THE FREEDOM CLAUSE:
THEME AND MEANING IN THE POEMS OF NNAMDI OBIOHA AZUONYE
Born in Nigeria on the 13th of February 1982, Nnamdi Obioha Azuonye spent the last ten years of his life in the United States of America where he fully embraced his love of the art of poetry leaving behind over a thousand poems celebratory of life by way of many philosophical probings. Unfortunately he was killed in an automobile accident on the 4th of July 2001. Although he was not an American citizen, the irony of passing into transition of poet obsessed with the quest for freedom on America's independence day on an American road is quite eerie. Had this not happened, Nnamdi would have celebrated his twenty-first this month. Nnamdi left numerous messages behind, as he broke free from the constraints and the vicissitudes of earthly life. Reading his poems reveal his deep concerns for matters of love, ambitions, peace, and of freedom -freedom of the physical as well as of the spiritual self.
The poet shows that he does not expect this freedom without compensating for it and knows that all he has to pay for it is a life hallmarked with integrity. As Emmanuel Obiechina succinctly puts it in 'Language and Theme', "The significance we attach to the poetry must necessarily take in our perception of the personality of the poet himself. His integrity must be of an overt kind, since explicitness is essential for a proper rapport between the poet and the people... The poet of destiny must have a certain concreteness of identity to help his audience to identity with the matter of his poetry, especially insofar as his credibility and the impact of his poetry depend on the distinctness of his voice, the clarity of his visions, and the integrity of his sentiments."
On the way to find myself
I depart from all who knew me
I depart from my friends
I depart from my family
I depart from feelings, good and bad
I depart romance and those love letters
I depart from sports and games and fun
I depart rainy winds and those easy, gentle zephyrs
I depart from this world, especially this earth
I depart my body and my mind
and when I'm left with nothing at all
those things departed
are what make me.
In this poem "On the way to find myself" Nnamdi set a most difficult task for himself: the ultimate freedom - a state of being in which he was completely unencumbered by anything he knew or felt while recognising that without all of those things he was nothing. Such a mastery of one's circumstances invariably would result in objectivity, focus, discrimination, confidence, accountability and compassion. Nnamdi's choice of this task as a means of self-realisation stems from his unromantic summary of life and its uncertainties in "Some Say Life":
It is a thing that rises and falls like tides,
bittersweet taste of a thousand juices.
I say life,
it is a hybrid creature with wings, with fire, with ice
mindless, heartless, tasteless
I say life
It is the shadow which I see when I battle tomorrow
Wandering, sweet vagabond,
Trying to find a place in my heart.
I say life,
It is my wounded child
The hand that leads,
mistakenly to the depths of inborn fears,
shattered dreams and misery,
I say life.
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