By Gemini Yusuf
Only poetry can sustainably define poetry, as it changes skin as per its environment. Perhaps, we can say poetry is chameleon-wise in nature but as per the extreme understanding of Labandele Oniororo Orepo, he defined poetry as “the rhythmic explanation of the world and what we feel from the world.” This perhaps is an unshaken proof with undiluted substance that poetry has been with man since the days of Adam and Eve. All other forms of art including music has been seeds of poetry. Poetry cuts across ijala, ekun iyawo, ayajo among many others in the firm roots of the Yoruba(s). It’s however cognizant to not only give life to poems on stage but to preserve it in pages of which when read, might bring life in ages to come.
Poetry books over the time has left marks, at different spots that seem not to fade, irrespective of the fast moving shores of time. The Farmer’s Daughter by Funke Awodiya is a book I have longed to read for quite a while. Many books have been written in 2016 and has gone into extinction like the dinosaurs; the strength maintained by the book leaves one spell bound and undoubtedly, brings questions as to what might be contained in such a work. This collection of fifty six poems well woven with simplicity and relativeness is one that makes one glued to a garland.
The Farmer’s Daughter opens with ‘My Dreams’ (pg 13) in which the author portrays the fertility of the nation, Nigeria with a higher tempo that shuns a trip to foreign lands. She describes it as:
‘…a land of green moves on stream
Greener than the greener pasture I seek…’
This concretizes a popular Yoruba witty saying ‘ohun ti a n wa n lo Sokoto, n be ni apo sokoto’, which literally implies that what is searched for in Sokoto is in the pocket, which we obviously chose not to check.
She portrays a nation where security is top geared and citizens can move around in the loneliest of nights without fear of being abducted or slayed for rituals. This is evident in S2, L1-2 of the poesy where she states :
‘Before me lies a land safe for “night crawls”
Making merry without bomb-phobia…’
The wild imaginations flow on like Ikogosi spring where she prophesies a Nigeria where education is highly valued than ignorance. Clearing off odds from the stupid brutal quality of a beast to a situation where the green colour on Nigerian flag is seen as a free ticket to eternal paradise where bliss and blossoms seeks refuge. All these are yet but a dream of a patriotic poetess well embedded in a poem which she hopes to come up one day, an ideal nation expressed through the pen.
Awodiya continuously exposes the ills that bedevils our immediate society in the ‘Tales of Laraba’ (pg 18-19) where she paints the picture of a maiden who is overwhelmed by her stunning beauty and becomes a last resort for men who are after quenching their hungry libidos. She “‘ike the peacock’ has dexterously ‘displayed her endowments’ like a trader in Alaba market would display her artifacts which is definitely ‘irresistible to onlookers’. The moment which seems like fun is however cut short in stanza 1, line 12′ :
‘But my beauty fades like green grass at dusk’. With this, Funke has dexterously managed to heighten the situation, setting the readers’ minds burning with questions. Laraba (the woman in question) is however at a crossroad but can’t correct her wrongdoings as she has obviously misused the essential phase of her lifetime in mundane frugality.
“Now, aging lines dance in the mirror…
Like a leper, I stay indoors…
My heart is a turbulent sea
My tears flow like the Nile
Only the moon feels my loss…
Wishing I could retract my steps’.
While keeping her readers reeling to her poetic tunes like the song of the birds (By the Waterfalls, pg 23), she dexterously switches to an ode in commemoration of Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh whose impacts have remained iconic in quelling the Ebola infection that was a nightmare to Nigeria for a while (Cursed be that Day, pg 20). While Akeem Lasisi struts the string of his words towards ‘Even if the road to the cemetery is closed’, Funke Awodiya brings this woman to life through ‘Cursed be that day’. She skillfully paints an image of a martyr who didn’t fade out in the civil war or Biafra war but one who lost her life whilst serving humanity. This is evident in lines 13-16 :
‘Like a gallant warrior, she died saving lives.
Cursed be the day Ebola sneaked into our land
Faceless monster, doom’s messenger…
Cursed be that day you sauntered into our veins’.
The Farmer’s Daughter (pg 40) which seems to have a strange eponymy is one which brings us all to the conclusion of Nigeria being a farm and the citizens, as the offsprings of the farmers. She brings the lopsidedness of a country (farm) where ‘honey is massively served for nature’ yet the ‘bees that produce it remain in agony’. She portrays the plights of children who are silenced in the offing of starvation while foreign accounts ‘wealth barns’ are continuously created and more beggars ‘alms-begging’ are produced in the homeland. That poem verily is not a bad choice in being the title of the collection and would some day serve as a prologue in the Nigerian constitution.
She proceeds in her advocacy for a genuine and accommodating nation whilst maintaining her ground as an Initiator of Safe Dreams Initiative dedicated to the course of sickle cell awareness. This is well pictured in her poesy ‘Show me empathy’ (51). Even though she is not a sickle cell patient, she is able to personify realism into poetry emphasizing that sickle cell anemia is meant to be a condition not an infirmity. She gives hopes to the patients that their abilities are endless like the progressive movement of bees in the hive. ‘My cell is sickle but my brain isn’t’ is a constant refrain that opens each stanza. That poem might do well to be the anthem for all sickle cell patients, the hopes and vitality it brings is not to be written down in mere words.
Funke Awodiya buttresses idiosyncrasy in her writings with titles like ‘Ojokoro’, ‘Onitemi’, ‘Ekiti Kete’, ‘Sisi Alagbo’ among others. ‘Ekiti Kete’ (pg 35) is one of those poems that captured my attention and for a while, it made me, the reader wish I was an indigene of Ekiti. She is able to bring a vivid imagery of lip smacking thoughts arousing from ‘iyan’, ‘egusi’ and ‘isapa’.
Funke also celebrates motherhood in poems like ‘Mama’ (pg 44), ‘Iyaniwura’ (pg 58), ‘A Song for Mum’ (pg 72), among others. Her style of writing in ‘Iyaniwura’ is quite deviant and each line is strikes like a thunderbolt. This would definitely put a smile on a mother’s face without having to listen to Bisade Ologunde’s Feyin E.
She also skillfully expresses romance in well arranged verses, making Tee Blizz anxious to have Tiwa Savage back, Funke manages to infuse the cultural diversities in marital culture ranging from the Ibos to the Yorubas, Hausas and Niger Deltas in a bid to promote unity and oneness. This is well portrayed in ‘Who Shall I Wear His Crown?’ (pg 65-66) and a Pidgin poem ‘Mai Laif go beta’ (pg 68-69).
One thing that remains cognizant in Funke Awodiya’s work is her ability to maintain brevity as a sole soul and yet communicate her message in few but rich lines. The Farmer’s Daughter is one of those poetry collections that would keep ringing a bell in millenniums to come as the poems embedded in it are proofs of poetry as a tool for revolution and an instrument for a better nation. The subtleness by which each line flows, concocted with the emotions invoked, makes it captivating, alluring and yet despite a few flaws that affirm that no writer is impeccable, leaves an engraving that would remain firm even without bistre. This is a book every poetry lover, poet, poetess, writer, etc should seek to have in their libraries. It is worth more than silver and gold. Indeed, Funke Awodiya has proved that poetry is a mirror of unsettling realities.
Yusuf Balogun Gemini.