Dead Dogs Don’t Bark, Tolu Akinyemi, T&B Global Concepts, Great Britain, 2019, pp. 112
Even before it sticks out its tongue and bares its teeth, the first thing that defeats a fainthearted in an unfamiliar threshold is the bark of a dog. It sends cold shivers running down the spine. That very bark, disarming as it is, is the dog’s way of calling attention: I am here!
Then, fancy a lifeless dog on a hedge. Even the most harmless of creatures, like the fly, can buzz around its carcass without let. An Ant, too, may crawl all over as it likes. Yes, the almighty dog is dead, and cannot bark anymore. Like that lifeless dog deaf to the world, a dead human has no second chance to limber up, needless to say, build a castle. He is not worth a farthing. This is self-instructive.
A year after Tolu Akinyemi’s poetry volume, Dead Dogs don’t Back, came out, the UK-based poet has returned with the second edition of the book with a makeover. The two-part poetry collection obviates the lawn of perennial jeremiads but treads the path of reawakening for, especially, African youths given to resigning to fate in the midst of woes. For the poet, as long as they are alive, they can bark.
This poetry volume is the author’s third published work, which he envisions as catalyst to the new. His overriding interest is to nurture budding talents to utilise their gifts and embrace excellence. We are not just created to make up the number of world population but to make a difference, preaches the author.
The poet reminds all in “Individual Affair” that it lies in our power to become what we want to be rather than wait for a push from another person. In a word, everybody has his race to run. So: “Life is a school of hard knocks/With heavy punches that might throw us on the canvas/With the bell of failure screaming Surrender!” (p.8).
Similarly, the voice in “Metamorphosis”, echoes that, as a child, you sometimes fantasise about life, even tinker with being an introvert or extrovert, but, at the end of the day, you must have a vision which will stand you out. The ability to overcome your flops is what makes your dream come through, though the shadows of failure is omnipresent. He advises thus: “…Be bold to face your fears/ and courageous to conquer new grounds” (p.9).
In “Indelible Marks”, the poet continues to preach to his readers that making a mark in life is the ultimate ambition of everybody, for, if there is none, it is easy to forget the individual. The speaker in this poem doesn’t joke with the chance to leave indelible marks “So visible like tribal marks on Egba man’s cheekbones…” (p.11).
Akinyemi’s ode to the city of Newcastle in “Newcastle –The City of my Shining Star” is a recognition of the impact it has on him in his transformation as a writer, a social being and a migrant.
In whatever thing you do, the poet admonishes that you must stay true to your conviction, beliefs and calling. He deploys refrains to drive home the message Noticeable, the poet has added some new poems as his responses to social-political convulsions in Nigeria. Some of these include “Bullions in Bourdillon”, “Uncle Pius and Ethiopia”.
In the former, we are reminded of a recent political development in Nigeria where a popular Lagos politician living in an upscale neighbourhood played host to bullion vans suspected to be filled with money. To this, the poet pillories the anti-money laundering fight of the Nigerian government. He also sees it as an affront on the impoverished citizen of the country. He lampoons the powers that be: “We saw bullions in Bourdillon/ But no one dares question the lion” (p.20).
Akinyemi goes lachrymal in “Uncle Pius and Ethiopia”, a poem written in honour of the Nigerian scholar-writer, Prof Pius Adesanmi, who died in the ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines crash early this year that claimed 157 lives. For the poet, it is the case of “Dreams [that] kissed the dust with no goodbye”. However, he is compensated that Adesanmi’s gruesome death will create a domino effect: “Your legacy would be the impetus/ that would engender social justice” (p.61).
The ambidextrous distinction of Akinyemi as a performance poet manifests in the second part of the poetry collection. Here, he priotises tmusicality and delivery than the message, yet, behind the lyrical cantos, the poet creates intrinsic undertones that inspire hope and fulfilment, as we have in “Black and Unique”, where the speaker disparages colour bar to affirm his blackness: “I am black/ I am unique/ Unique with exceptional level of talents…” (p.64). A percentage of sales from this book, says the poet, will be donated to charities that motivate children and youths.