Turn It Loose
What else but a poem in a state of tension. A crack in a poem. Lines seen through doorways, sidewalks, arches, lips. A hint of the poet’s viewpoint. His or her choices may not resolve the mystery of the words looking back at us. Pre-determined meaning and method are not what the poem I am currently writing is interested in. I step out the door ready for whatever might arise; a shift of mind, a shift of vision, a confrontation, an embrace. It implies another kind of anti-authoritarian project. Yet the fractures include the poem painting the sky with my skin. A taste of the assembly and disassembly happening inside the poem.
This is what to expect from the apex of the foretaste of an egg. I hurry down the alley of radical optimists. I step over a scattering of wisteria. The beer at the tap gets mad at the tap. Jutting out from there is a route to the fractal vigor of a breath-stopper. The whole thing is indexically Adornean, on a somewhat more variegated design. What defies the shadowed fallacy is the intense pleasure of writing a poem; the foundational perambulation of its composition. Perhaps circumstances will afford us a memorable denigration of canonicity. The story may begin again with bowler hats falling from the clouds. Listen: the knitting is deepening. The poems oblige my ankles. This is the art of screwing up discretion. Pure boost: the catastrophe of ephemera. This is the bare minimum one can do while writing a poem with a cracked looking glass. The poem being written attracts what it needs.
To write poetry is to be ungagged. Yet I do not write poems upon demand. Both real and imaginative spaces are indispensable to glass. How can a poet’s work not change when he or she is living in an ever-evolving world? The merely possible interests me less. I don’t want to merely fill in the inches when a day breaks its ankle on my head. I open a window; granite-splitters abound. Don’t stay away; speak to them as gently or as roughly as you want. I cannot be too careful if I’m not to bore myself. It is, alas, a blackout; but we share a fireplace. And a poem that kicks you with its boots. Or is it the healing hand of a poem? A poem you got to wed in the moonlight when hula hoops disappeared. I prefer a poetry of resistance and rebellion to a poetry of exclusion and victimization.
In the swirl of Igbo being. Fundamentally independent, argumentative, personal. A way of fully facing each new place, each new moment, each new work. Wrecking rules and prescriptions. Not needing or wanting approval. In this realm, disobedience is necessary to a maker and the made thing. Cue the inclusiveness of Mbari Art. A sense of the poem as enacting the cosmos. The undogmatic permutations of a searching poem. Sometimes I feel I am still going after the sounds of the iron gongs of my adolescence. Perhaps they are still helping me learn new steps. Christopher Okigbo’s lines in Labyrinths still visit my solitude:
When you have finished
And done up my stitches
Wake me near the altar
And this poem will be finished…
The centering of myself around poetry is a joyous necessity. And the vitality of poetry manifests in bringing people together across time and distance. Sometimes I am reluctant to leave calico alone. On an errand during dress rehearsal, there is something else to see. Driftwood changes as I paint it and I am changing too. What would it mean to find the time and space to really live instead of always making a living? This smoke does not want to patronize the clouds anymore. The taste of riddle in the province of libertines: this is where the roads bend into my words. Or Just a hooded moon. Just an authorized scar. A country of gallops. A stick of incense ripe for plucking. Revolution encapsulated in a button? Crap. Which revolution? Whose revolution? Just surfing through fecal matter. Slowing down the Soulstream. Using a doornail. Scars twittering around cappuccino.
And the poet? Go gather kindling; go weed a potato patch; wherever you go someone may follow you. Let each leaf give you a gift of clarity. Film sparklers; the perfection of swinging a mallet; splitting logs. You are not here to partake in the abstraction of divinity. I don’t mean to imply you should fall for the lunacy of icebergs; definition by self-demolition or self-congratulation. That’s not the only way to see it. Nothing is exempt from the making; no one is exempt from the making. A revolution needs much more than slogans.
I remembered the journey by speedboat to Tarkwa Bay with Chukwunonyelum, Ekwutosi, Chioma, Chineme and Udealor, her husband. A sunny and breezy day. I tasted the salty sea spray as the boat raced on wavy water. On alighting from the boat at the bay, I was taught how to spell my name and emulating the others, I wrote it on the wet sand with my index finger and stepped back and watched as the approaching seawater erased it. We repeatedly wrote our names, hopping back and forth, laughing, and the encroaching water never failed to erase them. A few days afterwards, Chineme and Udealor flew to America where they wedded. What does it mean to undermine orthodox personality? Can poetry do that? It certainly has the capability.
Words are not sufficient to describe what Biafra means to my generation of the Igbo. We were not meant to survive and flourish in any way. There’s no evading the ethical responsibility and necessity of remembering.
Keep writing. Someone is always reading. There is always someone reading. Don’t wait for multitudes of readers. It would be very ridiculous for me to separate poetry from life. Writing poems was what I had been born for. Writing a poem is a way of keeping track of time. From time to time I write poems I can camp in. Both past and present nourish a poem because a poem is a continuation of life.
Poetry is also an incarnation. And I can’t presume to speak for the victims and survivors of Nigeria’s dictatorships/juntas. But I won’t deny my sorrow and outrage over waste of lives, talents, generations, time. The suffering unleashed by the brutal years of tyranny in Nigeria has not stopped. When will it stop?
Time within a poem is above and beyond being weird just for the sake of being weird. Novelty for novelty’s sake sucks. Place a volume of poems in my casket. I admit I am jealous of screaming hermits. The onyx makes definitions but a gulf has its own allure. Over there is the near-sighted Orpheus in the Carwash. So I ask some members of the White World: who gave you the right to politicize my complexion? I do not write for a living; I write for my life.
Uche Nduka was born in Nigeria to a Christian family. Raised bilingual in Igbo and English, he earned his BA from the University of Nigeria and his MFA from Long Island University, Brooklyn. He left Nigeria in 1994 and settled in Germany after winning a fellowship from the Goethe Institute....