POETRY AND POTTERY: A PERSONAL VIEWPOINT
I find a strong correlation between poetry and the plastic arts. As a cerarnist (potter), I see the clay working processes as a storehouse of concrete imageries for addressing everyday events and social encounters in the larger society. Working in clay and other earth media, I increasingly find a strong relationship between poetry and pottery; even beyond the lyrics of the potter's clay coils and the music of the poet's own written or verbal voices.
A broken pot in the African village setting passes on naturally to other uses, either as frying pans for local delicacies and spices (breadfruits, pepper, crickets, termites... ) or as bowls for storing water for domestic animals and pets (particularly the dog) or as local 'candle' holders or as new vessels for fetching fire from the neighbourhood kitchen, and so on. Even when reduced to shards, pots are still either disposed into refuse pits as 'chambers of memories' and historical documents for archaeologists, or are ground mid reclaimed into new clay bodies as grog that toughens new pots.
Poetry is like the crafting of earthen pots. Poems when broken down also yield different other meanings. Fragments of a piece of poem can also be passed into 'fresh' uses. Like shards of earthen pots, they can be useful materials that steel the will and disposition of other poems and poets. Poems are also pieces of memories and, like pots, are coded histories of a people in time and space. Both can also manifest as lethal weapons of resistance, of salvation and of destruction too.
Like a potter sometimes stores his/her clay in the pit or box to 'mature' or 'age' awhile, so does the poet when s/he puts his/her scribbles aside in the drawer. Remarkably, just as the poet's voice is better heard when published or persecuted, the process of getting published and the ordeal of persecution become for the poet what firing is to the potter. Indeed, a pot that successfully 'returns' from (he firing chamber (the kiln), without 'dying', rings with the metallic successful volume of poetry.
For me, even, encounter in the pottery studio relives the impressions constantly stamped onto the slabs of my mind by the social condition of my people. Where I cannot effectively transcribe them into readable clay forms and images, I reach out for my throwing needle or the pointed end of my throwing stick or a pen and translate them as text on the walls of pots or slabs of leather-hard clay or on loose sheets of paper.
Lately in my artistic career, I have come to admire the fluid boundaries of poetry, which employs vocabulary and imageries from all imaginable sources and disciplines. I begin to find clay unable to carry the full weight of my current creative sensibilities. This has resulted in my latest transgression of the technically rigid boundaries of clay to include the use of found wood, aluminium colanders, acrylic colours, copper wires, condoms, stones, sticks, cartons, metal rods, twine, jute ropes, raffia hats, spent cans, gravel sieves, metal cage, and a lot of found or recycled objects appropriated as idioms, vocabulary and metaphors that function as files for the sharpening of the voices of terracotta forms and figures in mixed media sculptures and installations.
And, fully aware that poetry, like pottery, sculpture, and other art forms, can be a tool for saving or destroying humanity or of serving the needs and interests of God, or of humanity, or of Satan and Satan's agents, I employ the fear of God as a scale on which I weigh and reweigh the weapons in my hands. This is the process by which, without fear or favour, I sort the yam from the cocoyam.