By Ilerioluwa Olatunde
As we dare to live, May we never lose our wonder!
Recently, I was conversing with a friend, and the individual asked what I look for in a book as a reader. I said thoughtfulness--how intentional the writer is to create a subtle experience for the reader. As readers, we understand the adage "Don't judge a book by its cover," yet we cannot deny the magnetic pull that an eye-catching design and a cleverly crafted title exert on our subconscious. The first thing you notice about Obiageli Iloakasia’s book, Kambili, is the evocative title and cover design, which can ignite curiosity and lure any reader into the pages within. This brings to mind a truth I have come to unveil: “A good cover design starts the introduction and summary of the book.”
Kambili, an anthology, is an exquisite masterpiece where every element, from its cover design to its arrangement, showcases the thoughtful and intentional craftsmanship of the author, Obiageli. Beyond its captivating title and cover design, the book enthralls the mind with its skilled writing and ability to create a seamless narrative flow that evokes deep emotions. Obiageli fearlessly employs literary devices to convey her powerful message. Each poem in this collection stands tall, displaying a remarkable sense of purpose. With its stunning beauty both inside and out, Kambili is a true treasure to behold.
The poem titled "Rants" on page 96 captures the very essence of this anthology, serving as a powerful conduit for the author's mission to delve into the profound realm of emotions and the relentless quest for survival. With its unapologetic approach, it dares to challenge societal norms, urging us to acknowledge and actively engage with these profound truths.
“each time I rant about
the trauma she shares a bed with,
they laugh and ask me
to focus on writing good poetry.
I turn my rants into poems
with the hope that society digs up
buried truths from them.”
Kambili, a captivating collection of poems, is ingeniously divided into four parts: Survival ‘i’ to ‘iv.’ Each section weaves a unique tale of survival, revealing the author's unapologetic exploration of themes ranging from love and lust to womanhood, grief, rape, depression, and more. Obiageli's voice resonates with a symphony of emotions encompassing both the depths of sadness and the heights of resilience and reassurance through the pages of Kambili. With a remarkable collection of a hundred poems that speaks to the heart lucidly, Kambili brings to mind realities embedded at the core of our existence.
Obiageli skillfully introduces each part with a nugget of wisdom and a vivid illustration, providing a glimpse into the underlying message of that section. These introductions ignite our curiosity and prepare our minds for the journey within the pages. As a result, each poem exudes a distinct tone, perfectly aligned with the themes evoked throughout the sections.
For example, in Survival (i), the first part of this collection, which has a beautiful compilation of poems about love, lust, memories, and in-between feelings, Obiageli introduced it with:
“we are people
in longing bodies,
searching for something
hoping for someone loveable
trying to find a place
we can truly call home.”
Here, the author not only introduces us to what to expect in the pages ahead, but she also artfully captures the essence of our shared human experience. Through concise and evocative verses, she unveils the universal longing that beats within our hearts, reminding us of our inherent need for connection, affection, acceptance, and meaningful experiences that stir our souls.
The author's mastery of words and literary devices illuminates every page of this anthology, leaving an enduring impression on the reader. One shining example of this brilliance is in the poem "a knock at love's door," where the author's deft use of vivid imagery and literary device transports us into a world of emotional turbulence and heartfelt yearning. Through carefully chosen words, the reader is swept away on a journey that tugs at the heart. The author's ability to paint vivid pictures with words and evoke powerful emotions is a testament to her skill as a poet.
“I have waited so long at your door.
I have called, and no one said hello.
I have longed to eat your fruits.
I have wandered around trees planted by you.
Your heart has become a passage to hell,
and my heart, a pathway to nowhere safe.
my mouth has tasted your soured milk
and my bones quiver at the sound of your heartbeat…
How much longer will I stay,
Knocking on a door whose key is lost?
Allow me mourn my loss till a new door opens again." (Page 5)
One of the poem's notable strengths is its mastery of personification. The poet creates a sense of empathy by attributing human qualities and actions to non-human entities. “Your heart has become a passage to hell;’’ here, the heart is given the quality of being a pathway, suggesting that the individual’s heart has become a source of emotional turmoil and suffering, similar to the concept of hell. The poem's structure is simple yet effective, with concise and impactful lines that allow the emotions to resonate.
