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Book ‘n’ Gauge

Book ‘n’ Gauge

Event : Book 'n' Gauge 2.0 ; An Evening with Tolu Akinyemi and Seun Lari-Williams Venue: Herbet Macaulay Library, Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria. Date: Sunday 29th October 2017…


Tolu_Akinyemi_poetolu_smallTolu' Akinyemi is an Architect, Entrepreneur, and a passionate Creativist. He was born in Akure, the sleepy capital city of Ondo State, Nigeria. He studied at the Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria, and then at the University of Greenwich, London.

His Poetry was short-listed in Verses From The Sun (2012); An Association of Nigerian Authors, Anthology, A Way With Words (2014); A Great British Write Off Anthology, The Big Society; A poetry stage play written for The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, London, and The Greenwich-Lewisham Young People's Theatre. His writings have also appeared on other printed and online outlets.

You can find Tolu on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (@poetolu). He believes in 'The Big Bang Theory' TV Show, Google and Jesus. Tolu currently lives in London, England.

I laugh at these skinny girls_thumb_Tolu Akinyemi_poetolu

‘I Laugh At These Skinny Girls’
is a refreshing and exciting approach to poetry. It is a collection of ‘poetry for people who hate poetry’ which is poetry marinated in; simplicity, relatability, vividness and wittiness. The poems are written with a form and motive to portray poetry as enjoyable, especially to those people who would normally not read poetry. I Laugh at These Tiny Girls is the second book in the ‘poetry for people who hate poetry’ series.
Page count: 208    Publisher: Strange Ideas UK

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Book Excerpt

A fowl is missing from the next village.
That night they heard a shriek,
A snap, retreating feet and silence.
Jòná says “who cares?
It is not my fowl”.

Then a goat was stolen six streets away
We found clean bones and spices
And remorseful cooking devices
But there was no goat.
Jòná says “who cares?
It is not my goat”.

Then some girls were stolen
From across the street
While still suckling
On their mothers’ teats
The men were in no hurry,
They waited for dinner
Stole the girls and the cutlery.
Jòná says “who cares?
It is not my cutlery”.

The moon and stars are shy tonight
As hefty men leap over the fence.
We hear heavy footfalls outside the wall
Then a noise on the roof
Jòná whimpers, “Could that be my roof?”
Soon we hear a knock, a very loud one
On the centre of Jòná’s door.

In the homes of
Two hundred and seventy-six
Helpless family heads
The tiny beds of
Two hundred and seventy-six
Girls gather cobwebs.

No one slept
In them yesterday
And today
And forever?

Mother said, daughter
Never chase a man
But be at quarters
And let him
Come running
If he wants.

Mother said, daughter
If you chase a man
You will be behind
In his fart’s line of fire
And know now daughter
Men’s fart
Smells really bad.

The road was dry
The sun was high
And on the bus to Abuja
‘Dèbólá sat a row behind
A lady with a purple hat.

The hawkers came, the hawkers left
But not before they sold their wares
Of roasted corn and chippy fries
And nuts and buns and scrambled eggs.

Then after ten or thirteen miles
The lady in the purple hat
Began to shift from left to right
And slowly made to raise a thigh.

So from behind, ‘Dèbólá had
To gently tap her shoulder pad
And calmly say “please don’t do that”
“Don’t do what?” The lady asked.

‘Dèbólá made a pleading sigh
And said “please!
Don’t ease out that fart!”

Halima sits outside with Mama
Discussing signs of harmattan.

Mama says “my fine daughter
You are not getting younger
And soon (not later)
You should snatch for yourself
A rich handsome husband”.

“You are right” replied Halima
Whose husband shall I snatch?

Nostalgia will soak
Like a bread loaf in a wet bowl
As memories tumble
Downhill like rolling stones.

Don’t you remember
When we were younger
And all that mattered
Was growing up faster?

Boys painted on beards
With stolen school chalk
Girls wore their mother’s bra
Stuffed with colourful socks
Then we all grew up
In a quick blur.

It’s a Monday morning and
Crazy grown-ups are in a hurry
Racing like rats
To places far from their hearts.

