Obu Udeozo’s Cyclone: Painting History on the Canvass of Scientific Whirlwinds

by Uche Mbah

Cyclone by Obu Udeozo; Fab Educational Books, Jos; 316pp

The strange feeling of déjà vu that accompanies anyone who is conversant with Obu Udeozo’s works when he picks up Cyclone stems from the fact that many of the poems there are repeated in other anthologies.  Of course, that is a great putoff-until you discover that there is a real leitmotif behind it-a a historical nexus that connects all repeated poems to the Nigerian Civil war. It is a historian’s delight. He deliberately splashes the names of victims on landing pages of conscience which, in the words of late professor Francis Ngwaba, Fulbright Scholar, is “a harvest of harvests”. It was the poetic version of Chimamanda Adichie’s  Half Of A Yellow Sun, although it appears more provocative and historical than its prose counterpart.

The collection is not only about the shrill, broken tongues of a long drum that has been soaked in ritual sacrifice-no. The ritual is there, the sacrifice is there, and Sybil’s voice, running through the chronicles caress our tone-deaf ears with auguries of recurring cycles that promises not to go away because the celebrated leaders abolished history and cut the bridge between the id and its ego. And it went deeper, culling from the Psychology of symbols the heart of constancy. But the collection never deviated from the now known trademark of Obu Udeozo, the marriage of both the Epic and Mock-epic symbols in the church of poetic symbolism-a church where the Ofor and the Ogu forms the inevitable cross of truth in juxtaposition.

And here lies the foundation-and the roof-of the matter. Obu Udeozo is so fixated on this marriage of cross and culture that he quotes the bible to confirm the auguries of the local Sybil, Nwagu Aneke in Ikenga for Phillip Emeagwali, although this evokes the memory of Nweke Aniagu, one of the earliest bards who was a genius in being the leader of an esoteric cult that laid the foundation of the Igbo writing, the symbolism of the Nsibidi. His unconscious resurrection of this in the hour of emotional frenzy, in spite of his psychoanalytical skill, is seen in his symbolic deification of Fatima in verse. This he confirmed in his Preface to stimulus: “Stimulus is a poem inspired by such extraordinariness of passion versus the imperative of self-control”. Proof of a reluctant reincarnation of ideas and psyche. The only difference: Nsibidi symbolism  created Igbo symbological letters of universal import; the Fatima moniker evokes a flowing river that empties in a delta, a Pythagorean triangle and square, a circle, a line, and a chalice evocative of a pentacle, which he deliberately omitted because it is already represented in the five parts of Stimulus.

Ironically, this most complex of his works happens to be the most easily readable-at least at the initial strophes. But the crochet of historical outspread of war narratives is delicately woven with threads of divine ordinance-sometimes in childish obstinacy-like, for example, in Perfect, where he produced a spreadsheet of horrible abattoirs from the world-renowned butchers, he retorted: If these diseases/are a Divine healing/my conscience of clay/revolts against such gold. Sometimes he goes the other extreme, when he lamented that those who are playing quasi gods know the psychology of the stars/but do not know/that our reality alone/proves your Divine being…

In gunpowder, he did history a favor by chronicling the names of those who would grace the memorial walls of his little community. Since we see the number of the dead in a small community of Enugu Agidi, would we then imagine the losses of the civil war in human carnage? Even then, he preaches love and reconciliations, even with the reluctant refrain of Let us eat dreams canon.

The universality of Udeozo’s poetry is portrayed in the use of deep scientific jargon to express his intentions when conventional more human language fails to unearth his innermost verse cravings. Perhaps that explains his unending romance with symbolism. Hence when he begins the section QUASSERS with a half-hearted prognosis of the dismemberment of his own country, he also evokes the pulsating undulation of the soul emissions of the black hole. This he has pictorially depicted with a blank page with a black hole having white edges-an an indication of his juxtaposition of the escape of dead spirits from the sucking powers of dead systems. Beyond the black hole opens up an enduring cosmos where hell is suffused in upturned values transposed to the solar level to the national psyche. (Giant of the tropics/on parade at cosmic fair).  This is placed side by side with a Sybillian augury of National Rawlings like rebirth as our new Phoenix emerging from the metaphor of earth’s disintegration from the primitive soup. His renditions there is beyond ordinary: It is no mean feat to transpose the mind’s fluid conceptions into static canvas-or iambic-hollow poetry. (We shall be the Archaeopteryx/and darwin’s cheap proof/of latest stagnation in the gene pool/…life and death/will have no boundary among us..). a prognosis of the disintegration of the earth into a black hole to emerge as a newly coagulated primitive soup.

You may think this is one of Udeozo’s earliest and simplest works, but you ere. This work has overthrown the human convention of science. Udeozo has thus proved that poetry is not just a play on words but should also be the basis for scientific research. He follows the footsteps of alexander Pope who was the closest friend and adviser to Isaac newton and, in fact, read the eulogy at his funeral. Hence while others were writing poems, Udeozo is the dragon of the artist within to paint history on the canvass of the whirlwind, from the personal to the national, and then to the earth globe. He is a master of Sybilian poesy boiled in the cauldron of scientific mysteries and prognostications unknown even to himself, an enigma hidden even from his own egocentrism…

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