The foremost devotion of a poet is to language. He spends his literary vocation striving to achieve a measure of its limitlessness. One of his most important duties is to remind us of the depth and range of language. Human consciousness is so advanced that effective communication has become commonplace and language its building unit.
Indeed, it is the duty of a poet to remind us of the wonders of language. And so, just as the mystic who strives towards a higher level of consciousness, where he surrenders to something bigger than himself, the poet strives to reach the peak of language where, overtaken by its power, he unfurls its profoundness. A poet demystifies what is mysterious, and mystifies what is understood. Hence, what is mysterious becomes known and what is known becomes mysterious.
The Poet, amu nnadi, has previously written six collections of poetry. His works can be divided according to the stages of his evolution as a poet. His two previous collections, ‘a river’s journey’ and ‘a field of echoes’, his 5th and 6th published in 2016, appear to be precursors to ‘the love canticles’, his seventh collection. Therefore, ‘the love canticles’ appears as a crown upon the further evolution of his worldview as a poet, at whose core love exists.
Divided into five sections, ‘the love canticles’ begins with “earth ache”. Here, through 25 poems of wanderlust and melancholic contemplations, the sensation of an aching earth as a metaphor for an aching heart is revealed. The earth sees itself through the intrinsic and extrinsic contemplations of the poet. And in these reflections, the earth aches for something before and behind itself.
These innermost contemplations, through the deliberation of the poet, make themselves evident. The deliberations which lead to these poems are part of the poet’s vocation, like the meditative hymns of a religious service. The poems in the first section are mostly a meditation on encounters and love, setting the motion for what one discovers in ‘the love canticles’.
The second section of poems is titled ‘unfurling’. In 26 poems, amu nnadi explores love through a description of emotions. This evokes in the reader similar emotions of affections with which the poems were written. The evocation of love lies among many other things, in its description. amu nnadi, in this section of the book, attempts to describe love. Everyone becomes a poet in trying to describe love, but the words of a poet in love are even more animating.
The third section, titled ‘heart’s whisper’, contains 27 poems. In this, the description of love moves and morphs into a confession. If description is the evocation of love, confession is the recreation of love in the beloved.
The collection assumes a darker, deeper tone in the fourth section, titled ‘falling’, by exploring pain. This is part of the thoroughness which this collection exhibits, because love is never complete without pain. The sufi poet and mystic, Rumi, once wrote: “Love is better when mixed with pain/ in my town, they will not call you a lover/ if you escape the pain.” And so amu nnadi explores the coldness, uncertainty, heartbreak and bleakness which come with love and its constant conflict with human imperfection. In this part, the collection becomes almost complete.
There is a final section titled, ‘miscellany’, and it contains an epitaph that is outside the main body of work. It is a final exaltation of love and an endnote upon the collection. It ends with the note, “This is not part of the one hundred poems. It is but a sigh, a cup of water at journey’s end.” It is significant of the exhaustion which comes with creating art and loving, punctuated with a sigh of satisfaction.
The collection in its structure follows an evolutionary trail of amu nnadi’s previous collections. But it strives to heighten the effect his previous works have had. Perfection is impossible, but art does not strive towards perfection, for where perfection is possible, there is a limit. And art is limitless. There is, therefore, no limit to what the poet can strive to attain with language.
Somewhere in ‘the love canticles’ amu nnadi avers: “What makes the poet special, and in this lie his torment and madness, is that he sees what does not exist, and writes it into being.” Perhaps this is true. But what is even truer is that the poet sees what is not apparent and writes it into visibility. Through this, the poet reveals the profoundness of language.
“The heart speaks a better testimony, a more profound truth, than words,” he also declares, in another part of the book. That language of the heart is what the poet attempts to express in his works, which takes us to a higher realm of language. It affords us a deeper experience of existence in various dimensions — of glee or of sadness, depending on the poet’s vision.
Indeed, ‘the love canticles’ is an alchemical phenomenon. It is a project which attempts to achieve a purity of vision of life’s richness by seeing it through a vantage of love and the point of view it affords. Through this masterly attempt, amu nnadi demonstrates what the poet, W. S Merwin meant when he once said: “Poetry is seeing the world with fresh eyes.”
The poet strives to portray familiar experiences in fresh language. To do this, he has to see things anew. This could be aided by an eureka moment of gaiety or a stint of loneliness and sadness, or love. The poet, amu nnadi, has given us poetry in the themes of all the above, but his themes have found their centrality in love. From ‘a river’s journey’ to ‘a field of echoes’ and now, ‘the love canticles’, amu nnadi has begun and completed the vision of a trilogy, a body of work that expands our vision and perception of life in countless ways through the purifying lens of love.
The result of this endeavor is an anthology that explores a theme not commonly explored in the continental scene, with a dexterity to be admired, at any level which poetry has ever been written. The carefulness of amu nnadi’s craft, the vividness of his vision as embodied by his use of metaphors, and the accuracy of his imageries is characteristic of a gifted poet whose art has passed through alchemical furnace of decades of long-suffering and devotion, resulting in art in the realm of near perfection.
In this collection, we see a poet mark another epoch in the racetrack of his poetry. And he appears set to begin another race, in a new course, in an area where he has dutifully and diligently placed his imprint across two decades.