Magazine monthly   October 2004    ISSN 1479-425X

What Is Poetry?
Continued from previous page.

This position that the real poetry actually takes place inside the poet makes me shudder at what poetry might be like if poets were not only able portray those emotions or events for which words exist, but could really let rip the raw emotion inside - those indescribable complexities of human nature.

In Patrick Iberi's "Underline" Poetry like in Agada's "I Am Poetry" also speaks for itself. Speaking in an even but vibrant voice, and the premise of his poem is proven in these lines:

You have witnessed the birth of my consciousness
In the aesthetics of human nature
And you have known me on tombstones
My verdict is of expressions hidden but not lost.

I choose to interpret this poem as claiming that poetry is the very blood of life; how people live and relate to one another and in the sum total of what they do with the time they live. The argument is persuasive; if you know what you would like to see written on your tombstone, adjust your life to fulfil its words. At the end, if anyone reviews the life of another whose existence has ended, the purpose of that life as summed up on the tombstone must be decipherable and be of some benefit to the living.

From Iberi's point of view then, if you want to see poetry, look in the way people live their lives, the responsibilities they take or don't take, all of which must be summed up when the line of life goes flat, the end of one life the beginning of another.

Interestingly, poetry wonders why people bother it or bother with it, and in keeping with the claim of many poets who insist they write poetry to keep sane or wrestle down their demons, 'Underline' continues:

But why do I stay awake anyway
Is it the restless spirits that seek my salve?

Iberi's poem is well-measured and is not self-conscious. A good effort.

There were two other poems that were entered in this challenge: 'Freethinker' and 'What Poetry Is'. Written by Mia Nikasimo, 'Freethinker' is a (poem) in a skit-like/Spoken Word/conversation style that I personally found to be somewhat disorientating, but from which I gathered that "Poetry…is free thinking." In another setting other than a poetry writing challenge in which we wrestle with a serious question, I might have found 'Freethinker' entertaining.  Then of course there was "What Poetry Is" by Obe Mata. In this nice little ditty, Mata manages to portray poetry as the oneness of communication and human relationship. He writes:

Sister, with my tongue
Let me mine your heart
For words, for us to hear us.

Then ask: what is poetry?

We are.

My problem with 'What Poetry Is' is that it is too abrupt and succeeded in not developing germinating ideas in its heart. If 'What Poetry Is' were sex, the experience of reading it would be best described as coitus interruptus.

At the end of it all, in the democratic tradition of the Sentinel Poetry Bar, we cast votes for our favourite poems, and "I Am Poetry" by James Agada emerged as the winner.

We have now commenced drinking the next theme "Growing Old" with a wry smile knowing that no matter the view anyone of us has, poetry comes down to the music of words whose lyrics are shaped by our lives and the various elements that constitute it. This is the music described by Austyn Njoku in 'poetry':

Poetry truly is
The timeless tune
On which life's
Rusty hinges roll
And roll, rolling


Evans, Sarah L. " An Axe For The Frozen Sea Within Us": Anne Sexton and The Confessional Poetry

Azuonye, Nnorom. "My e-conversation with Esiaba Irobi" Sentinel Poetry (Online) ISSN 1479-425X Issue #3, February 2003

Nwankwo, Chimalum. 'Word In The Craft'
Toward The Aerial Zone, ISBN 9783051008, 1988: Africa Spearpoint Publishers.

Njoku, Austyn. "Poetry" Scents Of Dawn ISBN 9788011845, 2002: Oracle Books.

Omosun, Sylvelster N. "What Is Poetry?" 2004: Sentinel Poetry Bar

Fabiyi, Malcolm. "Diverse Forms" 2004: Sentinel Poetry Bar

Azuonye, Nnorom. "The Song About What Happens" 2004: Sentinel Poetry Bar

Agada, James. "I Am Poetry" 2004: Sentinel Poetry Bar

Iberi, Patrick. "Underline" 2004: sentinel Poetry Bar

Nikasimo, Mia. "Freethinker" 2004: Sentinel Poetry Bar

Mata, Obe. "What Poetry Is" 2004: Sentinel Poetry Bar

Sentinel Poetry Bar is at:

Azuonye is the Administrator of Sentinel Poetry Movement, and author of Letter To God and Other Poems (2003).

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