In Survival II, Obiageli fearlessly delves into sensitive topics such as fear, depression, hope, and courage. Through her powerful words, she immerses us in the profound mental struggles we as humans face, capturing the raw essence of our quest for solace amidst a society plagued by hardships. With poignant imagery, she portrays how solace can sometimes be found in the wrong places, akin to poison lurking in a bottle. She also sheds light on grief due to economic adversity and the everyday sadness resulting from an abuse of power. Amidst the relentless challenges that threaten to overwhelm us and trample us at our weakest moments, the author leaves us with a resounding reminder through the poem “the fire flower” on page 30, serving as a guiding light in our journey of survival.
deep within my soul,
I believe there is a flower
springing to bloom.
and there is a fire,
not capable of being quenched.
In the poem "I draw with hope from life's hell," the persona eloquently captures the essence of hope as the life force that sustains us, emphasizing that our ability to persevere is linked to nurturing our hope. This sentiment resonates powerfully in "Give yourself a chance!" where the author skillfully employs vivid imagery and metaphors to convey the untapped potential within each individual, urging us to embrace the boundless possibilities that life presents.
A true gem within this section, "Ruminations" on page 40 strikes a chord deep within my soul. It prompts us to contemplate what the world would be like if kindness abounded, where we could exist in a state of childlike innocence, unburdened by worries, and simply revel in the beauty of each passing day.
“if the outside world
was kind enough,
we would go about our day
not thinking or carrying woe
like some burdensome load.
if only the day was still young,
we would forever live like children;
thinking about nothing but simply
living what the moment has to offer.”
In "Survival III," Obiageli paints a vivid image of cities, places, and patterns we have encountered. With remarkable clarity, she delves into the social realities of our country, where we rely on the fervent hopes of prayers to navigate the daily challenges that confront us. The tug-of-war that characterizes our existence as individuals and a collective unfolds, exposing the injustices and religious charlatanism that permeate our society. Within this section, the notion of home takes center stage, accompanied by the economic struggles that compel youths to venture far from their roots in search of better opportunities, as beautifully expressed in "An Ode to Home." Obiageli delves deeper, exploring the profound longing and the sacrifices made to venture beyond familiar terrains in "Mother Says She Misses Me" and "I Wrote a Letter to Mother."
This collection resonates with all of us on a deeply personal level, as it touches upon relatable themes and experiences. Ultimately, as we immerse ourselves in its pages, we find ourselves united in a collective cry for survival, a reminder of our shared humanity.
In Survival IV, the final section focuses on womanhood, abuse, and narratives that have carved a place in our hearts. Here, the author fearlessly tackles a range of pressing issues, from patriarchal culture and rape to victim blaming, traditional practices, and societal expectations placed upon women. With unwavering determination, Obiageli shines a spotlight on the urgent need to recognize and comprehend the profound challenges faced by women. Through her evocative verses, she urges readers to empathize and confront the prevailing issues head-on. It is a call for empathy and acknowledgment, emphasizing the gravity of the struggles endured by women.
One poem that exemplifies this heartfelt outcry is "Conundrum." Within its lines, the inner thoughts and battles of countless individuals seeking liberation amidst familial and societal expectations are brought to life. These verses challenge the dehumanizing stereotypes that women have historically endured. The author further reminds us that the struggles faced by women should never be trivialized or dismissed. She compels readers to recognize the significance of these challenges, highlighting the potentially dire consequences if they are not taken seriously. Her compelling words serve as a call for societal change and a plea to safeguard the rights and dignity of women for generations to come.
Kambili, which means “Let me Live,” is a testament to Obiageli Iloakasia's remarkable talent and unwavering passion. With each line and verse, she invites us into a realm where emotions flow freely, and her passion shines through, igniting a sincere desire for these voices to live, exist, and rise above their challenges. This collection is a literary masterpiece that will resonate with readers, leaving an everlasting imprint on their hearts and minds. This collection sings of hope, offering us a glimpse of a brighter tomorrow that begins within ourselves.
Olatunde Ilerioluwa is a creative writer and public speaker interested in fiction, creative nonfiction, and performance poetry. Her love for books has also influenced her book reviewing. She writes to take her readers on a journey of insight, knowledge, and excitement. Her work focuses on book reviews, lifestyle, and the human condition. She draws inspiration from the books she reads, societal issues, personal life, interaction with others, and her relationship with God.
When she is not writing and journaling, she reads, listens to music, has fun in her head, or does research. A Karen Kingsbury book is all she needs after a stressful day. She hopes to write more and publish books.