Love, Pain and Death: A Review of Dami Ajayi’s Clinical Blues by Jite Efemuaye

Dami Ajayi’s debut collection, Clinical Blues, is exactly what the name says it is, blue. The mood is of pain, of destructive passion, of love lost, of health struggles, of sure Clinical Blues Coverdeath…

It took me thirty minutes to walk from Unilag second gate to the Lagoon front. I had heard about it from a friend and being the water lover (and sometimes hater) that I am, I decided to go see for myself, my only companion a copy of Clinical Blues. Crabs sitting near their holes were my only audience as I gave my best impression of a spoken word artist and performed poems from the first part of the collection, Love Poems:

I really tried to fail that audition
You say I didn’t try hard enough
But how does one try hard
At not doing what one knows best?


The verse is from Promenade, the first poem in the collection, a story of the charade that love can become.  Love Songs is the cry of the heart broken, of the one that is left behind when love decides to leave:

I’ve sieved words with words,
Words are lost; poetry is chaff
In the end,
There is no enchanting way
Of saying, “you
Took my sunshine away.”

‘Konji Blues’ is one of the very first poems I heard Dami Ajayi perform and I knew what to expect. The poem conjures images of a raunchy sex scene: tangled sheets, sweating bodies, satisfied sighs. What I did not expect was the sadness that hit me at the end; passion – yes, satisfaction – yes; but there’s still the wanting more when the passion is spent.

The Hospital Poems are the most difficult for me, they stick in my throat. I can find something to laugh at in love and heartbreak but there is no humour no matter how dark in

Little angels become sickly,
Bespectacled, pregnant like
Physiologic scenarios.
Your pathologies are case – noted in the mist
Of growing bills and dying resolves
Then Mummy does not love you again.

There is sickness here, there is pain, I feel myself tearing up and so I hurry away, stopping only briefly for Portrait of a Poet and The Life of I, the poem that speaks the most to my writer soul: writing has indeed become a disability.

The final part of the collection Barroom Reflections take me back to days in Awka: bottles of Harp, ‘Medium’ and Snapp decorating the table, steaming platters of barbecued fish soon to be turned into bones-licked-clean. There is music here; A Libretto for Fela is the poet’s homage to the Afrobeat King

I won’t tell you
About lady.

Interspersed in Clinical Blues are succinct references to the state of the nation; a finger at Nigeria’s leaders and politicians, their broken promises so like those made by lovers in the grip of new passion, only to disappear when confronted with reality.

Clinical Blues is the first collection of poems I paid money for and it is worth every naira, a keeper. I am certain professional reviewers have said many things about it, things only initiated minds can understand. My reading of the collection is not yet done; some poems asked too much time from me, like House of Hunger, Revisited; I have saved some to be re-read, like Love in Bermuda. It will take divine intervention to get me to brave Hospital Poems again. My reading of Clinical Blues may never be done. I foresee years of reaching for it as for the hand of an old friend to submerge myself in this beautiful world of words that Dami Ajayi has created.

NB: My only grouse with Clinical Blues is that the cover is white, making it the dirtiest book I’ve ever owned. Oh! I should mention, Clinical Blues was published in 2014 by WriteHouse, Ibadan. 🙂


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