Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."


I labored on the choice of a title for this piece. If the obvious alliteration of Pleasantly Playful Pickled Prittle-Prattle Poems is not compelling enough to readers or does not earn an editor’s approval, I would console myself that it passes the test of being a good reference in a literature class on figures-of-speech.

The title tweaks the subtitle of Yemi Adesanya’s poetry collection, a debut publication that invites readers on a poetic journey paved with goofiness, love dealings and dilemma, child-rearing and childhood, supplication, existential musings, corporate chaos, mischiefs and misadventures, and outright naughtiness.

I launched into Musings of a Tangled Tongue as soon as it downloaded into my device. My reading ritual usually starts with randomly flipping through a new book, subconsciously expecting something to pique my attention, maybe a well-constructed sentence, maybe an odd idea, maybe some eccentric wordings, maybe an amusing quote, just anything to quickly advertise a book as worthy of my time. In this collection, the poem titled “Jack and Jill,” did the trick. Goofy like I love my rapports, mischievous like the literary works I love to return to, short and punchy like I love social media posts, this risqué poem served the first salvo from the collection. I laughed out after reading it and had to return to it to be sure I had not missed any hidden meaning, beyond its obvious naughtiness. Alas, no hidden meaning. It is what it is, a sexual tryst between two lovable characters of a famous nursery rhyme:

Jack and Jill went off the grid
To pet a rampant boner.
Jack came first and spilled his spunk
Then Jill came, trembling after.

I flipped to “No Kidding,” a charming poem that evokes a mother’s devotion and admonition to her child. She speaks of her responsibility as a guide and guard of her child life’s journey and acknowledges, in the second verse, that the duty comes with chastisement:

Put my life on the line to have you,
My hands on the grind to raise you,
My feet on the pedals I’ll drive you,
Upward and forward
You must go.

I’ll scream and wait to right you.
My hands are here they’ll flog you.
My feet on the path to guide you,
Uptight and forthright
You must stand.

My already piqued fascination about the collection (I must confess that “Jack and Jill” deceived me into thinking that I might be on a poetic Kama Sutra ride) was soon dulled by “Monday Madness,” a killjoy and bad-hair-day poem about the typical complaints of one caught in the throes of corporate monotony.

Stuck in a graveyard meeting

Can’t keep dancing this tango
In a half broken stiletto

A similar poem is “Hype Brigade,” which depicts a typical corporate lifecycle.

The collection’s major triumphs are its accessible themes and language. Especially those about love. I imagine Yemi reading “I Want to Love Your” at a spoken-word performance, maybe accompanied by guitar and conga.

The themes are simple and unpretentious, not as one expects from poets attempting lofty poetic experiments with heavy themes, say, philosophy, dark contemplations, or even of expressing mundane themes with manipulation of language to the point of boredom.

I might be too effusive about this collection, but the poems are somewhat a reverse of the type of poetry I am familiar with, the type that assumes a smug pose, overwrought in structure and expressions, tense in mood, brain-tasking—poems considered as literary gold-standard. We all know them.

But the collection suffers too. I will get to that shortly.

These poems suggest that Adesanya is attuned to creating from playfulness and restiveness, say, about being a romantic and sensitive lover, or occupying herself with existential concerns, or just musing over a reality that bears pressure on the creative process, with humor too. In this case, poetry becomes an act—art too—of making sense of the world, a spiteful response too, to that which tugs on reflections.

Besides its shortage on linguistic ambitions, it is an impressive publication that adds the author to a list of new age Nigerian poets surprising the world with poetic resourcefulness—Dami Ajayi and his dazzling devotion to allusions drawn from medicine, pop culture, social media, street lingos; Jumoke Verissimo and her treatment of the human condition like a tales-by-moonlight affair; and the textural lightness of Sadiq Alabi’s poems that break Remi Raji-like ideas into new age intelligibility.

On technique and stylistic ambition, I would score the collection a six-over-ten. The free-flowing poems, especially “Here Lies Lust”, “McHunger”, “Ms. Adventure”, “Crackles if Soulful Melody” are impressive exceptions. An insistence on end rhymes is charming on some poems—“Loafday”, “Iyke the Kite”, “Forever Living” but distracting on others like “It’s Changed the Same”, and “Sleepless Nights.” This point may be ignored, as I tend to be cynical about poems that have structural allegiance to European poetic forms. I just want the flow, not technical mascara. These days, I associate them with original photos made less original by Instagram filters.

