Book Title: Meditations (The Poems of Soji Simpson)
Compilation and Annotation: Femi Simpson
Publisher: Diamond Publications Limited
Year of publication: 2017
Reviewer: Adeniyi Taiwo Kunnu
On August 8, 1974, Soji Simpson walked away from an evening play rehearsal on Nathan Street in Surulere, Lagos, and has not been found to this day; except of course that he is still with us in words. It is immensely a desideratum to state, that words, which are predecessors of all that was created corroborate itself in the works of the author. Soji may not be physically present, but he leaves an evident part of himself with us, as such our gratitude to the heavens.
Two decades and half is the stretch of time it took Femi Simpson – the younger brother of the disappeared author – to compile this work and set its annotation right. The author, a remarkable young man, whose entire recitation of Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’, on the night of his King’s College Initiation in 1960 remains fresh in the memory of his living contemporaries.
These poems, spread over 10 divisions and 73 titles, reflecting a journey through the different stages of the author’s life, as much as reflections into the larger society in which he lived, while allowing immense room for deep cogitations about life’s vicissitudes. Again, would it be right to say the author had a premonition about his departure from which he would not return? Snippets from this work would make it better understood.
‘In Acrostic’ and ‘Alma Mater’, the poet eulogises the institutions he attended, crediting both Baptist Academy and King’s College for the kinds of students churned out, owing to the values the schools hold aloft. For Baptist Academy he writes: “Baptacad the Noble School over a Century old / A pyramid of liberal education training the bold”
Of King’s College read thus: “… Predecessors are peeping / Through your very windows / Mindful of your reputation / And Intrinsic greatness”
These are unarguable encomiums to the educational institutions that did shape the poet.
Furthermore, the second segment entitled Ballads have twenty seven titles such as Au Lecturer, Too Late , Let me Writhe in Agony amongst others. Ballads are poems or songs narrating a story in short stanzas. Traditional ballads are typically of unknown authorship, having been passed on orally from one generation to the next, but basically the stories get told, while listeners or readers sail with the winds of pleasurable creativity.
The third segment entitled the Cinquain and Limerick has a single poem of five lines, but its length does not subtract from its terseness.
Entitled, “Handle These Lines With Care”… Stay! / Handle these lines with care / And never me deride / Travel slowly from line to line / May you find pleasure here!
Colonialism is the title of the fourth segment with only two poems viz: “Ogbuefi” and “Nigerianisation”. The depiction of courage and a call to what is home grown could not be faulted. The bravery with which the country’s nationalist battled and the re-conscienisation of Nigerians to realize the country-given destinies are very important deductions from these pieces of poetry.
Desolation and Melancholy being the title of the fifth chapter takes readers on a journey of reflections and shocking also, a seeming prophecy of the poet’s sudden disappearance. Although Soji Simpson disappeared as it were on the night of 1974, his disappearance can be akin to death as death and not being seen are both grave losses. In one of the poems in this chapter, the poet writes:
“It’s better to die in the prime of life.
When all will feel your loss and mourn your death / Than to live a ripe old age and lose / Your reputation, beauty and wealth…”
Elegy on Evyln Abiodun Black-Duke is also significant because of the person for whom it was written. EvlynAbiodun examined the same poem for the author between 27th March and 7th April, 1962 but left earth on the 22nd of April of the same year. This is indeed another expression of painful creativity.
Lyric follows and one heaves a sigh of relief from the heaviness of the previous two. From ‘The Key of Success’, ‘Down Along the Marina’, ‘Rose at Sun Down’, ‘The Twin City’ and other titles, nature and humanity get doses of appealing depictions. Life they say is a coin with two different sides, and these poems do attest to it.
Odes, Sonnet and The Philomena Poems round off the eighth, ninth and tenth chapters of this work. It is then of note, that while one concentrates on and showers encomiums on Soji Simpson the author. It is equally proper to let Femi Simpson – Soji’s younger sibling- share the accolade, for the fact that he took painstaking twenty five years in seeing that, the memory of the one who walked into the unknown remain fresh as when he was here with us.
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