ojo taije

“Apocalypse is too Greek a word”

3 poems from the periphery by Nigerian poet Ojo Taiye

Soaring temperatures. Polluted waters. Abandoned villages. Dying forests. No birdsong. Moonscapes. And hope. Nigerian artist Ojo Taiye captures the destruction of the natural world in poetry

2021 was a good year for Ojo Taiye. The Nigerian artist won the Hay Writers’ Circle Poetry Competition and Cathalbui Poetry Competition in Ireland. But with climate change making itself felt in his hometown of Kaduna, a dwindling future poses urgent questions about faith in a burning world. For TOPIA Season 01: THE BIG BANG, TOPIA asked the young poet about writing his frustration with society, as he shares three poems that confront the climate crisis from the frontlines – and then tells us about four Nigerian poets we need to know. 

— Letters from the periphery

there is a fire at the edge of my heart—
in the still hour before a world is drawn 
I write I read I write I breathe I god this body 
I can’t write poems about beauty when the land 
is so eerie, burned & blackened, deaden by flame 
& ash. when I think of NSW, I think of moonscapes. 
I think of the wallaby & her tiny joey who kept coming 
to the backyard’s glut of dark pines, feeding, nuzzling 
& watching over the valley. had they survived? 
this world folds me in half— I stand alone amongst 
these ruins. what does it take to pull an emergency break? 
in college, we were told to prepare for the coming devastation. 
apocalypse is too greek a word for the burning river to come. 
its forty-seven degrees in December & the wool from my eyes 
cake into landmines. I listened to the radio & watched blackened 
leaves fall from the sky. its stunning how much life there has to be 
before you can think of home as a map unfolding— the many years 
of wonder stuffed with occasional handful of notes: 
summer + drought + lightning + arson = fire season. 

— Climate Damages

how horrible & possible it is here. 
there is no poetry in drought— 
here the earth will always be flame. 
the trees nailed to the narrative 
of a prolonged heatwave. 
slow jet stream—hanging from the air 
with the bluntest gum in its throat. 
the fire season growing even wilder 
on the forest floors down the coast. 
do you see? dead storks and a flaming 
debris raining down on the village. 
it was reported that not even one firefighting 
plane was sent. a howl at the pine cones 
& the beehives that might at any point fall 
on our heads. still under the red glow 
of an orange sky and something that someone 
mumbled nightmarish summer. in the dark times 
of climate anxieties, will there also be garlic 
cloves? in the dark times of climate anxieties, 
will there also be singing?

— Disaster Film

there is no poetry in a flaming 
world. there is no poetry in historic 
nightmares. in the raging fire, there 
is no poetry. welcome to the future. 
here, there are no epiphanies— 
only long nights and a hollow heat 
wave that will never matter— I mean 
poor countries waiting for a salvation 
that will never come. what did we learn? 
did home become better? in the substantive 
ferocity of the devastation, we lost our 
namesmy mother’s green lungs and clear 
streams. in the case of flash floods and 
tearful survivors: watch out, all climate 
refugees are black (as usual). the trunks 
of mangled trees still smolders. there 
is no spotter plane that tutelage us— 
we are all abandoned like hive boxes 
in an empty field. so much kindling on 
the forest floors. well, the crises seem 
tragic and in one unbroken chain. miles 
away from home, I still see an opaque 
wall of haze over the sea.

What’s so good about this?

Poetry can help us make sense of the world. As a conduit for self-expression, it helps us to explore and understand ourselves – and the world in which we live. Poetry affords us the opportunity to imagine the pains and pleasures of others. Its intimacy of tone can make us look slowly, and embody an experience. Plus, it equips us with metaphors to understand what we cannot articulate directly. 

Meet the writer

Ojo Taiye is a young emerging artist who uses poetry as a handy tool to hide his frustration with society. He also makes use of collage and sample technique. He is the winner of many prestigious awards including the 2021 Hay Writer’s Circle Poetry Competition and 2021 Cathalbui Poetry Competition, Ireland.

You can support Ojo by reading and sharing his work.

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