Title: Calligraphy of Demons
Author: Odu Ode
No. of Pages: 44
Publisher: Words Rhymes & Rhythm Ltd
Reviewer: Ibraheem Uthman
Good books are unique and the verses of a good poetry book remains in the heart of the reader. If you’ve read Lines of Sight by Ismail Bala, you will concur that at the end of the book, one is compelled to flip back at its leaflets for a reread. This unique feeling is also discernible in Calligraphy of Demons by Odu Ode. This collection of forty-four (44) poems induces the readers to image themselves. The collection embroidered themes on death (“a portrait of the bereaved”), pain and grief (“stretch-marks” or “how we wear our pains with pride”), terrorism (“do not expect a happy poem from a patriot”, “Nigerian born in the middle of bloodbath of Biafra and the folding soil of Borno”), war (“spelling war and death and corpse and grief”), and waywardness (“when verses do not chase the devil”) amongst others.
The collection opens with the poem, “When Verses Do Not Chase the Devil”. The persona reiterated the story of his elder sister, who went astray at a very tender age (15years). She perfectly understood the bedroom business despite the raging words of his father from the Quran
/…at fifteen: My sister knows which penis produces male children…
My father had wasted, on my sister’s right eardrum…
All verses from his scripture that seduces God closer to one/ (Pg.14)
The lines that followed further revealed that their father tried setting her on a decent track until he was planted by time in the wombs of the earth. It didn’t end there, the persona explained to us that whilst growing up, his mother who became the only parent at that point taught him how to lead a decent life since there isn’t any hope of his elder sister to change her ways. She taught him to weave his mind with words from the scripture, to find and give out love except at points where it’s considered an absolute abomination; and that he should always be optimistic about tomorrow, for tomorrow is a pregnant future of possibilities. It is this that spurred him in search of his sister, and he found out that despite the fact that she’s gone astray, there is still some kind of piety in her. This he described thus: /…I traced my sister’s footmarks, I went in search of her, I heard her voice in a brothel reciting Suratul Al’khaf (A chapter in the holy Quran, that’s usually read on Fridays.) I knocked, I knocked, I knocked… Her colleagues invited me: /Today is Friday, she doesn’t sell her body/ (Pg. 15)
The second poem in this blissful collection is titled “Stretch Marks or How We Wear Our Pains with Pride.” In this fifteen (15) lines poem, the poet reminds us that whatever our distresses are, we know them like the marks on our palms, even though they may ache us down our blood vessels and bones: /Pain… Everyone knows his or hers by name… Steams you to cauldron…With aromas of burnt onions/ (Pg.16). We tend to nurse these distresses, in the womb of our being like we are never pregnant. He ended the poem saying, if we don’t abort these pregnancies, they might terminate us/Until you purge heart of silence… Your heart will be silence by purge/ (Pg.16)
“It May Be Love.” is another poem that will take away your breath for minutes due to the diction the poet employed. In this poem, the poet painted a picture of a lady whose heart has turned into a battlefield of heartbreaks and now deserted. It all started with a mask of love and then betrayal: /It May be Love coughing into her…Heart mushroomed by betrayal/ (Pg.19) With this, the lady came to a conclusion that it was indeed love that christened her grief, it was love that made her fears beautiful, making her reaching out to them even though she’s sick of them./It is love that sprinkles tears on her appetite…It is love that gives name to her grief / It is love that builds flowers around her fears… It is love waving hands farewells are heavy/ (PG-19)
In “Grooves”, the poet advises us that brooding over someone or something is indeed going to turn us into a closet for depression and might even lead to suicide or unexpected death /To live their over someone… Is turning yourself into a bag of Depression… into a hole of suicide notes… Into a bank of emptiness…/ (Pg. 25).
If we persist in turning our hearts away from these thoughts, he said:
/…Before you could squeeze…some sense into… you have become a mountain… Of sugar… standing on the route… Of trekking tears… you melt gradually… From your thoughts (until nothing is left of you)… Nothing/ nothing that has space to parade in…/ (Pg. 25) He concluded the poem with his final advice. He said we should learn to voice out our stories or even borrow a voice to do so:/…To sing some songs…You have to hire a voice… a talking drum… A room of shadows/
In the poem, “Do Not Expect A Happy Poem From A Patriot Nigerian Born In The Middle Of Bloodbath Of Biafra And The Folding Soil Of Borno” (too long a title? Yeah, I hate that fact too. Titles are supposed to be kept simple and short.) The persona laments that in this land, it is a norm to worship leaders who are enemies to the citizens, as though gods. He complained that gunfire and the rage of grenades are the music they dance to:
/i was born in a land where i learnt to lick the puss from an enemy.
here… i fold my songs into elegies for every rhythm from instrumentals sounds like gunfire… like the advert of a shelled grenade…
i’m a victim of this land where we spit at our father’s grave
until we forget the footprints of things… we were supposed to carry home./
The poem above describes the lifestyle of the people of Biafra and Borno State of Nigeria. Odu Ode had made his verses so simple yet poetic, that one will start to wonder if he has doctorate in grinding metaphor and imageries into a fine paste of poetry. The collection is touchy, bothering on personal, social and political issues. It is relevant to note that this collection has projected the societal purpose of literature, which is to mirror the society by bringing a consciousness of its ills in the minds of the citizenry and the new ways things can be better done. I like to recommend this collection for all poetry lovers. It is definitely a fascinating read.
Ibraheem Uthman is a poet and a Cyber Security student at Federal University of Technology Minna, Niger state. He is the author of the book Mind of a Bard; he is also a bonafide member of the Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation. He is writing from Minna, Niger state, Nigeria.