In what is Dami Ajayi’s third collection of poetry, Affection and Other Accidents, the title of the poem, reveals the poet to the reader–his artistry, a part of his human self, and his experiences, outlined by multiplicities of accidents.
As a deviant from his former works A Woman’s Body is a Country and Clinical Blues, the titular poem in Affection & other Accidents shows a writer who is experimenting with language, form and most times making a caricature of style. The argument about the choice of language of poetry in the post (post) modern era becomes an integral device in which Ajayi examines social concerns like love, the exegesis of time, grief, death, life, and healing as both a process and a destination. As a writer whose style is greatly influenced by the order and aesthetics of the modern era— high flown language and an Avant-garde style of writing, dominant in Clinical Blues, there is a deliberate getting away that begins and ends this new collection.
In the first and second poems of this collection, Introit and Affection and other Accidents respectively, the reader is welcomed to this space of literary experiment, as he, with the writer, unconsciously question and explore the elements of haiku, prosaic poetry, short story, or what may be an episodic plot in parts. It is within this experimentation of form and style that we read through the author’s mind and travel with him through his many accidents. Introit, like few other poems in this collection, takes on the form of a haiku, but in reading, shows the author’s willingness to examine the self, express vulnerability and seek healing as both purgation and a means to new artistry— a kind of a rebirth. In Introit, Ajayi comes to us like a priest approaching the alter of the Eucharist, blessing the many diarrhoeas, a metaphor for life events, that will give opening to other poems in the collections.
[Bless up| to the variations of diarrhoea| to which I now say Amen. (pg. 1)]
Going back to the titular poem, Affection & other Accidents, we yet find the elements of the post-modern in Ajayi. But while the reader as a critic may be caught in the argument of the poem as poetry or not, and if the arrangement of the poem was the writer’s deliberate attempt of introducing his readers early to his affections and accidents. In this perfect beginning of the collection as he alludes in the opening lines of the poem, we are sure as we read through Dami Ajayi and his artistry, that this eponymous poem is more to emotion finding thoughts and thoughts finding words and this can only be poetry as laid claim by Robert Frost.
Affection & other Accidents, the titular/eponymous poem, is a traveling poem, a sort of bildungsroman documenting love’s lifespan between the early years of bliss and the latter years of many apologies and sometimes eventual goodbye. An affection becoming at a plush apartment somewhere in Victoria Island, Lagos, struggles through the many accidents along Berlin, London, India and Cologne. The poem, the poet and the poet’s object-persona who is feminine, transcend the cold letters of print and show up to the reader as subjects of unrequited love and how this subject stays through this collection. Dami Ajayi writes this unrequited love in page 7—
affection sank that night| affection sunk to a new low.
In writing about affections, Ajayi had earlier written in one of the poems in A Woman’s Body Is a Country, comparing love to psychosis and accident to the transient nature of time in how children cannot be playmates for twenty years. He reemphasizes these concerns in Affection & other Accidents the collection, but both slightly taking different meanings. Interlogue I-III is affection and accident as heartbreak —
[three years &| four proposals later| we stand annuled| a premarital divorce. Pg 8],
Mary in India is affection and accident as acceptance and letting go,
[Mary…|it is certain that you will| one day find that you lost| what your heart longed for the most.
Unreliable Narrator and Shoe Strings is affection and accident as memory in form of allodynia—
[of all things to filch | you chose shoestrings. Pg 31].
As the essence of writing is, which is documenting, we find Dami Ajayi the poet as a social commentator chronicling recent happenings through metaphors, simile, contrast and the many other literary devices borrowed in writing this new collection. Ajayi finds a way of merging elements of music into writing and he does this perfectly well. In Life goes down Low, you hear the repetitive voice of the Lijadu Sisters, but also the poet’s opinion about life being multifaceted
[life goes down low| & I am sunken with despair. Pg 25].
In Youths written after King Sunny Ade, Ajayi the social commentator talks about youthful exuberance
[lip-stick tainted drawers & throbbing hangovers. Pg 10].
In the poem Covid-19, as the title gives the concerns of the poem away, Dami Ajayi examines the effect and politics of the Covid virus in the North, East and Europe and how Africa survived against many predictions–
[the tall world order of irony| is in the black body count. Pg 15].
Between the poet’s life, metaphorically measured out in teaspoons of honey and absinthe, and his socio-philosophical standpoint of life being an academy, there is time. Time as a litmus test to affections and feelings, time as an instrument of healing, time as a process for the discovery of new art, time as an umpire of local and global happenings, and time as an appeal to time–
[& I pray to time| please be kind this time. Pg 68].
Dami Ajayi has used language and images to create art and impression that is rebellious to a strict form and style in this new collection. While the poet has mentioned in few readings that this act of rebellion to style is not deliberate, at a more closer reading, one begins to appreciate the writer’s willingness to allow his emotions and vulnerability find thoughts and thoughts find words and words become Affection & other Accidents.
So, take my word for it that it packs a lot, and what is a lot if not poetry.
Joseph Akinnawonu mostly writes about art, popular culture, and day to day happenings in Lagos, Nigeria where he currently lives. Find him here @mayoakins on Twitter.