It happened that my fiancé comes all the way from the East, to pay me a visit in Ibadan where I’m rounding off my postgraduate studies in African literature in Nigeria premier university. In my busy-body bid to show her off and around, we run into a friend of mine who is a poet. We exchange pleasantries, and as it is often the case, we make small mouths about literature; the good writers we have just read; the bad ones we shouldn’t have read, etc. I and my fiancé move on. Before long we run into another poet-friend of mine. He didn’t even wait for me to finish introducing my fine girlfriend before he produced his phone and starts reading to me the “classic” lines he had just written. ‘Sorry bro, we are in haste,’ I tell him and makes off with my “pissed” lady.
‘You don’t have to be pissed off, he was only showing me his new poem,’ I try to calm her down.
‘Is that how you guys do all the time?’
‘You know the muse could be jealous like a woman, if we don’t show her off.’
‘Ehe, Shuga, did you actually say you’re a poet?’
The question from a girl I’ve dated for many years, who has even read my poems before we began to date, shocked me.
‘What do you mean by that rhetorical question?’
‘See na, you don’t look like any of these poet-friends of yours and the many that I’ve seen.’
‘How do you mean?’
‘You don’t wear poetry.’
‘Talk to me and stop dribbling like an Igbo-induced philosopher’
Ok, where’s your afro? Your hair is not bushy and unkempt like most poets I’ve seen before and the ones I saw today. You’re not even carrying a big book on your chest. You don’t also read your work to the nearest ear, or, is your own muse not jealous?
‘Are you for real? Is that your notion of poets?’
‘No. That’s my notion of Nigerian poets, like your friends.’
Aah, finally! I exclaimed in my heart. My girlfriend, like myself, has also noticed that most Nigerian poets carry the tag around like a military rank.
The Nigerian poet is easy to spot in a congress of world poets. If he’s not spotting an afro or a bushy and unkempt hair, he is on dreadlocks with Osama-like beards and Herbert Macaulay-like moustache. His dressing is a thing of wonder. If his bongo trouser is not weather-beaten, the polo will be torn somewhere. When that is not the case, then he is tucking in with a funny rope-like belt. His stomach must have fallen into his back because Nigerian poets don’t eat, (they fast for muses?).
He must appear like a refugee in order to paint that Okigbo-like picture, to claim to be his disciple, (by the way, who told him that Okigbo did not eat? And why must poets who appear this way always adopt Okigbo as a model?)
Sometimes, he may put on an over-worn African print top- Ankara for instance. He dons an African bangle, wear scholar-like eyeglass and then carry one dog-eared collection of poems of his or an anthology where his “masterpiece” appeared. Listen to him talk for five minutes, he will surely be caught condemning those whose writings are not in tandem with his thematic visions. He is always better than any other poet on earth; he is in the pantheon of the forebears.
Every now and then, he is seen carrying his collection around in a bag, coercing those he can to buy them off. He self-published them (traditional publishers are now only interested in prose fiction).
‘Ok, don’t worry,’ I told my fiancé, ‘I’ll try to start looking like one soon.’
‘Don’t try it o,’ she said.
Post first published on Naijxclusive
IFESINACHI, Johnpaul Nwadike is a poet, writer, comedian and rapper. He obtained a B.A in Literature from Imo State University, Owerri and an M.A in Literature from University of Ibadan. When he’s not listening to 2face, Asa or Brymo, he’s reading an African author. He relaxes by looking for trouble.