An Apology of the Clergy
Samuel A. Adeyemi’s language in “To the Clergy” is constructed through a metaphor of comparison, rather than be characteristic of the burden it carries. If the poem is about grief, after all, why not overwhelm the reader with its weight? But, of course, he has conscripted the clergy, whom his poem addresses, to mitigate this weight: “a preacher compares my affliction to a/ boy’s, more severe . . .”
But it is the preacher’s lack of empathy that accounts for Adeyemi’s language. The poet weighs the Clergy against his reality and senses the psychological distance between them. It compels him to muse: “The eye catches the needle, the needle/ catches the eye—it is all perspective . . . I am either a nape slit open or the air/ under the blade. Either way, a thing is cut.”
This language is the aspiration, but rarely reached. But Adeyemi has pressed the wine out if it: we don’t only imagine suffering and pain, seen through his experience, as “a nape slit open or the air under the blade,” we are awakened to the severity of his lack of expression buried by this language. What capacity has grief in denying existence? It is this character of the poet, finally, that makes us wonder when he says, “everything suffers. You can pick a side.” Is this surrender to fatalism?
This threat returns in the second half of the poem. The poet conscripts the clergy, who makes light his grief, to mediate his subject matter through a langue of comparison; but his persona betrays him by a second conscription of the clergy, but through a different language, of contest: “…I call this a/ miracle of rhetoric, the illusion of privilege:/ to say, at least I am only a wound in comparison/ to a corpse.” And finally, in a language of apprehension: “…How you invalidate my misery,/ until I crawl up the peak of peculiar pain.”
The thought at these last lines is suicide, giving its ubiquitous thematic presence in our poetry today. But what about madness, as the persona charges to the preacher and gives them a beating for invalidating his misery? It could be something else, but aren’t we in a terrain of comparisons?
The word on the corpus of emergent Nigerian poetry is that it is burdened with grief. Well, look at the country. At the language level, it is a crime to deviate from the parochial usage of similar tropes. Samuel A. Adeyemi is the proverbial poet who has created a third road where two diverge in a grieving wood, with “To the Clergy.” Left with one little problem: to kill the only adjective in the poem.