AUTHOR: Obu Udeozo
REVIEWER: Uche Mbah
Obu Udeozo’s Asaa brings one fact to the fore: Udeozo is a poet of broad dimensions. In his “Epilogue” that should have been a prologue, he states that the pillar of his academic edifice is God: “My entire being adores God 24 hours of my waking life”, he writes.
With the inclusion of what lies in the abstraction of the ellipses, it becomes clear that the muse that inspires his restless quest for expression is as cross-cultural as it is cross-ideological. In this seventh anthology, he explores a thread that weaves itself into a genius, smiling a metaphor of canvass into soccer fields and thespian lawns, scientific cauldrons that are kept in balance with musical semi braves and crescendos, sculptured in vanishing oil on canvas. And-oh yes-politics.
His themes are as diverse as the fecundity of his mind. Whether he is treating Shakespeare’s “baffling singularity”, Pele’s “bioluminescence”, Da Vinci’s “Fierce celibacy for the sake of art”, Nnaji’s “surplus siren”, the stroke of the strophes evoke an encyclopedic approach to issues of his lyric interests.
The collection opens up with a first chapter, “Fiesta of Genius.” Here, he undertakes a journey-sometimes Kafkaeasque, sometimes celebrating the fecundity of pedestrian milieu-pedestrian as a creative force, as in Vincent Van Gogh: “They called you/The wounded one/and poverty scattered you/Across the streets of Paris”, in contradistinction to Einstein: “First fruits of your heirs/ in the subatomic cosmos”-a case of recognizing brick and mortar in the symphonies of Eiffel Majesty.
There is no doubt that Udeozo sometimes draws from Okigbo’s refreshing Idoto River —at least, in the formative stage. He once in a while endures an escape from the labyrinth of their close ties. He, like Okigbo and Achebe, passed through the same crucible of alchemy in Government College, Umuahia. But he has since developed with clinical precision —he, after all, is a clinical psychologist —poetic genome that effortlessly walks across time and timbre. So when he speaks of Pablo Picasso as a “Post Einsteinian medium” that is “Janus Faced” and “now speaks Latin, Mongolese, Spanish, English, Igbo, Swahili, and Sanskrit”, he is not just celebrating the universality of Picasso’s art; he might as well have been writing his own epitaph as the Mozart of Modern Poetry. Like Mozart, he is, in his own words, “en route to genius- and acclaim”, because he shared the molding crucible of ‘hunger, broken pockets, wailing, and mockery and intimate shame.”
In Chapter Two, the poet slows into a reflection — like a laden troubadour on a reflective rest. Here, he recognizes the bioluminescence of the runway —from the thespian to other flickering “mmumu onwa” groups. For him, mmumu onwa, the bioluminescent insect, embraces the lucid world of the celebration of the softer essence.
Here, too, his universal eye view of his inner eagle speaks vowels. His deft marriage of classical allusions with the terra firma of his native ani becomes evident-like, for example, Leila Lopes: “Canary Festivals/lure Mozart/s divine horns/and Renoir’s Pallete/Into atilogwu dancers” brings to the fore his intent: pulling the sparkle back home.
This has been woven into relevance in the work. Hence, Beyoncé Knowles must answer to the long drum but Jenifer Lopez, the “wine flute Sybil”, will” vanish into heaven/and caress molecules/of sunlight with laughter.” Beyoncé’s black heritage calls the long drum. These are both Americans. But when he picks Soul sisters —Genevieve Nnaji, Nsi Ikpe Etim, Queen Nwokoye, Omotola Ekeinde, and other troubadours of the pretending runway —his fecund mind molds baskets of magnetic offerings of being. Here, as in other places, he literarily swims in allusions striding through the streets of centuries, millennia, and civilization.
Chapter four deals with poetic global warming. Here, the macabre dances of deaf interventions are X-rayed. For him, “the prodigal father/of all nations” is unabashedly ruled by those who forced them to swallow tomorrow because “we stuffed our ears/with coat of arms”.
That “Climate” ambled into an end time song is no surprise. Even the eulogies to the Ebola Heroin, Ameyo Adedvoh, slipped through the cracks of pain to become a prayer for the death of death.
In the final chapter, “Enter godot”, Udeozo makes a frantic effort to separate light from darkness. For him, Hell is not only the ocean of roaring flames of Dante’s inferno but a place where the king of the Light, the Trinity, sits in judgment over the evil. Here, in Hell, the poem is not only written upside down but also backward-a scathing testimony of retrogressive retributions, as seen in his various definitions of HELLFIRE.
Then follows his conception of the Christian Modernist concept of rapture. For him, “While the WHITE Trumpet Ate the Planet”…”The RAPTURE/stole mankind/With apocalyptic Shock”. It ended with Heaven in the Presence of the White throne of God.
Obu Udeozo’s Asaa shows a poet who has closed the cycle of poetic tutelage seven times, and, therefore, come of age. Like good wine that becomes stronger with age, Asaa is a grand improvement on his works. Udeozo is no longer a poet to watch, but he has become a grandmaster and a word mason. As a poetic interpreter of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Asaa becomes the product of one hundred days of worditude…