Poem 1, On Loving A Stranger, is written by Wisdom Otikor while Poem 2, How To Paint A Frozen Muse, is written by Pelumi Salako.
Both titles, in my opinion are too explicit, in the process taking away the surprise factor. ‘On loving a stranger’ would eventually throw you off track when you start reading but ‘how to paint a frozen muse’ is an unmasked indication of the subject at hand. However, Poem 2 still have the slight edge with the creativity of painting a muse albeit a frozen one.
Both poets presented their works in simple diction devoid of errors. While Wisdom towed the spiritual path and took on the persona of a god and lover, Salako preferred to explore nature while silently observing a bard struggling with inspiration. Their words were easy to relate with and aptly paints a clear picture of what is intended.
Structurally, Poem 1 flows like an escalator, systematically going from being a frustrated lover to a struggling god and finally to a bard who abhors silence. Then the remaining verses weave the three persona into one strand. Poem 2 seems more straight forward and there seem to be no effort at any elaborate structure. The first verse could have been broken into two; the introduction (of caged birds and memories) should have been allowed to breathe with a break of verse before introducing the writer staring at empty lines.
The opening lines of poem 2 got me at the third reading “caged birds visit their memories of freedom and merry”. I believe this to be the best part of the poem – the symbolism is ecstatic! There has been a handicap, the muse has disappeared but the writer reminisces on those times when he enjoyed the bliss of thoughts and the freedom of expression. Yet the opening lines of Poem 1 is as well metaphorically rich. He sets a table for his lover, his muse but absence greets him at the door. Both poems evoke emotions that are real. The poets employ vivid imagery through out their verses.
The beauty of Poem 1 is in its abstract nature. He speaks of a conjuring…offering and resurrection. He did not for once speak of a muse or inspiration. Yes, he speaks of a lover who is a stranger; he seems to be familiar with the epileptic nature of his source of inspiration. (Sometimes it is like an ocean). His closing line perfectly completes a story he started with his opening line; he is still seated alone at a table meant for two!
Poem 2 did not bother to mask the subject of his work. He sees a confident writer who is familiar with the temporary set back of a missing muse. It’s like a mother hen waiting for the eggs to hatch…she patiently sits because she knows they would hatch! The muse is asleep he says, and exploring the dream land; it is bound to wake with pregnant tales.
Kudos to both poets. It was an interesting duel. We drank from deep gourds. Keep the ink flowing.
The winner (strictly from the votes) is Pelumi Salako with Poem 2. He takes 7 votes out of the total 11 votes (9 votes on Facebook and 2 in the comment section of the blog). Thanks to all who voted. If I wasn’t moderating, I would have gone for Poem 1 but it still wouldn’t have changed the outcome.
You can read the two poems here