Sentinel Poetry Magazine January 2003

Obi Nwakanma


Poetry In A Season Of Anomie (A reply)

Olu,

Thanks for your comments on my poetry.

And you're quite right about the essence of the poetic, one which derives from the "music of the firmament." I believe that the inventions of language, and its deployment, must serve its highest purpose: the ordering of harmony to carry the ideas that shape the world. Ideas on their own are merely cold and ungainly without the power of poetry behind them. And poetry itself - yes - is logistics!!!. And logistics here is the careful, deliberate placing of one element of sound upon the other to achieve aesthetic motion. Music.

As for the bind in which most of contemporary American poetry has found itself, I think it is the result of a need to deny Eliot, to appropriate Auden, and to re-invent Wallace Stevens - in my mind a most unreadable poet. And Wallace Stevens has exerted so much influence upon a whole generation of Euro-American poets, and those who deal with poetry in the Academe. Among the lyrical greats of modern American poetry like Robert Lowell, and even Jay Wright, there is something to learn from. But not much else since these - except an incestous, self-regarding, in-bred form of imaginative masturbation. And much of this poison has bled into the English world -including contemporary British poetry - with the likes of James Fenton
holding sway at Oxford. I exclude the Irish, of course. But I must say I find Geoffrey Hill particularly interesting -perhaps because he spent sometime in Nigeria, carvorted with poets like Okigbo, even briefly, and heard the perennial echoes of that world, that only the initiate hears.

I do not quite think that European aesthetics is mottled because its heritage is in verse, sans music: I've just been re-reading a translation of Ovid's, and I'm struck by the immense musical power of the Odes. But afterall, those Greeks lay with the muses - and the muses are the damsels from which music took its genetic roots. I think that the corrupting influence of a mechanic world - a world shorn of the primacy of spirit - has deadned the song in the Euro-American soul and on their lips. Perhaps, in time, they will rediscover it, from those whose words still tremble with spirit...and with music.

Obi


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