By Shehu Sulaiman
Funke Awodiya’s second book is majorly a collection of odes dedicated to great Nigerian women from the past, and the present. It lauds the selfless contributions of exceptional women like Prof. Dora Akunyili, Dr. Stella Adadevoh, Chioma Ajunwa, Bukky Ajayi, Justice Kate Abiri, Queen Amina, Ladi Kwali, Flora Nwapa and Maryam Babangida to not just the Nigerian state, but to the world. Woman of a Woman is adorned with tons of mouth-watering alliteration and other soul-lifting poetic devices which can be seen and felt in the nooks of Awodiya’s lengthy lines and stanzas.
Woman of a Woman is a collection of 60 poems with sweet taste and mind-boggling feel like the lush thighs of a tall, ebony, and beautiful Sweet Sixteen. The word plays that pervade this 64-page book published in 2020, are capable of brightening the day of a newbie reader, who lingers between an anorexia for reading, and a burning passion for becoming an unrepentant bookworm. A carefully crafted alliteration can be seen in lines like: Your name speaks flame of fame which can be found in one of the lines of the poem, Chioma Ajunwa.
Chioma Ajunwa is a poem that extols the Queen of the Sprints, one of Nigeria’s foremost, as well as famous sprinters and Olympic medalists. She was a gold medalist in Long Jump at the 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta. I had first heard about her in Church Agbasa, a rap hit by a Nigerian rapper called Splash.
Another sumptuous alliteration can be spotted in At every dawn, doom occurs, which sits in the first line of a poem titled: Fateful Wives, a poem examining the fate of women who give their all to home-building and are likely to die or have died in the process.
Shame on 1000 soldiers, Funmilayo lives In her descendants millions of Nigerian women that drive and vote women kicking asses and breaking glass ceilings without gloves history will not forget Mother of Africa, Lioness of Lisabi
You may wonder where these lines emanate from, and the reason why I have decided to make them a part of this review. These are lines from a poem titled: Lioness of Lisabi. They remind me of a chapter in Carlos Moore’s collected autobiography of one of Africa’s finest instrumentalists and civil rights activists, Fela Kuti. It reminds me of one of the saddest days in 1977, it reminds me of one of the most tragic events in the history of this blessed, but ill-fated country. A day a gem was thrown from a height, and left to get shattered to shards, without having a taste of the dollops of justice she had continuously fed others. It reminds me of the Lioness of Lisabi, Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti, a true Woman of a Woman, the first Nigerian woman to drive a car, the first to step foot on China, the first to scare a sitting king out of his throne.
Asides alliteration, which has flooded virtually all the lines, and stanzas of the poems that constitute the book, there are other glaring poetic devices like striking imageries, metaphors, and succinct rhyme. In the first line of the poem; Elegy to a little Bride, a poem where Awodiya picturized the suffering of an unripe girl given out in marriage, I can translate dogonyaro to symbolize the phallus of an older male adult about to slit the innocence of an underaged girl, who sits somewhere below him, while he hangs atop.
This may not be what the author intends to portray, but nonetheless, that’s the power of poetry— the ability to be seen and deciphered from differing perspectives. The metaphors are too numerous to mention, but two metaphors that have taken me aback are the ones on the first line of the poem titled: A woman is a Tongue of fire, which reads:
A woman is a tongue of fire, that fills the being with sweet desires, and the one on the third line of the poem, Chioma Ajunwa, which reads: You jumped so high to hang Nigeria’s name.
The imageries in these lines hit me so hard that I had to reread them many times over. Asides the metaphor in the aforementioned line, one can go around fishing for a rhyme and come out successful. Fire at the end of the first line, rhymes with desire which closes the second.
Another exclusive quality of this book, which stands as her second book in print; is the poetic fusion that exists within. The pages of this book are flooded with Yoruba words and phrases, giving it a standout African flavour. The words: Maami, Obirin Meta, Abiyamo, Adebimpe, Obirin Sowonu, Temi ni tieko, and the likes, add handsomely to the quality inherent.
Another quality is the history that oozes out of the lines, and stanzas. It is quite informative, as well as interesting in the way it was used— pure genius. Funke is arguably one of the finest spoken word poets in Nigeria. This is evident in the structure, and rhythm of her poems when read, or rendered. They effortlessly can pass for page poetry, as well as a spoken one. There’s barely a poem in the book that cannot be rendered on stage, as well as attract irresistible applause in the process. That’s why Funke is one of the most grounded, charismatic, and vocal spoken word poets I have ever watched perform on stage.
Despite the undisputable and commendable delivery of the publication of this book. My criticism goes straight to the part of the editors, proofreaders, and beta-readers of this beautiful body of work if there were ever any. Perusing a book, and stumbling upon grammatical misgivings in punctuation and tenses can be a great turn-off for readers. Even though the poet possesses the license to write in whatever style they want, the importance of punctuation in poetry, one of the most adored genres of literature, cannot be downplayed. Another criticism is the prosaic nature of a few poems, and the lack of poetic depth. I hope subsequent works from this amazing author who has continued to prove her worth in the Nigerian literary scene will be given a thorough and painstaking look before it is served to the public.
It is commonplace that many books which carry womanhood for a theme, end up dishing out an erroneous depiction of the harsh misconceptions of feminism and what it stands for, this was quiet different with Awodiya. She had taken her time to stay within the limits of womanhood and had not succumbed to the burning temptations of slipping into the abyss of toxic feministic ideologies. My favorite poems in this seemingly evergreen book are: This is me, Prayer of a Sister, Woman-Up, Fateful wives, Imagine, Soul Sisters of Ebedi, Elegy to the Little Bride, and Maami. I chose these poems because of the captivating and mesmerizing qualities that they are laced with. They have captured my attention, gladdened my heart, and swept me off my feet.
‘This is Me’ glorifies great Nigerian women, their qualities, and virtues, their hard work, and tenacity. Prayer of a sister is a poem that beseeches God to ease the suffering of all women, especially the one yet to be indoctrinated into motherhood—the barren one. Woman-up is a clarion call to all women, to rise above societal limitations on gender, and achieve their full potentialities. ‘Imagine’ is a poem written by Linda Musapha, aptly describing the boring state of the world if women were to be absent. And the last, which is titled ‘Soul Sisters of Ebedi’, written for Linda and Ganiyat, possibly friends of the author, is a poem that is brimmed with reminiscence of their times at the Ebedi International Writers Residency in Iseyin, Nigeria.
The poems in this book truly justify the title, which is ‘Woman of a Woman’. The poet has further strengthened her reputation and showcased her dexterity in the realm of poetry crafting. Her debut is titled’ The Farmer’s Daughter’, a 74-page book, housing poems on Borderline Personality Disorder, published in August, 2016, four years before the birth of her second— the hypnotizing and jaw-dropping ‘Woman of a Woman’.