“Sip me please, but slowly
Do you remember the spark
in our first kiss?
I know how fire burns on water
We made it happen on lover’s day…”
How does art get woven in such a way that it blends seamlessly with other disciplines? How is poetry constructed to become more wholesome, transcending individual topics while at the same time avoiding the label of being generic? How do lines and verses set out to create posers, rather than attempt answers like everyone else? How is a journey seeking for meaning embarled on with the aid of perspectives?
Echezonachukwu Nduka, the widely-published poet and foreign-trained pianist, takes it upon himself to attempt sufficient responses to these enquiries with his debut poetry collection, “Chrysanthemums For Wide-Eyed Ghosts.” In 75 poems that lay across seven sections, the 2016 Korea-Nigeria Poetry Prize Winner explores the interpolation of themes that dwell on the human condition.
“The Initiation” speaks of the discovery of a gift, “Inside The Old Room” pays respects to a departed patriarch, “An Old Man In Conversation” harps on friendship and the passage of time, “Flames” is a description of lost love, “You Are Not A Stranger” bemoans the distance between two lovers, and the eight Bambari poems tell a story where curiousity, cigarette smoke and lust intersect.
“Ghost Lover” tells of longing, “Cycle” examines the idea of dying young, “Morgue Portraits” reminds us of the frost that death brings, “Dark Room” speaks from the perspective of a ghost, “Remembrance” highlights how loss snatches love away, and “Drifting” sheds light (once more) on the transience of romance.
“My Sin On A Sunday Morning” lets us in on what it means to be engulfed by art, “Running” is a subtle take on crime and race, “Oremus” is a supplication to the skies, “One More Bottle” celebrates the marriage between liquor and dance, a thriving singer is adulated in “Asa”, there is a story of pianos in “Dreams In A Fortnight”, and “Beat The Drums” spares a few verses for the protagonist in Achebe’s 1958 fictional classic.
Nduka has a deep relationship with music, a professional one as a matter of fact, and that comes into play for a huge stretch of this collection. There is significant emphasis on the heavier things, with lots of allusion to ghosts and wilted flowers. From dead friends to flickered relationships, there is a huge sense of introspection, and the pervading feeling is one of resignation to the brevity of things.
“Chrysanthemums For Wide-Eyed Ghosts” is comparable to Bash Amuneni ‘s “There Is A Lunatic In Every Town” if it was more self-absorbed, and it is much darker than Dami Ajayi ‘s “Clinical Blues.” The poems tend to be a tad repetitive, but there is a lyrical tone to the verses. The huge sense of introspection is palpable, and while this would pass for a cantata of sombre tunes, it is a very strong debut nonetheless.