The answer is simple: to survive. As Lucille Clifton said in her poem won’t you celebrate with me:
something has tried to kill me
& has failed
The good thing about a poem is that it owns the reader. Takes hold of reality & spreads itself onto the film of memory. This is why in reading this excerpt of Lucille’s poem, I see the self. A tiny dot of light, flickering in the face of all that has tried to kill me. Being mentally ill (diagnosed with clinical depression & others), the thing that tries to kill me most often is the self, & to survive, I had to learn to hold a pen instead of a knife.
The logic of survival is finding salvation in language. To peel a verb open, & find warmth. To name the grief, & strip it of ambiguity. To fillip memory with adjectives. To make of sentences bullets, for the annihilation of a disease [or the embalming of the body]. It is in writing that we find that the light at the end of the tunnel is a mirror: we are all that shines. Words make us gleam. You measure a man’s happiness by his words.
In writing, I find the relieving of pangs. No matter the depth of the wound, there is always a word for it. Every day, something has tried to kill me & every day, I run into language for solace. I pick a poem & wear like a cardigan. I dive into a pool of sounds, to cure my heartache. It is in all this, that one realizes that survival is merely the beginning of remedies. The one who drills deeper into the realm of words will find arsenal for purpose. Say, I write to diagnose, & to cure.
I write for me. Past me. Future me. Present me. Past-life me. Next-life me. I write for the ancestors whose last words were bubbles [as their bodies sank in the ocean]. I write for future wounds. I write to tame the wild in my blood, to resist the perpetual hunger of death.
There is nothing more sublime than to pick a hell [from memory or earth], & remould it in your image. To write is to make of the mundane, sacred. When I pick up Keats or Okigbo, I hear them speak. To write is to exist in timelessness. With language, dust is made into confetti. Dog made into god. It is in writing that I find a god who aches. A singing god. A weeping deity.
Everything about writing propels me into existential ecstasy. When I look at a word for too long, I find the first utterer. Stuttering. Tongue, quarreling with teeth, & I say to him, “speak”. & he does. & he does. Every time a word is written, it is reborn.
I live for those moments of rebirth, to be an obstetrician of words. For in so doing, verily, the self [being a reflection of personal language] is also reborn, again & again. This is the ritual of becoming.
Pamilerin Jacob is a young Nigerian poet & mental health enthusiast. He writes to ease internal turmoil & also to shed light on the struggles of the mentally ill. His poem was shortlisted for the Ken Egba Prize For Festival Poetry 2017. Pamilerin’s writings have featured in the anthology “These Words Will Cure a Dead Man” by Sprinng Literary Movement 2016, 7th issue of the PIN Quarterly Journal, 2017, WRR Poetry, The Quill Babcock, Praxis Magazine amongst others. Some of his poems appear in the Best “New” African Poets 2017 Anthology, all under the name (Olawale Ibiyemi). His poems made the winning list of PIN Food Poetry Contest 2018. Author of Memoir of Crushed Petals (2018) & Gospels of Depression (2019), he is a staunch believer in the powers of critical thinking, Khalil Gibran’s poetry & chocolate ice cream.