The Coronavirus pandemic was a devastating experience and anyone who witnessed it can attest to this in the affirmative.
The world was noisy and silent all at once. Noisy as we watched and listened to the tragic occurrences with little or no control over them. Silence as the world was on a lockdown almost at the same time. The streets were empty, shops were closed, businesses shut down, scarcity crept in, then hunger, empty streets, and empty streets again. And the world was under siege.
The pandemic affected and changed humankind without a doubt. People felt and dealt with emotions of all kinds. From loss and grief to mental health struggles, to anxiety, to fear, guilt, anger, hunger, addiction, esteem issues, love, etcetera.
JB’s debut book; Once upon a Virus gave credence to all these emotions without being bathetic.
This perfect size ultra-slim 109 pages of poetry collection aims to shine a spotlight on the battles that were fought and to celebrate survivors despite those emotions because of this global nightmare.
The poem titled “what rhymes with fear?” is a four-stanza poem beginning with the lines;
“What rhymes with fear?”
A question intro with no intention of giving an answer to the reader but to lead the reader through a series of thought-provoking questions that allow the reader to suddenly catch the light.
In the subsequent stanzas, JB proved her poetic dexterity with a perfect picture painting of how the Pandemic had an upper arm on humanity:
“For even though the sky seems clear,
It still mocks mankind with a sneer,
Daring us to step out bare,
And see if our lives it would spare.”
The word “bare” as used above was indicative and speaks of the dress-code Covid-19 came along with.
One must adorn themselves with nose masks and keep a calculated distance when out of lock and key if one does not desire the ensuring poetic lines to suffice:
“This monster ravages with a spear,
One plunge, your immunity it would tear,
A respecter of nobody causing symptoms so severe,”
JB concluded this stanza with an outro question, as if to finally elicit a response from the reader, having taken them on an emotion-filled coaster.
“Isn’t this what rhymes with fear?”
The next poem from the collection to be reviewed is; “Mama’s legacy (an African child speaks up)”
Following the lockdown, families were spending an unusual amount of time together, which increased the likelihood of members stepping on one another’s toes.
This particular collection highlighted the ordeal of a typical African girl child and her typical African mother.
The poem began with the lines;
“She struck again today.
Mama’s sharp-witted tongue,”
The African girl child has a truckload of expectations on her back, not hers, but that of her parents and society. Going against those expectations or even a tiny misunderstanding gets you some tongue lashes. Jokes apart!
Further stanzas captured the emotions that ensue after an undiluted dose of cuss; from trying to fight the tears, to expecting an apology from mama, to accepting fate and moving on, and the ultimate decision to continue the legacy or not, which JB concluded by allowing time to be the judge.
“Shall I end this legacy? Or shall I continue?
Only time will tell, pray thee.”
The last poem to be reviewed from the collection is “The clock stood still”
JB’s picture painting on this one is unmatched. Even those yet born during the pandemic could read it as a historic document and relive the experiences in their minds.
The cyclic chain of events, the weariness and boredom, and the nauseating feeling of deep void and emptiness were all well captured. Indeed, the clock stood still.
The piece started with the lines;
“Isn’t it sad that we’re stuck here?”
A question that’s seeking validation. It appears that the writer feels and thinks that the situation is saddening but still asks the reader’s opinion to validate this feeling.
Then the writer went on and on about the frustrations and nostalgic memories that weren’t once welcomed but could really count at this time. At least something for a change and to break the vicious circle.
“Now my own smell pukes me,
I long for the outside air and busy streets,
The noisy neighbours and the things I used to hate.”
But that isn’t even the height of it. The third and fourth stanzas of this piece are like broken taps of emotions. JB stalked the emotions gradually and finally unleashed them in those stanzas.
“The repeating cycle of nothingness,
This empty void of uncertainty,”
“Now demons fully awake torment and scorn,
Sip anxiety, drink fear
Wallow in hate, eat depression,
A bungee jump into the waters of frustration,”
Certainly, this anthology was written as a gift to those who survived, a memorial to those who died from the tragic event, and a closure to the remnants living with the after-marks of all that transpired.
To top it off, JB included a special feature—every theme begins with a conversational introduction that allows readers to journal their thoughts and feelings in the spaces provided.
Once Upon A Virus is a collection of poems from varied themes, sensitive but written with no form of sentiment. The writer, JB Favour, is surely carving for herself a place among the top tier of African poetry.
It’s a splendid book for anyone who loves good poetry.
Written by Damiete George.