Now and again, we hear people share their thoughts on how Poetry flies over their heads, and how the genre simply does not appeal to them in any way. We have had online ranter cum comedian Lasisi Elenu run episodes of poetry parodies on his Instagram page, and even some of our favourite artistes have admitted (sadly) that they “simply don’t get poems” (Lil, cough, Kesh, cough). An opinion poll on the subject would probably find you coming away with results in the lines of “heck, Poetry is boring, ugh”, and not without good reason.
What you would find in taking a cursory analysis of how poetry is churned out in these parts is that, the pieces are usually written down, then read from a book (or phone, depending on the mode of storage) to an audience. Sometimes, the poet cares enough to memorise the lines and insert the gesticulations for effect. There would probably be the snapping of fingers midway through (weight of a punchline or level of depth in a verse would usually determine this) and then applause, but beyond the in-venue adulation, how much does the performance resonate? How sellable is that body of work beyond a given ilk or a (small, to be fair) circle of creatives? Art enthusiasts would be quick to cite Titilope Sonuga or Efe Paul Azino (a la Heritage Bank), but how far does that go, really?
William Moore, graduate of Pharmacy from the University of Portsmouth, social theory enthusiast and performance poet, attempts to respond to this with “My Room and Other Places”, an audiovisual poetry compilation produced by Dream Society (the “roomy” media outfit floated by indie content creator Tey Chaplin). With a running time of 17.49, Moore puts out seven pieces of visual poetry in which he tries to explain life from a largely personal perspective, at certain points introspecting, at other points philosophising, with room for some pining too.
In “Call Back”, he faces a mirror while his iPhone rings as he admits to his phobia for commitment. “Black sun” has a lady jump into his bed shortly after using the loo while he mulls over an old relationship in the lines of “There’s no day that like the morning sun/the memories of you don’t shine on me/there are barely hours that pass in my existence/without silence filled only/by the contemplation of the love we once shared”. In “Meeting” he is unsure of where he stands with the girl with whom he walks hand in hand on the sidewalk of the Friends’ Colony neighbourhood while he says “I hate that we talked all night/about nothing and everything/smoked cigarettes, drank table water and listened to music.”
You’ll find him sitting and drinking alone on a beach as he muses on his search for meaning and satisfaction in “No Man’s Nomad”, and when you watch “Shadow and I” you catch a glimpse of the kind of darkness that can consume a young man’s mind. “This” is a short stroll along the Agungi-Jakande axis with the appearance of a lyric video, wherein questions about Life’s purpose are posed to the tune of “what is freedom shackled with purpose? / What is purpose burdened with meaning?”
Beyond the topical relevance of the poems, what makes this project tick is the illustrative nature of the videos. There’s a flair for detail evidenced by the optics, in that everything, from the casual nature of the footwear to the movement of the sea waves, add up to create the effect intended by each visual. Thankfully, the verses are not too complex or “elitist”, and what is most alluring is the “space” (from a mental perspective) provided to whoever is going to watch, for the body of work to sink in.
It would take some time for performance poetry to become attractive to the point of achieving mainstream appreciation, but if we’re looking for a template to work with, “My Room and Other Places” is a helpful reference point. If we are to make comparisons in musical terms, Moore’s project would be an E.P, one worth listening to, and ultimately, one that modern day poets can take cues from.
(For a playback of the full compilation, click here)