Reviews

Songs for Wonodi: A Review by Jessica Bastidas

Songs for Wonodi
– Malthouse/MSU Press 2007

All the contributors to this book come from different parts of the world and different backgrounds. An upcoming biologist, a 15-year old secondary school student, various award-winning poets, and scholars are just a few examples of the diversity this book was created from. This diversity is what makes this book an unforgettable read. The essence of post-colonialism is also very apparent. This book grabs the reader and ignites one’s own desire to wake up and feel what is happening in the world. The concept that issues and concerns are universal and should never be limited to specific continents is what is expressed. All the poets have made impressionable contributions to the memory of Okogbule Wonodi. His work in life itself has been multicultural and diverse.

In the poem “An address to the elders” by Lupenga Mphande, the concept of religious views and the afterlife is shown.

Bury me in the byre
To survey herds return from pasture
Reminisces of my youth,
Bury me standing upright with your spear
So that I meet Chiuta and our ancestors
On my feet, ready to bow or fight,
Bury me in the river to befriend water nymphs
And live with the torrents (8)

The very idea of being prepared to continue the fight, to continue establishing relationships-even with water nymphs-, and to be able to have recollections of one’s life after death is endearing. It shows that not only in life was the fight for basic humanity present, but that even in death one can continue to do their part for the community as a whole. One person dies and many get to reap the benefits from the experience and struggle that the person had to endure. It shows how even in death one still has the ability to teach and learn from wherever they end up. This concept shows the hope and the willingness to be a part of something that everyone takes for granted and to never let that die.

As the book progresses, the poem “Port Harcourt” by Pious Okoro, makes one aware of the effects of the everyday life experienced. The poem embodies past, children, hope, present reality, and the truth that is unbearable. Words as “love,” “lured,” “dreamed,” “milked,” “bitter pills” and “reek” allow the reader to see the shift of emotions that the people are facing.

Walk your streets of old again
Serene-we dared play
Street football as boys
The pride and prized gem
Of a people still asleep
The lie we believed (45)

…………………………

What pains we must bear
For being the phantom
Of boom bewailed (46)

The devastation is palpable and the idea that everything that they thought they could fight for was falling apart. The hope that was instilled and then taken away shows the desperation for the suffering to end. Pious let’s us see the internal and external exile, talks about the childhood experiences, discusses future hopes, and shows migration.

Despite all the emptiness that was felt, they never stopped believing and never stopped loving. Although many other poems described the love for one’s country, Nnorom Azuonye reveals that insatiable love in “My homeland”.

They lie like bitter, twisted ruins
Battered by wind, age, and rain
Because once in them, they exude
A generosity of spirit, second to none.
Poverty, sickness, and diseases
I do not deny
The tantalizing taste of uziza
The tingling sensation of suya
Are all witnesses to my secret deal
With Africa, my beautiful homeland. (68)

Words as “bleak,” “corruption,” “deceptive,” “awe,” and “allure” all describe what is seen that the eyes cannot behold. Azuonye uses these words to describe the overall physical and emotional devastation. Even though only remnants remain of what once were there, the memories that live in those remnants, no matter how small, are never forgotten. That force to never letting go, no matter what ails them, is vivid.

Songs for Wonodi, as diverse as it is, is just a small piece of what the real situation is.  With the magnitude of award-winning poets/accomplished poets/writers such as Tanure Ojaide, Elechi Amadi, Frank Chipasula, Uche Nduka, Timothy Wangusa, Amatoritsero Ede, its not hard to see how they have expressed themselves.  The collective work that was brought together is inspirational and innovative. Along with all the issues that surround the people, this book enables the reader to get a picture and thought into their head. When reading this book, the possibility that everything being described can be held relevant to everyday life is important. A mutual moral understanding needs to take place. All the reader has to do is absorb it and let oneself feel the message intended. This book allows for that overall feeling to occur. Without feeling, one cannot appreciate the complexity that this book holds true.

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