By UZOR MAXIM UZOATU
The ant eaters; a collection of rants and anthems; by ‘Kufre Ekanem; Kraft Books Limited, Ibadan; October 2010
The ant is a very rest less small insect. The ant eaters, the debut poetry collection of Kufre Ekanem literally puts ants in your pants. It is akin to an anthology of many voices: piquant, mordant, trenchant, deviant, pregnant, instant, distant, flippant, mutant, rampant, radiant, and all other “ants” besides.
The blurb and the bookmarker introduce the book thusly: “the ant eaters is a collection of state of consciousness poems with one consistent whisk: the ant. The ant literally crawls across every page as a painter’s canvass. Every ant bears a message as import blends fluidly in graceful word play.
Crisp or prosaic, personal or remote, each ant takes you to a point of reflection and leaves you there, alone with your thought (but not lonely). Serious ants, lighthearted ants, dodgy ants, savvy ants and yet more ants but, as you will quickly discover, ants don’t always mean ants in the lode of ants.”
It is indeed interesting that Kufre Ekanem who is better known as the Corporate Affairs Manager at Cadbury West Africa is through the insightful collection shedding the toga of corporate staidness and donning the gait of the daring poet.
Kufre puts to great account his diverse experiences in teaching, insurance, journalism, theatre, printing, advertising, brand management, consulting, broad spectrum marketing, and public relations. A respected corporate culture advocate and board games enthusiast, Kufre comes across as the poet of all frontiers.
His mastery of word play stares all in the face. For a prologue, he offers an “antilog” and celebrates the fact that “whoever had the idea to call a collection of poems an anthology was very smart and way ahead of his time.”
In the first poem of the collection, “migrants at shore”, he laments the waste that is modern migration. He raids the holy place in “antagonists in the sanctuary” and ups the ante by subverting the Christmas song in his “the noel chant in Abuja”. Love shines supreme in the collection as exemplified in the poems “Anthonia?” and “Anthem to my heart.”
The pidgin poem “Antithesis for London” lampoons the fact that his jotter could be stolen in, of all places, London and not in Oshodi or Mushin.
Kufre lionises the legendary Mandela in “giANT in the sky”, depicting the 90th birthday celebration of the icon by the world’s superstars at Hyde Park. In “… Antacid for antiquity”, Kufre turns his barbs on the monstrosity of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe:
We need ANTacid to flush dis news
Robert, d president of Mugabwe. Antiquity himself
Right afta Nelson d giANT of humanity
On d same news broadcast! E must beta for Africa
The poet takes his pot shots nearer home in “Erin, the elephant ant”, where a juggernaut hailed as “Father of the jungle” and “Owner of the umbrella” ends up “shrinking to ant_size” after his unmasking whereupon sachet water and sputum are hauled at him!
No issue apparently escapes the poet’s eye of Kufre as he in “Tears (and lager) for the antihero” takes up the issue of the football coach Amodu Shuaibu who qualified Nigeria for the World Cup only to be sacked, with his place taken by the Swede Lars Lagerback:
I mourn with amodu
he sits and mopes with chin in hand
but his place in history is scented
by neo-hunks who want some lager back
Kufre likes to dub his poetry as scribbles, but he happens to operate at a level made famous by poets such as the celebrated American poet Charles Bukowski. For poets like Bukowski and Kufre Ekanem, the lived life is shown up in all its guises, warts and all.
There is no strange affectation. There is no futile striving after poetic effect. The poetry offers itself on the page and the stage as work_in_progress. Kufre is poised to launch forth the Beat Generation of Nigerian poetry. May his tribe increase!