Anyone that picks this book will notice I’ve ignored commenting on the “serious” poems like “Death Left You a Note”, “Kahlo’s Picasso”, and the praise song, “Thank a Brave Soldier.” If I edited the work, I would leave them out. They got in the way of my amusement. In my world, Kama Sutra is not compatible with Karate.

One more risqué poem, and we can end this piece. “Play With Me” might be the advances that led to “Jack and Jill:”

Love me like a butterfly
Fragile wings and colorful bits
Touch my soft parts and electrify
Spill your pollens and let us bloom

Love my (sic) like a bestseller
My intricate lines, yours to explore
Flip my pages like a sheet propeller
Show what you know and learn my ropes

With Musings of a Tangled Tongue, Adesanya registers herself as a fun poet. If I ever have the right to suggest what her next collection should be, I’d say make it a single-theme work, on either Love or Motherhood. Or a paean on Sex. It will sell.


Musings of a Tangled Tongue is available on Amazon and on Okada Books



About the Author:

Portrait - OgunlowoChris Ogunlowo is a writer, culture enthusiast and entrepreneur. When not day-dreaming about owning a dog, he updates

Tags: , , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

2 Responses to “Pleasantly Playful Prittle-Prattle Pickled | Review of Yemi Adesanya’s Poetry Collection | by Chris Ogunlowo” Subscribe

  1. Yetty Phillips 2016/05/10 at 11:20 #

    I am not fan of poems but this whet my appetite. This is is the second time your review will make me buy books I won’t normally buy. I agree that Jack and Jil is naughty. I will buy it.

  2. Buki 2016/05/10 at 17:05 #

    Jack and Jill were up to shenanigans, eh? I should check out okadabooks and this collection. Intriguing analysis.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."


Demons in the Villa | Excerpt from Ebenezer Obadare’s Pentecostal Republic

pentecostal republics ebenezer obadare

Pentecostal Republic takes a hard look at the influence of pentecostalism in Nigerian politics. Prof. Obadare is a sociologist, who […]

Yasmin Belkhyr, Romeo Oriogun, Liyou Libsekal, JK Anowe Featured in Forthcoming 20.35 Africa Anthology Guest-Edited by Gbenga Adesina and Safia Elhillo

20.35 africa contributors

In February, we announced a call for submissions for a new poetry project. The anthology, 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, […]

On Black and Arab Identities: Safia Elhillo’s Arab American Book Awards Acceptance Speech

Safia Elhillo - tcb book club (2)

Safia Elhillo has won the 2018 Arab American Book Award, also known as the George Ellenbogen Poetry Award, for her […]

Attend the Second Edition of the Write with Style Workshop with Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

Oris Aigbokhaevbolo (2)

Following the first edition of the Write With Style Workshop, the award-winning writer, critic, and journalist Oris Aigbokhaevbolo is hosting […]

Ngugi’s Novel, Matigari, Is Being Adapted to Film by Nollywood Director Kunle Afolayan

Kenyan author Ngugi wa ThiongÕo, Distinguished Professor of English and comparative literature at UC Irvine, is on the short list for the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature, for xxx(add phrase or blurb here from award announcement; 

Chancellor quote? Christine writing and getting approved quote).

Ngugi, whose name is pronounced ÒGoogyÓ and means Òwork,Ó is a prolific writer of novels, plays, essays and childrenÕs literature. Many of these have skewered the harsh sociopolitical conditions of post-Colonial Kenya, where he was born, imprisoned by the government and forced into exile.

His recent works have been among his most highly acclaimed and include what some consider his finest novel, ÒMurogi wa KagogoÓ (ÒWizard of the CrowÓ), a sweeping 2006 satire about globalization that he wrote in his native Gikuyu language. In his 2009 book ÒSomething Torn & New: An African Renaissance,Ó Ngugi argues that a resurgence of African languages is necessary to the restoration of African wholeness.

ÒI use the novel form to explore issues of wealth, power and values in society and how their production and organization in society impinge on the quality of a peopleÕs spiritual life,Ó he has said.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s 1987 novel Matigari is being adapted to film by Nollywood director Kunle Afolayan in a co-production with yet undisclosed Kenyan […]

Safia Elhillo Makes a Fashion Statement at the Arab American Book Awards

Safia Elhillo - tcb book club (2)

From Taiye Selasi’s dreamy designer collections and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s flayed sleeves and Dior collaboration to Alain Mabanckou’s dapper suits […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.