Title: Clinical Blues
Author: Dami Ajayi
Reviewer: Salawu Olajide
One can begin by taking note of the two-word title that Dami Ajayi has chosen for this gang of poems, ‘Clinical Blues’. The poet has prepared poetry as the lab where medical science and music are titrated and adulterated. But then, love and sex are also apparently inside the test tubes.
The collection is a bundle of poems meticulously fragmented into three parts. The first phase of the poems tagged, ‘Love Poems’ is an intellectual dig into the discourse of love. In our first encounter captioned, “Promenade”, the persona is in conflicts with all the shenanigans of love. Speaking matter-of-factly, the poet throws us into the pit of oxymoron, an expose on love’s complexity and contradiction in the first line: “The deviant puppet…” This is a snap phrase which gives us visual imagery of puppet, an object of control, always pliable but in this case, the reserve is the case. This line further fuels the explanation for the issue of being domineering in love and relationships. Other notations of love include fate, fear, timidity, anxiety, and surrounding attitudes as the persona illuminates:
I am scared to
I love you too
I am too used to
Playing Swain that
These words I recount
In the midst of this, Dami pushes us into another phase of issues attached to love, affection, and life in, ‘Meeting Me Halfway’, and ‘Nashville Postcard’. We are taxi-ed through different intricacies of love, how to win affection, the pain, and triumphs. After all, ‘Love Songs’ is an musical eulogy, a missile to capture the recalcitrant lover.
The poem links up inextricably to sex in ‘Konji Blues’, and ‘Domesticated Couplets’—as the metaphor of ‘back’ spins up the utility of your spine, the only thing that makes sex happen, speaking of which is not absent in ‘Love In Bermuda’ also. We can also scroll down to headiness, divorce, and disappoint: measures which Dami unravels and ends with ‘Ode To Juliet’.
So the reader being under the risk of scathing jargon of medical language walks into ‘Hospital Poems’ like that. It is a way the poet savours how medical science proffers solutions to human puzzlement in general. Dami stretches this explanation on how trammelled humans are in the medical even when the obscure fill the scene: ‘Sometimes later you will/ Return to this/Antiseptic corridors….’ CB is a bloom of medical imagery strewn across all human conditions or circumstances.
The persona turned physician tells us of his encounters in his medical science. We are made familiar with the sad facts of human nature, impairment, dangers, welfare versus the clinical. In sub-section II, Dami makes it obvious how perfection of even the specialist cannot outflank human nature:
I know the clinical meetings
Not where doctors wage
Wars against themselves with Literature
But where diseases wield
Their many forms in a game
Of hide and sick.
Then, we are able to finger illusion of life in, ‘If Tomorrow Comes’. The persona presents us answers concerning the-much-sought-after future and inability to know what it holds. Through this, we are played through the dark humour of the ineluctable nature of death, infirmity, and inability to rescue humanity out of its flaws as the section fades in on, ‘Requiem For A Young Hypertensive’ and ‘Requiem For An Asphyxiated Neonate’. There is also reverberation of Dami’s experiences as a student where he wants to keep up with his personal challenges and that of ‘Lagenbeck’s Anatomy’.
‘Barroom Reflection’ completes the trinity of the volume. It is a bust into music and hard lines of life. ‘Libretto For Fela’ is a fold of musical parlance used in lampooning the society, as fracas of disunity in Nigeria is explored in ‘Everything Scatter’, the plights of tribalism, and national disintegration; not only that but overpowering relevance of Afrobeat music as different from other types of music. ‘Zombie’ x-rays the historical fabric of military oppressive rule over the hapless civilians. Much more, it is a blunt appraisal of how life issues are perceived through the poems. The poet’s persona goes on to satirise societal malaise in ‘Look and Laugh’, ‘Shuffering And Shmiling’ as the complacency of the masses is challenged, and thus their hibernation in the face of tyranny. ‘New Buka’ is a haven and centre of escapism for the persona’s life. The affinity of the persona is that of umbilical link. Among these, we have collage of issues that rear up along other poems as sorrow, penury, and all shades of miseries are kindled in, ‘House of Hunger, Revisited’. Dami does not exclude anybody but universalises this through the lines thus:
We’ve all passed by it
At some time. Either as lodgers
Or janitors and tourists
Hardship in life makes no exemption. The persona elucidates through the lines that everyone is in confines of this: ‘We are all victims…’ A quick recount of history is made in both ‘Celluloid’ and ‘Bouazizi’s Ashes’. Dami wings in on memories that cannot be forgotten- June 12 and the ubiquitous death of Bouazizi which sparked the viral revolution, Arab Spring.
The persona plugs into his own personality, his looms of experiences of the city, what it means to him. The discourse of alienation, and who-knows-who in the city is also refracted: ‘Personalities are buried/ In the earth of anonymity,/ Swallow unmarked graves’. The fears, failures, hope, and fraud of life T S Eliot’s Wasteland and modernist literature brings on Dami as the new Eliot. It is also a thick demonstration of intertextuality. Dami Ajayi himself taps into modernism adequately. And thus, the personal leads us to where the stream has ended: ‘Diagnosis’ and ‘Amnesia’. But we should not also forget we have a cyber existence in ‘Calling Credits’. Dami Ajayi has painstakingly organised violence through the harmony of his verses.
About the author: Salawu Olajide is a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife. He writes poems, short stories, and watches a lot of TV. He listens to dadakuada music at his leisure time.