If I were to describe Alàgbà Komi’s Son of Olódùmarè (The Castaway) in one sentence, I would say, “it is an ode to culture, the Yoruba culture.” From the carefully constructed title to the ami that adorns the author’s name, one thing stands out, the author has a mission to “save” his culture. It is not every day that one finds a contemporary Nigerian poet committed to promoting his/her traditional language in their art; no thanks to colonialism.
True to my suspicions, the first “poem” The Great Commission proves that Alàgbà Komi is on a mission to restore the culture in his Son of Olódùmarè (The Castaway). According to the poet persona, he has been charged to “Please lead back to their heritage, your brothers and son!” by Olódùmarè. While admirable, the big question is, does he achieve his goal with the collection?
While the Yoruba culture and tradition stand out in the collection Son of Olódùmarè, the poet touches on a wide range of personal issues, like the burden his mission puts on his shoulders in Alàgbà, the fear of the future in Afterlife, a lost generation in Generation Xxl, love in Adebimpe and even lends his voice to the feminist movement in Carnal Not Evil. This suggests that Alàgbà Komi, despite being charged with a herculean task of preaching the good news of the Yoruba culture is in touch with his humanity and the problems of his immediate society. By touching on subjects like love and dealing with pressure, he forges a strong relatability bond with the reader, especially for those who are younger. And what is literature without the human connection?
As for entwining tradition in these contemporary issues? The poet manages to generously sprinkle words and expressions of Yoruba origin such as òrìṣàs, Ájaní temi nikan, Abiyamọ, and Ọbàtálá both in the titles and content of the poems in Son of Olódùmarè.
In the same vein, Alàgbà Komi uses the Nigerian pidgin to express his thoughts perhaps so the common man is included in Every Man Na Man of God, where he tackles the Christian religious phenomenon as is practised in Nigeria and Papa 1 which highlights a father-son relationship.
Hence, it is safe to say that Alàgbà Komi tackles contemporary issues with a balanced and enviable use of English, Yoruba and Pidgin languages which no doubt gives Son of Olódùmarè (The Castaway) an audience not hindered by language barriers.
In as much as the poet makes use of three different languages in the collection, he ensures that he keeps things as simple as possible. This is not to say that he does not employ figures of speech, instead, he sticks to the basics such as simile, metaphor and symbolism to make sure the non-literary audience is not disconnected and can clearly relate the poems to their immediate environment.
The poet also seems to enjoy the prosaic form of free verse poetry which is the most popular style for contemporary poets, especially of African descent. Some of the poems such as Papa 1 take the narrative style of prosaic literature. He also skillfully fuses in the dialogue feature of the dramatic genre for some of the “characters” in the collection. This might be a welcome development for readers who often find poetry as an “other-worldly” element.
In conclusion, Alàgbà Komi’s Son of Olódùmarè (The Castaway) is a multi-faceted attempt to tackle modern issues for the modern man with a modern style of poetry. As for success with his efforts at reviving tradition and culture with Son of Olódùmarè, we would have to wait to find out.
About the Reviewer
Tope Abigail Larayetan is a graduate of English from the University of Lagos. She is a human in love with words and was among the top 100 poets of the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize (NSPP) three years in a row.Her short story was also published by Farafina in the International Sisi Eko anthology. She currently blogs at https://medium.com/@ahbeegal where she wrote every day of 2019 as a personal challenge.