Isn't the poet, in his/her peculiar primacy, a rebel of circumstances? Doesn't the higher nature, that greater calling, allow some room for choice?


“This is bad,”
says Aisha. “Bad enough to asphyxiate language, flooding the chords with
falsettos. Truth be told, nothing engages like print. Poetry when spoken, loses
its charm, becomes toothless and lurks in the shadows, like an apparition. The
flavouring is meagre and as such, a tragedy for the palate,” she continues.

“Is that
really it then?” Bili asks, “Isn’t the poet, in his/her peculiar
primacy, a rebel of circumstances? Doesn’t the higher nature, that greater
calling, allow some room for choice? Well, this is mine, animated by vocal
expression, the melody of its notes and the harmony of the perfect pitch. I’m
sorry you do not see it my way.”

“I certainly
don’t,” Aisha says, “No vicar worth his name will sanction this kind
of adultery. I cannot imagine a world so maddened by transformation it spites
the creative might of ages. Milton would be turning in his grave right at this
moment.”

“Milton would
be grateful,” Bili interjects, “If anything, my rendition of Paradise
Lost
has enlivened its message, the christening of the irreligious. The
better angels of our nature owe their fidelity to me. I am the one who finally
set them free.”

“The politics
of attribution, eh? There are more studies of paradise lost across literary
classes, more peer reviewed discussions and departmental curricula than there
are audio recordings of Mandi Vundla playing in art festivals. Do you know why
that is? Depth. One form has it and the other does not. One provides us
sufficient cultural density to outlive its creators and the other is a rip off,
an iteration of the long established.”

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“That the Neanderthal
is excellent recreational material for anthropologists by no means suggests his
superiority to us, Aisha,” Bili replies. “As languages evolve, so do
the vehicles that convey them. The evolution of form, of everything really, is
an incidental consequence of life. Do so or die and with the limits already set
above. There is only one option, the one I have taken.”

“To vilify another is foolish. To repeat it is the function of a rogue. More, in this case there is no justification. Neanderthals certainly evolved, which is why through interaction, they birthed language better able to express their most pressing needs, to communicate without fetters. That march was upwards. Spoken word has lost the wings of yore, it is no longer in flight. What was once a fire-breathing dragon is now a contemptible wall gecko and even though it has reserved enough of its reptilian mien, it is now more prey than predator.”

“You must
surely see that we have no place for relics. Whitman, for example, understood
delivery and executed his form in free verse because patterns are merely
waffles in an ice cream shop, ornamental, yet achieving little in the way of flavour.
The soul is always what counts, not the body.”

“What you find
in Whitman is an adaptation. Take away the rhyme but sprinkle the synaechdoche
in stanzas, antonomasias where you must and litter the broth with metaphors,”
replies Aisha. “What these ‘poets’ do is little more than spoken prose,
the travesty of the modern touch! If only there could be a merger, a transposition
of dynamics, allowing these dervishes an acquisition that truly counts, of the
ballad or the ode. Only then can we truly call it an evolution.” 

“Have it your
way then,” Bili says, surrendering with a shrug.

“I certainly
will,” concludes Aisha, smiling.

Luqman Hussain is a lawyer and poet. He is a graduate of Ahmadu Bello University and is currently a Partner at Hussaini Garba & Co. He performed at the inaugural session of the Kaduna Book & Arts Festival (KABAFEST) in 2017 and won the Abuja Literary Festival (ALitFest) Poetry Grand Slam in 2019. He lives in Minna.

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