Redefining the musical allure of poetry

Elliot Ziwira @ the Book Store

Poetry is music to the soul that drives the individual to higher resolves, even in such situations where everything appears to be out of sync with reality, and the world seems to be a merry-go-round that leaves one dazzled.

Poetry is the breeze whistling soothingly above blooming violets in spring; it is the inner man telling the despondent and bruised physical being that there is so much hope in waiting; it is nature calling on Man to be wary of his own precepts and axioms in his dealings with fellow men; it is love, song and beauty that gives purpose to life, without which everything is burdened in abeyance, malaise and paralysis.

Poetry is music to the soul that drives the individual to higher resolves, even in such situations where everything appears to be out of sync with reality, and the world seems to be a merry-go-round that leaves one dazzled. There is so much power in this music that Shakespeare revels in, especially in “Twelfth Night” as he writes: “If music be the food of love, play on. Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting. The appetite may sicken and so die.”

Such is the power of the poetry of love that Francis Madyegasva poignantly conveys in his debut anthology “Secret Sentiments” (2006), published by FliMaz Enterprises. Although the 27 poems were written between 1997 and 2006 to capture the poet’s own travails, dreams and aspirations, they transcend both time and place, as they are articulately ensconced in the national discourse.

The use of metaphors and images drawn from nature does not only give the poems a natural appeal, championed by the nature poet, William Wordsworth, but also conjures sentimentality, romance and hope.

The fracturing of sense boundaries through the use of a combination of visual, tactile, aural and olfactory images and the suspension of traditional poetic forms make the collection unique and original, which appeals both to the seasoned analytical reader and the lay one.

The opening poem, “Going Up the Mountain”, explores the essence of resilience and perseverance in the quest for glory, through the use of metaphors and images drawn from nature. The individual’s responsibility for his or her own success is reflected in the decisions that inform the actions taken in shaping destiny, as is illuminated in the following lines: “Going up the mountain/ My body slicing across dark mist/…And I spread mine wings to warm the mountain/… I am but master of my time and des- tination.”

The juxtaposition of metaphors of the “dark mist” and “purple flowers” is suggestive of the paradoxical nature of life, as joy exists in sorrow in the same way that life is mirrored in death, therefore for one to be successful he or she has to overcome the obstacles that are thrown along the path trodden; and not to expect a crease free climb up the summit of his or her dreams.

One has to be in control of one’s destiny and be accountable to whatever comes along in the pursuit of greatness, instead of simply yodelling under the yoke of mediocrity as is apt in the last stanza of the poem: “In a rush, my soul reoccupies the body/Beginning the journey to the summit/Time flowing, setting my wild dreams alive/My feelings are untouchable and full of drive/I have reached the summit! How I dance!”

The use of natural images as is the case in “Going Up the Mountain” also evokes feelings of hope and conjures success in the fluidity of life in the poem “Outward Bound”. The use of aquatic images heightens the fluidity of life and its limitless possibilities. The persona’s dreams flow with the tide of hope that sweeps across the universe of his existence embodied in the visual and aural images of water in its different bodies; the river Haroni, Tessa’s pool, fountains, mist, fog, streams, drizzle, rain and tears.

It is in this liquid state, which is symbolic of life, creation and abundance, that the poet finds hope, as he dreams of: “Success in all things/And the sound of God/Who makes it pos- sible.

“Feelings” and “The Mermaid” also convey merriment, hope and limitless aspirations on the crest of nature’s goodwill and faithfulness. Love here, though in a maze, ignites passion, soothes the soul, illuminates the world and imponderably embraces all.It is through love that dreams may be kindled, cherished and given impetus, which culminates in regeneration as captured in the poems “Another Fantasy”, “At Sunrise”, “Sweetness”, “If you love me” and “Totem of a Dead Tribe”.

These poems combine the physical yearning with the emotive and passionate longing, for a metaphysical outcome which is soothing, trusting and satiating. All this is made effectively consuming through the use of the motif of fluidity embodied in water which pervades the anthology.

However, in all this hope, as is symphonic with life, there is an element of despair which is articulated through escapism from the physical sites of existence, through reverie and death. The overemphasis of dreams and fantasies as a way of skirting around reality instead of confronting it, somehow dips onhope rather than illuminate it, as it creates a gloomy atmosphere where memories are used as a form of release from the present predicament, yet the solution for the future remains vague.

Escapism through death and reverie is as defeatist as it is hopeless and is baneful on the national discourse which informs individual aspirations rather than it being informed by them. This is especially so in the poem “Constant Sorrow” which explores the sordid and mundane existence of the common man “that stops the sun from shining/The sort of constant sorrow that taught us pining.”

It is this sorrow which is a culmination of harrowing poverty that robs the persona of hope as he feels that his lot is doomed to suffer as they “write/a wearisome elegy/Or a suicide memorandum of noble poverty/Vacant of material endowment and legacy.” Feeding on their wretchedness, the majority who wallow in abject poverty see no vents of escape from the physical realm, thus, as embodied in the persona’s lamentations, they find respite in death, as illustrated in the following: “There is eternity after this deplorable existence/ no lamentation beyond the daunting grave/Neither suffering nor sadness for the brave/ And so I may as well decide/To quit this early.”

The defeatist tone in the above lines scuppers hope, as death, even through suicide, is advocated as the panacea to suffering instead of confrontation, which gifts the oppressor at the expense of the oppressed. This rationale also obtains in “On the day of my Death”.

Deceit, hypocrisy and marriage aresome of the themes highlighted in the collection. Although love conquers all, it does not always lead to blissful matrimony as is the case in the poem, “A Wronged Marriage”. Love is as hurtful as it is thrilling, and many a time leaves a trail of destruction and an abattoir of bleeding hearts.

It is this that makes the poet to wonder: “In a lifetime bickering-plugged abyss/What were my parents thinking, to ever get married?” as they now seem to thrive on melancholy, because of their struggle to locate individual dreams in the collective galaxy of matrimonial expectations.

“The Beautiful Ones are Not Yet Born” examines the deceitful nature of political myths as the “Milky Way” remains the preserve of the minority, who elbow out the majority using their acquired political and financial stamina.

Madyegasva’s “Secret Sentiments” (2006) is indeed an evocative, resonating, thought provoking and must read rhapsody on the musical allure of poetry in the face of adversity.

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