The Abuja literary community had the opportunity on May 28, 2011 to experience the most appealing and imaginative poetry of Senator Ihenyen, a new voice in Nigerian literature. The Lagos-born poet whose first name ordinarily would make him pass for a member of the National Assembly wrote had a wonderful time with the writers, dignitaries and literary enthusiasts who filled the Pen & Pages Bookstore to the brim.
Emerging poet, Senator Iyere Ihenyen had been invited by the Abuja Writers Forum as featured writer at the highly-acclaimed Guest Writer Session.
The final year Law student of the University of Benin, Benin City, held his audience spellbound right from the start till finish! After reading out Senator Ihenyen’s fast-growing profile as a poet, short story writer and literary researcher with commendable recognition, Mr. Ajibade, Secretary of the AWF went ahead to invite the new author to take the hot seat.
Senator Ihenyen, reading from his debut book, Colourless Rainbow, stole the heart of the audience as he delivered each selected poem with fresh energy, profound passion and fiery imagination! Each delivery attracted loud applause from the audience who were thrilled and fascinated, not just with the young author’s mastery of performance, but the beauty, emotions and thoughts which his poetry expressed in the most imaginative manner. From the melifluous flow of words to the evocative imageries, Senator Ihenyen fired the imagination of the audience as they were deeply drawn into the overriding images of blood and rain which coloured the movements, “The Mirror”, “Camouflage” and “Chameleons”. The author whose editor was the highly respected critic and editor, late Okey Okpa (Foot), went ahead to thrill the audience with poems selected from the remaining movements, “Images on the Breaking Walls of My Heart”, “Masquerades”, “Crossroads” and finally, “The Tide”. Interestingly, the collection of poems, “Colourless Rainbow” which was released from the stables of Coast2Coast earlier this year, is written in seven movements, symbolising the seven colours of rainbow in ascending order. According to the author, the work is presented as an indivisible and interrelated whole, not as a collection of individual poems. Curiously, perhaps this explains the recurring images of blood, rainbow and rain which run through the whole work. In one way, this effects an appreciable level of unity in the work, while on the other hand, it also appears to create an overriding atmosphere of violence which the reader would fast become familiar with when reading Senator Ihenyen’s poetry. From the comments made by majority of the members of the Abuja audience, this style was highly commended based on the use of symbolic and imaginative words as a most appealing medium of communication. Indeed, Senator’s poetry won many hearts over to the genre of poetry, as not a few of the audience confessed that they were greatly fascinated with the writing of the new Nigerian author.
However, Elnathan Jo, while also commending Senator Ihenyen’s poetry, advised that the excessive energy and passion be toned down and more emphasis be placed on skill, as obtainable in South African protest poems. Also, Unoma Azuah, who was also in attendance, while comparing the author’s work to those of Sefi Atah and the likes, expressed her admiration for the poetry of the Lagos-born poet but advised that the clitche of blood and cluster of adjectives could have been better treated. Interestingly, however, majority others, including Ibrahim Kabura, aka Little Master Ibrahim, praised Senator Ihenyen’s poetry for what they described as most appealing, flowing from his use of imageries, symbolisms and mellifluous words to express emotions and thoughts in ways that fire their imaginations.
According to the new voice in Nigerian poetry, who served as the distinguished editor of the Catholic Digest, Nigeria Federation of Catholic Students (NFCS UNIBEN) Senator Ihenyen, with smiles betraying the dimple on his left cheek, thanked the audience for their beautiful comments, insightful questions and constructive criticisms. He started by saying that rather than being overtly defensive like a “Maiwada to a Mudoski”, he would leave the critics, if any, to dissect his poetry.
However, the young writer who was born in the 80s and hails from Esan-West LGA, Ekpoma, Edo State, remarked that the state Nigeria is at the moment requires clarity in communication, unrestrained passion and fresh emotions with an urgent message. He continued by pointing out that he could not afford to “beautify ugliness” by reducing protest poetry to sonnets as seen in Dennis Brutus’ poetry, and consequently create an unintended disconnection between his lines and the message. “There is no time to miss the message”, he said. On the employment of imageries, symbols and adjectives, the one-time Campus President of Golden Minds Nigeria, University of Benin, who doubled as the former President of the Catholic Law Students Association, (CLASA UNIBEN Chapter), added that his poetry is essentially driven by the grandeur of Leopold Senghor’s poetry, the sophistication of Wole Soyinka’s poetry, and Niyi Osundare’s lyricism, but with a voice and a message of his own.
The audience must have appreciated the writer’s ability to identify the literary tradition which he belonged and his experimentation with it in a bid to carve out a niche of his own when they applauded his response. Indeed, one of the audience had remarked earlier that Senator Ihenyen’s poetry was a fresh voice – a “transition from Wole Soyinka and the others” based on the contemporary realities expressed in “Colourless Rainbow”. Well, if you ask me, I honestly think that Senator Ihenyen’s poetry deserves serious attention from literary critics and reviewers who appreciate (and they should!) contemporary works.
There couldn’t have been a better way to draw the curtain than have the freshest phenomenon in contemporary Nigerian poetry, Senator Ihenyen, pick out lucky numbers for the free-books raffle draw, and of course, sign autographs, and smile to the camera. With him were Prof. Unoma Azuah, Kabura Zakama, El-Nathan John, and many other writers and literary enthusiasts.
Senator Ihenyen, author of “Colourless Rainbow”, is currently working on a second volume of poetry, “Ripples Across Lives”, centred on HIV/AIDS. With interest in literary research, he has the unpublished title, “Complete Poetry: for African Students and Writers” to his name. His webblog: http://www.senatorihenyen.wordpress.com