Poetry, particularly poetry in Africa, has moved on from what it was in the 1960s and 1970s. The rhyme schemes are no longer a matter of compulsion, the writing no longer has to be so high-brow or technical, the lines and stanzas no longer have to follow certain patterns, and the themes are more relatable now.
Bash Amuneni is no stranger to the creative scene. Though a banker by profession and a graduate of Architecture, Bash is recognised as one of Nigeria’s top performance poets. Two years ago, he released a spoken word poetry album titled “Freedom”, and he has performed at various poetry platforms, including the Lagos International Poetry Festival and the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) Campaigns. His works have also been published in a number of national dailies and international magazines.
“There Is A Lunatic In Every Town” is a compilation of 45 poems which run across 82 pages. The book is divided into three major sections, based on the themes addressed: Resonance, which come with nostalgic verses; Intimacy, where matters of the heart are addressed, and The Human Condition, which dwells on the everyday topics we all can relate to.
A number of Bash’s poems reek of a love for travelling, and the memories that accompany road trips. In “Akwanga”, he explores life in one of Nasarawa State’s main towns with lines like
“Dawn, and Akwanga comes to me
in the toothy smile of Kaka
and young breasts trekking, kinky
skin dark as pitch
heads perfected in merchandise carriage
in wrappers
on tacky paths, plunging
into the bowels of stubborn savannahs”

In “Isi Ewu”, he expresses his opinion about a popular outdoor recipe in lines like:
“Speaking in eager tongues
we communed at your altar
feeling the heat
numbing fingers
munching your meat
hoof and members
sniffing in plural earnest”

In “A Is For Apple”, he relives younger years as a schoolboy with verses like:
“A red and white checkered cloak
hangs on his lean and sulky frame
creased at the collar
weeping washed brown khaki shorts
almost falling off his wiry waist
an awkward child
preoccupied with himself”

In this book, Bash shows no fear for spinning verses laced with passion. In “Lonely Sweetness”, he employs words like:

“Black and white hues flush
on the pallet of your fine skin warm
lip lines
to crest of chin
from the nape of your neck
to the arch of your nails
daintily etched
picture perfect
again in sweet surrender”

And in “My Promise”, he shows earnestness with words like:
“To watch you purr in your sleep
I rub your back to break the vibe
I do this again with a smile
listen to the music of your soul
calling dawn.”

It’s not all cakes and cream when Bash churns out his words though. There is room for empathy, for pain, for introspection. In “A Beggar Mum, Her Infant and A Vacuum”, he identifies with a poor woman’s hopelessness in lines like:

“I saw her bowl
empty like her gaze
the edges are cracked wide open
upwards, seeking heaven’s mercy

I saw her essence worn and torn
as she stared at me hollow
in that mean day’s heat in Kano
I heard her soul scream out
as we hit her ear drums
with a thousand thunderous blares
blasting at once”

In “Lunatics On The Loose”, he wails about the state of society in lines like:
“There is a lunatic in every town
building hospitals they never use
gathering bills for pills
a tourist to India to meet with death’s strip
bodies are conveyed back, dark
buried in the tomb of a land he left to rot”

Whether it’s love, sorrow, yearning or pain, Bash’s poems have a way of hitting home. Literary purists may decry the “lack of technicality”, but the verses resonate with everyone, there are no vain attempts to sound too “deep”, and the messages in his stanzas are not lost on anyone. “There Is A Lunatic In Every Town” is both a readable and a memorable piece of art, and Bash deserves applause for this effort.

Rating: 7.2/10