I will be quick to let you know that ‘Zogie Iyeomoan, by way of self-introduction, describes himself in this elegant collection of poems as “an unrepentant lover of African literature and history”. He also makes quite a few poetic “confessions” and “claims”, but more on these shortly.I have no reason to doubt his claim to being “an unrepentant lover of African literature”, having before now encountered his poetry on social media and seen the passion with which he goes on creating, on a near daily basis, poem after poem that can conceivably be described as of high quality.
If I have been struck by the kinetic energy that suffuses his ‘social media’ poems, the dexterity with which he unreels the tapestry of his poetic imagination, I have also not failed to wish that these poems and his many others lying in quietude in memory cards and flash drives are “transmogrified” into some “permanence” in the nature of a book. Now in this homogenous form, it could either be transmitted into other forms – electronic/digital, etc. – or left as it is.
If I have been taken in by the sensitivity with which he articulates his perspectives and the depth of his love for words, I have also been impressed by his relishing of a broad-based collocational geography in amplifying and contextualizing his messages. All these, put together, have given his poetry an unforgetability – a certain kind of haunting presence – which at last this volume not only validates but consolidates – to my great joy, and relief!
Flames of the Forest, then, is an effort that reveals the flaming innards of a young Nigerian writer’s passion for the beaded word and a more than passionate affirmation of his love for literature, especially the poetry genre. It showcases his joy, pain, surprise, disappointment, frustration with his country, his continent, its past, present and future. It is a roller-coaster of emotions and that this intense presence is urged on by the solidity of the panoramic sweep of the 76 poems is remarkable indeed.
In one of the poems, Yeomoan declares: “I’m not a renowned poet/just an apprentice”. Going further, he states: “If I be a poet/let my words give life”. Much as these “confessional”, profoundly self-effacing lines may suggest that in his youth and innocence the poet may not even be sure of who he is, a close reading of this collection reveals that itis certainly not a journey of innocence. It is, in fact, the foraging of a vibrant, multi-talented writer in the panoply of experience seeking to forge a defiant, personal poetic mode; the relentless, undefeated and undefeating effort to create forest fires.
Flames of the Forest, in my estimation,is a powerful collection that demands the attention of all who seek not only beauty in poetry, but also the poetry of beauty. But beyond this, is the undiluted truth it unleashes, damning the consequences.