The Things Father Did Not Teach Us–An appealing collection that speaks volume

Abimbola Alaka is a fine poet and her debut collection bears testament to this. The poet who was a National Winner of the Nigerian Stock Exchange Essay Competition in 2005 wrote this collection of poetry for young people. Taking a more painstaking look, are we not all young at heart? This poetry was written for young people, but everyone would find this a pleasant addition to the bookshelf.

She began the collection with a poem ‘The Socratic Way to Die’ and the persona erupts-


You’re a rebel.

Your rebellion? Too many questions.

You’re pushed away, exiled

When you see a mystery.

You Can’t see a word”

The opening stanza would resonate with many young people who have been tagged as rebellious because they dared to be different. The young mind is a fertile ground and going against accepted order is always deemed as a crime. It is interesting to note that Abimbola is a Nigerian whose youths protested against police brutality (#endsars protest) last year and the protest were met with more police brutality. The old order is not used to young people going against accepted order and this is the lot of many young people across the world.

The next poem is the titular poem ‘the Things Father Did Not Teach Us.’ It starts with great admiration for things father taught us in the opening stanza:

“We sat in twos, threes, and fours

under the tree of life, for the things

our father taught us:

empathy, bravery, love and thoughtfulness.”

I love how the poet began this poem by showcasing what Father taught. Celebrating fatherhood and the further stanzas explains how we can be brave, love and espouse thoughtfulness. This poem echoes so much more and would deeply resonate with fathers and young people alike as the poet distils wisdoms to espouse her ideas.

We recently celebrated the International day of the girl-child and in the next poem, the poet spares a thought for girls like her who need to be empowered. Girls like are who are married off before they become women. Girls for whom society has bestowed no right in the poem ‘Self-Declaration (For The Girl Child)’

(say after the poet:)

“I am beautiful

I am smart

I am strong

I am a woman

I am a Queen

My heart is a gold mine

Home of good things,

And my smile comes naturally

Like the omen of goodwill.”

The lines above are self-declaratory and empowering for not only the girl-child, but women in general. What an empowering way for women to find comfort through the written word and the subsequent lines go on to enunciate the many worthy traits that would aid the girl-child to find her voice in many societies where the odds are stacked against her.

The next and last poem which I would analyse in this review is ‘You Versus the World’ and it opens with words that resonate:

“Like death, mistakes are inevitable

And when you fall,

You don’t build a tent in the mud.

You stand.

You walk.

You run.”

And it closes with the stanza below:

“Brace up!

You’re the walls of your heart.

You are your truth,

And the rest of the world is a lie.”

The poet tells young people that it’s okay to make mistakes. And by telling them that /You are your truth/And the rest of the world is a lie/ she is giving young people the courage to revel in their mistakes and not beat themselves up after a fall.

‘The Things Father Did Not Teach Us’ is a debut collection that is stellar in conception and the nuances it explores. Abimbola Alaka is a blooming voice that many young people can relate to.

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