Title: Canticles of a Happy People
Author: Adeola Adeoti
Publisher: Red Letter Crib Signature
REVIEWER: Ogunbiyi Opeyemi
Adeola gathers the expanse of human experience in his debut collection of poems. The images that spring from the collection are both stunning and uplifting, whether they explore the hysteria of life in Nigeria, or the culture shocks in other continents and the petrichors of anxieties that comes from exploring the innards of other climes.
Adeola also examines a nation weighed down by corruption, poverty, dirty politics, and violence in “canticles of a happy people,” or—as in “the river in my tongue”—delved into the forcible power of words and kindness.
“Breadcrumbing ” exposes the utter exploitation of affection at the hands of the opportunists,which it does in the name of helplessness, paranoia and being lovestruck. In “Rise,” Adeola admonishes us to not be beaten into stupor, to fight for what we want. Dream big, and, if the barriers knock us out against our will, we push still, and fight for the future too.
In the poem, “Phoenix” , Adeola Adeoti regales his reader with the resilience of a Phoenix as he enthuses:
audit your life,
those sores are not worth being licked,
rise like the Phoenix ,
catch the storm again,
measure the width of your doubts
cast them into a bin
trail your feet by the beach sands
cast your gaze on the moon
watch the waves meet the shores
see the man in the mirror,
what have you got to say or do to make him the you you ever dreamt to be.
In the last line of the poem, he admonishes his readers to find the congruence between their longing and effort. This reminds me of the poem, out of the darkness that covers me …
The writer boasts of being the master of his own fate and would certainly row his boat in whatever direction of satisfaction he sets his affection towards.
The writer cautions commuters to be on the alert while weaving through Ozumba Mbadiwe road on the Island to avoid pickpockets, one chance vehicles rife with ritualistic people and a day that culminates in a sordid rant. “Lancashire ” is a candid meditation on a place that holds promises amidst its vagaries of shenanigans.
“Trouble in paradise” reminds us of the turmoil and tests of life. It impressed upon us that life is not a stroll in the park and that in the midst of abundance, there will be wantonness and vice versa. “Dance” explores what it means to dance in the rain. What it means to remain unmoved by a bludgeon of chance. What it means to throw all one’s punches even while drowning in something unspeakable. Adeola cajoled us to dance in retribution, jubilation and uncertainty.
Adeola experiments with form and syntax and covers a vast range of topics. He takes the reader on a journey of mystery and longing, all the while capturing the essence of life and the philosophical thrust of ancestral leaning in the ‘Seer’. Adeola also touched on the theme of calmness in ‘Still waters’, teaching us to embrace the unruffled form of still waters so as not be overtaken by misgivings.
Wide-ranging and poignant, this is a riveting and seething collection.