Upon immigrating, my identity changed and I quickly learned that every time I introduce myself with my first name, I would have to repeat it, more slowly and gently like it were an egg being delivered into foreign palms. Even with a phonetic guide that goes like this; “Oh-Yeen-Dah-Mor-La,” the name still ends up sounding less of itself, to me. I have also developed an immunity to finding beauty in my name on foreign tongues, so I tell people it doesn’t matter so that the actual conversations can go on.
Author: Olanrewaju Oranyeli
Number of Pages: 133
Reviewer: Oyindamola Shoola
In S\HE.IS.LIFE Olanrewaju Oranyeli explores various themes within the context of ‘life.’ He manages this approach to book writing in a way that is not burdensome for a reader unlike in many mono-themed books that I have read.
Throughout S\HE.IS.LIFE Lanre writes with a type of wisdom that does not spare a reader from self-reflection. His words explore diverse topics and allow us to be more aware of our human limitations. In the second stanza of a poem titled Ways on page 45, Lanre writes,
you keep track
it forgets you
in its race
Compared to Lanre’s first book “Caricature of Colors” the style of writing as well as the use of punctuation is different. The poems in S\HE.IS.LIFE are shorter and without full stops or periods. I think this provides an overall and deeper meaning to this concept of life that Lanre discusses. The length of the poems signify that human existence on earth is short, and in many verses, Lanre emphasizes having a good quality of living. Additionally, the lack of punctuation, especially full stops or periods gives the message that life’s eternity is beyond man’s control.
S\HE.IS.LIFE also arouses a reader’s consciousness and allows them to be aware of other people’s experiences. For example, you’ll find poems that subtly highlights the consequences of emigrating from African countries.
Growing up in Nigeria, I was never concerned about things like race, names, or even accents. I was never ‘black’ or ‘African’ the same way I am now, upon immigrating to America. I did not have extensive conversations about my name when I was in Nigeria; neither was my accent, something unusual or exotic. Upon immigrating, my identity changed and I quickly learned that every time I introduce myself with my first name, I would have to repeat it, more slowly and gently like it were an egg being delivered into foreign palms. Even with a phonetic guide that goes like this; “Oh-Yeen-Dah-Mor-La,” the name still ends up sounding less of itself, to me. I have also developed an immunity to finding beauty in my name on foreign tongues, so I tell people it doesn’t matter so that the actual conversations can go on.
In a poem titled Olanrewaju, on page 5, Lanre writes;
My name is coarse
like salt and too long
for your mannered tongue
but I am a country, a history of many tribes
stretched out on this dark road on my skin
Upon reading this poem, I felt a sense of happiness that someone could communicate my mind in few words, regarding this topic. Although I am happy, sometimes, I feel like an ingrate for complaining because I have seen many Asian peers who completely disregard their real names and select a simple English name, that the ‘mannered tongues’ can swallow easily.
In some poems, Lanre writes about love and its virtues, one of which is patience. Lanre’s use of metaphors and imageries, in S\HE.IS.LIFE to build momentum for the big message at the end of his poems. On page 72, in a poem titled Water, Lanre writes,
I find solace
in how water
into places, it doesn’t belong
until it finds where it’s needed
so my love will find you
before this time expires
This poem also reminds me very much of a friend who always says: “what is mine is mine” whenever she is expectant of something but is entirely patient in waiting.
Above all in S\HE.IS.LIFE, I am very impressed by how Lanre is an author of his own experiences, through the way he creates them. He is also skillful in recycling these experiences to become art.
For many who follow Lanre on Instagram, you will see that recently, Lanre started hiking and he has been posting pictures, sometimes, of animals, he encounters on his trail. Notably and very recently, he posted a picture of him holding a snake, and I remember my reaction to this picture, which I think would be similar to many responses that he received.
In a poem on page 31, titled Creepy Crawlies, Lanre writes;
I touched a snake
and many said
it made their skin crawl
but what is more creepier
than touching the hearts
of men every day
without knowing what
I may have reached into
Whenever I tried
I find it highly impressive when writers can draw inspiration and create poems out of conversations. S\HE.IS.LIFE speaks volume to writers, and it makes them realize that when you and your life becomes inspiring, the idea of “writers’ block” is just dust that you need to blow off your desk. S\HE.IS.LIFE reflects Lanre’s realities and allows everyone to learn from it and gain wisdom to become better.
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© Oyindamola Shoola 2019