After the unseen colours of vanishing: A review of Memory and the Call of Waters by Su’eddie Vershima Agema | Umar Yogiza Jr

Envy much of Su’eddie Vershima works when I read Bring our casket home: Tales one shouldn’t tell and Home Equals Holes: Tale of an Exile, (both published by Sevhage). Su’eddie’s poetry is like a staircase, each collection is a step upward. He writes with plain and realistic sincerity: the poetic dialect of ordinary people rather than poets. Bring our casket home: Tales one shouldn’t tell was Longlisted for the ANA Prize for Poetry 2012 and Saraba/PEN Nigeria Poetry Prize 2013 and Home Equals Holes: Tale of an Exile, Win ANA Prize for Poetry 2014 and shortlisted, Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature 2018.

Su’eddie poems commands more than reverence, it speaks to the core of someone personally mindless of one’s identity. I don’t know when I was arrested by his authority to articulate multiple memories into a chain to my wrists. Su’eddie’s veneration in the community of writers is not about his multiple prizes. He never saw poetry or Literature as mask that interrogates our well-being, rather, mindless of the risk of telling without filter, he saw himself, his face and his name as the sincere interrogator of our imbalance reality.

He sits as water of river Benue and the landscape besides each of his poems as dispassionate guardian in the rural farmland of Gboko or Agatu, Jos, Taraba, Nasarawa or Maiduguri, Katsina, Imo, creek of Niger Delta, or in-between Kaduna-Abuja and Jos roads. The task of locating the painful abandoned, the imprisoned and the spoiled in the memory is never an easy task. Throughout this task Su’eddie’s voice remains clear as thunder; his mastery of the tales of unsayable has no room for mistake. He neglects all the temptation of poetic shortcuts. Su’eddi doesn’t let any memory die unseen, every memory deserved equal treatment.

Memory and the Call of Waters is his third known collection and the opening started with Building Memories “I build memory/one block tenderly placed on another/of love and disaster; right steps and wrong songs/time cementing each with sorrows savoured, lessons learnt.” and he continues: “Slowly, materials disintegrate/shattering what was once me./The years wither to dust/and I am left to start building afresh/lost in the sands that have become my now.” Su’eddie Vershima mastered the art of shrinking, expanding and ending a poem in didactic admiration.

Each poem that dipped you down in the Memory and the Call of Waters had another poem bigger after it. The explicit of the poems and how they transport important message to the brain had no equal anywhere– the knowledge of the poet to know the zenith of expression and the simplicity of impacting. The Genesis of Belief is explosion after explosion: II “I shall write my heart on your stomach/Carving my pain in the fluid loss if your expanse” “I hear the voice above the watersand I see a dove descending/Not after baptism but after my several murder:/This is my beloved sin in whom I am well pleased/I save Gaea as I cleanse the land of the filth if a lot of growing fat on fear.”

Memory and the Call of Waters is a book garnished with careful selected importance happenings in the making of Nigeria and black Africa. In Nightmares Raised, On the fringes of nightmares, they endure pain […] He writes how “Our giant eagle looks downs, aging in despair…/The horses are slowly commandeered by leaders who convert them to polo./A vulture waits in the offing to replace the balding eagle while hyena prowl./Wake up! Su’eddie writes about the poison, the poisoned and the neglected remedy, and continues: “In the ashes of fallen fathers, twenty children rise, /waiting to be dropped by shots that should have saved them/martyrs robed as rebels by powers that be in the Arsehole Rocks”.

Su’eddie’s exploration of the mine of memory settles into a benediction that couldn’t come at a better time than now. Each poem in this book is flooded with rewards and wealth for interpretation– shifting from one memory to another, yet going as a single bullet. He quickens the life that hanged between living and dying: “and our hearts bear the agony of important children strangled by siblings/while a vulture looks down from the coat of arms, two hyenas replacing the horses. And he concluded with: “And blood becomes the water of the Benue and Niger.”

These are not poems but sacramental obits of caged memories and fleeing expectations redefining the art of poetry of this generation. Su’eddi entrusted perfectly our journey into the reliable sight of a first and third-person speaker. Poem after poem, he masterfully weighed the weight of memories of carrying and abandoning in the scale of our hearts! There is white ardour in each description of grief: “We fetch silence from well of sorrow/Deep, dug by keepers who herd/Wolves in cow clothing/Thrown among us/They Have Built Steps Towards Our Death And We Descend Slowly…

Memory and the Call of Waters talks directly into our hearts, healing the sick part of our hearts that we didn’t realize was already dying. This book is a tool for liberation, recovery, healing, resilience, survival, and unification of damage memories. There are poems like, Beasts in a Bottle, Another Battle for the Body and Soul, The Cloak of this Present Darkness, Season Song before Death, A Ritual of Flames and Silence, This Heart Holds Hurt, Home, Seeking the Caress of Elements before Sleep, Futile Arises etc.

The engagements of multifaceted memories in this collection embody a single structure and sing with one voice. This is the astonishing accomplishments of ‘Memory and the Call of Waters’, you have memories of different time, pains, and generation welded into one body– what all of us feel, even if we can’t express it. If the testament of poetry is about truth and sincerity, then Su’eddie’s disarming honesty did not forget home: a village where each one of us come from, and the grief of ordinary people like him. His poetry mindless of distraction flies straight to the heart.

Umar Yogiza portrait.

Umar Yogiza Jr. is a builder, writer, and freelance photographer living in Northern Nigeria. He’s a Creative Director at Orpheus Literary Foundation and Imodoye Writers Residency, Publicity Secretary (North) Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and a Publisher with Transconventional Publishers. Collecting words and meeting writers inspires and gives him joy. He won Atlanta Georgia Black Street Poetry Prize 2017 and a Pushcart nominee, 2019, 2020, 2021. His works can be read in Heartburn Review, Pikerpress, Tuck magazine, Spillwords, Poeticdiversity, The Indian Feminist Review, Rabioak, Nthanda Review, The Pinecone Review, Synchchaos, and elsewhere.