In Bomblast or Breakfast, J.O.J Nwachukwu-Agbada bites deep, with the teeth of an ancient bard, into past and present wars in this cataclysmic space where mankind found, but has failed to find himself. Bomblast or Breakfast was culled in a war lab, where the poet fingered the exigencies of; “tall and short wars”. Obviously disturbed by the seeming irrepressible unrests all over the universe. Agbada, with his lab coat on, drags the whole globe to war and begins dissecting with his poeti-cal tools. To achieve this, the poet provides forty-one (41) unsettling poems aptly divided into eight (8) sections, each comprising closely knit subject matters, culminating into a total of one hundred and nineteen (119) pages.
The first section; ‘Introit’ contains six poems with “Ode to War” being the very first poem that recognizes war as man’s fastest means of self destruction, yet, a profitable business for its merchants. The poet, in a grand but somber satire, ‘salutes’ those whose pockets drool with bloody coins when the world is on fire; men who are unnerved and restless when the world is at peace:
To those who smitten by fun spoil for war
Who triumph only when others swoon
They who plot their plunder in wound
I offer this slice of ode doled to war (3)
The poet contends that man’s inclination to materialism, despite its means, is the reason why war may never stop, as there are brainless beasts whose only preoccupation is the supply of arms or mercenaries or the provision of territorial alliance in order to stay glued to the top of the food chain.
In the poem “Rumors of War”, the poet paints an ugly situation of a people so used to war that they now abhor peace. A period of lengthy silence unsettles these lots, who, when there is no war, they begin to monger for it. The poet cautions that “rumors of war torture like war’’, hence the need to stop wishing for it or heating up emotions that could result to war, for “If we swallow wooden pestles/ won’t we perpetually stand erect?” (6). In so many instances, J.O.J Nwachukwu Agbada refers to man’s penchant for hatred as one of the major routes to the battlefield, especially in politically evolving Africa where cunning politicians use the poor followers to police their tribal prejudices and while these poor fellows are busy killing themselves, the politicians are behind the scene, purloining the people’s wealth. However, with biblical allusion, the poet assures that, like Paul “On the Road to Damascus”, “the advocates of hate in haste/ shall be converted” (12).
The poet also makes out time to pay homage to his kindred spirits who were victims of various kinds of wars- from Christopher Okigbo who died in the Nigeria/Biafra civil war to Ken Saro Wiwa who was hanged by the Abacha’s regime to his bosom friend, Ezenwa-Ohaeto, the remarkable poet who fell, in a cancerous battle. Reference was also made to the Biafra war itself, which, undoubtedly, the poet witnessed. A remarkable strength of the poems in that section titled “Biafra Testament” is that they are devoid of bitterness, a trait to be found in most post war literatures from the Biafran’s perspective. The poet, a chief humourist, brings his satirical energy to bear on almost all the poems, especially the serious ones that could make one cry, so you end up laughing in order not to cry, yet not missing the lesson to be learnt.
“Family Fisticuffs”, a poem on a different kind of war, a polygamous war, heralds the climax of Agbada’s enviable sense of humour. Those that have personally encountered the poet are quick to note this glaring attribute. Having encountered him, as my lecturer, in the classroom for three semesters in my undergraduate days, reading “Family Fisticuffs” and some other poems in this collection made me scream “quintessential Agbada”. The comic ease with which he handled the bitter experience of a polygamous war veteran in the hands of his wife and child is a testimony to his mastery of satire and its subsequent appropriation from the real life into literature.
The poet makes good and conscious use of onomatopoeia, simile, metaphor, personification, assonance, alliteration, oxymoron, synecdoche, sarcasm, irony, pun etc, as ingredients for the preparation of this delicious poetic meal. Style wise, Agbada has come to be associated with verbal playfulness (I have in mind here, the inflection in the poet’s spelling of Bomblast which when hyphenated as Bom-blast could also mean fart) and an unrelenting sarcasm in rendering his bias and artistic sentiments and this collection is highly reminiscent of those stylistic hallmarks. A seasoned researcher in African Oral heritage, Agbada brings his Igbo oral disposition to bear in the work. Igbo idioms, proverbs and other forms of linguistic mannerisms were deftly employed in most of the poems. The poet’s love for orality is inherent in some poems that are rendered in the story telling form. One can only marvel at how the poet is able to pull off such style without making the particular poems clumsy in any way. Due attention was also paid to rhymes and rhythms, making some of the poems read like music.
Bomblast or Breakfast is undoubtedly a chronicling of the catastrophic nature of war. Treating, as it were, issues of war-scheming, war-mongering, child soldering, economic sabotage, wastage of human resources, misapplication of technological innovations, religious and tribal bigotry and fanaticism, slavery, colonialism, imperialism, post-colonialism, military dictatorship, global warming and all. On the flipside, the poet also beams his poetic searchlight on minor issues as polygamy, the troubles of a rickety car on our hellish roads captured in “Car War”, and the issue of “Coccidiosis, War of the Wryneck” a sort of ailment that befall chickens and puts them at war with their necks, popularly known in the poet’s Igbo parlance as Ogbulorie. All these form the nucleus of worry in the poet’s society which he is duty bound to lament about, but far be it that the poet is lamenting, his relaxed tone, though sometimes sober, betrays lamentation. Despite the gloomy picture painted by the worrisome situations, the poet is still hopeful that one day, Africa, and indeed the world, will rise to its full potentials. This he enumerates in “African Spring” where he shows a great reserve of hope somewhere in the African space. According to the poet:
shall spring up in synch
with such a sauntering swing…
then our fear-and-tear terrain
shall give way
for a free-and-fair domain. (121)
Bomblast or Breakfast is a most precious offering from an old, practiced hand. It is an important collection that encapsulates our collective dreams for freedom, progress and peaceful coexistence. It highlights the many faceted ills bedeviling a society with potentials for everything beautiful. It is a question posed on the world’s “prevailing preference of war to peace and order, its fondness for the amassing of war arsenal while neglecting the poor and the things that sustain life”, hence the question, Bomblast or Breakfast?
About the author
Brief Bio of Reviewer:
Ifesinachi Johnpaul Nwadike, poet, playwright, novelist and rapper is currently completing his Masters Degree program in African/Black Diaspora Literature at the prestigious University of Ibadan. He lives everywhere