Friday, September 19, 2014


By Tijjani Muhammad Musa

Poetry, some are born with it and others learn it. Read poems from either of the two and you'll immediately know the difference. A gifted poet starts by writing innocently as his muse dictates. All can tell he or she has got something. However, when technicalities are demanded, it then becomes obvious he or she is ignorant nor does he or she knows the real potential of a gifted poet

Eventually, to rise to the next level a gifted poet must study and LEARN all aspects of his or her gift. Though poetry is a gifted art, but there are too many technicalities to it, it is almost a science. Yes, there are formulas that are laid out and strictly followed by all and sundry to arrive at a technically acceptable piece

There are brilliant minds who lack the ability to write a poetic piece, that have developed a passion for poetry and have taken the trouble to study it in details, ending up as its critics. If they desire to kill a gifted poet, as brilliant as his or her piece might seem, all they will do is go technical and you'll see the real color of a poet's blood

Anybody here, who can tell us what color is the blood that runs in a true poet's veins? Or have we been so drunk with our abilities, that we have not bothered to realize that poets like royalties, who are attributed with the proverbial blue blood, have a different blood color too

By the way, we are all ignorant persons, individually. It only depends on which subject of life is being talked about. So, we must take the trouble to acquaint ourselves with the nitty gritty of things, by READING about everything, but most especially things that catch our fancy, excite our senses, that amuse and delight us like poetry.

This is more so, so that when confronted with details, by one who can't drop a verse or even those who can hang an apple in the air without any visible support but words, we are never caught off guard. We are never disgraced or never embarrased, never metaphorically killed.

*There are plenty of them and can be found all over the place. Not knowing them does not mean they do not exit. They are born with it. There are a thousand and one poets, yes poets, who know nothing about the techniques of poetry, formally or informally, in our traditional and cultural settings. And they have the ability to play with words spoken to the amazement of others at events or ceremonies. They are recognized as the villages uncrowned bards or as the official king palace bards. 

Such persons' verses are often the subject of great literary research works when recorded or documented and are studied by elites in pursuit of one degree type or another. Yet, they've never been into the 4 walls of a classroom. We have many of them in Hausa society. I can give you one that's world famous in Hausa land, in the person of the Late Alhaji Mamman Shata. One of the best Hausa spoken words composers, whose works are studied for PhD dissertations in universities all over the world.

But then there are others not born with it, but have the flare for it and have gone through school or schooled themselves to study it in details. If you should meet the former (gifted poet) and subject him to what the latter (made poet) goes through, you'll end up with a genius unequalled and unsurpassed.

Here's a question; has anyone ever been to village occassions, events, celebrations etc where there are persons who can recite verses off-head and composed on the spot at such gatherings before (not folklore rhymes or pass-on songs or words, but original compositions)? 

If not, then come and I will show you poets who can do spoken poetry without even knowing how to read or write. And if you should transcribe their mused words, you'll discover all the poetic ingredients expertly located where each should be. Ask them what is rhyming, stanza, imagery, hyperbole, metaphor etc they know not. But, their works when subjected to the most critical of study would reveal everything there is, required of a brilliant poem. 

Some poets are born with it, others are made. This is not something to argue about. we can research it further and one will be pleasantly surprised... :)

I am not saying and never said learning is that which is known through textbooks nor do I deny that people learn from experience. There is no conflict between us on that. So, no need to ask that. But, rather, some people are blessed with certain traits, not just poetry, oratory, medicine, diplomacy, leadership, beautiful voice, retentive memory, mathematics, vocabulary, ability to lie, lovers, mothers, inventors, ability to convince, sight, smell, hear, taste, feel, sensing trouble and many other phenomenon, do certain thing beyond the normal, physique, endurance, patience, talents of all kinds etc. 

When they are performing, those who are not gifted with it, but learnt how to do it can only watch in awe. Wondering "How did she do that? We were never taught that in school!" Now, that's what we are trying to understand here. As there are guys like Diego Maradona, Nelson Mandela, Wole Soyinka, Mother Theraza of Calcutta, Martin Luther King etc to cite a few examples, so also there are persons who are uniquely different in poetry and it comes to them without as much as lifting a finger to write it. As the thoughts flow in their mind, they open their mouth and utter it. That's it.

In life generally, some of us humans I mean, are given certain things more than others by God or nature or whatever we might choose to call the source. Where some are amply endowed, some are moderately so. Some others have very little of it, while others are completely denied. 

Examples abound in richness I mean financially, money. In number or gender of children. In breast size among women (not meaning to be naughty pls), in facial beauty, in height, in charms etc. Everything in life is designed and apportioned along that line. Why on earth should ability to do poetry be exactly the same for all mankind? Some should be natural with it, while some should struggle to achieve a single poetic line, That is the natural order of things inlife. 

