The Aspiring Poet
Tis a good and merry week everybody.
The torrid rains’ fervency has abated somewhat,
The shy sun starts to peek from behind the curtains,
The plantlings have some respite.
And a bumper year comes hither to us all.
My humble attempt at a poem, but then again a poem is what one makes it to be, n’est ce pas? Poems for me are one of the scariest things to write. I always feel like a pretender trying to call myself a poet anytime I try to embark on one. I feel as an English Literature graduate, I am supposed to know everything about poetry and yet I get stumped whenever I try to write the damned thing. I just sit there staring at the blank paper or screen not knowing where to start; my mind befuddled with a jumbled kaleidoscope of tools I should employ: rhyme, metre, hyperbole, metaphor, compressed yet pregnant words, in short anything that will make me look clever. If my mind still remains blank then I, like everyone before me has done, employ the use of nature. I stare at the skies, looking for some pattern in the clouds, or listen for bird calls or observe chickens as they scratch about for food and I’m occasionally rewarded with some spark of inspiration. The trouble is, by the time I look down on the paper to begin to write, the image vanishes and I have start all over again or throw my pen away in frustration. Even when I turn to the poems of the greats: Soyinka, Yeats, Milton et al, I only get the messages they try to convey through textbooks that analyze their works. Resigned, I brand myself a dolt who is but a pretender to the profession. It was not always like this.
I was admitted to the grand citadel of learning called the University of Nigeria, Nsukka with great expectations for myself. One whole year of ardent study under the stern tutelage of my uncle after a failed bid to exceed the cut off point required to gain entry into the department of my choice had armed me with a considerable grasp of the literary tools for expression. Not only was I ready to easily understand sister phrases to such famous quotes as “the child is the father of man” and “the pen is mightier than the sword”, but I was ready to invent priceless nuggets of my own. I attacked my first poetry course, “Introduction to Poetry 101” with great gusto, absorbing everything I could: imagery, metaphor and such like. I was in heaven. I especially enjoyed the delightful satire in Alexander Pope’s mock epic, The Rape of the Lock and Homer’s narrative Iliad. My grades never went below A-. All this was plain sailing until an incident happened that would change my passion for poetry.
It was the first semester of my second year and the professor handling our poetry class had come out with handouts on the course for sale to all who cared to buy them. The class representative, a friend of the lecturer, was given the responsibility selling the material. One morning, my friends and I were waiting for a lecture at our usual ‘bad boys’’ spot; the back benches when Basil, the class rep came to us with a stricken look on his face. Concerned, we asked him what the matter was to which he lamented that the entire batch handouts he had been given had been stolen. He didn’t know what to tell the professor and he was in such an agitated state that we did what we could to help. We asked everyone in the class if they had seen anything and all said no. I then suggested that those of us who could afford it, should pitch in some money and give him to lessen his culpability. We did what we could and Basil was very grateful to us for our efforts. The incident was forgotten until the next morning when Basil came to tell me the professor wanted to see me in his office. I went with him thinking I was going to be graded for a paper I’d handed in the week before. To my astonishment, the professor began to ask me what I knew about the missing handouts. In shock I turned to Basil and asked him to explain what the lecturer meant by the question and to tell him what lengths I had gone to help him out of his predicament. It was like hitting a brick wall. As far as they were concerned, I was the culprit no matter how much I argued. At the end of that semester I got an E in the poetry exams. I never went to the professor’s class again.
I’m now older and wise enough to know that I shouldn’t let anyone, for whatever reason, dissuade me from my passions in life. I still stare uncomprehendingly at many poems I see, and have long since given up trying to seem intellectual about it all. I do not understand Soyinka’s or Yeats’ or Milton’s works hoha (period). I can’t fear anybody! I have found I am more suited to writing narrative poems that tell stories so I can comfortably shoot from the heart instead of the head. I write about things I like, and write mischievously when the fancy takes me. I write whenever I want to, whatever I want to and however I want to. I am very content with being the irreverent poet who has little regard for metre, rhyme and lines in his works thank you very much!
As I sit propped at my top
Waiting for the words to pop
Nothing seems to drop
So I let my eyelids droop!
Have a wonderful week everyone