If you see me daydreaming
Don’t call me lazy,
I only miss being young
And days I wondered why
Adults watched the boring news
Instead of funny cartoons
And food got on the table, how?
We never knew, (never had to).

All that mattered
Was growing up faster
And no one warned
We’d be trapped in a chore.

Now it’s late
To relive a childhood
Gone in a haste
But who would hear it
That evening too
Caught me unprepared?
Distracted by routines
Chasing the wind
With dreams still un-lived
And a bucketful of lists.

“Do you know Yéwandé
Will get married on Saturday?”
‘Reveals’ your Mother
About the same wedding
For which you chose the venue.

“Aren’t you two years
Older than her?
Or is it three
Yéwandé tell me?”

“What about that boy
That was always here?
The one that drives a red car.
Have you shown him the red card too?”

You already know
How these ‘sessions’ go.
You do not say a word,
It’s always without worth.
__

The day ends.
You lay on your bed
Cursing Bellanaija   under your breath.
Till there is a sudden silence
And a calm voice saying—
“Daughter relax, let your hair down.
The world will never run out of Saturdays.”

It is never hard to figure out
What a child wants.
Perhaps it’s the easiest thing in the world.
If he needed to pee
It would be transparently screamed.
If you needed to buy him a gift
Or wished to know what he wants to eat
You would not need a diagnosis kit—

Before you even speak, he would tell you;
“Daddy! Can we visit the zoo?” Or
“Mummy! I want a real car this time
One with blue tyres and a loud horn”
Or “Grandpa, I want a gun
Like the one in the movies
One that doesn’t shoot water.”

The requests might be silly
Or make you scream, but
In plain consistency, and
Unequivocal words
A child would tell you what he wants.
Not with silence, not with signs
Not with body murmur
Not with paradoxical outcries
Not with obscured hint-entions
But with precisely simple and
‘Crystally’ clear expressions.

I wonder at what point along the way
Children that have become wee-men
Lost this incredible gift?

Last night the girl was thirteen
This morning she is thirty
To look out of her window
Asking ‘where did the days go?’
Like pages of an open book
Turned by the wind.

But that is truth and that is life
To sleep a child and wake a woman
And your memory of all between
As clear as a pot of mud
While you are ready
Like a clown on the battleground.

This morning, Tade’s father fell
Into the pond near the barber’s shop.
He was pulled out unharmed
But dripping with shame
Since everyone knew why he fell in,
Staring at your hips
While you passed innocently.

The fence around your mother’s house
Is falling down as well, under the weight
Of the throngs of boys and men
From your street
(And the other streets) who lean on it.
They come each morning
Like antelopes to the waterhole
Thirsty to gulp a glimpse of you
They still saw the day before.

Daily, one by one, marinated in your awe
They come, with offerings of names.
They call you the nemesis of the moon,
And the eyes that bully the sun at noon,
They call you the heat-on-butter smile
They call you the purr of the evening breeze,
They call you the skin of glass to the eyes
And the skin of silk to the feel.

They call you names
As you inspire them like wine
But the only answer they get
Is the language of your ivory legs,
The flutter in your supple cheeks,
The pout of your lips, the spell in your eyes
And the way it seems
Even the wind waits on you to speak.

Each morning, I watch from a distance,
As you chase them away with stones.
You say love is overrated?
Wait till I show you (pepper) .

“Tolu captivates the reader’s heart and mind. I found myself flipping pages and wanting more and more!…”

“It is poetry like no other. Simple words, easy to understand, humorous and relatable. Enjoy by reading out loud. You must fall in love with it.”

“…A breath of fresh air. An easy read, easy to relate with, contains the right dose of humour. A must read for everyone no matter your taste in books.”

“It is poetry like no other. Simple words, easy to understand, humorous and relatable. Enjoy by reading out loud. You must fall in love with it.”

(Feedback from readers)

Book Preface

 

I certainly cannot be the only one who has noticed how simple the word ‘simple’ sounds, unlike the word ‘complicated’ which simply sounds…complicated.

(I’ll admit I have often wondered, perhaps time and familiarity subtly reshapes our perception, making us associate the ‘look’ of words on paper to their meanings in our minds, luring us into thinking they sound and look like what the dictionary says they mean, but that is a matter for another time).

