Title: Clinical Blues
Author: Dami Ajayi
Reviewer: Salawu Olajide
THE POET AND HIS PATIENT: A REVIEW OF DAMI AJAYI’S CLINICAL BLUES
One can begin with notch of the two-word title that Dami Ajayi has chosen for this seminal gang of poems, ‘Clinical Blues’. The poet has prepared poetry as the lab where medical science and music are titrated and adulterated. But then, love and sex are also apparently inside the test tubes. Dami Ajayi has carefully made a remove of himself from mundane discourses of literature viz: politics, history, or culture. The unfailing uniqueness of Dami Ajayi in experimenting with issues of sex, love, alcohol, modernity gives one another new crave of other subsets of discourses that are obtainable within the discourses of poetry. The poet, just like the string of guitar, is constantly pulled to observe humanity from poetic lens applying music, sex, love, betrayal, modernism, internet as they are not infrequent in his poems. One cannot escape the heavy stench of maladies that are monstrously crippling the society though in this bond of classic write.
It was one of those sunny afternoons listening to Dami Ajayi in a monthly seminar organised
by Prof. Gbemisola Adeoti, the edition held at Pit Theatre, Department of Dramatic Art,
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria I came in face with this genius.. Dami Ajayi is a troll in Nigerian poetry. He came to present a poem and did a little talk. He came with such fizzy exuberance. And now, CB is a classical album that does not derail but resonate with everyday inflection.
And in the words of Ayodele Arigbabu, this is a classic document, a work running the risk of ‘being labelled a classic’. Of course, the Damisque voice in the collection is that of a bard who has come with scalpel to dissect clinically, the soft body of poetry. Applying the inky balm where necessary. He is the physician who has the arch balance with his patient—the reader. He has come to employ the science of his words to fix and heal the wounds of illusion on the sin qua non, not only in the heavily laden Latinate jargons but also colloquial letters.
The collection is a bundle of poems meticulously fragmented into three parts. The first phase of the poems tagged, ‘Love Poems’ is an intellectual dig into the discourse of love. In our first encounter captioned, “Promenade”, the persona is in conflicts with all the shenanigans of love. Speaking matter-of-factly, the poet throws us into the pit of oxymoron, an expose of love complexity and contradiction in the first line: “The deviant puppet....” This is a snap phrase which gives us visual imagery of puppet an object of control, always pliable but in this case, the reserve is in scene. This line further fuels the explanation of domineering issue in love and relationship. Other notations of love include fate, fear, timidity, anxiety, and surrounding attitudes as the persona illuminates:
I am scared to
I love you too
I am too used to
Playing Swain that
These words I recount
Dami has impatiently given us the balancing effects of music and poems to discourse of love and life. The two now becomes weaponry fondly employed in life for any resolve. It is a way to gain subservience and make ‘slave’ of the soul. And it seems the persona of the poet has committed the act before throwing us a poser in Sub-section IV of Love Poems.
In the midst of this, Dami pushes us into another phase of issues attached to love, affection, and life in, ‘Meeting Me Halfway’, ‘Nashville Postcard’. We are taxi-ed through different intricacies of love how to win affection, the pain, and triumphs. After all, ‘Love Songs’ is an muiscal eulogy, ululation, missile to capture the recalcitrant lover.
The poem links up inextricably to sex in ‘Konji Blues’, ‘Domesticated Couplets’—as the metaphor of ‘back’ spins up the utility of your spine, the only thing that makes sex happen, speaking of which is not absented in ‘Love In Bermuda’ also. We can also scroll down to headiness, divorce, and disappoint: measures which Dami unravels and ends with ‘Ode To Juliet’.
So the reader being under the risk of scathing jargon of medical language walks into ‘Hospital Poems’ like that. It is a way the poet savours how the medical proffer solutions to human puzzlement in general. Dami stretches this explanation on how trammelled humans are in the medical even when the obscure fill the scene: ‘Sometimes later you will/ Returen to this/Antiseptic corridors....’ CB is a bloom of medical imagery strewn across all human conditions or circumstances. It is a plausible account of the persona as he unmasks realities around life. Of course, Dami heats up this by showcasing even the sheer flaws that bedevil the academic, humanity, and medical profession. He is nimble to say:
At the sitting of grey
Obstetricians and medical students
Who warms his bed and beer table.
The persona turned physician tells us of his encounters in his medical science. We are made familiar to see the sad facts of human nature, impairment, dangers, welfare versus the clinical. In sub-section II, Dami makes it obvious how perfection of even the specialist cannot outflank human nature:
I know the clinical meetings
Not where doctors wage
Wars against themselves with Literature
But where diseases wield
Their many forms in a game
Of hide and sick.
Then, we are able to finger illusion of life in, ‘If Tomorrow Comes’. The persona presents us the dire of all answers concerning the-much-sought-after future and inability to know what it holds. Through this, we are played through the dark humour of ineluctable nature of death, infirmity, and inability to rescue humanity out of its flaws as the section fades in on, ‘Requiem For A Young Hypertensive’ and ‘Requiem For An Asphyxiated Neonate’. There is also reverberation of Dami’s experiences as a student where he wants to keep up with his personal challenges and that of ‘Lagenbeck’s Anatomy’.
‘Barroom Reflection’ completes the trinity of the volume. It is a bust into music and hard lines of life. ‘Libretto For Fela’ is a fold of musical parlance used in lampooning the society, as fracas of disunity is explored in ‘Everything Scatter’; not only that but overpowering relevance of Afrobeat music as different from other types of music. ‘Zombie’ x-rays the historical fabric of military oppressive rule over the hapless civilians. Much more, it is a blunt approach how life issues are perceived through the poems. The poet’s persona goes on to satirise societal malaise in ‘Look and Laugh’, ‘Shuffering And Shmiling’ as the complacency of the masses is challenged, and thus their hibernation in the face of tyranny. ‘New Buka’ is a haven and centre of escapism for the persona’s life. The affinity of the persona is that of umbilical link. Among these, we have collage of issues that rear up along other poems as sorrow, penury, and all shades of miseries are kindled in, ‘House of Hunger, Revisited’. Dami does not exclude anybody but universalises this through the lines thus:
We’ve all passed by it
At some time. Either as lodgers
Or janitors and tourists
Hardship in life makes no exemption. The persona elucidates through the lines that everyone is in confines of this: ‘We are all victims....’ A quick recount of history is made in both ‘Celluloid’ and ‘Bouazizi’s Ashes’. Dami wings in on memories that cannot be forgotten June 12 and the ubiquitous death of Bouazizi which sparked the viral revolution of Arab Spring.
The persona plugs into his own personality, his looms of experiences of the city, what it means to him. The discourse of alienation, and who-knows-who in the city is also refracted: ‘Personalities are buried/ In the earth of anonymity,/ Swallow unmarked graves’. The fears, failures, hope, and fraud of life T S Eliot’s Wasteland and modernist literature brings on Dami as the new Eliot. It is also a thick demonstration of intertextuality. Dami Ajayi himself taps into modernism adequately. And thus, the personal leads us to where the stream has ended: ‘Diagnosis’ and ‘Amnesia’. But we should not also forget we have a cyber existence in ‘Calling Credits’.
Dami ajayi has painstakingly organised violence through the harmony of his verses. It is same thing to say that CB contains letters which have come out to express themselves to us regardless of the poet himself. CB is an evergreen album that streaks of humanity all over it.