A collection of rich and profoundly resonating poems by Folabomi Amoo, The Sides of Love will touch you in the central fibres of your being, carry you through the dark moments, leave you breathless but most of all, give you hope in the amazing power of this unrelenting force called love. We had a chat with him about his new release.
First off, congratulations on the launch of your collection of poems. How long have you been writing this anthology?
Thank you very much. I worked on it for about a year. I first started with just writing poems as they come. Then as they started to accumulate, the story started to come together.
What a buildup that must have been. Could you describe the main recurring theme of the poems?
It is love. The two sides of it. The struggles and triumphs of two different couples. However, the most important thing is that both parts of the book are told through the eyes of the lovers themselves.
Name three poets whose works have most influenced you.
I am a very avid reader. I read people’s materials and I try to take bits here and there from everyone whose material I read. There isn’t really a person or particular set of people that I can point out to say I was most influenced by.
Interesting. What inspired you to embark on this journey?
The first poem I wrote was in July 2018. I was in a bus on my way to work, and my mind was wandering. The words and the lines started to form in my head, but that day I chose to write them down. I showed a couple of people. They liked it and so the journey began.
The power of good feedback! Could you tell our readers the audience you wrote this for?
There is not really a target audience, but I can say that young adults would appreciate it more, as the book addresses issues common with young couples. But, the book is for everyone who is a fan of poetry.
A number of young people are developing their talent in poetry. What advice do you have for them?
No matter how weird, or different your poems may be at first, just keep writing. The more you write, the better you become and that is just the reality.
Folabomi, what’s next?
I have another book on the way once the dust settles. And I would be releasing it hopefully, in the first quarter of next year.
This collection of short stories is as enjoyable as it is powerful. I attended her book reading and signing event at Patabah Books a couple of years ago. Learning about her inspiration, background and the stories behind her stories before reading them brought on a more profound meaning.
The variety centres on the lives of Nigerians home and abroad, the longing for old memories is existing with the pull of the foreign land. The stories are split between the immigrant experience; from the tumultous to the mundane; and the joy and troubles of living in a country like Nigeria. She fluidly paints many ways in which home and abroad are different and yet so similar The book is laced with humour that relieves the reader’s heart of some of its weight.
Moral dilemmas are presented in a way we can associate with, a sort of mirror for our own situations. Thus, we understand the characters’ struggles without judgement.
Familiar everyday scenarios brought to life in this book include rebelling against an overbearingly strict Pentecostal father, the public transport system and underworld in the sprawling, unforgiving city of Lagos, mental illness and a patriarch exacting posthumous revenge on his uncaring family through his will.
But it does make us stop and tell ourselves, the negative things need not be part of life.
Others are green card fraud, learning disability, nosy neighbours, rosy teenage love soured by pregnancy and family disgrace, domestic violence and how women continue to condone it for the sake of the children seeing it a necessary part of life. They make a life facing off blows and yet remain resilient and in some cases, even triumphant.
But it does make us stop and tell ourselves, “The negative things need not be part of life”. We can identify secondary characters who, in their own ways, change the status quo for better.
One of my favourites is A Brewing Storm. Nestled in the middle, narrated with the innocence of a child’s perspective, it explores domestic violence with brave depth , elicits a sense of shame that we as a society have allowed this evil to go on for far too long. The physical and psychological pain, the constant inching to the precipice of death by the hand of a husband, the scars on the children’s psyche all clutch at your heart strings.
Worst of it for the character is the support system of close women (victims themselves) who accommodate her and the kids after each beating. They tell her there is no other way but to endure it. She must maintain the worth accorded to her in the society, the value that comes with being in a man’s house.
There is a remarkable finesse to which Campbell-Fatoki delivers this and the wider societal norms set against women. We see how women (like mother-in-laws) are complicit in this. This chapter is not written as funny. Even as she plays with friends, the fear of her mother’s death is palpable in the child’s consciousness. In a fitting climax, a battered woman and her kids take different desperate stands to protect themselves from an abusive man of the house.
But we also learn that it is and should not be the norm. This was beautifully written about in Searching For Miss Anderson. A woman living with schizophrenia from her teenage years finds unwavering support, the most she’s ever had, in her husband. He stays by her side, actively involved in her long winding recovery process. Happy marriages resplendent with mutual love and respect, providing a safe space for nurturing children are possible and do exist. That balance is necessary, a true depiction of reality
Happy marriages resplendent with mutual love and respect, providing a safe space for nurturing children are possible and do exist.
The Rake and the Wallflower, set in the seventies, details the discrimination people with learning disabilities face in an engaging story about a Nigerian girl who is married off to a man she knows only through a photo in. Abuse and restrictions follow as soon as she lands in America. Doubly due to the norms of the time that said he could treat his wife anyhow but also because he considered her a retard.
People treat those with learning difficulties with condescension often forgetting that they have thought processes and register all of it. It is a brilliant story. It was heartwarming to see this woman escape the horrific domestic situation with the help of her neighbour, a lovely American old lady and her father back at home who never considered his daughter as any less than others.
In all, in presenting what we recognise, in the laughter and tears it evokes, Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon calls us to answer deep moral questions. I appreciate its dedication to family which is present as a common thread throughout. Beneath the hilarity and resonance of the tales is a call to us to keep enjoying what is good about us but commit to rectifying the many faults we have as individuals and a society at large.
I can’t look at this book without memories of my days spent in the University of Lagos bookshop when I would enjoy those moments with only the books for company. No one disturbed me on my long walks down the shelves, looking at shelves and shelves of books, reading pages out of some and shaking my head at how inadequate my allowance as a hundred level student was.
They were intimate moments that made me feel at peace. I had a glimpse into the minds of great men and women in blissful solitude as there were few other buyers at the times I went which often were my breaks between science classes.
…who live in Chimamanda’s
favourite setting; the university
community of Nsukka,
I did sacrifice many a lunch to save up and buy a few books there. This cost five hundred naira and has remained a favourite . She lords it over the other books in my collection like “I am not your mate. I am not only older but I was borne of hunger for food and for building a library”
It is a coming of age tale about Kambili, a young girl based in 1980s South-Eastern Nigeria. Her growth is a mix of living in a home ruled by the tight grip of a fanatical Christian father, finding respite in holidays with her lecturer aunt and her children who live in Chimamanda’s favourite setting; the university community of Nsukka, falling in love with a priest, finding her voice, a family’s survival through tragedy. It is honest and gripping.
The themes transcend Kambili’s specific circumstances and resonates with many across ethnic, nationality and religious divides
This book fast became required reading material for secondary schools exam boards in West Africa and is one of the most notable debuts by any author.