Book: No Home In This Land
Publisher: Akashic Books
Author: Rasaq Malik
Reviewer: Busayo Olatunde
Pages: 32 pages
First published: 2018
At a time when pseudo-patriotism, hypocritical sympathy, majestic indifference and communal hatred are gaining currency in Nigeria, Rasaq Malik dared to be different as he makes himself available as a well-meaning agent of revolutionary agent to liquidate the unjust authority of man inhumanity to man that characterized the Nigerian society as he takes it upon himself through this collection to carry the heavyweight burden of grief, empathy, and mournfulness vis-à-vis the gruesome killings that were carried out by the marauding beasts ( Boko Haram) in Maiduguri. One cannot help but to admire the selflessness, supreme patriotism, ubiquitous and omnipresent qualities of the poet. This brings to prominence the imperatives of distinguishing between the study of the empirical person who wrote the poems and the undeniable personality present in the poems which makes them recognizable as written by the same person. While we nurture a grave as haven, while we celebrate the untimely death of our loved ones, while conspiracy is being christened unity, while we are hiding the bitter pills of our realities, Rasaq Malik decides to bring to our sense of awareness his superior concerns about the status quo through his debut. His themes constitute and reflect an expression of worrisomeness and wearisomeness. This is situated in the tonality and depressing images that are deployed in the poems.
The title poem (“NO HOME IN THIS LAND”) sentences an inquisitive mind into another gaol of inquisitiveness through careful and profound use of the demonstrative pronoun “THIS’’. The linguistic item “this” throws an implied reader into scientific questionings, motivated thoughts and unmotivated conclusions. The desire to wanting to know the land that lacks the qualities of a home becomes inevitable. The supremacy of the tearful images deployed in the poem, the sardonic but edible language of the poem, and the authorial solemn declaration of the titled poem forces one into borrowing some tips from the background of the poet by deconstructing the text with the aim to knowing the constructive formations of the whole universe of the text.
To this end, despite the accidental musicality of the lines (reoccurrence of the consonantal sounds /b/ and / d/), the tragic descriptive tone in the poem suppresses its musicality; which brings to fore the fact that the victims of this menace are currently living under pretentious happiness and it thereby renews our awareness of the pensive atmosphere that pervades the universe of the poem. Although the opening poem “Dedication” masquerades as a mere acknowledgment but in its universal content and contextual unity, it is a poetic prologue to the narratives of tragedies that are crafted in the succeeding pages. The second poem “Leaving Home” takes us to an unavoidable mental trip alongside controversial images that compel one into realizing the homelessness of some Nigerians in their homes and the incurable mental torture. The poem foregrounds the dilemma of being in two difficult situations. A situation which Kofi Awoonor would eloquently described as a state where returning is not possible and going forward is a great difficulty.
On the train we say goodbye to our moribund homeland
o friends who don’t know how to end grief, to friends who search
for what remains of everything that is no longer home
In poem number thirteen of the text, “HOW TO WORSHIP ALLAH” the attention of the poet shifts to the aetiologicality of the hullaballoo that governs the city of Borno and the sense-free excuses it gives. The poem provides a clear, direct, and self-involving expository explanations on how best to worship “Allah” (the word “Allah” means God in the Islamic circle) and it would be recalled that the terrorist group, “Bokoharam” claims that all their activities are geared towards the service of Allah (God). In their own calculations, they conclude that after their sojourn on mother earth that God would compensate them with specified numbers of virgin as a reward for all the atrocities they committed while alive. The poem duplicates successfully the interpretative disagreement that exists between the “Bokoharam” terrorists and other well-meaning Islamic faithful’s as regards the instructive messages of the holy Quran. The poem underscores and explores the symbiotic relationship between the imagined and the real, between the world of ignorance and that of deliberate withdrawal from reality.
…This is how to worship Allah without fear,
how we supplicate to Him without burning
churches, without bombing houses, without
desecrating the holy Qur’an , without leaving
towns and cities as ashes washed away by
the flood of tears . This is how we worship
Allah without converting the earth into a
The underpinning authorial tone in the poem frowns at the excessive misinterpretation of the Holy Qur’an and this makes one to beginning to wonder if the poet is a practicing Muslim.
However, poem number fifteen, “SOMEDAY I WILL BE NO MORE” accounts for the inevitability of death irrespective of its unmotivated urgency and the bad omen of the inanity of life. The poem calls our attention to the dual complexities of the irrationality of the human world, the stream of existential revolt which was borne out of a moment of epiphany, absurdities in its metaphysical tension and the reality of the permanence of death which incubates on the ontological assertion that human beings are cosmic accident. Permit me to quote in length-
…Someday I will
be no more and this house will remain unoccupied,
a heritage left untouched except by the inevitable
presence of dead silence , by the cracks invented
by time, by rust created by sun. Someday I
will leave and never return to sit on those sofas,
to watch the TV and giggle, to dine on this table ,
In conclusion, the remaining poems are powerful and laced with memorable images. In fact, they are too hot to handle. One unique thing about the text is its “three unities” the unity of structure, contents and context. The accuracy in the deployed images, lucid and accessible language, its poetic holiness, hybridity of the poetry (combining western and indigenous techniques and styles as there is no how an indigenous African writer can totally alienate himself from the African oral and narrative tradition) and the literariness of the text, brings to fore, the argument and position of Biodun Jeyifo on literariness of a text as a phenomenon that invests literary works with significance value or permanence. I must say in all eloquence that this collection is one of the best contemporary African poems. No wonder why it earns for itself a deserved place in Brunel 2017 shortlisted poems. The text fits in among works of great literary merit and if there is anything that is called poetic investigative journalism, this text is an exceptional example; one that deserves to be in all the reputable libraries and bookshops around the world. If you must know little things that exist among the many things of life then you cannot afford not to read this book.