I love ‘simple things’ for their ability to be nonchalantly potent.  A simple ‘hello’ can secure a lifelong friend, a simple apology can redeem a would-be enemy, a mere remark can cost a man his life and casual but careless words can cause two nations to war.

An understanding of the power of ‘simplicity’, tacitly taught me the efficacy of simple words and how they are the vehicles of useful communication.  I learnt that often, ‘less says more’, I also realised how very silly it is to say simple things complicatedly.

How we often crave so direly
The depths of hefty words
To convey outwardly
Emotioning inner thoughts.

How we yearn the beauty
Of gargantuan rhetoric
To flush out entrapped feelings
To ears that need to hear it.

But I know better than try hard
To say simple things complicatedly
Like when “I’m really sorry”
Or telling you “I love you”.

Few years ago, I really began to find poetry fascinating, but I also realised that a lot of people do not share my enthusiasm about poetry. It was more startling, discovering that many of such people are already avid readers, yet for them, poetry is strictly off the menu.

There appeared to be a very simple reason for this; a ‘hatred’ of poetry because they find it ostentatious and poets egoistic. They also consider poetry typically boring and obscure, especially when they struggle to understand or enjoy what is conventionally touted as brilliant poetry.

Before I learnt ‘the simple lesson’, I stupidly believed the quality of poetry could be proportional to the time it takes readers to grasp its message. I judged its beauty by how well-entrenched the meanings were, but I have found that the duty and skillfulness of a poet is not in how well he hides beautiful meanings between the lines, it’s in how easily he reveals them. A poem does not have to be difficult to be deep; ‘simple’ and ‘deep’ are not mutually exclusive.

Like every form of art, poetry is a means of communication and as such, its consumption does not have to be a puzzle-solving exercise. It should be like a walk in a beautiful garden, alive with exotic flowers and animals; a garden of words in which each turn presents delights that tickle the eyes.

I learnt that poetry is a language or a message, and the poet is a mere courier. Poetry is a means of communication and its glory is its successful delivery. The fanciful words and pedantry a message is encased in is worthless, if the message is undelivered, and if the message is undelivered, the messenger (poet) has failed, and if the messenger fails, the message is in vain.
This understanding made me start calling my poetry ‘poetry for people who hate poetry’, which can be described as poetry marinated in; detail, simplicity, relatability, vividness and wittiness. So far the feedback has been encouraging. Many readers speak of how they now see poetry in a new light.

Without any intention to ridicule or undermine complex forms of poetry, the poems in this book are written without the strictures of conformity and with a form and motive to portray poetry as enjoyable, especially to those people who would normally consider poetry intimidating or boring.

I Laugh at These Tiny Girls is the second book in the ‘poetry for people who hate poetry’ series and I really hope you enjoy reading these poems as much as I did writing them.

Tolu’ Akinyemi
May 2015
Abbey Wood, London

About The Title

 

It was a summer evening in Woolwich, a diverse community in the south-east part of London, England. I was walking on the very narrow pavement of a street called ‘Artillery Place’ and ahead of me was a group of three or four chatty, attractive young women in the prime of womanhood. They would have been in their early twenties. Ahead of them was an elderly lady trudging along with a pace and demeanour that suggested she would have been seventy years old in the least.

It was a fairly long stretch of narrow pavement around a curved part of the road bounded on one side by a stone wall and on the other, by a fairly heavy vehicular traffic. The old lady had everyone behind her moving at a very slow pace. To get ahead, there were just two options; either step off the narrow pavement into the busy road, or continue at the slow pace till the end of the narrow stretch.

I found this situation amusing, but the ladies didn’t. They got impatient and rudely, didn’t hide it from the old lady.

The poem “I laugh at these skinny girls” which is also the title of this book, captures from a comical perspective what I consider might be a justified reaction from the old woman, towards the rude young women, who tried to bully her. It however hopes to draw attention to ageism issues and the declining respect and decorum young people have for and around the elderly in our society today.

 

The glory of the young is their strength:
the beauty of the old is their gray hair.

King Solomon (Proverbs 20:29)

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