Dead Cats Don’t Meow, Tolu Akinyemi, T&B Global Concepts UK, 2019, pp. 128
“You can take the river to the horse, but you cannot force the river to drink the horse:” I have read many poetry books that can simply be summarised into that line. Big words, bogus devices, unnecessary innuendos, all leading to a well-constructed piece of rubbish. At first, your instincts tell you something is wrong somewhere, but, because of your love for poetry, you insist on reading it once more and, then, it leaves you speechless. But that is not the case with Dead Cats Don’t Meow by Tolu’ A. Akinyemi.
This is a well simplified, glorious work of art that explores the grandeur of poetry. I can’t count how many times I kept screaming “Yes!” That’s how amazing this book is. As a poet, this is one book that will call to life your poetic viscera. It starts so beautifully with an “About the Author” poem that does well to make the reader feel at home with the writer.
Just like his previous book, the poet pays homage to his wife such that could leave any woman blushing, smiling and wishing she was married to a poet. It’s true what they say, “The best person to get married to is a writer, because every day feels like the first.” The secret to a good life is also a good wife.
I must applaud Akinyemi for putting family and friends first in his books. Dead Cats Don’t Meow feels like a soldier bidding his family goodbye before he goes to war, because, shortly after, we see the poet take a true battle-ready form.
Starting subtly with our morals, like a gladiator at war, the poet starts devouring pressing topics facing the human race. It touched on racism, depression, sports, survival, unity, mistakes, heartbreak, love, immigration, health, election, politics and many more.
Oh! How I wish every leader in Nigeria would read this book. You just keep snapping your fingers. Whether you are a poet or not, don’t be surprised to find yourself jotting down lines, because that is what this book does. It triggers the poet in you. There is just something for everyone. So many themes are brought to light, and you tend to have a change of perspective on how you view certain issues.
I find some poems hilarious, too, and it was also good to learn about the phobia for flying. The beauty of Dead Cats Don’t Meow is in its simplicity which makes it easy to understand. That doesn’t mean it is lacking in nuances. Words like “besotted”, “exculpation”, “avant-garde”, “innocuous”, etcetera, could send you rushing for a dictionary. There are lines that struck me in particular. My favourite speaks of how we need our banks to be filled with people. That poem leaves me dreamy. This is a magical book.
However, I have a problem with the sub notes. Maybe it’s the African in me and the fact that I relate well with the book as an African reader as opposed to a white reader; but I feel some explanations aren’t supposed to be in the book. I would advise the poet to, rather, add a chapter of glossary at the end of the book for those who might have difficulties understanding peculiar Nigerian usage. This enables us to enjoy our book without any commercial break (I know I’m that greedy).
That aside, I enjoy reading Dead Cats Don’t Meow. Among others, it serves as a template to improve my writing skills, putting into consideration that we write to impact and not to impress. One poem that should be framed and kept in the museum as part of our historical artefacts is “Raped at Dawn”. I advise everyone to read this book and pass it on to the next generation. Thank you Tolu Akinyemi for this amazing piece of art and leaving this posterity for the younger generation.