Title: Garri For Breakfast
Author: Seun Lari-Williams
Pages: 147 pages
Seun Lari-Williams is “a Nigerian” in his poetry. By the first statement, I mean that; just like Tolu Akinyemi, Seun is very skilled with adding sarcasm, wit, and a sprinkle of savagery to poetry.
In his book Garri for breakfast, Seun writes about human experiences, highlighting little things that we overlook and take for granted. Seun’s poetry brings meaning to some Nigerian traditions, norms, and beliefs. Seun uses code mix in some places to add to the allure and effect of his words and in some places, he compares Nigerian languages to the foreign English language.
Particularly, in the poem titled “Winches,” we can see that Seun’s humor is over the fence.
He writes about an “Oyinbo boy’s” curiosity of African juju and witches. The Nigerian persona in this poem then says the following;
“I won’t tell him a thing
But I know that they are not called witches
What we have here is ‘winch’”
The persona then continues to differentiate between witches and winches and he says that the for the Oyinbo,
“A witch may give you a knock
But a winch will konk you
While you say “ouch” to a knock,
You say “Yepa!” when they konk you...”
The overall message that Seun passed with the poem “Winches,” is that, the way we treat spiritual affairs differs by geographical location and race. This made me laugh and it also made me more conscious of the way black people, particularly Africans pray, compared to the way that White people pray. This is a joke but, in a typical African church, we assume the devil is more stubborn and so we have to shout, yell, shake our bodies, and hit the walls. Compared to a church with Oyinbo’s, where the devil is gentler and even obedient, so all the Oyinbo pastor has to say is “We decree all demons in this church to leave in Jesus name” and the demons will leave.
I repeat, this is a joke and if you don’t know, Oyinbo means white person in Yoruba Language.
Another poem that I really loved is titled “I got married, I did not die.” Again, it is funny but true that a slight change in status, especially in relationships can turn one’s experiences around.
In this poem, the persona complains about how;
“Since the day I got married
My male friends have become dry
They don’t call me any more
And I don’t understand why.”
When I read this poem, I saw two sides to interpreting it and particularly, I recognized the feminist perspective. I think that for men, this situation is even better, and for females, it is worse. I have heard more stories of married women who shun down offerings to attend festive events and ceremonies “for the sake of their marriage.” And some women who have lost so many opportunities in terms of jobs, financial investments, and even purchases because of marriage.” About two years ago when the hashtag #beingwomaninNigeria swept over social media platforms, I read stories of women who have been declined purchases of properties because they were married and only the husbands are recognized as full human beings by the land-owners, to have access and sign documents to the properties.
There are so many poems that I love from “Garri for Breakfast,” because of the humor, moral message, and inferences that Seun has written. Another poem that really caught my eye is titled “I saw my ex yesterday.” With poems like this one, Seun identifies human vulnerability to pride, especially when it concerns someone or something that we have left behind. There is also vivid imagery in this poem that adds to the overall reading experience. Seun writes that when the persona sees his ex;
“My heart began to pound-
The hot yam I had for breakfast
I actually forgot to breath
Until she noticed my ‘flat stomach…”
Through books like “Garri for Breakfast,” we experience writers who are honest about human experiences, and who take delight and inspiration from them. “Garri for Breakfast” gave me pleasurable memories of home, the culture, vibrancy, and heavenly “Amala” that I grew up eating in Ibadan, Oyo state.
Seun is also very creative in his use of titles, he proves that he is a master of his craft with the way that the titles in “Garri for Breakfast,” draw a reader’s attention. Besides the titles referenced above, we have others like “Don’t Correct My English.” One would read the title; “Don’t Correct My English,” with the same tone that one would use to tell another person; “Don’t provoke me to anger!”
Besides the title, there is play on words that add to the already stated meanings in the poems.
Overall, “Garri for Breakfast,” is a must read for many Nigerians.
If you love being Nigerian, you will love this book.
If you love Tolu Akinyemi, you will definitely love Seun Lari-Willams’ works too.