Houdini Isn’t Exempted: Love as an Imprisoner in Olawale’s ‘Prisoner of Love’

Title: Prisoner of Love

Genre: Poetry (a chapbook)

Author: Ibrahim Olawale

Publisher: The Roaring Lion Newcastle LTD

Date: 13th September, 2021

Reviewer: Afer Ventus

Yes! Dante, Spencer, Shakespeare and many more foreign writers have written about unrequited love in some of their works (Inferno, Amoretti and the Shakespearean sonnet respectively). These writers have in their lives witnessed unrequited love and other forms of pain love can bring. But I have never read that of an African who devoted a couple of poems to explaining how love has or can serve as imprisonment to people. And this is what Ibrahim Olawale did in this chapbook.

Taking a brief look into the life of Harry Houdini, an American magician who is famous for setting himself free from shackles, will help in the review of this work. This Hungarian by birth and American by naturalization became a phenom. At one time, he had himself tied with rope and then locked in a case, which was bound with steel tape and he made it out in less than a minute. This and many more Houdini had achieved before his death. But he may not be able to escape this which is emotional and not physical or a craft.

Olawale preaches in his second, eleventh and fourteenth poems about the theme of unrequited love and its effect. In the second poem (‘Prisoner of Love’) the persona pleads to be released ‘from the prison of unrequited love’. This he repeated in the three stanzas of the poem. The effect of that according to the voice in the work is compared to an open wound in his heart. In ‘Love Castle’, which was delivered like a narrative, the narrator, out of love for a lady, was happy to become her sidekick. And his love for her grew to a lady who calls him ‘lover’. Now ‘lover’ here can be taken to be sarcastic. They got married and their ‘love castle’ crashed, as he says in the last two lines: ‘The day our love castle crashed, the bubbles clouding my eyes/disappeared’.

In furtherance, the last poem to be discussed under this theme is ‘Say No More.’ The persona adopts the monologue. It is clear that a lover speaks to his/her ‘lover’ to ‘Say no more about this untrue love’ (first stanza). In the second, the speaker compares the lover’s love to a shackle and confesses that it is an emotional prison (second stanza). And the last stanza adds to the second by saying that the fake love is choky. In this paragraph, it is clear about what the poet wants his readers to get.

Other poems in the work which capture the same theme as the above paragraph are ‘Our Love’, ‘Trapped’ and virtually all. One other artistic thing to discuss here is the use of symbol to mentally show his readers this enslavement called love. The poet carefully, through the front cover of this work depicted that. It shows two ends of a rope entangled to draw love’s shape.

All in all, Olawale has shown us the other side of love which people sometimes shy away from. He tells us that when we love, we should love whole-heartedly and unlike Romeo and Juliet, love will be requited and Houdini would have always been freed (for there were only a few times he failed).

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