The sublime poetry of omoseye bolaji

By | September 28, 2015

By Peter Moroe

Omoseye Bolaji has contributed a lot to African black writing. For many of us we associate him with superhuman contributions to journalism; but then again there is his nigh-phenomenal contributions to literature. This is understandable. It is baffling that any writer we know so well could have published so many stunning fictional books: Impossible Love, The Ghostly Adversary. The Guillotine, The subtle transgressor, People of the Townships, and the “Tebogo mystery” series: Tebogo Investigates, Tebogo’s Spot of bother, Tebogo Fails, Ask Tebogo, Tebogo and the haka, Tebogo and the epithalamion, and Tebogo and the pantophagist.

In the process Bolaji’s contributions to poetry become very much undermined. An occasional poet, as he calls himself, he has nevertheless published a fair amount of poetry in magazines and in anthologies (books). Here I shall briefly look at his published book of poems, Snippets (republished several times since 1998). Bolaji’s poems are not of the quick fame, easily understood variety; they are often condensed, distilled from African proverbs and a profound philosophical mind remarkably expressive in English.

Take the beginning of THE VILLAGE for example:

The pastoral rustic ambience

Fauna serenely traipsing around

The inimitable sheep dog on the qui vive

 Orchestrating the peregrinations of its wards

Or the beginning of IN EXILE:

Shards of loneliness pierce the exotic glasshouse

A wandering musky essence wrapped in cogitation

A withering cold exacerbated by the perforation

Of my ramshackle matchbox house

What to ameliorate the sequestered existence?

The comprehension of the poems become even more difficult when Bolaji dips into African aphorisms; in DERAILMENT for example:

 In dire frustration and stymied futility…

The needle is malleable to the entreaties of the cloth…

The poetic devices are heightened and impressive, even in his more simple poems like TEMPTATION.

 “Titillating. Husky penumbral tendrils again”

 And the very last line of the poem:

 “Wan yes, but one that won me a laurel!”

 Note the poetic use of “wan” “one” and “won” in just one line, all with different meanings.

Poems such as THE VILLE and ODIOUS SIGHT are sonnets, with all the lines rhyming. In ODIOUS SIGHT it is interesting that Bolaji borrows from languages with his end rhymes, e.g mukhukhus rhyme with goose (lines 9 and 10); and system rhymes with skelm (lines 14 and 14) T

THE ROAD is a triumph. The foot notes to the poem tell us that it is one based on true life when as a very young man, Bolaji was driving a car which suddenly “knocked” See how the poet describes it:

A heart rending noise

Reminiscent of grating ululations

Redolent of abrasions. Lesions.

Banshee screechings and screams

Interspersed with persistent metallic shrieking

 Involuntarily jerking the car to a halt

We can imagine the engine of the car in great pain! The simplest poem in the book is certainly BETRAYAL which ends in both pathos and bathos:

When you were in my arms

And you said you were for me

I thought something great was developing

Now I’m shocked to learn

That my own senior at work

keeps you warm in bed!

 The unexpected ending, the climax, reminds us of most of Bolaji’s fiction anyway. Which I suppose is a familiar place to end this piece.

 

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