Ebereonwu: Tribute To A Rebel Poet

by Odimegwu Onwumere

“Henry Akubuiro has made a mistake”, I muttered, within me, while reading Sunday Sun’s Literari column page 44, April 15, 2007, edited by him, that Ebereonwu is late. The announcement was in an article titled: “A day of glory of Ademola Dasylva”. Filled with doubt, that Ebereonwu was not supposed to die now, later in the evening, I called my friend, a journalist with Newage newspapers (culture), to confirm if what I had read was true. “Prince, so you know Ebereonwu, it is a big loss to Nigeria”, Daniel told me. “I saw him at Ojez night club before the news of his death came to my knowledge by 10. —pm. I have even written an article on him in Newage Culture Friday. He was to bury his late mother before his untimely death in an auto crash”. We exchanged, “it is a pity! It is a pity, severally, before we switched off the phone. Daniel lives in Lagos.

I could not eat nor talk to any body having known now that Henry Akubuiro didn’t make mistake in his write-up. I lay face-front on my bed reminiscing with view that I was Ebereonwu. I said, “So, all my plans would have been pummeled to the soil in a twinkle of an eye?” My verves were quaking, but suddenly, I drifted to sleep.

Not only in the literary circle, Ebereonwu is a household name in Nigeria. A native of Amucha in Imo-State, he took a degree in literature at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. A filmmaker in Nollywood, he’s a poet/writer with a lot of published works to his credit.

My first ‘encounter’ with him was in Newage Newspaper (Literature & Ideas), then edited by Nduka Otiono, former Secretary General of Association f Nigeria Authors (ANA). Ebereonwu in his first collection of poems defined poetry as “giving voice and rhythm to anything that stirs my emotion”. In the Insomniac Dragon, which is his second collection, he defined poetry as “a graffiti on the trunk of jacaranda”. Third definition of poetry is “a letter to the soul”.

His main reason to define poetry the way he did was his refusal to Williams Wordsworth’s definition of poetry as the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling recollected in tranquility. His disagreement with this definition was that “not all spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions recollected in tranquility is poverty”. “Some feelings of that nature lead to epileptic seizures; he was saying. “Poetry is a communication art. So if whatever that is recollected in tranquility or otherwise remains inside the vault of the memory and is not expressed via speech or writing or performance, communication has not yet been effected. And poetry is not yet in existence”.

Furthermore, Ebereonwu believed that not all poems are born as a result of spontaneous overflow of innate feelings that’s why Wordsworth’s definition suffers pure comprehension. “Some poems are decided mathematically. A sonnet for instance is a poem of fourteen lines; and a haiku is complete poem in three lines and 17 syllables. In most cases a poet decides to write (a sonnet or) a haiku before sourcing for the words that will be implanted within the haiku equation”, Ebereonwu had said. He further went memory lane to prove his argument.

“The idea of poetry being recollected in tranquility has equally been pushed aside by men who have rendered their best lines when they are faced with imminent death. Tied to the stake, this was the last word of a notorious Nigerian armed robber Monday Osunbor: “My head is doing like I’m going mental”. Ebereonwu re-arranged the lines appropriately and said it could be a haiku, and it even has a rhyme scheme.

My head is doing

Like I’m going


Given these proves to defend his argument, Ebereonwu said that “the biggest problem with Wordsworth’s definition is that it is limited to written and spoken poetry. But poetry equally exists in other forms: Music, Dancing, Photographing which captures the poetry of daily living. In fact there is no art that does not have its poetry”.

Having said that, before Monday Osunbor, a man was flanked by robbers, whom he took as a great man of revolution, equally delivered another great line of poetry: “it is finished”.

Ebereonwu believed that the football as played by Jay Jay Okocha, boxing boxed by Muhammad Ali, the procession of arts, the web of a spider, the silence of a graveyard, when a man falls in love (with his house girl) are all poetry. “There is poetry in drama. Wordsworth’s definition suffers a most serious impediment by failing to aggregate all that poetry is”, he had said.

He saw poetry as an impossible art to be defined since it’s one of the children of literature. He said that literature was a bit complex to define.

“Literature is the only subject that concerns itself with defining or understanding other subject. As such only a little of what literature is, is accommodated when we define literature as a representation of life. The problem with that definition is that metaphorically there is nothing on earth that cannot represent life. So many times we have summarized little incidents that happened around us with this line: Such is life. In other words those incidents equally represent life. But literature being the vastest subject goes beyond life. It has no limit, and therefore cannot represent life while is limited and exist within a structure”.

Still on buttressing his points on the claim against Wordsworth’s, Ebereonwu said that poetry inherited most of the indefinable characters of literature among the children of literature. He further said that the best attempt at defining poetry ends up defining only a portion of poetry. As a sonnet, a haiku, or balled is easily defined; Wordsworth, may have defined only the kind of poetry that he wrote. To accept his definition as valid will only be possible if other forms not accommodated are regarded as no poetry.

Judging the contemporary Nigerian writers, Ebereonwu said: “The generation of Nigerian writers which I am consigned to is notorious for their excessive indulgence in poetry. Two preceding generations added together have not produced one quarter of the poetry of my generation. But our poetry is yet to make an impact. There are many reasons for this: the poetry of my generation suffers from a certain complex and ignorance. To gain recognition as a serious writer, a writer must delve only into serious issues. Because we write for what we will gain from poetry, not what poetry will gain from us; unserious issues, we believe, will undermine our literary status and progress. The second reason is that our understanding of serious issues is warped.

“For so long politics is in top most consideration as a serious issue. And so we see some poets who have no inclination for politics writing volumes on Nigerian leaders, and producing poems that are benefit of originality, creativity, and lacking in serious thought. Most of these poems are simply versifications of popular opinion on our misrulers by newspaper columnists. So instead of serious poems we end up writing over serious poems.

“Although politics is a serious issue, but politics as practiced in Nigeria is just a dangerous buffoonery. Most Nigerian leaders do not merit classification as political leaders. Conmen, looters, and plunderers they may be, but leaders they certainly are not. And to put these people on marble is to chronicle their misdeeds for succeeding generations to emulate.

“Nigerian leaders have made no significant policy toward the growth of literature. Instead, series of misgovernment have reduced the minds of the average Nigerian to seek for nothing beyond their bare necessities, which appreciation of poetry is not one of them. And the death of readership is the consequence.

“A poem with Nigeria political issues as subject matter is destined to fail. Praising the deeds of Nigeria leaders can only amount to sycophancy which demeans a poet; deriding the leaders’ amount to dignifying them on marble which is an elevation. These people should be abandoned where they deserve to be: History – the rubbish bin….

Until Ebereonwu departed this world-less cave on Good Friday (?) April 6, 2007, he was reportedly been an ebullient and vibrant person. He does not stay in the ocean bathing and soap continues entering his eyes. He died in his SUV vehicle on his way from OJEZ bar at National Stadium, Surulere.

The inimitable poet Ebereonwu believed so much in the spirit he called Medemede: “The demon of writing”.

“Inspiration to write is a demon that is exorcised by writing. If it is left at that stage it returns with greater vehemence to haunt the writer. But once published, it is a complete exorcism”, he had said.

I defined poetry as rhythmic combination of words that touches the soul, not to tussle the brain. Juxtaposing to that, Ebereonwu I first heard of in Newage Wednesday, July 28, 2004 is poetry. With the single name like Chinweizu, Ebereonwu was without doubt the forefront iconoclastic of the nascent generation of Nigerian poets, till his death, and we will be reading him like poetry henceforth because he touched the hearts of many literary minded persons.

Ebereonwu, ka chi buo!

You may also like

Leave a Comment