Reflections on Echezonachukwu Nduka’s Waterman
(Griots Lounge Publishing, 2020; ISBN 978-1-7772756-1-7)
By Nzube Nlebedim, Chinua Okolo, and Naza Amaeze Okoli
NAZA: Waterman, Nduka’s second book of poetry is an artist’s collection: a work of craft about creation and the creative process. Where the volume opens, there’s a child “standing in the hallway.” By its end, the reader is invited to weather the weight of absence “with resonance”—the “unwritten law of sound.” There are some fifty-eight poems in the volume; but “The Fisherman’s Litany” is a good place to start—in part because there’s something about fishing that evokes the idea of freshness and of beginnings. You might think of Christ at the start of his ministry—if you’re so inclined. Or of fish leaping out of water. Or of a nation of immigrants, newcomers all, with “a different kind of net” and “a new dialect,” all of which must conspire to “awaken” the “music of the deep.” This scene, this imagery, is what stands in the artist’s line of vision:
There is art in observing what the climate says about
the mood of the river:
A day of welcome or rebellion resonates with arcs
Of the shoreline. I, witness to the communion of boats on
The face of waters, whisper prayers before the net is cast
NZUBE: In “The Child,” the poet persona revisits his childhood through the eyes of a frolicking child. From the opening lines, there is a portal to retrospect, to memory, to wishful thinking that the poem wants us to dive in. Here, innocence and ignorance assume a conflation that best explains the core and beauty of humanity. The child-versus-adult sentiment is the general fodder of the poem, as the final lines seem to confirm children as immune to consequences based on their inchoate knowledge — something adults wish they had. In truth, the poem is reflective as well as meditative; a commentary on how children dwell in moments, encircling their senses in the vortex of them.
CHINUA: In “A Short Note on Departure Theories,” Nduka sets the feeling of loss to the sound of music. He begins with some irony: “The only way to defeat departure is to stay.” The poet repudiates flight, the initial human response that comes with rejection or dismissal but says “Sit still,” so as to face the accompanying fears, the sudden addiction to music and other things that one finds solace in. The poet reminds the reader of the random thoughts that come while immersed in music, thoughts so strange one wonders how they crossed the crevices of the mind. This is particular evident when he says, “I forget to ask if he ever owned a pet that sang as well.” His sense of humour stands tall as he places two contrasts side by side, a bald-head playing staccato (scattered pieces) and a full-haired one playing legato. He admits to the difficulty of fighting an emotional battle while trying to preserve his sanity saying “Fighting absences with resonance is an unwritten law of sound.” And with music the poet shows how he (and all of us) can cling on.
NZUBE NLEBEDIM, founding editor of The Shallow Tales Review and editor-in-chief of Afrocritik, is a graduate of English from the University of Lagos. CHINUA OKOLO, poet and fiction writer, studied English at Nnamdi Azikiwe University. NAZA AMAEZE OKOLI is editor of African Writer Magazine.