Maggot Dance by G.O. Kayode
2 stars – couldn’t finish reading it
I’m going to say first that poetry isn’t my thing, but I can appreciate it from time to time. That said, don’t expect any deep insight into poetic devices.
This poet reached out to me for an honest review. When he emailed me a copy, I read the foreword, but when I reached the poetry, I found it a bit over my head. I took a break after the first two but came back later at the poet’s request.
The overall theme of the poetry lies in the decay within today’s society. This “rot” as he calls it, has been going on for centuries, in my opinion. I understand the critique, though I don’t have as much hope in the entire world being able to fix itself. There will always be good and bad people in the world, and I believe that you just focus on the good ones.
Anyway, back to the poetry. The work is split into three sections, Aperitif, Maggot Dance, and Man, with an epilogue at the end to tie it all together. As far as I understand, Aperitif is somewhat of an introduction, and the other two sections dive into some grittier stuff.
Right from the get-go, the poet is not pulling any punches in his message. As promised, he dives into the horrors of humanity—greed, vanity, desecration. I found the poems somewhat dark, as expected, but also carrying a tender hope at what society could be without the rot. This is paired as well with a wistfulness for past goodness in society.
As for the rhyme scheme, many of the poems do not fall within a category. Many, in fact, do not have a clear rhyme scheme at all, while Naughty Nuts, the last poem on Aperitif, has a slightly flexible ABAB scheme. I did not find any others with a scheme.
Each of the poems is one to three pages in length, though some of the longer ones, divided into parts, can be around four or five. For the most part, they are similarly formatted, though there are discrepancies. It said in the foreword that the book was designed by the poet’s students (he is a schoolteacher, from what I gather) and they’ve obviously not studied book formatting like a professional designer would.
Beginning the poetry of Maggot Dance, I was expecting much darker themes than the introductory poems. The first is called The Victims, and the following titles were similarly foreboding to me. The poems discuss guilt and the effects of pushing it aside, the dangers of vanity and placing blame on others. Some depict outer beauty as a sin, drawing importance on innermost virtues. This aspect feels somewhat over the top in my opinion, but I see how it is needed to emphasize the message the poet is sharing. It is dealing with difficult issues that are often cast aside, and it takes the most direct route.
Something that I understood but despised was the vividness of the maggots throughout the poems. They are, of course, a running theme in the poetry, a visual representation of the incorporeal issues the poet is discussing, and they make me squirm in discomfort in the way the poet is most likely aiming for.
I will speak critically now, from my own self. The poems, I feel, are meant to make me want to be a better person. To look at myself critically and try to root out the rot in my own self, but instead, the poems only felt like venting. Instead of picking out the negative aspects of an individual’s personality, it felt more like the poems were speaking of groups of people as a whole and placing those negative aspects upon them.
Something else I’d like to touch on—and which may be a controversial topic—is the blatant, toxic religion I feel from these poems. I am not religious myself. I can respect that other people are, but there are aspects of religion that I do not appreciate. This is what I refer to as “toxic” religion. Discrimination, lack of equality, or setting judgement on others without cause other than to justify one’s own faith—those are things I cannot accept. These things are not just from toxic religion, but the way the poet is speaking of faith, of virtue, and of humans straying from those aspects leads me to believe that the discussion is religious at its core. I bring this up here because some of the poems shine judgement on others—women mostly—and their seduction of “helpless” men. The poem Mothers also reminisces about the elegant strength of the mothers of old but says that “new mothers” are tarnishing their memories by their severe lack of everything, degrading them to their parts.
I did not enjoy reading these parts.
I do not know the life experience of the poet nor his daily life, so I will try not to place my discomfort on my view of him. For all I know, I could be entirely misreading the message. Even so, I promised an honest review, and honesty isn’t always “nice”.
I only read as far as the third section, Man. The poetry didn’t get better or worse in my eyes, but it still made me feel uncomfortable in a way that perhaps the poet is aiming for—I’m not sure.
I can still say that the poems are raw and naked, if somewhat crude, which is mildly reminiscent of ‘Cannibal’, a book of poems by Safiya Sinclare.
I’d say this poetry is for people who enjoy picking at the ugly parts of modern society, and as such, I’m not sure who’d I’d recommend this to.