Tares Oburumu: someday i will be the shape of my story

Poetry Chapbook by Tares Oburumu

Heiress publishes Tares Oburumu’s chapbook, someday i will be the shape of my story. (Go to the end of this post to download it.) Carl Terver presents the chapbook with a brief introduction below:

In 2014, Tares Oburumu published a chapbook A Breath of Me, not so popular to be called an underground success back then compared to how far the poet has come today. In it, he courted a Soyinkaesque hand in what some of us thought was sacrificing language accessibility to an obscurantist style. Over the years, he would maintain a bit of this style until recently. When he sent me some of his new works last year, I was pleasantly surprised at his linguistic accessibility and how magical and authentic his poetic vision had grown. It was out of being electrified by his new works that I solicited one of the poems “say love” to be published in Afapinen, which he agreed to.

In most of his poems is the recurrence of the metaphors of the nautical and water bodies such as rivers, seas, boat- and fishing life, the coastline, and so on; and largely a camera lucida of his Niger Delta home and environment. I’d asked him once what the words “river,” “sea,” and “fish” mean to him when he uses them as imagery. He answered: fish represents inner struggles, and the sea the Niger Delta, his place of birth.

It is well known that the sea is one of the greatest wonders a person ever comes across in life—the vast expanse of it stretching forever, its immensity, our smallness compared to its size. Upon it we wish to conquer the world and make a name for ourselves in sailing and discovering worlds, as was in the old days, many losing their lives to it, too. But it remains today a solid metaphor of people’s trials, struggles, history, a god we pray to, and many things. And in poetry, we often invoke it, too.

Tares Oburumu’s invocation in someday i will be the shape of my story is a chronicle of a gamble of his faith in a national identity he is lost in, trying to imagine what beauty or sweetness his country holds, grappling with the substance of the Nigerian dream hoped for, whereas he experiences betrayal. He contrives this in words as “i know how long i have been lovely, staring at the orphanage.” This orphanage, the reduced image of what country has become to him—in continuation, it is a “place of [his] birth / where a flag stands / defiantly / its white light / burning the earth into a green country / the ordinary heaven / hard to build . . .”

Beyond dreams of country, Tares is also just being human, contesting conflict, existing, escaping hypocrisy as much as he can; the beauty, his gift with words. “i believe in you, survival. / i believe in breathing more than as i do inhale my faith in you, death.” “in spite of the cemetery, in spite of the nations dying in us. / we make it to the shore, / committing existence.” “always, i step in & out of the universe / to love you, / you not close enough / to reach this infinite hand i have long stretched / across an equal infinite song / to find me . . . .”

We have experienced decline in the pristineness of language in our time, many factors responsible: the cliché factory of the media, for example, language abused for propaganda, man’s increased propensity to lazy speech, to name a few. Poetry is the last refuge where language is free from dirt. Every good poet earns my respect by achieving this. It is what I see in Tares Oburumu’s poetry; a sentry waiting for you at the sacristy of words, saying, “Come, O you who have sinned against language, for I shall absolve thee. My yoke is easy, and burden, light.” But what is this poet’s story today that he has to wait for someday to be the shape of it? Read his words, listen; perhaps, he has something to tell us about the shape of our stories, too.