voices – the anthology is Yewande Adebowale’s debut collection of poetry; a new and powerful reserve for young people, especially of the millennial generation. Rather than branching off current conversations, it actually expands our dialogues about life in its complexity.
Published by Okada Books in 2016, “Voices” is a difficult one to fold into a short review as it embodies a multifaceted and vibrant discussion; deep and wide-ranging. It sophisticatedly assembles the seeds of these conversations together through its concise but productive and well-appointed pieces of poetry. As you read through this collection, you will discover a “mirror of personal potential” as it covers all the far-reaching corners of human existence; generating soulful conversations and begging for transformation.
In this collection, Yewande Adebowale feels a strong need to take a backward glimpse, to rummage around in her own utterly unique collection of remembered watershed moments, sights and sounds and to relish the richly blended emotions we attach to them. But not every page is filled with moments like these. Yewande opens the anthology with the unsettled state of the country, the failings of our leaders and the agitation of politics to offer us a compelling narrative and verse craft for the sake of contemplation. It basically captures the disappointing circumstances that Nigeria has plunged itself into with level-playing participants as people in politics running the government, ordinary people living without a conscience and those who threaten the security of the everyday lives of innocent citizens. In these lines, we get a view of certain dark bits of the poet’s narrative:
“In days bygone
The sound of firecrackers did not set our minds affray
Back in the day
The sound of fireworks did not bear a striking similitude in sound to bombs
Mere sounds did not remind us of sobs”
Each subtle detail resonates not just for the poet, but for every one of us. Even the most respectable amongst us have their own skeleton–person, events and resentments that are discussed only in whispers or within the four walls of their heart. Yewande’s collection reminds us of a sense of place rooted in experience; both personal and collective, and are fundamentally told and re-told and passed on. It acknowledges a mixture of experiences, from the pain of waiting to hope that never dies; from the rich and colourful Lagos parties to the unforgettable taste of “Ewa Agoyin” and even the acknowledgement of the fallible nature of humans; this mixture precisely distinguishes Yewande’s voices from any other, meeting each person at their exact stage in life and beautifully telling tales of contrasting emotions, true to life and creating a point where our voices are entangled with one another’s’.
Then, of course, there’s the layout; flexible and expansive enough to lift off any number of spoken effects; rising naturally from the scene of each poem. If you like a variety of free verse and open forms – all well-crafted, this collection will definitely appeal to you. In these few lines, the verses coherently drip from the tongue.
“In a second world, a twofold experience
A twofold nightmare replete with ghosts
For those on the islands and coasts
The flood, the loss”…………
“The ennui, the activity
The boldness and timidity
Hubris and humility
Blindness and moments of clarity, the nostalgia
The words, the silence and everything in between”
Yewande tells the fact of each case in a very relatable and understandable manner clearly spinning out themes that might have otherwise required a code’s key; from the little girl who was raped to death to the young woman lamenting her heartbreak, She, however, ties up some details of each story – but rather roughly, leaving a mystery, like the dangling fumes of cigarette in the air. And just like detective fiction, this poetry collection is rather very “un-put-downable”.
“Voices” is a book to visit and revisit. And as a first book that it is, it is a very big occasion for the poet, announcing her as one committed to bringing about change through “the subtle art of language”. I’m very glad and thankful that I was given this copy as a gift, for many more reasons than just being a collection of poems. And I absolutely promise that you will find this book a pleasure to read.