The Morality Clause And The Man Who Died Ideology: A Critical Introduction To Kobina Eyi Acquah’s The Man Who Died ( 1974-1979)

Posted: May 12, 2014 in Essays
Tags: , , , ,

Publisher : Asempa Publishers

Author : Kobina Eyi Acquah

Reviewer: Kwabena Agyare Yeboah

Pages: 94 pages

First Published : 1984

Genre: Poetry


” The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.”
– Wole Soyinka, The Man Died (1972).

Wole Soyinka in The Man Died laid a vital principle in the advancement of humanity as a race. In the height of the Nigerian civil war, Soyinka appealed to the conscience of the intellectual – the cardinal of life was not survival but peace and justice.He sought to invite the intellectual to a greater call of asserting herself as the society’s moral judge. In this context, Kobina’s collection fails to honour the sanctity of that allusion in terms of political themes. Life in ‘ 70s in Ghana like many African countries was difficult both economically and politically. Invoking this logic, the expectation is to see many political poems in this collection. Kobina begs to differ. Perhaps, it is his interpretation of events and context that brings another elevation to the fore. Kobina seems to concentrate morality of self using familiarity as background. On Lawyers And Liars for example he tackles the belief that all lawyers are liars. He opines that professions in itself do not make people bad but their personalities. The struggle of maintaining a balance between a narrative-in-poetry and its quality of artistry is glaring here. The injury is be over-prosaic. On the other hand, They’re Tearing Up The Graveyard and I Want To Go To Keta are masterpieces. Both  poems are kind of reminders of other poems from his generation. The latter has a theme that is same as Kofi Awoonor’s The Sea Eats The Land At Home and The Sea Eats Our Land by Kwesi Brew. The former is like Kofi Awoonor’s The Cathedral. The collective voice of a generation in many regards serves as a social memory. It is a window to the minds that were.

Kobina’s use of extended metaphor is exceptionally beautiful. X-ray is a class on its own. He talks about the eye capturing scenes. In its conceit is photography. It is only an (”amateur” as the publisher’s blurb puts it ) artist that can only hold this in perspective. This side of him is sensed from cover-to-cover. The Questioners was inspired by a graffito, ” You are asking me  force questions why” on the wall inside the Psychiatric Hospital, Accra ( 1974).

Anti-Lorgor Logarithms is a parody of Atukwei Okai’s Lorgorligi Logarithms and Other Poems. In that poem, he also  alludes to Okai’s Galileo Galilei.

Most probably, the import of the title is to be a compass to the seminal response to Soyinka. In the final section of the  collection, Kobina opines a commentary that is a contrast to Soyinka. From Stanzas 5 and 6,

”The man
who died
was not the one who
remained silent
. . .

The man who died
was the one
who could not control
his nausea
at the public parade
of injustice
and threw it all up
upon the dais”

The collection has four sections; Loving And Losing, Living And Dying, Magyar Memories and Where We Are Going. These sections touch on various spheres of life. There are love themes, politics, death and some activism tendencies. Magyar Memories is hugely biographical. In many of the poems, Kobina draws parallel lines to lives in Accra and Budapest. But the bigger picture is a moral construct that Kobina the preacher advances.

In sum, this collection is a fine treatment. The only shame is that this poet has become a forgotten memory. Time has had that natural selection privilege and along the way, many greats have become substrates to the enzyme called time. Gradually, what are left of them are works such as this that lazily lay as archives. Kobina rightly belongs to Ghana’s Lost Poets.




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