‘Night’ is its meaning in Hebrew and Arabic. Pronounced as lee-lah, lay-lah or lie-lah; the poem reeks, of the mystical.
Set in the poets enchanting home city of Jos, Plateau, one of the much talked about highlands of sub-Saharan Africa, whose cool, evergreen hills has been an inspiration to famed writers from, Cyprian Ekwensi, Bose Tsevende, down to Abubakar Adams Ibrahim.
Dated November 2003, ‘Leila’ a poem which has never appeared in print was discovered amongst a pile of unpublished manuscripts of poetry, manuscripts belonging to Poetic Oracle; whose birth name is Onotu David Onimisi. Leilah is assumed to be one of the author’s earliest creations.
‘It was on a misty evening that Leila died’.
The first line confronts the reader with the tragedy and perpetual enigma that is death, finality! Unknown! Weaved in the tradition of ballads ‘Leila’, reveals the disturbing nature of life without love. Love, care and concern for one another is thus a piercing theme in the poem. Unfortunately as the reader is prompt to discover in lines 8 – 9 and 16-17
‘Sometimes arguing with herself,
Other times with unseen companions’
‘She bothered herself with everyone
But not everyone bothered about Leila.’
There is something unmistakably amiss in the character of Leila which makes loving her or caring for her an occurrence rare as the last sighting of the unicorn.
The poet through Leila’s complexity or disease calls humanity to love, at times when love is the hardest thing to do. Thus the rhetoric ‘is love necessary in times of bliss, peace and merriment? Is love and concern for ones brother not more required when confronted with war and grief!
The diction of the poet is gripping, pervading the poem with a tense and pensive mood. Understanding of the poem flows effortlessly as the language of the poet is easy to comprehend.
A striking metaphor in the poem can be grasped in the uneasy relationship between the character of Leila and that of her family members. How because of her condition, they never cared to show her any genuine attention. In today’s materialistic world the big players seem to care only for fellow rich and well-off partners, leaving the impoverished unfortunates to the mercy of death.
Aside little snippets of attention born more out of irreverent curiosity than sincere concern the poem reveals the poet as only making an observation thus succeeding in casting the poet in the same guilt implied on Leila’s family.
A major issue which the poet subtly recreates in the poem, is, the question mark? Humans from time immemorial have been plagued with multitude situations over which they have no control or explanation as is the case with Leila’s illness ‘voices in her head.’
At the hour of death ‘headlong the deceased had plunged.’ the title ‘Leila’ meaning night comes as no surprise but an irony emerges considering that Leila in other cultures would mean ‘caring, wholesome, humble, possessing charm and class.’
One comes away from the poem hit hard by a deep sense of injustice, but injustice of what? Becomes a dilemma, thus, affirming not just the presence but the interference of the metaphysical in the life of man. –Poetic OracLe.
The poet is Onotu David Onimisi, often referred to as the Poetic Oracle. He’s a Nigerian and a resident in Jos, Plateau State.
David is a facilitator of creative arts amongst other things that are art related.
He is passionate about education and enterprise as it relates to the socioeconomic development of all peoples.
The poem ‘Leila’, is a ballad. Even though there are no rhymes or rhyming scheme of any sorts, the rhythm cannot be missed.
The poem describes Leila as a young girl who was often sad than not. And who found companionship in unseen entities.
It was specified that Leila was not treated kindly even by the ones who seemed the closest to her. The writer tells us she was often bullied by her so called family or cohabitants as the case may be.
This poem ‘Leila’, is situated in the poet’s town of residence being Jos. The poet tells us Leila lived on the same street as him and his statement “everyday before that day, she had walked down the street on which I lived, on which she lived”, creates a mental picture that suggests: Leila had lived there all her life until the very short end of it. These lines puts time as an important factor in the theme of this poem: it had to be over time that the writer watched Leila to know so much about her usual demeanor.
Geography is in fact a strong element in this collection. The writer seemed to have paid close attention to Leila even more because she had lived in the same proximity as he did.
He felt some sort of compassion as suggested in the terms he qualified her with. An example is: “That girl was lonely, I know”. This poet payed close attention and even stole glances at her, he wrote.
I think this poet is trying to preach compassion. Starting his poem with how short Leila lived before the out-pour about what she had being through that he had seen before she died.
Of all the things this poet remembers about Leila, the sense of how sad she often was and how the people who seemed the closest to her had not only neglected her, but they also “scowled” at her often.
The poet wrote as if, if Leila had been shown a little love and if she had smiled at all, her death would have been delayed?
Therefore, this poem can be said to preach love and kindness, sensitivity.
“She bothered herself with everyone. But not everyone bothered about Leila.” This statement by the poet is relative to an everyday man. Here and there we can identify people struggling with “unreciprocated” concern for others.
This striking metaphor runs deep.
The images used in this poem includes that of sadness, neglect and discrimination from so close to Leila (family) to so far from her (the poet).
