Reflections on Saddiq Dzukogi’s Your Crib, My Qibla
(University of Nebraska Press, 2021; ISBN 9781496225771)
By Theophilus Okunlola, Olumide Ayodele, and Naza Amaeze Okoli
NAZA: Dzukogi’s debut collection honors the memory of his daughter, Baha. As the poet tells The Account Magazine, “In writing these poems, I feel like I am holding her in my hands. She is alive as grief, alive as memory, alive as song.” A reader might often feel like a voyeur of pain, coming into this collection. Yet like all public acts of mourning, poems in this volume perform our collective relationship to grief. The poet makes room for this kind of public participation by often invoking the omniscient narrative voice, thus standing with the rest of the audience as they witness together a family grappling with grief. It is in this devotion—this love of a parent, love of a child, love of life—that the volume’s higher beauty in inscribed.
THEOPHILUS: “We hold onto anything that reminds us of what we’ve lost” is a striking commentary in Dzukogi’s “Still-Life” that reflects the commonality of all humans—the desire for a certain presence when we are surrounded by absence. Individuals, groups, and nations often keep something, a material object, to show an absence. In a poem that comments on memory, grief and the materiality of presence and absence, Dzukogi invites his reader to think about how stillness ironically governs the bustling of life itself. Within a larger frame, the poem posits that the paradoxical reality of presence and absence, the stillness of life, arguably has less to do with people’s intentional or conscious making. Why we sometimes hold onto something we have lost is an enigmatic question. Is this action bad or good? The bard singing about still-life does not tell us, but we know this song resonates now and it will do so forever.
OLUMIDE: Dzukogi’s “Chibi” is as elegant as it is elegiac. The poem implicitly depicts the trauma with which a father embraces loss, with which he queries the breath of memory. As a substitute, memory offers comfort, but also comes with its own limitations. The poet’s evocative language buttresses the static state of the victim’s emotion. In the end, the poet arrives at some sobering thought—all loss enacts a conflict between memory and time:
…Memory is a shell where time is ductile,
where it draws him in, until the present and past
became tactile in his body
THEOPHILUS OKUNLOLA is a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. OLUMIDE AYODELE, poet and critic, studied English at the University of Lagos. NAZA AMAEZE OKOLI is editor of African Writer Magazine.