By Uboho Bassey
What do you call a feast of Poetry?
Mix a powerful imagination with a rich dose of culture, a tinge of logic, and a flair for words, and the result may just be a spectacular array of mentally stimulating, thought-provoking, emotionally-filling buffet well laid out in rhymes, verses, paradoxes, oxymorons, ironies, panegyrics et al.
Course after course, members of Raffia City Book Club were served – a banquet fit only for the ready and willing palate. Appetizers, entrees, main dishes, side dishes, desserts and sweets.
Take a guess where it all happened?
At the Raffia City Book Club , Ikot Ekpene. The retreat we journey to in excitement every month, on the third Saturday afternoon. Pupils, students, intellectuals, Engineers, Doctors, Professors, writers, teachers, editors, authors, poets, fathers, mothers, etc … You see, we are welcoming of all .. embracing diversity … accommodating ideas, …exploring the mental state, learning and growing. There are no boundaries with the brain, no limits to the knowledge it can assimilate. This attribute is given free, unrestrained reign in the vast private library of The Patron, our host, Abom Tony Esu.
Activities for the Poetry Reading at Raffia City Book Club (RCBC) began on schedule with the arrival of members. Students on holiday, from various schools, were present, along with others. The doors were thrown wide open, literally and figuratively! The National Anthem, Opening Prayer, introduction of guests, and welcome remarks were quickly dispensed with by The Patron in his familiar, witty ease of proceedings.
Right from the DEAR MOMENT, where bookworms Drop Everything And Read, the stage was set for intellectual discourse. There was equal place for the introvert, the extrovert, the young, the beginners in Primary Schools, the observant in Secondary Schools and the sure-footed in tertiary Institutions. As usual, the children exhibited extraordinary boldness, incisiveness, and clarity that belie their ages. This session was moderated by Mr OwoidohoAbasi Wilson who called on the young members of the book club to present a summary of their choice of books read during the DEAR MOMENT.
Books were quickly dissected with the skill of scientists and lessons in perseverance, rising above obstacles, courage, starting anew after trials, building friendships, and conflict resolution were brought to life. Fantasies were not left out as tales about Aladdin, genies, magic lamps, rabbits, and myriad life experiences joined in a determined conspiracy to lead one to “A Happily Ever After.”
Special note was made by The Club Patron, Abom Esu in recognition of the effort of one of the teenagers who did a smart review of a book used in the Kennedy Centre for Leadership at Harvard University for conflict resolution.
The poetry reading session took on a vibe of its own, a special moment held in honour and recognition of the founder of the Book Club initiative, Dr. Udeme Nana on the occasion of his birthday on April 12th.
The date was previously marked on several online platforms with pomp and pageantry, poems and prose, tributes and odes. It was only befitting and providential that the celebration would culminate in its celebratory peak within the wisdom-filled halls of a Library, amidst people of like passion, with the benevolence of departed literary icons looking on with stoic approval from their gilded frames.
The April Reading Session featured the reading of a retinue of poems.
???? Prof. Joseph Ushie – The African Mosquito ;
???? Dr. Martin Akpan – Afere Nsana ;
???? Dr. Ekong Sampson – My Pen is Pregnant ;
???? Uboho Bassey – Akwa Ibom State@34 ;
???? Prof. Hilary Inyang – No One is Born With Tags;
???? Iboro Otongaran – Smart is Dumb.
Who better to dissect the intricacies of these poems other than another Patron of RCBC, Prof. Obotetukudo? He handled this session with such academic prowess and intellectual finesse that there could only be one conclusion as to the truism and nature of his name, Solomon. He deftly delved beyond the obvious, the words seen, to find the hidden nuances, and paradoxes veiled in each poem. It was an exciting session, to say the least, and without bias, it is fair to say that Akwa Ibom State is a land of plenty, its waters rich, its earth fertile, our cuisines extraordinarily special as extolled in “Efere Nsana”; her people indelibly riding high on the threshold of excellence and greatness.
Mr Nsikak Essien, a dedicated Patron of RCBC, and erstwhile Editor of National Concord Newspapers moderated the next session. Call it a change of guard, if you so wish, for the last birthday celebration was his, also held in RCBC Ikot Ekpene. Perhaps these coincidences should be looked into!
Patron and Founder of Uyo Book Club, Dr Udeme Nana, took the floor and mesmerized the audience with a few of his poems written when he was a teenager. Isn’t it said that poets are clairvoyant? Social issues about the poems are as relevant today as they were in the past, and well captured in a poem titled “The Transfiguration of An African Girl” – written about a young black girl who turned white Ten years down the line, courtesy of skin whitening. His poem “Celebration” captured perfectly the philosophy of how good visions, ideals, ideas or principles often triumph over existential obstacles and “What We See” succinctly depicts the paradox of life through the use of oxymorons, a reflection of the poet’s attitude towards life.
The poem, “Adieu Anwar Sadat” paid glowing tribute to the late Egyptian President who broke the ice to sign a peace Accord with Israel and “Bravo Leopold Sedar Senghor” celebrated that leader breaking out of the mould of African leaders of his era to exit office voluntarily; a sad reminder of some ‘sit tight’ syndrome of several African leaders best exemplified by Paul Biya of Cameroun. These poems were written by Dr. Udeme Nana as a teenager and one marvel at the profundity of his thoughts at such a young age.
In a short speech, Mr Nsikak Essien paid tribute to the celebrant, who was called upon to cut his birthday cake surrounded by younger children present at the feast. Who knows if Dr. Nana’s talent would rub off on these ones? Nsikak Essien, a 72-year-old journalist of great repute, spoke glowingly and found nothing absurd about an older person celebrating the fine qualities of leadership found in Dr Nana, a much younger man whom he admires. Uboho Bassey also had the opportunity to read out her poem in commemorating the moment.
Special Guest of the Session, Mary Jonas, Convener, Abak Book Club, set the children and all present in a nostalgic journey of childhood poems. Recitals of “Jack and Jill, Two Black Birds, and Humpty Dumpty” was the perfect entree for her presentation; her journey into poetry.
She captures the essence of poetry as being spiritual, meditative, healing and personal. According to her, the heart is laid bare in poetry and the burden is on the reader to interpret it in whichever way it resonates. Her poem “The Addict” captures her love for books and reading.
Interventions and remarks by Abom Esu, and a short speech by Dr. Nana, brought the gathering to a fulfilling end, with a closing prayer.
Of course, as this was a feast of sorts, there was a well prepared table of local delicacies that stood, immovable, in the way of departure at Obot Akara. I believe members of RCBC found a way around it!! ????
It was indeed an intellectually rewarding time, well spent in Ikot Ekpene.
Until we meet again ????
READ. KNOW. LEAD!!!