Jeremiads of a heart plagued with moist bereft scabs – A Review Of Dami Ajayi’s Collection Of Poems, Affection And Other Accidents by Oloyede Michael Taiwo

Dami Ajayi is plugged as a lyrical poet whose use of language and style is daring, visceral, empathetic and sweeping.

You picked the best place to have an argument. A train coach heading from Berlin to Cologne. You picked the best time too; the quiet time before travellers eased into siesta…

book cover

The above lines float the same texture of bewilderment spooled by Brenda Hillman in the poem: During an enchantment in the life. The poem details how we are consumed by love, get beaten more than twice, and become unwieldly disposed to new possibilities – and how we drown in the river of disillusionment trying to save face from the furtive cuts of a revocable love. The poem also spills our stubbornness to unroll the mat of affection from the garden of impassioned loss; mortifying our honour while we linger with red herring questions when the object of affection has already set sail and taken our inadequacies like threadbare madrigals to a bewitched tribunal; eviscerating the honesty of our frailties with smirks and calumny – with our multitude of sins adjudged in a kangaroo style while we are still mustering exhibits for reconsideration and a fair trial to slide back into the warmth of that once upon a time inglenook. The incongruence of desire between the estranged lovers and impurity of intentions stands slap-bang in the ensuing lines:

I lingered with questions but you dismissed them with a tentative smile, with faux warmth, with a hospitality soon to be replaced with hostility. Yet I lingered with questions

In this collection of poems, we step onto a vulnerable concourse of evocations garbed in galvanic lines and verses as we meander the swelling waters of scalene affection and other accidents. The persona in the first and titular poem, Affection and other accidents, draws the first blood of narrative, filleting each consonant of grief on the skewer of incendiary postures, albeit floundering amidst an abundance of red flags that a smitten heart would/must have refused to take into cognisance; which is the albatross of every helpless romantic. The opening poem would magnet sympathetic eyes as the persona narrates how the spark of friendship evolves into a promise of something cosier / eternal before waning into longwinded fits of arguments that always fermented into chaos and a grandstanding circus – levied on the opium of indecisiveness and self-excoriation that demystifies this persona in the throes of enchantment. The persona painted searing scenarios in up the creek lyrics that remind me of the legendary Orlando Owoh in the song, Yellow Sisi; describing the superfluous mien of a fair maid and how she held everything they had in little esteem and a palpable disdain. The refrain in the song is a question consigned to the wind in lines like: and what happened between us, lover? 

The comets of disgust aligned in the cadence of this heart wrenching piece and began to burn in lines and verses with refined locutions; amplifying the frustrations of the persona in the poem hung out to dry as depicted in the following lines:

…You were waiting with a worn smile. I was loaded with suitcases of your contrabands –locust beans, dried fish, dried ewedu, leaves, fiery ground pepper…I became an appendage in your house, that guest who might have overstayed his welcome

The above lines are rooted in anagnorisis and the persona’s attempt to redeem things; ready to offer libation for some sort of transgressions but met with a gumshoe bent on ensuring he gets the comeuppance for those wild oat sowing strays that tow behind his emergence. His shortcomings sculpted like zebibah on his forehead with an exotic stench that tilts this stainless soul off balance. The poem had a strong denouement where the persona started inching his way back to sanity. Reclaiming his dignity, resurrecting a sense of worth that had bitten dust and unbundling himself from the strictures of guilt. We see the resentment of the persona rise like a luxuriant cloud of smoke; relaying how he was fleeced of his humanity for accepting to be vulnerable in that House of Colony. For willing to go across the blue ocean to make atonement for the lingering ghosts of the buried past, with contrition, genuflection and innumerable apologies. And snapping out of the gust of delirium that will sure take him to hell in a bucket. We also bound on the rage of the persona in the poem, detangling himself from the riotous loom of emasculation;courting the basic tenets of emotional hygiene. We sure need a rejoinder to this guard lowering, poignant and humane piece.

In the poem, declaration, the persona in the poem comes out naked, piping his unrestrained love as doled out in these lines:

 …I declare to you my unflinching affection pirouetting with the ease of happy toddlers trampling with dainty little feet in a mid–summer evening…

The persona in the poem, say it, paints a beautiful picture of a nebulous entanglement, bending allusions and metaphors to describe the conflating ding-dong of bare bodies on a springing bed, like brass on metal, while rummaging for omen in the entrails of sweltering moans and silence. In life goes down, the persona in the poem whines about the cold in his new clime and how he is trying to adjust to the spine wrenching cold; querying why he left the tropical of hyaline sky for this wintry land – his concerns are etched in these lines, I am sunken with despair/life goes down low/like the dyspnoeic flame of an oil lamp flaring for survival…and the cold continues to call/ and I remember why I left the tropical sunshine / and whenever the cold calls/ I acknowledge my exile/ and my new life measured out in teaspoons of honey and absinthe…

We encounter a surreal use of imageries in the poem, R. Kelly, that moistens our thoughts with the sultriness of R.Kelly’s Coltrane sounds; dragging us to the allure of his vocal pyrotechnics while the persona in the poem kneads a horny subject to the pleasant horns and blare of guitar strings overlaid by a discourse about the power of  cancel culture over the artistry of a star in leash; delineating the uprightness of the mob-call to trash his stellar works because of his horrendous indulgence – until the punishment for such devious act is fully served.

The nub of this collection of poems is how a lover can abase himself just to consecrate himself to his beloved and still not be clean enough to come to the holies of his pharisaic beloved; knowing fully well that the problem is never love but the dyspnoeic flair of the beloved.

In the last poem in the 86 pages’ collection of poems, this academy called life, the persona in the poem erupts with animated lava of prayers in fine blend lyricism that bubbles like waterpouts that fate will preserve his elation and also enthused about the length he would go to maintain this reprieve. As chirped in these lines :

…and if time is holy room/watch me consecrate myself/ watch me strip into God’s sameness

and I pray to time: please be kind this time/keep the ease of this affection/make it endure the ennui of a lifeteime

This collection is enthralling , riveting, sublime, gutwrenching, rip-roaring and aplomb with lyrical intensity.

About the reviewer

Oloyede Michael Taiwo is a cultural activist, art critic, playwright, management consultant, multisensory artiste, actor, producer, performance artiste, art curator. He had a cameo appearance in the Netflix chart buster, Collission Course. His works have appeared in Ake review, headlined by the Abdulrasak Gurnah( Nobel Prize for Literature Winner,2021), Kirkus reviews, Praires Review, thelagosreview, TheGuardian, Vanguard, BusinessDay and many other literary papers.

A Fellow of the Institute of management consultants. His play, wrinkles , dimples, naira and bets, was on stage at the Lagos theatre Festival, 2020, supported by the British Council. His debut novel, Colourless rainbow, is due for publication in 2023. His debut collection of poems, Lagos is killing me, has been reviewed to critical acclaim and is still raking rave reviews across the globe. He resides in UK; massively affecting the cultural landscape with his infectious storytelling acuity, poetic nuances while trucking people into the haven of emotional hygience with his charismatic and disticnt style of evocation and artistic sophistication. He is the curator of the premier round the clock poetry event in West Africa; Lagos Poetrython and the Lagos Poetrython Spoken Word Academy which has affected cultural talents in thousands. He loves to comb the liminal space with the riff of guitar strings, chafe of konga drums, and psalms recitations.

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