Amidst a gloomy climate, Bassey sees the invisible

A review of Dr Nnimmo Bassey’s poetry compilation, ‘I See the Invisible’ by Betty Abah.

IT is good to start on an exciting assertion, as exciting as its yellowish cover, that ‘I See the Invisible,’ a collection of poems by globally renowned environmental activist and writer, Dr Nnimmo Bassey, is by far his best poetry collection. And it is his seventh, by the way.

It is a known fact that not too many people fancy poetry because of the obscurantist tendencies of most poets but this is a book that would hold you spell-bound be you a poetry lover or just a random reader in an impatient world.

This is due to the freshness of ideas, the authenticity of the issues, the simple yet creative lines and sheer melody of the entire presentation in Dr Bassey’s latest literary offering. They are not only poetry lines, the lyrics can be put into danceable and unforgettable music– a genre of music that probes the human condition, questions and demands accountability of the powers that be with every dance step.

As with previous collections, the poems in ‘I See The Invisible’ are a meditative and creative documentation of the views of an activist, a non-violent and sometimes angry yet subdued commentator on the violent crushing of the environment and the equally crushing effects on its people’s lives and livelihoods-from the Niger Delta to the far-flung regions of the world where minerals resources which should normally bring about riches and elevation to the communities under which they are found have generally become a harbinger of death and destruction. Naturally, fossil fuel extractivism which has been his main preoccupation in over three decades of relentless activism are the dominant themes of most of the 133 poems in the book.

In addition are poetic thoughts on food sovereignty (food rights), another activism passion of the poet and other issues bothering on gratitude, love and sheer admiration of mother nature.

Divided into six parts and published by Daraja Press, Canada, the various subsections in the collection are: “Our Soul”, “Our Inspiration’, “Our Sight’, Our Fight”, “Our Time” and “Our Mind”.

“Mother Earth, Our Teacher” headlines the collection under the very first section namely ‘Our Soul’

The poem opens with the gripping lines of the despoliation of nature by the extractive industry thus:

Schooled by Nature

I understood the pains of motherhood

Painful sights under flailing limbs

Logs in batteries floating upstream

The swinging axe of fellows addicted to capital

Spares not the iroko or the mahogany or the unwary squirrels.

In the poem, ‘Scarified and Sacrifice,” the poet continues to lament the pains of fossil fuel extraction, a regrettable lamentation which victimised locals in oil-rich communities can easily identify with.

Yet the most poignant poem in the collection is equally the title poem,

“I See The Invisible’:

I see the invisible

I hear the invisible

I feel the intangible

I’m everywhere in no time

Floating on memories of strained futures

Aloft on lofty hopes

Sliding on rugged dreams in truncated nights

I see the invisible

I hear the invisible

I feel the intangible

Eyes on the past we see the future

We have never been closer now we are apart

Finally, nature’s tiny beings shake sleep away

We are relatives and can have a good day

If we don’t scoff and cough in each other’s face.

In so many ways, the poetry book and the poet himself embody hope for a desecrated land. Not only is he a voice crying in the wilderness like the Biblical John the Baptist, decrying the environmental and human injustice perpetrated in Nigeria and across the world where he has become a major force to reckon with, he is also a voice for hope. He symbolises the fact that the oppressors cannot get perennially away without being questioned and brought to book by the sons and daughters of the land with the help of education and activism, the empowerment which they bring to illuminating others through books such as this and community engagements such as the one we are holding today.

Though starting on an angry note, it is calming that the poet yet “Sees the Invisible”. And hope keeps dreams and aspirations alive; the hope for a sane and livable environment not only in Nigeria but in every corner of the world where corporate powers and greedy anti-people governments hold humanity hostage particularly the poor and powerless of the planet.

There is no faulting this attractive book in anyway. It is an excellent production, as excellent as the mind behind it.

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