From Minna, the literary capital of Nigeria (you can argue with your ancestors on this) arrives a poetry volume from a young but stupendously conscious mind. The Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation has, as usual, found a voice, nurtured it, and collected its sonorous songs and published it to the world as it has done for more than thirty other teenagers.
The voice of Ibraheem Uthman bursts into the literary landscape with the publication of his collection of poems titled, Mind of a Bard. It’s a voice I trust will be earnestly listened to for its acuity and having come from a mind that’s full of wonderments, suffused with brilliance and beauty. That’s for sure. We are currently witnessing Sadiq Dzukogi, Hauwa Shafii, Paul Liam, all weaned from the same foundry in Minna.
Mind of a Bard is an invitation to a poetic party in the enigmatic mind of the poet to which the reader would be engrossingly immersed. The venue is grand where we have ‘a night resting in a fridge across the mountain top’, and ‘crickets are gossiping‘ while ‘light is a lonely girl.. ‘ The poems served, fifty in all, are hot and spicy capturing the ideas of life and death, love and heartbreak, Nigeria and nature, past and future, romance and friendship. They have a dose of musicality to complete the party scene. They are short, with only two going beyond a page, but with many layers of meaning delivered in thoughtful metaphors.
I am in love with love so I was glad to note that the theme of love dominates the volume. Many of the poems speak of the poet-persona pledging his undying love for a love interest as we see in poems like ‘A Drop’, ‘Last Moment’, ‘Obsession’, ‘I Care’ and ‘Hungered’.
Give me a slice of love
And I will turn a loaf
For your communion (pg 39)
He also expresses his thirst for her. As in the poem, Hungered: I yearn for your touch/your kiss/your skin/I’m mad and hungered.
In ‘Last Moment’, he repeats his request ‘whack me a kiss/to the thrill of my heart’ ( pg. 35). This love is never reciprocated as we learn in the heartbreaking poem, ‘Boom’.
But little does she know that
For her eyes are impotent
To the dots on the lover’s mind… ( page 12).
So in ‘ Writ of the Heart’, the poet-persona surrenders, bringing down the lines he uses as grenades and bombs to steal her heart. Hear him:
For my heart cross its heart against love
Heartbreaks became seconds
The worn part of my heart has become so real
That it could speak to me ( page 11)
Touching. Moving. The love poems alone are worth the price of the book.
The poem Copulation has the measured cadence required to make the reader invested in the beautiful act of love-making . It starts slow, then rushes: .... Sensation seeps /As climax stretches in/Souls collide/And lips are united in war… ‘
The poem ‘Suicide Note’ as the title suggests is one where the persona contemplated what life is not because of the travails of life. It is bitter and armed with the right words to make you empathise. ‘Nigeria’ is a beautiful potrayal of our beloved country in ruins and rubbles. ‘Our Pains’ is a pastoral poem that reminds us of the dire situation we’ve been dragged into by the greedy men and women in power . The volume ends with ‘Gone Ahead’ a long and philosophical poem that raises the consciousness of the reader about the hereafter, heaven.
Some poems however are too piquant, too hard to digest and swallow giving the impression that the poet-persona doesnt want to grant you access to certain places in his mind, leaving the reader wondering; “Why give me meat I can’t chew?”
Uthman does this politely and we’ll forgive him for that. You’ll feel the sweetness of course (in the grace of the expressions) but left with lingering disappointment at not having deciphered them if you are like me who likes to dig deep into poems.I am not comfortable with the way the poems are organized. The book should have been broken into parts. Love poems separately, politics and Nigeria in its own section. It would have been a smoother ride into the pages.
There is something a little unsettling basking, one minute, in the beauty of love captured in one poem while the next page ushers you into the mess that’s Nigerian politics or the fearful lines that drag you into a grave.
The narration of the love life of the poet-persona is nonlinear in a way that leaves you confused but as always, if any consolation, the beauty of the poems suffices.
It was an absolute delight flipping through these pages. You won’t encounter those viruses that run amok through the works of most young writers. I mean cliches. Uthman’s collection shines with a uniqueness all its own. What a feat!
I recommend it for all lovers of poetry. Mind of a Bard is a slim collection that gives so much in return.