Wanderings through Ezeanah's trilogy

The Twilight Trilogy; by Chiedu Ezeanah (Ibadan, Nigeria: Kraft Books Ltd, 2005)

By Niyi Osundare

 

I saw it coming, in a manner of speaking. Right from that day in 1985 when ayoung man walked into my office at the University of Ibadan and said, between spurts of youthful diffidence and declarative aplomb: "I am Chiedu, Sir, Chiedu Ezeanah".


Tender, willowy, and shyly cheerful, he also struck me forcibly with the deliberateness and acute intensity embodied in his young frame. Those traits played out poignantly later in my Poetry Writing Workshop. Even at that young age and at that level of artistic apprenticeship, Ezeanah struck me with an intriguing sense of deja vu: there was an ancient modernity, a primordial futurity, to his verse that kept me wondering where in my past life, where in my past literary wanderings, I had met this bardic, shamanic phenomenon. Ezeanah's responses broke beyond the compass of assigned topics. He invested every issue with a seriousness and resonance that provoked the teacher's wonder.

His inchoate sense of form betrayed the splendid disobedience of a poet willing to abide by the rules of lexical and syntactic structuring without allowing himself to be imprisoned by them.


I encountered very early in Ezeanah's verse, those long, limpid lines, that chaste promiscuity with words, that penchant for apostrophising, that have now become the hallmarks of his poetic style. Our class argued over all things great and small: from the mammoth rumble of the elephant to the wee whirring of the mosquito, from the protocol of the happily executed metaphor to the finicky placement of punctuation marks.


And what a great time to argue! What a giddy time to kick and carve! My Creative Writing workshops between 1983 and 1990 bubbled with some of the most gifted, most enthusiastic students in my teaching career: Remi Raji, Olakunle George, John Cheng, Afam Akeh, Akin Adesokan, Foluso Henry, Niyi Okunoye, Yebo Adamolekun, Nike Adesuyi, Jumoke Bamgbose, Dayo Olumide, Funmi Adewole, Babatunde Ajayi, Frank Ikhimwin, Saidat Odoffin, Osama Ighile, Bisi Adeigbo, Pius Ohue....These, by and large, were Ezeanah's colleagues - and sparring partners, and they constituted the core of the UNIBADAN Poetry Club.


Invigorating this club were budding talents such as Nduka Otiono who came from the Prose Workshop; Godwin Amatoritsero Ede from Modern Languages; Onookome Okome and Dapo Adeniyi from Theatre Arts, Nehru Odeh and Mondale Ogbodo from the Social Sciences. Sesan Ajayi was the grand organiser, while the intrepid Odia Ofeimun was a frequent, inspiring presence. Under the tutelage of Harry Garuba and Emevwo Biakolo, these "Thursday Group" (for that was the day we usually met) gave the Poetry Club a vibrancy and significance that went far beyond the campus walls.


Chiedu Ezeanah earned his totem in this creative ferment, waxed with its moon, blossomed in its rains. The collection that emerged from his Advanced Creative Writing Workshop was indisputably the best in his year and one of the most promising I encountered in my two decades of teaching creative writing at Ibadan University.

I saw that promise and told the author, and have never failed to impress on him that he owes us all the debt of becoming a published poet. To be sure, Ezeanah has won some important poetry prizes and enriched our newspaper pages with his highly evocative verse, but as I have told him times without number, he is no doubt a major voice that should not be content with the measly status of a "newspaper poet".


Those entreaties seem to have worked. Atlast. Those verse nuggets that have rested so uneasily in Ezeanah's files for so long are now being committed to the book. In the following pages are the polyphonic, triumphantly referential pulses of one of Nigeria's most literate, most resonant voices. There is anger in these poems, raw, righteous anger, at the cannibalistic Nigerian polity and its philistine assault on all that is decent. But there is also love, a testament to all that is human; a covenant with the ideals of Nature and the spirit of freedom.

From the most densely philosophical to the most wrenchingly satirical, these are poems clearly vested in the dibianic power of words. In their twilight musings are tender paths to our dawning; in their endsongs the real beginnings of our anthem of being and becoming.


I am endlessly happy to have met this poet in our learning process. Chiedu Ezeanah is the bardic voice of his generation and one of the finest.

 

2005 Niyi Osundare. Reprinted by permission.

 

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SENTINEL POETRY (ONLINE) #31, JUNE 2005. ISSN 1479-425X