Treading through the Memory Lane to Eighteen: A Review of David Ishaya’s Poetry Chapbook by Ojo Olumide Emmanuel

Reviewer: Ojo Olumide Emmanuel

Title: When I’m Eighteen

Author: David IshayaOsu

Year of Publication: 2020

Number of Pages: 26

Publisher: WRR Words Rhyme &Rhythm Limited Abuja


Poetry appears to us in different colours, stripes; in different dimension and patterns. Like the painter creating a beauty on the canvass by utilizing different stripes, lines, colours, shapes; the poet is an embodiment of literary tools similar to the artist’s tools which he utilizes in his literary creation. The poet is a conjurer of deeper thoughts, sometimes he lives in the abstract world and from that realm he brings to reality his dazzling imaginations.

David Ishaya’s poetry collection When I’m Eighteen is a poetic memoir of eighteen poems in consonance with the title. It is one that has extended the borders of poetry. This is because it has endowed us with a new notion into the act/art of creating poems. The common definition of poetry is that it is the collection of creative thoughts as words in lines and stanzas but in this chapbook, the poet made a placid deconstruction of this definition by placing a poem in a maze (box); as such a log is placed on the reader to voyage another length of reflection into unravelling the sense in this maze. SaddiqDzukogi in his praise for the work promptly noted that “this exquisite collection implies that, to define is to imprison, with poems that yearn and revel in the disruption of a demarcated freedom.

It is however important to state that further than the theme of a work, one must also pay keen interest to its elements as they are part of the ingredients which gives a work its artistic excellence and finesse. Poetry is susceptible to varied interpretations, bearing this in mind, it is said that nobody has absolute interpretation or a franchise to the full meaning of a poetical piece. While the poet may have an intended meaning, the reader is also at liberty to subject certain degree of interpretation to his perceptions, but above all the reader must see that he understands the work. This helps in making valid interpretation. It is worthy to note that the poems were written in free verse and the poet’s diction is a simple one.

The first poem BREAKFAST TABLE (7) introduces the reader to the bliss of a family; the liberty to talk about anything including “[bringing] a dream to the breakfast table.” The actuality that mundane things shared by the family can carry deeper meaning is well accentuated here and mother being the one everything evolves round: “Mama serves us coffee/ at night… I am here anytime/ to make more for you/ and your friends”. The poet ends by asserting that “…the distance/ between houses/ is love”, which means that the reason people avoid or stay away from one another is the lack of love for one another.

 HOBBY (8) depicts the poet’s obsession with painting “I’d raise/ my hair and hide/ my pencils inside/ and try to finish/ the apple./ The moon. The girl…”. The disposition here is that of finding comfort in doing something worthwhile. In an instance in the poem, the persona was so engrossed to the point of not knowing where the door is. A kind of hopeless situation though and then “Like a candlewick I fell”. The poet’s metaphor for describing “bathing” is worth acknowledging “…use water to know more about my body”.

The poem BICYCLE (9) portrays a woman instructing her kid not to ride the bicycle but to join in the husbandry of beautiful flowers. Afterward her kid can ride it “the shadow stroke is the time to finger two wires/ with this allowance /the glow inside your scar was made to shine”. Meaning in the midst of pain “scar”, it can trigger a shining if one does not give up. In MAMA SAID (10), the poem places a kind of parallel between “bolt” and “boys”, a concession that boys should be a tripartite string of hardness, lightness and loveliness. In this case possessing these qualities makes boys capable of doing anything.

In the poem PERSONA (11), the poet places the poem in a box creating a reminiscence of a lovely event in his life with mama cheering her glass of love and songs on such days “Cut to the centre of memory even if it is pink… mama joined a song to my drawstring”.

The Poem ALL ABOUT YOU (12), the poet implores the reader to soar in a journey of love where everything is for her “something juice, all about you, something you”. The poet further creates a sensual image of this hype “her voice is between the sky and the waves of belly blue”.

The Poem DREAMS (13), though a sad poem written light heartedly opens the reader to a boy puzzled by his dream and a need for reassurance. The boy recalls his father’s words: “build aeroplanes and watch your dreams fly” then the silence which emerged from his mom when he asked of his father: “she kissed my nose and went to the door”.

The poem INNOCENT (14) showcases a nostalgic journey outside home, the naivety of experiencing a new environment and the struggles to succeed “… everyone smiled and said his voice is innocent through and through the field kept us dancing and rainbow…”. Beyond all these, the towering arms of mother surpasses every trophies won.

The next poem FAVOURITE (15) seems to acknowledge the uniqueness and place of “black” as colour and people “black was the first glitter, from a bed painless…”.

PRESENCE (16) talks about the dimension of one’s life going through simple chores of life both the ordinary and serious ones “we were free chores we were coming back…love, breaking mirrors…”.

In the Poem HALLUCINOGEN (17) the poet created a metaphor for a wedding scene where wishes can be made “we named the cake after two candles” then the bliss which follows, all these made-up in his imagination.

GREEN-TIME (18) celebrates pleasance “… you sing, and the door opens this good garden we call Green time— and no curtains”.

 In the poem TOGETHER (19) Ada desires maths to be sweet like mango and other kids responding to such innocence… “… every kid in the hood/ had gathered in our lawn/ when the clouds started/ their tongues—ours/ was to sing and/ jump and wait for mangoes/ and rain to drop”.

While FAMILY QUESTION (20) places a demand for privacy at home, DREAM (21), readily exults the infallibility of love “… love is when you drink a sour orange and still call it orange… Love cannot be paraphrased”. The next poem BOYHOOD (22) vividly tells about the sexual jaunts of Boys at teen years: “…heading towards the rainforest… you can walk through the valley of shadows of love of spiders breaking a night into two moans”.

AFTER THE STORM (23), expresses loneliness after experiencing difficult times and find solace in the cold “that night the lightning didn’t stop until she said: thank you”; while the last poem in the collection DONE (24), pinpoints the eternal, fraternal relationship between mothers and their kids “…she peeled a pear, placed it on my silver tongue twice &said: your bed is not a mistake”.

In conclusion, the entire collection like the modernist/ post-modernist poetry is one that the surface meaning is elusive and a kind of mystery; although certain interpretations were made in the course of the review.  The language of Poetry is a distinct dialect for higher and deeper thoughts. The poet employed them to the climax in this work.