Acevolution: An Essay in the Honor of Michael Ace
“The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interrèd with their bones.” – William Shakespeare
I begin this exercise by borrowing wisdom from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It is not uncommon to find encomia poured on the dead, when such praises are waste. For a man’s praise should be sung to him while he is alive, and not when his bones are interred beneath the earth. This, perhaps, is the logic behind Shakespeare’s statement above, which he made Antonio to state while delivering a eulogy in defense of the just murdered Caesar. I am of the opinion that on important occasions, it is crucial to celebrate the people around us, simple folks who leave indelible imprints while their bones are yet interred. And when one of such persons is a poet whose poetry has impacted many in different continents, it is only befitting to write a eulogy in such a person’s honor. It is this I intend to achieve here.
Michael Ace is going to be 21 on June 6, 2016! Well, why it is not a new thing for anyone to be 21, but it becomes a unique experience when such a youth has blessed his generation with more than 400 poems! For a young man at 21 to invest his time, treasury and talent into creating poetry that attracts international recognition and affects the reader in a way that very few could really venture, despite living in a social context which glorifies hedonism, celebrates epicurean excesses and emulates cheap artistic imitationism, it is imperative to pay keen attention to this great achiever. Needless to add that many people express themselves in what some carelessly call poetry, but Michael has been able to learn, grow and develop a unique artistic expression which puts him among poets worthy of note.
Perhaps, I should begin by cursorily mentioning his person, since the focus of this essay is his art. However, as an avid believer in the sociological theoretic premise of art – seriously, can anyone believe that art or poetry exists for art’s sake – it only makes sense that an incursion into the person behind the art is in order. More so, can someone really and truly remove the poet from his verses? Each artistic creation comes from a unique perspective – that of the poet. Understanding the poet’s mind does add to the appreciation of the poem; however, one can also argue that each poem should be seen as it is, a unique creation. While I do not disagree with such laudable premise, I strongly believe that a poet is the conscience of his society, as a result, should we not evaluate or appreciate such mind!?
Oyedokun Adedotun Michael, popularly known as Michael Ace, is a youth who has a unique perspective about the human condition. While preparing for this essay, I was compelled to ask him about the philosophy behind his poetry. I notice that his themes are diverse and unique. His response to my question was this: “The theme I write on depends on the message I try to put across.” I researched some of his poems, and I realized that Michael does not just write, he communicates a message. His ability to express a plethora of messages simultaneously, with each message unique in its import is an exercise for another day. He is driven by a passion to write; a passion he has succinctly expressed in these words: “The world is too complex for a pen to remain idle.” Indeed, the world is much complex, which explains why he continues to write in spite of criticism and discouragement.
From the steaming pot of curiosity, I asked about his philosophy. His response touched the depth of my soul: “I believe life is good, even in its worst, life is good.” Now, from someone whose last speech as a valedictorian was a flop because of his stammer, for someone who has lost duels and contests many times, for a person who has had to keep his own challenges aside to enrich our lives with great poems, such profound philosophy appeared to be beyond his age! And may be that assertion is right, judging that an average youth is consumed with fun and swag exhibitionism!
Michael is an artist in every right! A study of his poems, which time and space will not be available in order to do thorough justice to them, shows a consistent development of themes, style, form and expression. From western artistic forms to traditional lore, Ace conceives and crafts his lines with such dexterity akin to that of a surgeon! Pick any of his poem, you have a uniqueness running through each line; sometimes with such haste that you are convinced the poet is either trance-like or in a rush to pass his message across. At the onset, such haste, though mildly, hampers his artistic mien, but the message is often heard loud and long.
His thematic conceit is often unconventional and controversial. Such themes include “Date not a poet”, “I’m Gay”, “God is black”, etc. Besides the unique themes, his expression often deconstructs familiar concepts, such that one is tempted to wallow in some sexist tendencies only to be jabbed into the reality that only Ace could create! Unapologetically, he does not shy away from the everyday human experience of libido, lust, lies and longing; Michael puts it out there to pass across an important message. Interestingly, he does not “turn up” such lewdness in his poetry, but as a true poet and human, he tells a story with conviction that one cannot resist the message until every word has been devoured!
Ace’s themes are not all about the controversial. He is a sensitive poet whose social and human intelligence is high. He once wrote a poem about barrenness. Now, what is a 21-year-old thinking before writing about the social vilification of the barren, especially knowing that his society is one which does not treat barrenness with kindness? To have written such a poem shows his depth of humanity. His appreciation of beauty is impressive. His recent poem, “Fiwasewa” has attracted remarkable praises from renowned poets, including Brigette Poirson, one of Europe’s leading poets, who said, “You fully justify the qualification of Ace. I bow to your poetic feat.” Now, such a testament is not carelessly made, it is confirmation of the artistic ingenuity Ace has mastered over time. His appointment as the Vice President of the Nigerian Chapter of the World Union of Poets is a recognition of his poetic prowess.
Michael Ace is not all about poetry and its many forms: such as organizing duels and contests, promoting poetry, anthology, spoken word, duets; he has also left an indelible mark on prose, music, blogging, and popular culture. He continues to enrich our lives with a full serving of artistic expression. I must mention an important role Ace plays in promoting poetry and interaction among poets across the globe. Through his project, Secrets of Magical Poetry, I had the rare opportunity of meeting with and sharing from great poets from Asia, Europe and Africa. He continues to strive to make sure that contemporary young poets master the art of poetry. His pioneering efforts demand proper recognition. Recently, I collaborated with him to execute a project, Themanthology. The goal was to give a platform for remarkable poets to write on a theme extensively. I am excited that the pioneer project is debuting tomorrow, to mark Michael’s 21st birthday!
As I come to a close, I must not fail to mention the
lessons I learnt from Ace. I learnt that a true artist is evolving. No one has arrived; we all keep learning. Michael is always willing to learn. He does not discard criticism, no matter ill-willed. He listens and learns and becomes better. I have also learnt from him to keep pushing boundaries. From being an avid consumer of his works, I observed that one aspect of artistic forms is not enough. One must find new forms and explore possibilities. I have also learnt to explore themes and issues even if they are unpopular and controversial. After all, a true artist must arise above the din of the marketplace. One more lesson I learnt from this great man is to see the beauty in all and in life. Life is indeed beautiful, no matter how ugly it looks. There is always something about life to make us smile.
I am thankful to Michael Ace for sharing his life, love, lines and lore with us. I am thankful to him for making his 21 years worth celebrating. I am thankful to everyone who added value to this young man, who, in turn, invests in us. I wish him more fruitful years ahead.