Book: Safari Pants
Publisher: Kraft Griots
Poet: Gimba Kakanda
Gimba Kakanda is a complex poet. And he is a beautiful poet too. The beauty of his poetry lies in the way he deals with complex subjects. Kakanda responds to his subjects in their naturalness, though his nuanced poetics aren’t always easy to grasp. The complexity of his poetry sure makes him one of the must read poets of his generation. “Safari Pants” is Kakanda’s debut collection of poems. Divided into five parts: ‘Whistles of aches’, ‘The pain-beats sag into nothingness’, ‘We stitch the drum skin with the muscles of hunger’, ‘Taken away in the dance-past for rhythmic silence, we dancestep on one another,’ and ‘We plant furs on the sore of our depression’, “Safari Pants”, as songs to ‘appease the rage and love of those of those repelled and embraced by the magnetism of [this] writing life’, represents a significant offering to Nigeria’s contemporary poetry .
Kakanda proceeds from a certain reflexive point that indicates, and sometimes emphasises the relationship between life and the many abstract and physical things that define it. Here, those abstract things—love, aesthetics and beauty, depression, hunger and nothingness—though not formulaic or culture-specific, are treated as constitutive of the human experience. Love stands out among the many subjects Kakanda deals with in his debut collection and it resonates in the five parts of the collection. In my opinion, love, though both abstract and physical, depending how both attributes are implicated, sheds its abstract natures in the definitive third movement. There, love isn’t how we know it as ‘the means to ends situation’ that reflects on sexual dis/harmony, existing as a counterpoint to the ideal: we are in love because we are involved in someone else’s life; we are in love because someone else is invariably involved in our lives. Finding the balance between the two contradistinctive involvements highlights how Kakanda defines his own identity in relation to those individuals whose relationships are as tortuous as the love he professes for them. Kakanda is honest.
Nine poems form the third movement of Safari Pants and it opens with the aptly titled poem, ‘Love hill’. Here, we see a reflexive poet, lone and lonely on the love hill:
my love keeps trickling sweet
onto the iceberg of my cuddle…
my love messages the greener chest of time
that reigned me in the tune of lone sojourn
on worn dregs whose hill only the clouds climb
But, Kakanda’s loneliness won’t last long. In the poem, ‘The Visitor’
[Her] love breezes through the night…
dancing the oven in her frosted soul
this milkmaid is stranger
she just comes she just comes
The fourth poem, ‘My love’ continues the Kakanda’s torture:
the sun staggers at the threshold of your heart…
don’t let the choir turn our rose to wreath
now that you lay my thought in coffin
Though assured, and in spite of his loneliness and torture, he echoes in the fifth poem, ‘You must love me’:
I am not a good cook
But your heart is a raw gizzard
We must eat
trust- coated loaves of love
Beyond this ‘seeming cannibalism’, he admonishes his lover in the seventh poem, ‘Safinatu’:
The meteorologist is a liar
don’t house him in your skirt
in this wet season
your bikinis aren’t the lilies
of the sea gods
why must the beach always be our shade?
Kakanda is a poet to watch. Always a task catching on his complex oeuvre—that which makes love look like art—he invites his reader to a world that is as playful as it is serious. Love is not conveyed to us by mere immersion into the complex imageries of love poems not written to give pleasure. Conscious of this, he asks in the third line of the fifth poem of the third part under review,
‘You call me a cannibal?’.
No, far from it; he’s merely the poet who tells us what love is truly about!
And by so doing, Kakanda shows us how honest he is.
*Abdul Mahmud is a lawyer and poet. He writes with his pseudonym, Obemata.