I labored on the choice of a title for this piece. If the obvious alliteration of Pleasantly Playful Pickled Prittle-Prattle Poems is not compelling enough to readers or does not earn an editor’s approval, I would console myself that it passes the test of being a good reference in a literature class on figures-of-speech.
The title tweaks the subtitle of Yemi Adesanya’s poetry collection, a debut publication that invites readers on a poetic journey paved with goofiness, love dealings and dilemma, child-rearing and childhood, supplication, existential musings, corporate chaos, mischiefs and misadventures, and outright naughtiness.
I launched into Musings of a Tangled Tongue as soon as it downloaded into my device. My reading ritual usually starts with randomly flipping through a new book, subconsciously expecting something to pique my attention, maybe a well-constructed sentence, maybe an odd idea, maybe some eccentric wordings, maybe an amusing quote, just anything to quickly advertise a book as worthy of my time. In this collection, the poem titled “Jack and Jill,” did the trick. Goofy like I love my rapports, mischievous like the literary works I love to return to, short and punchy like I love social media posts, this risqué poem served the first salvo from the collection. I laughed out after reading it and had to return to it to be sure I had not missed any hidden meaning, beyond its obvious naughtiness. Alas, no hidden meaning. It is what it is, a sexual tryst between two lovable characters of a famous nursery rhyme:
Jack and Jill went off the grid
To pet a rampant boner.
Jack came first and spilled his spunk
Then Jill came, trembling after.
I flipped to “No Kidding,” a charming poem that evokes a mother’s devotion and admonition to her child. She speaks of her responsibility as a guide and guard of her child life’s journey and acknowledges, in the second verse, that the duty comes with chastisement:
Put my life on the line to have you,
My hands on the grind to raise you,
My feet on the pedals I’ll drive you,
Upward and forward
You must go.
I’ll scream and wait to right you.
My hands are here they’ll flog you.
My feet on the path to guide you,
Uptight and forthright
You must stand.
My already piqued fascination about the collection (I must confess that “Jack and Jill” deceived me into thinking that I might be on a poetic Kama Sutra ride) was soon dulled by “Monday Madness,” a killjoy and bad-hair-day poem about the typical complaints of one caught in the throes of corporate monotony.
Stuck in a graveyard meeting
Can’t keep dancing this tango
In a half broken stiletto
A similar poem is “Hype Brigade,” which depicts a typical corporate lifecycle.
The collection’s major triumphs are its accessible themes and language. Especially those about love. I imagine Yemi reading “I Want to Love Your” at a spoken-word performance, maybe accompanied by guitar and conga.
The themes are simple and unpretentious, not as one expects from poets attempting lofty poetic experiments with heavy themes, say, philosophy, dark contemplations, or even of expressing mundane themes with manipulation of language to the point of boredom.
I might be too effusive about this collection, but the poems are somewhat a reverse of the type of poetry I am familiar with, the type that assumes a smug pose, overwrought in structure and expressions, tense in mood, brain-tasking—poems considered as literary gold-standard. We all know them.
But the collection suffers too. I will get to that shortly.
These poems suggest that Adesanya is attuned to creating from playfulness and restiveness, say, about being a romantic and sensitive lover, or occupying herself with existential concerns, or just musing over a reality that bears pressure on the creative process, with humor too. In this case, poetry becomes an act—art too—of making sense of the world, a spiteful response too, to that which tugs on reflections.
Besides its shortage on linguistic ambitions, it is an impressive publication that adds the author to a list of new age Nigerian poets surprising the world with poetic resourcefulness—Dami Ajayi and his dazzling devotion to allusions drawn from medicine, pop culture, social media, street lingos; Jumoke Verissimo and her treatment of the human condition like a tales-by-moonlight affair; and the textural lightness of Sadiq Alabi’s poems that break Remi Raji-like ideas into new age intelligibility.
On technique and stylistic ambition, I would score the collection a six-over-ten. The free-flowing poems, especially “Here Lies Lust”, “McHunger”, “Ms. Adventure”, “Crackles if Soulful Melody” are impressive exceptions. An insistence on end rhymes is charming on some poems—“Loafday”, “Iyke the Kite”, “Forever Living” but distracting on others like “It’s Changed the Same”, and “Sleepless Nights.” This point may be ignored, as I tend to be cynical about poems that have structural allegiance to European poetic forms. I just want the flow, not technical mascara. These days, I associate them with original photos made less original by Instagram filters.
Anyone that picks this book will notice I’ve ignored commenting on the “serious” poems like “Death Left You a Note”, “Kahlo’s Picasso”, and the praise song, “Thank a Brave Soldier.” If I edited the work, I would leave them out. They got in the way of my amusement. In my world, Kama Sutra is not compatible with Karate.
One more risqué poem, and we can end this piece. “Play With Me” might be the advances that led to “Jack and Jill:”
Love me like a butterfly
Fragile wings and colorful bits
Touch my soft parts and electrify
Spill your pollens and let us bloom
Love my (sic) like a bestseller
My intricate lines, yours to explore
Flip my pages like a sheet propeller
Show what you know and learn my ropes
With Musings of a Tangled Tongue, Adesanya registers herself as a fun poet. If I ever have the right to suggest what her next collection should be, I’d say make it a single-theme work, on either Love or Motherhood. Or a paean on Sex. It will sell.