So, saying we are all equally gifted with poetry and so good poets emerge due to study, practice, experience is not true. There some of us with the proverbial "Midas Touch', while others must travel the seven seas or go to the end of the rainbow to get to their first piece of gold. There are therefore natural born poets just like natural born footballers, singers, dancers, musicians, teachers, preachers etc. And there those who were forced to do these things out of interest, duress, necessity, to please someone etc. 

Some think it is just attitude that matters. But it is not just #Attitude, rather #Realization is the key. Bill Gate's is not a school guy, but a business guy. He did not contribute much in creating or building the computer. He had a gift for business, and realized he had it and pursued it. The others do not have that. But had something different and also pursued that. 

If one had assumed wrongly about good grades in school are the source of richness, that is his or her fault, not a conflict or contradiction with natural laws. If any should discover that his or her assumptions were not correct, it is good to admit it, simple as that. 

Can anyone tell me, why was Amalinze "The Cat" famous for his wrestling prowess in Things Fall Apart? Are the rest of the wrestlers in his village and neighboring communities equally gifted with the talent for wrestling? Clearly, no. Okonkwo then fell him, right? Why and how did that happen, if they are equally gifted, luck "shey"? 

Another one, why is Shakespeare a literary icon unsurpassed? How about Wordsworth, our own Chimanda and many others distinguished writers and poets, world class? 

Well it would wise to stumble in on a little secret. There are some in my class, in your class, who would abandon school and take up technical skill works like auto-mechanic, furniture making, fashion designing etc and end up making much more in life financially than they would have done if they insisted sticking to school would make them fulfilled. 

I assure you there are some of us who do not have a single ability to craft in words as far as poetry is concerned. And no matter how hard they try, they would end up wasting their precious talent forcing themselves to be poets. 

Chinua Achebe is not known for writing poetry, but reputed to be one of the best African novelist. If we were equally endowed in that regard, I can assure you he would claim his niche in the genre. But he realized his best resided in story telling and he pursued that and today, he was a king among ordinary subjects in the land of novelists.

Knowledge and understanding are vast and it does not mean because something is not acceptable to a person's way of mind, then it must be an insult. No, not at all. Everything remains the same, only one has to accommodate new knowledge, not from the person's former perspective, but from a new one. 

Remember, nobody is saying there is no goodness in developing a good trait or talent and subduing a bad one. Nor are we saying poets can't be made or are not born. No. What we are saying is that both scenerio are obtainable. Some are natural poets, born with the talent. Others are not, but can develop it to expertice. Repeating this, pick a piece written by a natural born poet and a similar one from a taught poet, you can feel the difference immediately.

we all appreciate developing talents and of course only those who develop themselves when gifted ever get to rise to success supreme. Thus, even if one is blessed with a gift and he or she refuses to work hard to sharpen it with learning, studies and practice, it tends to remain unexplore, unexposed and unexploited. But someone not quite ad or equally endowed, can easily surpass the gifted person, if he or she should strive to excell. Let me share some quotes and comments from other sites about this "bone of contention" here

According to the website:

Poets are born, not made in Culture

"Poets, like all true artists, possess talent that cannot be taught." - The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition.

I've given you one in Mamman Shata and I did say that there are a thousand, no million others. Or you do not recognize the fact he was one? Or must he or she be one on the formal platform of literature to be acknowledged as a born-poet. What other criteria would one need to be accepted as such better than outstanding and legendary performances, that ultimately paves way for professors to subject your work to studies? I don't even want to mention western poets like Keats, Wordsworth, Shakespears and their likes... Do you know why? Because that's where your trap is set to catch this case by the throat. Hahahahaha! So, nothing for you.

We also have Aminu Ladan Abubakar aka ALA, he is a young born-poet of extraordinary talent and eloquence. If you should hear his rendition, play of words, his wisdom, you'd think he is a prophet. Many of our educational elites in the ranks of professors marvel at his ability to use words, strange unknown, original words. Some even forgotten by the people, only for them to discover they do exist and were in use centuries ago. How was he able to know such words and correctly use them in his diction is beyond many scholars.

There is also the Late Barmani Choge, a woman of amazing poetry, many university students study her works for their degrees and masters project. And these all have excelled due to practice and experiences gathered in the course of their performing lives and they kept or keep getting better and better too. And I am sure there are many such gifted persons where you are or where we all come from, even if formal qualification would want to ignore the fact that they have something made poets don't.


Mary Oliver said:

"Everyone knows that poets are born and not made in school. This is true also of painters, sculptors, and musicians."

Does it mean that there are inherent poetic styles and beats possessed by born-poets, considering natural-born painters have their own unique affinity towards certain hues and colors, sculptors towards certain shapes and textures, and musicians towards certain instruments and vocal ranges?


"You laugh at me because I'm different, I laugh at you because you're all the same."

--Jonathan Davis

Remember, while a learned poet delivers from the brain, a gifted poet delivers from his heart. But, the most brilliant of bards mersmerizes from the soul's spirit. 

(c)2014 Tijjani M. M.
All Rights Reserved

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