As the scholar, Anthony Oha, once argued, many poets over the years have been made to churn out poetry as simple debased appeasement to a certain class of “scholars” who pride themselves as consumers of poetry. Such debased poetry is not just difficult (linguistically, contextually and ideationally), but has lost any pragmatic or aesthetic value. A true poet, then, is one who sees poetry as a service to the society; indeed the poet as Oha further argues is he who “believes in correcting by reflecting”.
It is in this regard that After a Long Silence needs to be seen and appreciated. Zaharaddeen’s poetry is one that is tinged with pain, and offers the discerning reader very little pleasure. For the poet is an angry man who is clearly bothered by the myriad of problems afflicting his country, Nigeria and is moved to action, albeit metaphorically, to sound a note of warning through poetry.
The poems in After a Long Silence though they lay no claim to any dexterity of metaphorisation, or the attendant deepening of imagery, nonetheless are, in their own ways, works of great promise and potentials. The forty-four poems collected here make a strong statement about the poet’s intention and offer to the reader, in a simple, uncluttered diction, his various ideas and feelings on a number of themes: love, heroism, patriotism, political opportunism, poetry, education and that well thumbed subject so beloved of poets: love and the effect of time on even the most enduring of romances.
Poetry, like other human endeavours, is often subject to the mercy of being enhanced or inhibited by other strands of human experience. This is more so when one looks at the intertwined nature of orality and literacy, which necessarily means for the poet, indeed any writer, to be known and valued, he or she must be technologically empowered.
Given the above, the old romantic conception of poetry as “spontaneous overflow of emotions recollected in tranquility” has to be reconsidered. The spontaneity would now be replaced by the poet’s response to the impinging world of experience; thus de-emphasizing poetry’s so-called spontaneity.
Zaharaddeen, like many other poets writing in the digital age, appropriates the advantages of the present era in order to write the poems collected here, which are suggestive of the contemporary experience in their relative sophistication and conception. The poems were written around national, even supra-national, and local themes, which, in turn, range across cross-cultural and global concerns, lending cadence to the book’s claim to the universality of poetry.
To be specific, the poem “Kano” (following its spatial and cultural antecedent closely) celebrates Kano in few words, compensated by a heightened level of closeness, of belonging and a suppressed nostalgia about Kano’s past glory and its imagined future. The same tenor lurks behind most of the poems with similar disposition to “Kano”. In “The Old Kano” for example the poet renders, in a quick pace, the briefest and bravest history of Kano, yet the often ensuing exaggerated veneration that follows such poetic historical summation is avoided with ease.
In between poems about and of Kano there are other poems (such as “The Choice”, “Death”, “The Nigerian Monster”, “Remembrance”, and “Life is History” among others) which could be described as emblazoned into a particular place, person or event, but which simultaneously aspire to something much more particularizing and delineating than a place, a person or an event.
The above cited poems offer an apt overview of Zaharaddeen’s poetry. A deep enthusiasm imbues the poet with the voice and vision to celebrate and criticize not just the object of his admiration, but also other things: private, communal, cultural and religious. As such, simplicity and sincerity are forged into a single metaphoric entity in this enigmatic debut collection.
Department of English and Literary Studies
Bayero University, Kano