Taiye Ojo [Tee Bliss] has only one tiny published collection, ‘all of us are birds & some of us have broken wings’ what these days we called chapbook, what these days young impatient poets all over the world rushed to published themselves, but ‘all of us are birds & some of us have broken wings’ deserved it praised as ‘paradoxical & revolutionary epic’ reading it, I can only called it ‘a well, great curated chapbook’ from a young promising poet to another, poet Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto described Taiye Ojo as ‘the most amazing poet of this generation, one of the few underrated young geniuses in Nigeria’.
Born and grew up in Kaduna, now living in Agbor, Delta State Nigeria, the young, lanky Taiye Ojo, who is in the center of all this iconic praise and what I called literary hyperbole has only few words for his epical efforts ‘I think it’s an important act of resistance, he says, to grieve something you’ve never seen —to witness, record & recite a projection that we have not experienced. I do hope at some level, the reader can connect with the poems, or find things that resonate with them on a human level.’
all of us are birds & some of us have broken wings is an enchanted interrogations into trauma, identity, loss, suicide, ancestry, heritage and open field marginalization at the time of unseen crisis, how everyday our wounds and scars keeps increasing in numbers and widening, and how we keep fighting and pretending to be okay. Taiye explains, ‘as someone who engages so intensely with trauma and identity, I have actually been thinking that most of my work hinges on naval-gazing. In just fifteen magical poems, some that extend to five lines long, it tells the hidden and cover-up happenings, especially in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large. /my country gives me a hammer when i asked for a home & i imagine the bloodbath as a sunset in a razed village. in this poem, my birth rhymes with pogrom & language in the house i swallow the keys to. when i consider that disaster begins inside a mouth:/ IN A SELF-PORTRAIT AS A POSTSCRIPT IN THE CIVIL WAR, the trauma of taking over unseen trauma in another generation affects the thinking faculty of everything within us. /what kind of world should we leave for our children? history is a place in my skin. Says Taiye Ojo, /no one told me what the war was for & i pledge my house to the fire./
Himself Taiye Ojo lost his mother 2016 which he says, ‘was a paralyzing loss. When life taken, rage sets in’. ‘I have always been obsessed with the idea of past lives, embodying memories, borders and the idea of past trauma. I always feel interact with these thematic tropes in a different way than reading it or understanding it in a literal way’. When he was asked, what odd, funny or interesting fact can he share about his writing habit or process? He answer with humorous intelligence. ‘Because I never had any formal training, I was never taught how to have a writing practice. Until recently I only write on a laptop because I like to play with language and see what grows from what at first look like nothing. When I write, I sometimes start with the philosophical ideal, but just as often I let it develop organically as I write, then hone it in revision. I often write at night’, he concluded. Taiye Ojo writes in annoying stylised trending American English, poems without capitals nor punctuation marks, poems flowing with only full stop that’s not full stop, garnished by dark imageries like water, body, father, mother and brother, shocking grammars that separate themselves with usual Queen’s English.
‘all of us are birds & some of us have broken wings’ enters in and out of our personal history like a racing Formula-One car overtaken one another. A recent wave of targeted attacks has left a trail of death, destruction, and mass displacement in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s northeastern province of Ituri. In the poem THE ONLY FOREIGN AID MY MOTHER EVER WANTED WAS SAFETY, Taiye Ojo sort requiem for the symposium of endangered stars evicted to the water./ i kneel in the hairline light of/ exile & home. no one leaves home/if the ocean will swallow them up. strange how/sitting in a truck at the/sebagoro landing site on/ lake Albert shoreline/means peace. The poet in ‘all of us are birds & some of us have broken wings’ enters a performance that has no equal. Poem after he touches issues even the best poets in Nigeria dare not.
In Nigeria great writers and poets are celebrated only when foreigners start talking, praising or writing about them. Like all young aspiring Nigerian Ojo Taiye a young poet and essayist, who teaches Tourism in Calvary Group of Schools, Agbo Delta State, uses poetry as a tool to hide his frustration with the society. He turns situation into trees, water, brother, sky and so many odd things, as any other young poet in Nigeria, afraid it would only hurt than repair his survivability, so he write with imageries that only the those who look see. In the poem, ‘all of us are birds & some of us have broken wings, that won 2019 KINGDOMS IN THE WILD POETRY PRIZE, that’s the title of his collection, he enters Dapchi as the only true witness to the neglected atrocity. /the morning gives us leftovers from a night filled with a/thousand Dapchi children melting into fertile soil. this/nation calls my body a crime— a light house on the lips/of bomb shelters/. As a creature with sensitive passion for sharp emotional pains, submerging familiar faces, Taiye never say no when a poem come calling no matter the bitterness of telling, he finds poetry as minimal tool of telling large story. He continues in ‘all of us are birds & some of us have broken wings, /i know no other name to give/to the waves or maybe we don’t name grief with things/that die: paper doll sing in my dreams. my uncle/finds a home by throwing a match in every corner of his/body. to embrace the dark is to glow/. He submitted ‘all of us are birds & some of us have broken wings & few other poems’ as collection for 2019 KINGDOMS IN THE WILD POETRY PRIZE and won and the result was publication.
Going through ‘all of us are birds & some of us have broken wings, I said to myself, had I read this book in my younger, Literature in English days, today I would have been ocean of poetry, steel-fabricated ready for fetching. The poem TRANSLATION BOOK FOR A CHILD BETWEEN COUNTRIES takes one to his secondary school days, where maturity is chasing someone with a lot of unexplained empathy. The poem says /instead of having to say i’m falling apart because grief is/easier to rename, i spent my night awake & press my/back to the dark damp wood of my bed. there’d been/black birds flitting above the crosshatched grass & a howl/here so strong it takes the pawpaw tree./ it’s only in ‘all of us are birds & some of us have broken wings’ that Qur’an’s quote, disinterred more than what the soil had interred, /alhamdulillah masha’allah insha’allah & in the shadow/of my grief, i say my sister’s name every day. memory is/the body & unbody— sometimes i am too scared to/watch my sister’s bite their bones into a tenor him that/leaks gold. like light slumped over a broken window, i’ve/lived through the ruin of my father’s homeland/ the poem concluded with /her body into a thin strip of sunset that still aches when/her lover looks his fingers to drag an orgasm’s unsteady/pulse from inside her. ‘all of us are birds & some of us have broken wings’, reminds us of our intentional complication, how in trying to build beautiful things we destroyed them beyond repair.
In poems like Elegiac: Unfinished Draft Of Hauwa Liman‘s Humanitarian Work, Surveillance Camera, Moths & Origami Children, Sunflowers In Gobi Desert, A Hundred Silent Burst for a friend Chukwuemeka Akachi, the already buried reader would want to inquire the age of the poet. In the poem, titled poem, for Ann, the poet hyperbolically interchanged between two personality, himself and that of Ann, /i woke up this morning & realized that what gives us life/was taking it back but in small drops of falling leaves &/muted days. every day i open the door & i do it by looking/at my mother: one of spring’s miscarriage. i was five/when my mother had cancer— cervical cancer— a body/soft with birdlike bones rotting like a roadkill/. Taiye Ojo in ‘all of us are birds & some of us have broken wings’, tabled all our boon, bane and doom with kindness and fragile tenderness. If every real poet is a private poet, then their poetry is not. Taiye Ojo’s private poems speaks clearly to many people at different places at the same time.
all of us are birds & some of us have broken wings is published by Kingdoms In The Wild Press LLC, Lexington, KY United State.
To order a copy go to kingdomsinthewild.com
First published by ACEworld on January 22, 2020 @ 6:27 pm