In “Will You Buy My Wares”, the author explores recurrent themes on love, pain, broken
relationships, brokenness of self, death, the author love’s for poetry, near death experiences, motherhood, womanhood, and sexual abuse which is not too different from themes one can see in his first poetry collection – The Book of Pain.

Kicking off the collection is the first poem –
“I was a broken man long before I knew that broken men do not mend hearts, that they do not love. no, broken men break people, but i learnt it a little too late”
which in summary speaks to the brokenness of man and the importance of therapy to unpack and heal through trauma of failed relationships.

This collection is a diagnosis of grief. In all the poems, Tope Ogundare calls on his years of
medical practice and uses them to plumb the depths of the human condition, interrogating at length themes around sorrow, pain and brokenness. In these days of increased mental health awareness and the despondency that has permeated the nation in the past few years, this collection feels like a scoresheet, a retelling of what, if not how, the grief and disillusionment came to be. Truly, the past few years have been challenging on everyone and their mental health: the lockdown, the protests, the buildup to election season, and the hatred and bitterness that has permeated the polity in the wake of the electioneering process. I once saw on the internet that of all the winners of the Nobel Prize for literature, one profession stands out the most: Medical Doctors. I discussed it with my friends and they had a variety of reasons why.

Some said the practice of medicine has a way of making you confront themes like life and death and this brings the author to mind and another poet in the person of Dami Ajayi whose recent collection mirror some of the themes explored by Will You Buy My Wares. One is convinced that the practice of medicine has a way of making one think deeply about things and the author’s medical training is sprinkled liberally throughout the work. In this collection, Tope invites, nay, drags us on an escapade through his psyche, and the brilliant use of medical terminologies makes it more apt, if a little harder to follow. It is interesting to see mental health, grief, and pain being written about by someone who actually has the training to know, but it begs the question: if those who can express themselves are saying this much, what then can we expect of the unlettered, the voiceless?

It is easy to see why one hopes that the author may have used himself as a metaphor for
Everyman, as there are points in the poem where one is moved to feel genuine concern for his health and condition. The collection as a whole has a dark, brooding theme, and one can easily see and feel deeply the pain and sorrow in the collection even though it is occasionally hidden in not-very-accessible language. All is not gloom and doom, however; poems like “You speak the Language of Touch” and “These Words become Flesh” evoke scenes of wonderful physicality and companionship, vivid scenes that serve as an excellent counterpoint to the sadness and desolation that is evident throughout the drapery of the collection.

Tope Ogundare is an exciting poet as his poems have a certain weight, gravity and gravitas
which call to his intellect in a way that very few humans do. He is a doctor’s poet, a writer’s poet. Given his word use and his coinages, I confess to being more than a little curious as to what it will feel like to read his thoughts in prose and nonfiction form, devoid of the structural and form limitations that poetry imposes on those who pen it. Will You Buy My Wares is proof of introspection that despite all of the trauma and pain navigated in the book, the titular poem is not one of those but a simple, direct appeal where asks the question on the lips of every writer and poet:

Will you buy his wares? “Let me feed off my pain”, he says, 

“Bring a bowl, collect the dripping blood from my bruised veins, let them curdle into poems…”

This is a question the average artist seeks an answer to. When he searches his soul for the
words to express how he feels, when he stays up all night to find better and more ways to  tell stories so painful they hurt the tongue and sour the mouth. Will You Buy My Wares leads you on a soul searching quest in timely fashion while leaving the author’s expertise in weaving words in a masterful and yet vulnerable manner bare for the reader to engage and want more. I thoroughly enjoyed feasting on the author’s “wares” and can’t wait to call on this author for more poetry in the future.