by Ayo Tijani
In this beautifully presented little debut collection of poetry, Ayo Tijani explores the human condition and contemplates how it is shaped by personal experience and external influences.
The fluid evolution of glass-making is beset by instability, fragility, and alchemy and provides the perfect framework for Tijani’s emotive and unflinching poems.
The book is divided into four sections each relating to a stage of glass-making, and the sentiments expressed in the grouped poems quietly echo the qualities and elements of each phase.
The first are grouped under Sand, Soda, and Limestone, and in the opening short statement poem, Tijani sets the tone. Forthright, straightforward, and consequently refreshing.
Fulfilling the Need Without was my favourite with a driving, energetic tempo. Although not traditionally rhyming, immense care has been taken with the pacing and word choice so the poem reads easily yet forcefully, elucidating not only the thirst for knowledge but the quest for objective, unbiased intelligence with which to equip oneself.
Love You All, Lots was a nicely concise paean to friendship that was heartfelt without becoming gushing. Star Dance is a lovely poem, quietly profound and imaginative whereas Teachers is simple and prosaic.
The section grouping under the heading, The Furnace: Melting simmers with anger. Bisto is especially aggressive, the words feel spat onto the page and were incredibly relatable. In Montreal intrigues with a sense of angry bewilderment woven through the lines.
Focus is a strong, succinct call to personal empowerment. Indeed, throughout Of That Which Makes Glass, there is bold freedom of expression combined with pinpoint accuracy that is fiercely effective in getting the message across, but which never sacrifices poetic spirit.
The third category, Cooling begins with The Fallout which has a subtly chilling undertone. The reader is left in the dark as to what ‘it’ happening again refers to. This ignorance feeds into the poem’s ominous atmosphere, especially as the person being addressed is both ‘scared’ and ‘scarred’.
In Real Life reminded me of Focus in the Furnace grouping; plain-speaking and obvious to the point of making you smile. Tijani points out the truths hiding in plain sight that we accept but do not necessarily engage with, or act upon.
I viewed Shape Sorter as a metaphorical extension to the earlier poem, Fulfilling the Need Without. Both investigate the nature of the information we are given; its fervent bigotry and crooked tailoring enabling suppression and control.
However, the first poem, Gatekeeper, in the last section, Cooling, consolidates and concludes this theme with pleasing conviction and self-awareness of personal identity. The two-liner, The Colour of Education was sharply direct, ‘white washed my education’ an incredibly powerful line with several meanings.
Standouts in this final category, for me, were If or When and, as a Londoner myself, London. Overall, give or take a few exceptions, Tijani’s poetry is literal and this form works well to convey the blunt strength of feeling and opinion.
Of That Which Makes Glass is a fresh, uncompromising, and modern compilation of interesting and innovative poems written with single-minded passion and determination. Highly recommended.
(not currently available in US)