True Poetry, Like Fine Wine Gets Better With Age: A Review of Emmanuel Frank Opigo’s Masks and Facades by Ebi Robert



I got to read Masks and Facades about thirteen (13) years after it was published by Emmanuel Frank Opigo, a highly respected engineer and poet. The name "Opigo" is not unfamiliar to those involved in literary gatherings of all kinds, at least in Bayelsa State. Hearing the poet read from the works of other poets, or hearing him quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, or any of his classical works, or hearing him read out quizzes on the works of literary figures, speaks loudly about how vast or learned he is in the field of literature. But you may understand even better if you’ve had your hands on The Song of Our Father, wherein the poet told history through the language of poetry. Only a few writers can take such a bold step -- I mean running lines up and down, steadily, and narrating interestingly, at the length the song was sang.

Yet Masks and Facades, on the other hand, may reveal even more, with a 60-page wrap of words that includes all necessary preliminaries. The collection contains thirty-two (32) poems telling different messages in different styles and thoughts. Extensively, this review opines that this work is a true definition of a book of poetry. This argument is arguably justified for some reasons. But before laying out a few, let us see what some bards have said about poetry.


"I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquilly gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exists in the mind." – William Wordsworth.


"Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words." – Robert Frost.


The definers have waged words to describe what they feel the genre portrays. Perhaps, we may pick some features in them (definitions). This review contends that Masks and Facades reflect these and also contain some crucially identified attributes.


Firstly, Opigo opens his selection with a piece titled, ‘Ease, Muse, Thy Reins’ which, by the way, is my favourite of all the selected pieces. While I struggled to find the poet's intended message, I nevertheless discovered that it is well versed. In fact, this is similar in almost all the poems. But even more interesting is how he maintained the "couplet-stanza" format all through a regular rhyming scheme from the start to the end. Furthermore, "Ease, Muse, Thy Reins" demonstrates that a small amount of Elizabethan wordings or touches in bits can spice up poetic flows. And to know that this work was written since January 28, 1977, should show how long this Bard has loved poetizing his emotions.


Flipping to ‘And into seedlings too’, one would be tempted to say that Opigo attempts a "Spenserian standing." You may well ignore the measurements, the iambics or iambics-whatever, and see how beautifully he flowers those lines with a few repetitions and some variations—not something boring but something poetic that flows from the very first line to the end. His use of poetic standing runs through other works like Ahoy, Football in the Rain, and others.


You will also be pleased to see how he parodied his piece, like "We were a naughty lot," and how he also used biblical allusions in "Eighth Day of Creation." What about the acrostics he included and the other literary devices and tools he deployed in weaving his words? Masks and Facades demonstrate Robert Frost's point. William Wordsworth wouldn’t have regretted describing poetry with the words he chose. But Opigo’s poetry proves, once again, proverbially, that fine wine gets better with age.

This is no gainsaying. There is a wind of freshness any reader would feel going back to each read. Something like: every running shouldn't end, they should just continue, non-stop. I find this very much alive in his poetry. 

It is also evidentiary that poetry is poetry when it is written as poetry. Masks and Facades defines poetry at any time and on any day. The book is recommended to all those who wish to read true poetry. This is rated five stars out of five.


Review by Ebi Robert 

Author of "The Creed Of The Oracles"


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