Breaking News
Translate

POETRY: A Poem as a Dreamer and Pacifist

Poet: Ikeogu Oke
Analyst: John Chukwuma Ajakah

The Way I Want To Go

What you do you must do on your own.

The main thing is to write for the joy of it.

– Seamus Heaney, “Station Island”

Father has called and warned me not to go

The way I want to go:

“It is no life you spend among the trees!”

Mother as everyone at home agrees.

And good opinion says the trend of the era shows

That those whose pen must feed must write in prose.

“To write in verse,” they say, “is agony.

For poets,” they press, “do not make money.”

 

And I have given thought to what they say,

While alone and headed on my way.

The wisdom of the world and age apart,

The truly wise must listen to his heart.

And yet the poet should not deny his pain,

Or fail for lack to stress his fair bargain.

For if poets do not make money,

Then, neither does money make poets.

Nigeria Prize for Literature award-winning poet, Ikeogu Oke describes poetry as ‘a healthy narcotics’ as he romanticises with the genre that has bought him honour.  The poet says this in reference to his collection of poems, Heresiads, which recently earned him the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd sponsored award. One of the poems in the anthology, The Way I Want to Go anchors on the works of Seamus Heaney and other literary exponents who affirm the adage that ‘every man is the architect of his own destiny’ or as John Fletcher asserts in his poem, Upon an Honest Man’s Fortune, ‘… man is his own star.’

Central Theme

Ikeogu uses the poem to portray the belief in oneself and ones’ innate abilities. Everyone needs to take personal responsibility especially with regards to charting a career path. Pecuniary considerations should never be at the front burner when one makes such decisions. As the poet stated on the occasion of the award event held in his honour, ‘Time is too precious to waste doing what you do not love even if it brings you a fortune.’ The poem also reveals that God made man as a free moral agent. So, he chooses what to do with his life and gets the rewards or faces the consequences of every choice made. Such crucial decisions include career choice. In this regard, the poet explains with reference to The Way I Want to Go, ‘the poem has served me as a literary manifesto since I wrote it about 15 years ago, as a response to the concerns expressed by those who thought my career choice of poetry was a waste of time and tantamount to entering into a life-long pact with penury’.

Structure

The poem begins with these lines from Seamus Heaney’s, Station Island:

 What you do you must do on your own

     The main thing is to write

      For the joy of it

The Way I Want To Go has two main stanzas. In the first stanza, the poet persona presents the scenario at home where the parents admonish him to tow a career line contrary to his heart desire. They suggest that he writes in prose instead of verse if he chooses a writing career as the future of poetry- in terms of pecuniary reward, is bleak. Their reasoning is captured in the lines below:

Father has called and warned me not to  go

The way I want to go:

“It is no life you spend among the trees!”

Mother as everyone at home agrees.

And good opinion says the trend of the era   shows

That those whose pen must feed must write in prose.

“To write in verse,” they say, “is agony.

For poets,” they press, “do not make money.”

Contrary to the concerned opinion expressed, the persona determines to do what he loves. Love for poetry motivates him, not the money. So, he goes into writing despite the criticisms. Admitting that he had considered the suggestions, the poet persona insists that it is wisdom to do what he loves instead of being a man pleaser. Ikeogu reiterated this position in his speech while receiving the Nigeria Prize for Literature, ‘Poetry is the only healthy narcotic on earth. I am happy to be addicted to it as shown by my refusal to be swayed by such concerns… one’s resolve to pursue one’s dreams in spite of such concerns is the best decision that can lead to a fulfilled life.”  The 2nd stanza portrays the persona’s resolve after the contemplation in these lines:

And I have given thought to what they say,

While alone and headed on my way

The wisdom of the world and age apart,

The truly wise must listen to his heart.

The poem has the aa bb rhyming scheme pattern.  Each pair of lines ends on a similar note and runs into the next pair, forming a couplet.

 

 


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.