In his preface to the collection, Visions and Recollections, the author notes as follows: “I have allowed all shades of ideas and facts to jostle for a place in the variegated tapestry of my mind” (xi). He then appeals: “… I hope that readers would equally be sympathetic to accept and allow the potpourri room to flourish.” (xi).
I must confess that this rather self-effacing and subtle appeal to the reader’s understanding far from being an apologia clearly underscores the profundity and immutability of the poetic innocence which informs the thematic concerns of the volume. No doubt, the close relationship between a poet and his internal and external landscapes often accounts for the deep panoramic sweep and shifting kaleidoscopes we find. For A.R. Yesufu this holds quite true, and forcefully too, because here is a poet who is imbued with a very alert consciousness and is therefore quite sensitive to his universe and the landscapes which shape it, on the one hand, and the inner world which cognize, validate and accentuate his unique artistic vision, on the other. Although he accepts the Keatsean axiom of the poet being the “most unpoetical of anything in existence” and, therefore takes consolation in the “catholic consciousness” of being a receptacle for “both internal and external impressions”, it is noteworthy that the clearly defining characteristic of Yesufu’s poetic tour de force lies in the deftness with which he navigates and mediates this duality.
I am of the opinion that the poet asking for the reader’s understanding is, perhaps, overindulging. The Nigerian literary landscape is littered with all sorts of writers, some of whom ornately assert themselves as ‘poets’. But rather than claiming to be a poet, with all the potential he is imbued with, Yesufu chooses to describe himself instead as ‘poetic’, and this even with some hesitance! Just as our own Wole Soyinka asserted some time ago, albeit in a different context, that a tiger will do better to pounce rather than just making proclamations about its tigritude, Yesufu has chosen to write without ascribing any tag to himself. His reason is remarkable: he doubts if there is “such a character who is born a poet” (vii). I disagree with him here. Some poets are born, and his Visions and Recollections affirms he is one of them! If you cannot talk about the song without the sound, can the ‘poetic’, which arises as a by-product of a profound artistic imagination, be divorced from the one who creates it?
I hold it as a demonstrable fact that A.R. Yesufu’s Visions and Recollections, though an annunciation. is an affirmation of the writer’s passion for poetry and also marks a definitive trajectory of a private poet with a unique and fecund imaginative, cosmopolitan and public consciousness. Operating from a wide thematic canvass and a broad-based and extraordinary lexico-semantic range, it is a collection that enthralls and excites in the variegated tapestry of its spread and in its stylistic rejuvenation. Thus, I make bold to surmise that what the reluctance to be called a poet may have achieved is not to diminish the quality of Yesufu’s versification but, sadly enough, to attenuate his prolificacy. Nevertheless, we are exceedingly glad that though he is no longer here with us in the flesh, he has left us with visionary and recollective nuggets which time and space shall never tarnish and the triumph of which death can never sound a knell.
Visions and Recollections is a collection of fifty poems some of which were created on the spur of the moment, “in spontaneity”, as the poet says and under “more stringent deliberation”, (vii) i.e. with emotions being “recollected in tranquility” at a later date, to borrow those memorable words of Coleridge. The collection spans three decades and in it, the poet confesses to allowing, as we noted earlier, “all shades of ideas and facts to jostle for a place” in his mind. It is, therefore, not surprising that the poet works within a stylistic spectrum, some poems not easily rendering their meaning and requiring the adroitness and perceptibility of a locksmith, and others teasing the hermetic masquerade in their seductive and alluring simplicity.
The volume opens with a captivating poem entitled ‘The Year’s End (1997)’ in which the poet showcases his ability to deploy figurative expressions to capture his vision of a dying year. He states: “The year trudges towards the last bend/ On the road to its transient decease/ Heavily loaded/ Knock-kneed/ Back bent by knapsacks of memories” (1.) His capacity to describe objects and phenomena in a captivating manner also shows in ‘The Full Moon’ when he writes: “Now she’s ripe/ The moon is ripe/ Well-rounded by Fecund Time/ Like a plump pumpkin” (3).
I find the poet’s description of Benin City in the poem, ‘Benin City – a Bird’s View’ (43) one of the most picturesque in the collection as he writes: “Benin City/ Ubinu, Igodomigodo/ Edo n’evbo Oba/ Ochre-red city of blood/ moat-engirdled bosom/ Confluence of ancient and modern/ Where the musty and the glossy/ Like two master wrestlers/ Are locked in a perennial duel” (43). He waxes most philosophical in the poem, ‘The Riddle of the Road’, where he states: “The road is life spread out before the wayfarer/ Its spring-sprout is a breath/ And its winter whimper a breathless ebb/ Life is a road to an end that’s endless/ Crucial choices are roads taken and not taken” (45). He goes further to assert: “The road is a tragic cord/ Tethering the womb to the tomb” (45).
No doubt, Visions and Recollections is a beautiful poetry collection by a poet of great insight, a man of few words, a teacher and mentor, an erudite scholar who was as humble as he was noble, an outstanding talent, a voracious and consummate reader … As the blurb writer graphically captures him, he is “a poet of changeable moods” and in Visions and Recollections, he is “simultaneously the benign satirist, the philosopher, the dreamer and the love poet with an exceptional capacity to evoke both visual and auditory responses. His lyricism moves from the real to the unreal impressions, which assume concretion through vivid and exact expression of details.”
I recommend this volume to all who not only seek the naked and immutable beauty of truth, but the quintessential and exalting truth of beauty.
Title of Book: Visions and Recollections
Author: Abdul R. Yesufu
Publisher: Deaconry Press Limited
Date of Publication 2016
Price: Not Stated