One of the reasons poetry isn’t widely read is because of its often turgid diction and images opaque to many outside the literary universe. Perhap Asadu Ibobo has that in mind in crafting her debut poetry volume, First Fruits, published by Harmony Publishing, Lagos — a collection neither tasking comprehension nor simplistic.
Few of her poems are written in Pidgin, and here is a poet trying to take poetry to the marketplace where the language of the ordinary people is recognised and elevated. In her idioms and intimate conversations, the poet attempts to speak to our hearts about idiosyncratic experiences and our quotidian realities. Her muse finds expressions in gender issues, love, the familial, existence, and conscience. Most of the poems are personal lyrics.
She is interested in the fortune of the girl child, as well as the boy child.
In the first poem “Ada”, Igbo name for first daughter, she uses it in a generic sense to qualify womenfolk in Nigeria. Hence, Ada belongs to nobody in particular but to all, nay, it’s “a country of discovery”. In “Baby Boy”, she hints that, though she wants him in her life, the world wants the newborn baby more: “Baby boy, the world wanted you/more than I did/Do you know how much/bring to the world? Similarly, in” Cry for a Child”, she echoes the Black woman’s predicament in her quest for a child.
A poet is a keen observer of society. Ibobo, in the poem, “ Motorcycle”, recalls a frightening encounter on a commercial motorcycle, with the rider throwing caution to the winds — “it moved with the speed of wide angels” —yet the speaker cherishes the pleasure of being on the fast lane. Also, the poet sees humanity as one and must come together in “Claim”, a lyrical poem that thrives on repetitions. The poet ruminates about the image of love —of cupid — and paternal veneration in “Daddy’s Girl”. The desire of a lover to cling to the love of her life till the end of time echoes in “Don’t You Think?” This expression of deep feelings, unmoored by sentiments, is captured in the lines: “I cannot stop myself from thinking/of lying by you in a cold room, / your breath on my cheek/as you confide in me…” (p. 23).
The poet isn’t lost to the reality that our paths on earth were cleared in advance by grandfathers and grandmothers. In “For Those Who Have Gone Before Us”, she salutes the ancestors “buried as seeds for us”. Likewise, in “I Thank God for My Mother”, the poet speaker lavishes thanks on her mum for helping her become who she is today. This echoes the relevance of women in our contemporary society. She, too, is playing that role to others. This familial affinity rechoes in the poem, “Ibobo”.
Men, hear this now: “If Your Penis Causes You to Sin, Cut it Off”? This poem speaks to randy men who can’t guide their loins properly. In this lewd poem, the poet embarks on a genuine crusade against rape and phallic delinquencies in our land.
But I must confess, there is dearth of compelling devices in First Fruits that one wonders, is good poetry all about accessibility? There ought to be a seamless combo.