Once the reader is plunged into the anthology ‘Running’, he is soon immersed in a depth of reflection as he is made to realize that he himself is indeed running not just through the body of work but also through life. It reminds one of the shared dilemma the poets share with the French composer Olivier Messiaen, whom while in prison, made utmost use of the aid of papers and a small pencil offered to him by a sympathetic German guard (Carl-Albert Brüll) to compose the best and most famous work in his oeuvre; Quartet for the end of time.
This shared sense of haste runs throughout this body of work; this is clearly elucidated in the opening poem ‘Running’ beautifully penned by Mosobalaje M. Abimbola. He writes;
‘… my neighbor’s son asked me. why i run faster than time
…this boy will look into the mirror tomorrow &
see me beneath his eyelids.’ pointing the reader to the fact that; living, for most of us, has become nothing but a race against the brevity of life. A journey in which a little rest beyond the necessary would leave the runners’ body with ‘contours of slayed dreams’ and ‘holes of weakness’ from which ‘regret sneaks in’ in the words of Abioye Samuel Akorede.
The picturesque imageries laden in Michael Ace’s poem shows us the danger we often expose ourselves to while pushing the boundaries in our haste, ‘- How we run to beat time even before we know how to read the hands of the clock’ yet ‘…his(our) demons are clinging to his(our) heels’ as Nonso Serah puts it, guiding us by the hand to witness the dilemma of the character in her poem. Oni Oluwatomiwa Olanrewaju reminds us of the ephemeral nature on which our society has been unconsciously built. He gives a subtle depiction of the materialism in which our society struggles to drag her feet through.
‘When your nation is
a premature fetus
Itself running into new schemes?
Of things that run…’
This is equally portrayed in Aremu Adams Adebisi’s bewildered tone, his observation that we have ‘no alternative but to run’ and he the observer (persona) left with ‘no alternative but to gaze helplessly’ thus ends the ‘sad poem with an ellipses…’ sadly reminding us of the unending nature of life’s rat-race which Tukur Loba Ridwan further reminds us that ‘it is no news’ while he opens our eyes to the paradox of life where ‘no one wants to come last’ yet ‘none wants to come first running into the grave’.
One of humanity’s greatest shortcomings over the ages has been the endorsement of compassion and generosity as virtuous ideals yet we often tend to be too busy chasing our individual gals and we end up no putting these convictions into practice, this has been clearly pointed out in this anthology.
This is an orchestra of powerful voices who have chosen not to merely entertain their audience but to ignite in them a fire with which they are expected to look inwards and reflect. Through this work, they have successfully shared their apprehensions with the world and as Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Lau writes in their 1997 masterpiece THE POET’S COMPANION: A guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry
‘Every good poem asks a question’, this collection of poetry leaves us with many questions.
‘Time waits for no one’ goes the adage but we often hurry through life hoping to make a judicious use of every drop that we can squeeze out from it. The poets succeed in taking their audience along a seemingly spiral staircase to a zenith from which we are made to look down at society, our lives most importantly and be bathed with a sense of self-sympathy at how we have almost substituted living with survival, but life goes on and in accordance to the words of the poet Seamus Heaney
‘How perilous to choose not to love the life we’re shown.’
Eze Ossai is a writer and graphics designer. He studied English language and Literature education at the University of Benin and he’s passionate about art in all its beautiful manifestations.