GRIEF IN CONTEMPORARY POETRY: AN AFTERMATH OF MALADMINISTRATION OF MOST 21ST CENTURY SOCIETIES; A GLANCE AT JOHN CHINAKA ONYECHE’S 25 ATONEMENTS.
BY: Kwaghkule Aondonengen Jacob.
25 Atonements is a forty paged poetry book penned by John Chinaka Onyeche. It is embedded with a lot of literal and figurative accurately engineered aesthetics. All the poems in the said collection are stylistically titled and numbered in Atonements from one to the twenty-fifth Atonement. Of a truth, all these poems are wow-stricken as well as mind-blowing considering the tone and the era in which they have been rendered.
Grief, according to English Dictionary means suffering, hardship. Grief is also defined as pain of mind arising from misfortune, significant personal loss, bereavement, misconduct of oneself or others, etc.; sorrow; sadness. Grief is the cause or instance of sorrow or pain; that which afflicts or distresses; trial.
In the poetry book, 25 Atonements, John China Onyeche has deliberately portrayed grief like sellers do display their wares in market squares_the picture of a girl captured in the early pages of the book speaks volumes_although, not minding the different view of the poet as seen in “Atonement Seven”. It is undoubtedly verifiable, that most 21st Century Societies, Nigeria inclusive, have failed their citizens just like the world always disappoints new born babies resulting into their cries immediately after being born.
Nigeria is one of the underdeveloped 21st Century societies_so to say. The level of maladministration in this country makes her to be termed an underdeveloped [if not undeveloped] nation till date. The question is how can a poet living in such a ruined society think straight other than being constantly interrupted by grief? With this, John Chinaka Onyeche has vindicated and bears no blames for having penning down grief in ‘poetrical’ lines.
Beginning from the interlude anchored by Tares Oburumu to the last Atonement, it can be inferred that this society has caused this grief made visible in many poems of these poets today. For Tares openly says: “I know of a happiness that doesn’t include me in its typical home. So I create one and rub it on my body. Does it smell? Am I the scent only my mirror understands?” No wonder, till date, Nigerians still seek homes on the shores of other societies…
One of the key amenities of life is shelter. This when it’s lacked, peace is lost and grief is activated. John Chinaka Onyeche has been /longing for a home in a home/ all this while. He captures this disillusionment in his second Atonement thus;
The question of homelessness in this society has promoted Onyeche to asking that /Where can be more home, than where the heart already lives, without leaving?/ In this poem, the author has succinctly explained what grief is, that:
The futility of many a citizen’s efforts in this Society is unfathomable. In different sectors, the Government of the people has kept denying being for the people. It contradicts what the poet has believed in. In his belief, it is biblically asserted that /“Ask and it shall be given,/Knock and the door shall be opened/For whosoever inquires shall find”/
Yet, here, a poet prays:
In a society filled with dysfunctional mayhems, a poet is left with nothing but his pen putting down pains to paper. It is evident as Onyeche puts; /My grief is clothed in the garb of rhetoric/(Pg.26). As /Words have galloped on our tongues/Pulling even the last pinch of steel/(Pg.32) and all that is made of this society is likened to;
Indeed, /This society has become a fire that burns me/[emphasis mine] and /I breathe here like a saltwater tide, coming in in the mornings and returning in the evenings/(Pg.34). Sadly, we only live to groan about /the wishes which dressed my good old days/(Pg.36). For;
The stories told from a broken wall
Have held us bound a thousand times
If we don’t return to retell our tales of old
The days shall go by and not let us go on
Conclusively, it is what the society tells a poet to write he writes. John Chinaka Onyeche has done so. Poetry has therefore, been used here as a tool for exposng the cause of many a poet’s grief amidst this contemporary turmoil; the failure of the Government at all levels.
John Chinaka Onyeche “Rememberajc” (he/his) is an author of three poetry collections “Echoes Across The Atlantic”, a husband, father and poet from Nigeria. He writes from the city of Port Harcourt Rivers State, Nigeria. He is currently a student of History and Diplomatic Studies at Ignatius Ajuru University Of Education Port Harcourt Rivers State.
John Chinaka can be reached through the following means:
Bio for Reviewer:
Kwaghkule, Aondonengen Jacob is popularly known by his pen name “Mr Kvip”. He’s an awarded Nigerian poet with multiple online and traditional publications. A two time finalist for Pengician Chapbook Poetry Prize, 2021 and 2022, an Entrant for NSPP, 2021, and a Longlist, African Human Right Playwriting Prize, 2021. Kwaghkule Aondonengen Jacob bagged a B.A Honours in English and Literary Studies from the prestigious Federal University, Wukari, Nigeria, where he serves as the Poetry Editor for Insights. If he’s not writing, he’s admiring the beauty around him.