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The International Magazine of Poetry & Graphics ▪ Bi-monthly ▪ March/April 2008
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REVIEWS - POETS ON POETS
OBODODIMMA OHA ON TOM SAVAGE
How did you first encounter this poet?
I met Tom online: he is one of the poets that homestead at Wryting-L, a listserv populated by digitally-oriented poets of various nationalities but hosted by Western Virginia University. Perhaps the context of our meeting has something to do with what I like about Tom’s poetry.
What are the elements of this poet’s work that make his work stand above others for you?
Tom Savage’s poetry emerges at the intersection of the visual and the verbal: the visual inspiring the verbal inspiring the visual, in that complex web of de/signs that create and shift meanings. His poetry in its architecture is about texts that live many lives – from film to poem to painting, etc – and he weaves his words to surprise us with the power of wit, the tickle of humour, the jolt of sarcasm and humour. Of course, Tom’s language appears simple, but his meanings are profound.
What do you know about the writing habits of this poet?
Well, from the footnotes the poet adds to most of the poems he publishes online (at Wryting-L, for instance), he seems to observe the world with his pen in his hand (or most probably with his digital device on his lap). Many of his poems were inspired by films or performances he has watched – something that would interest teachers of creative writing and their students. The world that we visualize invites Tom to write, and he does, always.
Do you know the poet Tom Savage most admired?
I am still trying to find this out, though not as a way of looking for where he has served his apprenticeship.
What is your favourite poem by Savage? Please share your best lines from the poem, discussing what those lines represent to you, first as a person and second as a poet yourself.
This is a bit difficult for me, since I find many of Tom Savage’s poems highly inspiring and psychologically nourishing. Well, let’s consider “Love, in Time” as making the shortlist. These lines interest me:
Your father was a saint until he became a parrot.
Listen to your father die but do not follow his example.
Be happy with your love
Whether it succeeds or not.
The illusion we share between us should never die.
Play a killer or a lover but do not let me go.
Give me that love letter
After we eat our little bit of God.
The lessons in love get shorter
As we grow older.
Make all the obvious choices seem less so
With your dance.
We can't keep each other forever.
The lines quoted, with all the blistering sarcasm and humour, represent to me the necessity for independent-mindedness in dealing with people, and in, relationships. In short, in dealing with the world, that often claims to know the way. I hear the poet telling me as a poet to own and govern my mind.
Please offer up to a 100-word review of your favourite collection of poems by the poet.
Tom Savage is passionate about the preservation of enduring works of art and tradition, and this he demonstrates very forcefully in his collection of poems, Bamiyan Poems, dedicated to the Buddhist images in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, which were later destroyed by the Talibans who saw them as idols. Published by Sisyphus Press, the collection articulates Savage’s reflections on the Bamiyan Buddhas and what they signify. The poems, short and crisp and philosophical, further reflect the impact of visual culture on the poetry Tom Savage. Through these poems, Savage invites us to recognize the immense values of these statues both as works of art and sources of philosophy.
What is the most stirring thing a notable poet or critic has said about Tom Savage?
Larissa Shmailo says that in Tom Savage’s poetry: “Language really struts its stuff….”
Do you think that Savage's work is or has ever been misunderstood?
Well, yes. His seeming simplicity of style gives some critics the wrong impression that his poetry does not present challenges.
Have you had a chance to meet him personally?
No, although I have always desired such a meeting.
What do you consider the legacy this poet will bequeath to the literary world?
Tom Savage will bequeath poetry that is for the head and for the heart.
Obododimma Oha teaches Semiotics and Stylistics in the Department of English at the University of Ibadan. He has taught at University of Calabar (1987 to 1997) and Universite Gaston Berger de St-Louis, Senegal (1999 to 2001). He is currently spending his sabbatical at the Centre for Media & Communication, Pan-African University, Lagos. A fellow of the Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies, University of Ibadan, Oha holds an MSc in Legal, Criminological & Security Psychology and a PhD in Stylistics. His poems have been published in several literary anthologies and journals such as Sentinel Poetry Online, Postcolonial Text, Agenda, Ase, and Shadowtrain. He is a regular contributor of poems in Wryting-L, an email list for theory and writing and Cellular Wryting, which is devoted to poetry and mobile telephony.
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