayi’s poetry
7) Goose bumps
8) OMG OMG OMG!!!
10) I will never try to write poetry ever again
What kind of problem is this?! Dami has raised the bar. I can’t find the words; bravo to the ‘blurbers’ (um, no pun intended) who could. I am speechless.
Beautiful sentences, they just stare at you and blink, and disappear like bubbles, like a swish of silk, like a whisper in the wind. Sentences you try to hold, to own and they skip away, remain just beyond reach, elusive and you try to catch your breath and it hitches in your chest and your chest heaves and your eyes smart. That is what this book is about – dragging emotions, memories to the fore, laying them bare and weeping over them like old pictures, old clothes – one by one.
A racing heart
A sudden halt
A shuddering breath
A pang, an ache that won’t go away.
I am spoiled for choice but here are a few excerpts that just do it for me:
Sexual memories are made of these
Urgent needs that throb thighs
Dami, have your parents seen this book?
Night said, ―There is nothing more
Heart-breaking than watching a day break
Can you not picture this? So so poignant.
Then this next one titled ‘Tolu’ has pride of place in my heart.
Six years ago, I buried a friend. As close as a sister. Dami has written for me the poem I could never write her. I invite you to share this one and let’s hold hands here and weep for all the people we have lost, because it doesn’t get better than this. Listen;
If I was told that water could
Boil fish to taste,
I would disagree.
I would say that fish will not
Be cooked till it’s matured,
That fish will not be
Tasty if slaughtered too soon.
I had tears in my eyes the first time I heard this. I have tears in my eyes now as I write this and I suspect I will always have tears in my eyes when i read this. This poem is too evocative and painfully beautiful.
Now finally, because I am naughty and y’all love me like that, here is my numero uno
I have started the poem baby, you are
My flagellation. You are the imagination that
Proselytizes me to a dummy. You are the
Aggregation of all the virtues that I can’t afford
On eBay. You are my screen saver.
My one and only.
My madam at the top.
My cocoyam. *chokes* he didn’t!
Yes he did.
Dami, please now? Let me be your___ um, sorry.
I said earlier that this book made me mad, right?
Madly in love with it, with something, with anything
Mad for the sheer joy of being alive
For the luck of stumbling on it
For the gift of this talent
For the hunger it provokes
The memories it evokes
Mad with envy
Mad with pride
Mad at you who will not download this gift.
I finished reading and I now understand why Emmanuel Iduma, thinker, author, student of life, citizen of the world, prolific writer and one of the busiest and most restless people I know could write a 2,000+ preface. It is a testimony all its own. Please read that preface. I will read it again. And again. It is a vindication. But e blunt sha.
They say when you read a poet’s work and own it, you bring it to life. You give it voice. I have owned this book of poems. I adopt it. I endorse it. I recommend it (and everybody knows that books, like friends, are things you recommend with great care). But I cannot give it voice. This book speaks in sultry whispers, smoky shades, a husky timbre and gruff tones. It speaks with languid grace and urgent persuasiveness. It speaks a language all its own and its voice is ALL ITS OWN.
I also cannot bring it to life. This one came almost fully made (again, no pun intended *straight face*).
I know what I will do. I will print this chapbook and keep under my pillow – my bible, my devotional.
That, people, is the way I feel.