TITLE: Inside, I am just like you
AUTHOR: Seye Kuyinu
REVIEWER: Shoola Oyindamola
In addition to reading good books, I saw tremendous improvement in my writing when I broke out of the conventional writing cage. I broke free from the idea that poetry can only come when you do not have writer’s block, and you are sitting alone with your wise-words-hat on. I broke away from the idea that good poetry could only come amidst silence and deep thought. I began talking more often, to people who had similar perceptions about common social topics. I learned to have intelligent conversations, where I could derive meanings and lessons that would be beneficial to a third party.
Reading the preface of Inside, I am just like you by Seye Kuyinu, brought reminiscence of great friendships that I have made in the past four years. Relationships that may not have happened if I continued to be quiet as a proof of a “poeticness” I did not fully understand or choose to judge people by their physical appearances. I have Latino friends who share similar experiences despite having a different description through words. Recently, I was slightly curious and judgmental about how international students at the school I attend wear expensive clothing despite having no jobs. I found the courage to ask an Asian classmate about why many of them chose not to work, and she explained the working conditions they were limited to, due to their immigration status. The conversation went on to compare the educational system in China and Nigeria, and very interestingly, we found common ground in our cultures. I thought to myself that “inside, I am just like you.”
I have read Seye Kuyinu’s other books titled: Things I Wanted to Tell You In Other Words, Dates and All Those Things I Tell You, and Good Morning! All of which are equally well penned. As a writer, I am very curious to know how the progression of his experiences have impacted his writing and if there is fear of not meeting improved expectations when returning with a new book.
In Things, I Wanted to Tell You In Other Words, Seye encompasses the most imaginable human experiences. His vulnerability in sharing his many events in his personal life is very admirable. As a creative, I was particularly connected to how his works reveal a bigger picture beyond the ordinary events that life presents on his plate. The poem that burns in my memory the most from Things, I Wanted to Tell You In Other Words is about Seye’s first attempt at killing. Just like your current reaction to the latter statement, you would think he committed a crime with his vivid description, but he had mistakenly killed an animal. From Seye’s book, I learned how to play with words to manifest my ideas; a prominent writing style that you’ll see in my second published book titled To Bee a Honey. Seye is the type of writer that makes the regular events in your life; that whisk of air, that housefly that passes by, that tiny stone that gets stuck in the sole of your shoe, seem important.
On the other hand, "Dates and all the things I tell you" is about love and how it is one special thing in a man's big world and at the same time, one big thing in a man's special world. Seye wrote about love to teach its progression contrary to our expectation of its perfect arrival. Love moves and grows with effort, time, patience, and dedication.
Finally, Good Morning!: How to Hack Your Morning and Win the Rest of The Day is a very insightful book for self-development. As someone who is very involved and has struggled with sleep deprivation and poor time management, this book felt like answers to my prayers. Through Good Morning! I learned the science and psychology behind simple actions and habits that have great impact on my day. I gained tips on how to be productive throughout the day, and I realized that proper discipline to attain certain goals does not need to feel painful. One thing that I have started effecting from reading Good Morning! is to increase my sleeping hours and refuse to brag about not sleeping enough. With a thorough explanation in the chapter about sleep, I realized that sleep deprivation doesn’t lead to productivity, it hinders it.
Inside, I am Just Like is another anthology that I love as much. It is filled with poems about love’s effect and the aftermath. What catches my eye about this collection is the humor and universality in the ideas that Seye presented. In one poem titled Lagos Traffic, Seye writes;
It’s pathetic how Lagos traffic
Reminds me of the transactions
In my past relationships
The gala hawker
Leans against my window
And in one sentence tells me what
These relationships are
“Come and bye.”
And then the LaCasera seller
Yanks back the only cure
For my thirst for ages
Scuffing at me
And my life.
Like a soothsayer, he says
This poem implies that love is like the smell of a skunk’s spray. One with an effect that lasts with you, even when it leaves. The absence of love makes many things become a trigger of unwanted memories, and this poem reminds me a lot of one of Tolu Akinyemi’s poem, about how everything including empty pots reminds him of his singleness.
Seye’s fluidity in his poetic styles and ideas is admirable, and I enjoy that he does not conform to a single perception of what poetry could be. In another poem that I sense references Seye Kuyinu’s first book titled Things I Wanted to Tell You In Other Words, Seye writes;
“Did I have to write a book
so you could see my perspective?”
When I read this line, I screamed Amen! in my head because I could relate to Seye as a writer. The intention behind the books I have written is always to show and prove a perspective that is not often seen and recognized. Usually, I think that language and formality fails us as writers when we try to express certain ideas verbally. But when we write, we create our world, and sometimes, eliminating opposing assumption for other people to understand us better. Because we know the power of storytelling, when we infuse certain concepts or difficult ideas in poetry, stories and other genres of literature, we create a world where many people can easily relate to us.
There were other poems in Inside, I am Just Like, that used simple words to create imageries and metaphors from cultures known to us. In a poem titled Spending on You, Seye writes,
“and when there’s
nothing left to spend
I want to spend my emotions on you
like the daddies in agbadas
spraying cash in the biggest owambes”
Like I mentioned earlier, Seye is indeed skilled in mixing unconnected events and establishing a common ground. Another thing that excites me about his works is the fact that it inspires developing poets to understand that poetry doesn’t have to be difficult to be praised for having deep meanings. The simplicity of poetry encourages universal connection to the idea that the author is proposing.
Inside, I am Just Like You is filled with an unrepentant and unrelenting lover that reinstates his/her presence in waiting regardless of his mistreatment by the person he is giving his heart to. Seye’s writing is unique, and his words make you yearn for what is in the other pages while flipping back to connect the dots from the previous. Any reader that pays attention will realize that many poems take their full shape from separate parts of the book. A poem titled Sun references the poem titled Lagos Traffic, placed in the earlier parts of the book. In Sun, Seye writes,
“I watched you say goodbye
the day you walked into mine
and my heart welcomed you
__ good buy
Other poems in the book describe our existence and living for many to gain wisdom. Recently while being overwhelmed, I caught myself admitting that my life feels like a never-ending to-do list. Similarly, in my achievements, I have realized a never-ending cycle that gives me a painful pleasure. For example, if I win a prize, I feel good at that moment, but after sometime when the prize is reduced to 5 words in my resume or a sentence that comes up in my conversation only at professional events, a new feeling of wanting, arises. I begin to yearn for a new winning, I nag about the process, but I complete it. I get the award, it feels good, and the cycle repeats itself.
Seye Kuyinu is wise and insightful in bringing awareness about human nature. In a poem titled You Want a Hand to Hold, Seye writes,
you want a hand to hold
and a shoulder to lean on
and nothing else is enough
so i tell you to be careful
what you wish for because
nothing is ever enough
you know it
and i know it
we know it
but even that too
is not enough
Through the perspective of love and romance, every reader will realize that human desires are like stones stuck at the deepest length of a well but with fingers that keep digging and yearning.
Inside, I am Just Like You portrays undeniable emotions, and feelings that are common to us all, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Seye Kuyinu is a great writer that I will recommend any day and time.