The Aroma Of Verses In Osaze’s Collection
Samuel Osaze’s Aroma of a Burning Bush seeks to explore national, social and popular issues in his debut collection of poetry. The book opens like an epilogue with a commentary by Reginald Chiedu Ofodile. This commentary impresses upon the reader his own postulations on the book. The book leaps into several prisms of meaning that do not necessary conform to the intellectual remarks of Ofodile; this is what makes Osaze’s Aroma of a Burning Bush a splendid collection.
The poet’s style is in free verse which serves the content and the imagery of the collection. There is no form to fire and there are different forms of fire. It is within the tensions of fire and aroma that the poet considers the environmental and socio-political as well as the emotional, sensual and philosophic verses in no strategic order. Nigeria becomes the land torched by forest fire without a face to claim responsibility. The political class convolutes into a reductionist slave driving class that deprives their ‘animals’ of food until they can no longer bear the pain, yet protest is caged. ‘You muzzled the mouth of the horse/That does gently tread the corn?/Afterwards you cast out seeds Like a charmer after a hen’.
For the poet, the Nigerian citizen is trudging the desert without a ‘Moses’ and without a ‘promised land’ in sight and the imagery of selfishness is apt. Nevertheless, the people rely on flashes of hope that are packaged as lies on their necks of fantasy, while the wealthy drink from the source of thirst. The poet assumes the voice of the silenced and the mummers; he hopes that words which constitute nationhood can be used to reconstruct its ruling class.
Particularly impressive is the poetry of performance in this collection in poems such as ‘After the Dance,’ ‘Upon Seeing an Esan Maiden Dance,’ ‘The Last Dancer Takes Over Arena,’ ‘The Prophets of Fire,’ ‘Bird of Sorrow’ and ‘Sanitary Priests’ Chant at Okede’. ‘After the Dance’ hints on the motivations of celebration of political class who steal and leave the people bereft of wealth and purpose. The motivation for the dancer is money yet underdevelopment stares everyone in the face. Osaze eases the tension of the reader with the dexterous use of performative imageries. ‘The Prophets of Fire’ speaks of the clash of the times, between tradition and modernity, between ritual and reverence, between the chants and the hymnals. ‘Bird of Sorrow’ is profound as it recalls the expectation of the people at independence and describes the country as a man with stroke, helpless and slow. Nigeria is the Okporunwanvie bird; it is a sluggish bird that brings bad omen and has no sense of responsibility to the harmony of life. ‘Sanitary Priests’ Chant at Okede’ is a poem of procession that recognises the sacrifice of plants and animals in the cultural production of mankind. The poem is also a prolific re-invention of great poets like Okigbo
‘My Pastor’ is a short poem. It exposes the character of the emerging Pentecostal hue where the words are not in tandem with the moral and spiritual principles of God’s word. Gospel is a mass manufacture of the pastor’s carbon copy. BHS 1998 is an outburst of tribute to comradeship as against tribalism. Other poems like ‘Punch the Air at my Coming’ is a song by a persona-in-Diaspora returning home. The poem relies on trajectory of ancestry and the expectant celebration of a long lost son.
The poems would have benefited from properly categorisation or segmented in order for readers to navigate the verses with a sense of interpretative clarity. There should have been a more robust imagery of the fourth sense which would have given the collection a notch of praises. Nevertheless, Osaze makes up for his shortcomings with apt words, beautiful imageries and a certain narrative signature that keeps the reader glad to have picked the book from a bookstore. The poet has warmed world-be readers’ hearts with a new aroma by bringing together a familiar dish of political poems, with the conversation of local spices and leaves. The poet has lent to his poems desserts of love, simple delights of life that help exist in difficult socio-political times. Osaze is a poet for the future!