When the Water Branched Out: Reflections on Servio Gbadamosi’s “A Tributary In Servitude” By Ibukun Adeeko

Title: A Tributary in Servitude

Author: Servio GbadamosiFCover_A Tributary in Servitude by Servio Gbadamosi

Genre: Poetry

Format: Paperback

Extent: 85 pages

ISBN: 978-978-52838-3-9

Publisher: WriteHouse Collective

There are many motions in the parliaments of termites
but none shall be law unto thy stone

Travelling across the country, the arrogance that her failures assume harasses you. Sometimes it makes you feel what has happened here is more than crime – it betrays all sanity! It takes only the bold to be willing to explore its horror. But art must be an expression of truth, the dynamic mirror our lives are discovered through; those deeper lights. And to this extent Servio’s A Tributary in Servitude expands.

While hope, ‘a young ripening yolk terrorized’ the persona in the first poem, ‘the tortoise has sown all her beans in vain’ in page 12. The conversation continues through it’s prophesy, an interrogation of religious estate and unfolding events. So we are eager for what is next.

Here, I took a pause and asked if the emergence of ‘Change’ is ‘what is next’, since water is a convenient metaphor for change as it exists in three states. This is how without telling, Servio sings of the jarring moments that cast our times into glazed mould of history, where eloquence is pain.

My country wobbles
fumbles, tumbles, crumbles

My country rumbles
and my waters tumble on.

In the debut, politics and art offer themselves richly through the tributary. Recently, there are debates on the roles of themes and art forms reopened by Ben Okri’s essay which emphasises freedom as a fundament requisite for art. (Personally, I have failed at writing political poems, I have my solace in the saying that Poems and Politics don’t mix.) Yes. Some of the literary works from Africa could sometimes be overtly political or perhaps limited to current issues and themes. This preoccupation, albeit legitimate, may have in one way or the other weakened our poetic exploration. The complete sense of humanity (where love and hate can coexist in a single heart), the complexities resulting from human interactions among other thematic touchstones are aspects of existence that African poetry can further mirror in its noble undertaking to discover life in fuller sense. But in listening to the ripples through A Tributary In Servitude, uninterrupted by the flip from page to page, the theme and art attained balance. The pages turn easily with heavy thoughts to offer and what is vivid is how the country wobbles and rumbles and tumbles and an evident chaotic ending approaches on fast wheels if the situation is not rescued!

My country wobbles
fumbles, tumbles, crumbles

My country rumbles
and my waters tumble on.

Into the waiting moulds of ruins
in the woods
finally, the egg hits the rock.

Here one must note that the collection was completed long before the end of the last democratic process, when Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was president and terrorism shrank the sovereignty of the Nigerian State; it was published right in the middle of it. The time setting may account for the radical voice popping up at different instances. The offerings amble through various histories of the Nigerian pain-scape and delve into an imperative voice seen in the Nautical Dawn typical of Wole Soyinka’s poem Traveller you must set forth at dawn. The lines evoke and re-evoke lines by Tchicaya U Tam’si. There are also instances of Okigbo’s prophetic voice rising, declaring an obvious doom.

‘this is not a game
for the feeble-minded
and the lily-livered.’

In reading A Tributary in Servitude, we see different layers in a single band of stream, an effort in A Tangled Wood Tale to keep love as still waters and such love is the succour to our world of the living dead. You do not enter the waters just for where it will take you but for what it will make you consider and reconsider because light travelling through water is a twist.

Ibukun Adeeko, poet and essayist, lives and writes in Abeokuta, Nigeria. He won the Babishai Niwe 2015 Poetry Prize.

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