Clinical Blues… The Musicality Of Clinical ‘Poetscriptions’
FROM being shortlisted for two prizes; the 2012 Melita Hume Poetry Prize and 2012 Erbacce Poetry Prize in its manuscript form, Clinical Blues (WriteHouse, Ibadan; 2014) has increased in its acclaim of being a good debut collection of poetry serenading readers far and wide. The book which may be seen as a poetic-memoiristic portrayal of the poet’s experiences, as a doctor-in-training has many of the poems in the book written in the first person.
Clinical Blues is divided into three sections; ‘Love Poems’, ‘Hospital Poems’ and ‘Barroom Reflections’. These sections are the vista, through which the poet re-invents medical jargons into literary language that traps readers into a lyricism, where themes explore the socio-political and the personal.
The poet is obviously a music enthusiast, and from the very first poem, ‘Promenade’, he speaks of highlife—mentioning the connoisseur, Olaiya, and the dub poet, Beau Sia. The poet’s language, disruption of form and attempt towards it, are inspired by an unhidden love for music. Even where the structures are inspired by older poets, as in the case of Love Songs I, III, VII, IX, and XI, which have the TS Eliot charm. The poems nevertheless, are not to be pushed aside. They blatantly announce themselves as compositions that enjoy intricate musicality. In Love Songs XI, the poet writes: ‘Floatsam, jetsam, or just plain Sam/I will answer your call. It registers. The flow of these poems lingers even in the mind of its readers, as there is an obvious attempt to sing words into conformity.
Some of the poems in the collection are titled after musical compositions; like ‘A Libretto for Fela’, ‘Symphonies of a Major City’, ‘Requiem for an Asphyxiated Neonate’, ‘Requiem of a Young Hypertensive’, ‘Ode to Juliet’ and Kongi Blues I and II. Perhaps, because there is some ‘modelling’ towards music, the poems in the collection resonate as subtle even when expressing emotions that are emphatic. In, ‘Love in Alcohol’, the poet writes: I feel like a poem/Like love in alcohol/Who needs other drugs?/Hippocrates behind me/There’s a whole long way to go/The future is shaped like a testicle.
Several of the poems have warmness in its use of placing the traditional beside the new—enforcing slangs into a formality only a good poet can achieve.
In the poem, ‘Clinical Blues’, where the book derives its name, the poet indeed becomes ‘clinical’. His objective stance to explore into the recess of his experiences is best relayed here. Convolving medical terms into a means to explore distrust, grief, pain, anger, shock and even anxieties, we are led into a poetry that enthrals. Although, we may come to points where the poet becomes entangled in the chunkiness of his profession’s jargons, the reader can always forgive him for his wit, and turn of phrases.
The actual success of this collection is in many instances. It goes beyond its fullness in the development of themes that resonates from one to another, but more about its ability to make a success of poetry which becomes music on page: bringing coherence and fluidity that makes poetry a normalcy. Mindless of the abode of dictionary demanding words, you will read Ajayi, and feel medical terms are is regular lexis.