I think what the writer is trying to achieve is pointing out the shortcomings of an everyday misconduct of the human race.-Hybrid.
David Onotu aka Poetic Oracle a subtle face, high spirited voice. One of the few unpublished poets I know. When poetry birthed me, I met him as one of the voices whose poems were of deep meanings sometimes ‘hardcore’ to the mind, a rare example of pure energy from the mother of poetry. He tends to be inspired by what I call the ‘ancient metaphors of old Morden poetry’ his influences reflect in his works are as traditional and old form of poetry.
Leila as put together by the poet talks of a lonely spirit who sought-after affection and love, it follows no form or pattern, the rhythm tends to be sad and moody, if one sees from line 1, Leila had died, so the body of the poem takes the reader on a journey of how, why, what made Leila died since Leila was the subject, the choice of name is left for the poet, but the tone goes to a clandestine part where you expect a form to be in place but he rightly puts the reader out there to make fathom with eyes going down each line.
Leila as read doesn’t look like a recent work done by the poet, from the little collection I have made of such poet and his work, he has grown into a herculean poet with more energy centered on topics that have relevant answers to the society. This is not saying ‘Leila’ is bad but it’s a symphony of the term early in the years of a poet, where the theme is based on a pen finding a sheet and the use of simple but highly served literary devices.
Leila from the name chosen by the poet gives a remote location of an area let’s say in Africa, considering the poet is African and Nigerian to be precise, a feel of a shy little girl who lived in a remote area in the lands of Africa, desert feel because of the misty morning, the deep ditch where water is sought. The only thing that gives it away is the light rain although which will make one think the area could be located close to a desert.
The poet having chosen ‘Leila’ as the title accomplished the idea this was going to be about someone. And from line 1 where Leila died, it explained the title even more. A reader will now see the reasons why she died, the loneliness, sadness, boredom which accomplishes the call of the poem.
The poem illustrates a different form of metaphor for me, I see the poet in this piece as the metaphor. He lived on the same plains as Leila, he watched her live and later die, he knew the voices in her head. The writer followed this girl wherever she went, I won’t be surprised there’s a sequel to the piece, but the reoccurring subject for me was the poet, ‘That girl was lonely I KNOW Fearing that she may SEE ME’. That explains a lot to the ears that listen and the eyes that sees – Rudolph
Onotu David Onimisi is a British Council Creative lives Alumni, a 2013 first stage winner, Youth Enterprise with Innovation presidential initiative in Nigeria. He is the secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors in Jos. A graduate of Theatre and Communication Art. He is passionate about education and enterprise as it relates to the socioeconomic development of all peoples. This desire led him towards obtaining a post graduate diploma in Education with the National Teachers Institute Nigeria. A written documentary on Katsina State authored by Onotu David won him a position as facilitator with the Millennium Development Goals. Published in national dailies across Nigeria, his poems have appeared in international anthologies such as the Nigerian and Cambodian poetry partnership.
Alongside a friend, Onotu David initiated the White Dreams Poetry Club at the American Corner under the University. A member of the Peace Collaborative Network International. As a judge on many literary awards, Onotu David Onimisi, is widely traveled and can apt be described as a community development champion. Script writer and editor per excellence, Onotu David Onimisi spends his time at the Dorz Crafter Studios in Jos where he sharpens the creative abilities of young people towards greater literary cum economic high flights. He is presently being considered for the United States Atlas Corp International Fellowship beginning in January 2017.
The poet is trying to point out the fact that humanity is lonely, and always looking for a way to put an end to its misery. Leila was sad, pained and lonely, so she sough solace in the arms of suicide.
The writer adopted a narrative form of writing. It is a free verse with no specific pattern. It sounds like an elegy except it is not a song, it has the element of sadness and death. It has no stanzas or rhyme patterns.
The theme of loneliness is predominant in the poem. Leila was lonely despite being surrounded by people. She died alone after showing care to others and tending to their needs. There’s the theme of regret. Which could be detected in the writers voice. He showed empathy towards Leila but was too late to Dave her, A stitch in time saves lives.
Why didn’t the narrator help Leila when he could? Out of sight out of mind. He traveled and forgot all about her.
We cannot save everybody? Not everyone can be saved. There is also a silent theme of suicide. But it says a lot, it shows the extent at which humanity would go to find a way out. Loneliness leads to depression and then suicide.
The writers choice of words is simple, succinct and coherent. The writer used lots of pun to lead us into the world of Leila’s pain as well as metaphors. There was also the deliberate repetitions. Most of the lines are irregular. Mixture of short and long lines, but the use of enjambment makes it easy to follow.
At the end of the day, we are left to wonder,Why did the writer think Leila could mistake him for one of the voices in her head?
Why didn’t he find out for himself?
It’s seems dead Leila made more impact on the writer than the living Leila.
Humanity thrives on the tragedy of others. They are only attracted to the bad that happens to others.-Vera