The book for this week is a collection of poems, titled: “How Morning Remembers the Night,” written by Ifesinachi Nwadike and jointly published in 2020 by Winepress and GriotsLounge. Ifesinachi Nwadike is a rapper, essayist, poet and playwright, and his background as a lyricist comes to the fore in 33 poems in this collection with the way he heavily deploys colourful words to great effect.
Thus in this collection, the poet opens with grief and sadness as the canvass on which the work is painted.
From the first poem, titled: “Introit: My Memory is a Deluge of Grief and Anguish,” (p11), and in a large part of the collection, the inescapable presence of grief greets his portrait of a nation which feasts on the blood of activists, nationalists and patriots, of a nation that watches helplessly as its girls and maidens are whisked away by terrorists, of a nation that is continually at war with itself.
In “Where Coffins Fly?”, for instance is the poet’s lamentation of the death of fellow countrymen and women who died in the infamous crashes of Bellview, Sosoliso and Dana airlines. The poet uses the metaphor of a coffin to describe the aircrafts that saw to the internment of these people. The atmosphere of grief continues as the poet persona sets before us a catalogue of fatalities in a series of accidents that happened at a particular junction in Owerri. Persons of different ages and professions meet their end here in the most fatal harvest.
In the collection, How Morning Remembers the Night, darkness lurks at every corner, and the poet persona silently sings his dirges in tow. Indeed, the sombre songs of the poet are dedicated to persons like Nwokerie Chinonso (p16) whose tale is the “tale of a ship/Sunk before it set sail/On life’s screwed sea”. Others include Danbudzo (p17), who’s “mind was the mill where madness, dreams, and nightmares coalesced into schizophrenia”… who “escaped through the window of youth in this long, bumpy ride to sunset.” In the poem, “Graffiti on a Rebel’s Remains” (p19) dedicated to Esiaba Irobi, the poet writes:”Esiaba/You bowed before the/Orchestra curtains fell….”
In another of the poet’s songs of sorrow, he sings about Ezenwa Ohaeto, in the poem “The Drum’s Tempo Has Ebbed” (p18) this way:
“A cancerous coal
the minstrel’s lips
“His tongue, stuck
in the cave of his jaw;
shame to dehydrated palates…”
In this collection, the poet writes for Patrice Lumumba (p21) whose “gut was the claws that tore the fabrics of Stanley’s charade…” and in “Radio Haiti” (pp23-24), dedicated to Jean Loepold Dominique, the poet writes:
“This song is a throb of guilt
In the corrugated conscience
Of those rabid masochists
Bloodsucking wolves with reddish canines
Who glory in the sheepish servitude
To imperial Lords of the third world
His ashes to the sea
Is a baptism for the new legion;
The legion of truth;
A light which darkness
Can never dim-
For he left his footprints on water
Which carries his memory all over Haiti.”
In this work, How Morning Remembers the Night, melancholy is pervasive. And it is deeply felt in the poet persona’s moving eulogy for Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh (P 25), and tear-drawing dirges for the ALUU 4, the four University of Port Harcourt undergraduates who were killed on the 2nd October 2012 in the community named Aluu, Leah Sharibu and other victims of mass abduction by terrorists, Pius Adesanmi, as well as Ochanya Ogbanje, the girl who was sexually abused:
against your will
death came calling
in the guise of pleasure
for four rains
you bore the brunt of brutality
from high he-goats
tethered to the bamboo-pole of your thighs
they bleat the refrain of rebuke …” (27)
In this collection, the poet writes about love, anguish and heartbreak. In the poem “I Walk the Streets of Love Clutching Bullets of Anguish”, the poet persona here reflects (p38) thus: “… Having known heartbreak I lost my soul in the flames/Now I dance behind the bush of stranded/shadows suffering/For my crimes; …” And in the other one: “They Come Back to Me by Water,” the poet asks of Ebube Gladys: “Memories of you, us;/Of days when we were oblivious of the world/Of fear; of failing; of parting/Did you empty our past into water?”
In this work the poet dedicates a substantial part to lash out at the political class and how the politicians have collectively plundered the nation. In the poem, “They Have Not Stolen?” the poet opens with a rhetorical question. The poet persistently asks question after question in this satirical lampooning of those whom he referred to as “honourable polithievians” who shoot their pens to empty public vaults and clutch the baton of greed, who run the corruption relay race “In the grand march to backwardness.”
In this section of the collection, the poet deploys words like De-Money-Crazy, Legislathieves, Judisharing, executhieves, and so on to paint pictures of plunder that the political class has visited on the people and the nation at large.
In the poem: “Patriotism is a crime?” the poet laments the unsavoury treatment that the nation metes out to pensioners in Nigeria. The poet, asking if it is a crime to serve ones nation, graphically tells us the unfortunate plights of these pensioners. He writes of their pitiable lot as they stand in queues “under the scotching sun like slaves in the Caribbean” as they are perpetually compelled to attend repeated and needless verification processes by succeeding administrations in the country. (p53)
Of particular interest in this collection is the poet’s postulation that the Biafra question is a ghost that continually haunts this nation. The poem, “Memory is a Crust of Blood” (pp32-34) is a poet’s x-ray of the Biafra conundrum and conclusion that this nation needs to put closure to it. For instance, the poet believes that the memory of the war and concomitant carnage is “a past being muscled out/Of the forehead of distorted history.” The conviction of the poet persona is that this war was “a needless fratricide” indicating that it could have been dialogued out, and the hatred and bitterness averted.
So for the poet persona, the Biafra story was a war that has proven to be a story of using ‘poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows”, and it needs to be revisited: but the poet quips: “But borders aren’t cast in iron/Can’t they be redrawn?”
In the work, How Morning Remembers the Night Ifesinachi’s strong voice powerfully reverberates in the literary landscape and this tastefully written work is a testament to that. The collection is a critical commentary which touches myriads of socio-political problems confronting mankind. It especially decries leadership failure, corruption, terrorism, and ethnicity as banes of the African continent.