Writers are sometimes like a pack of hunters chasing a bull through a village. The beast has taken numerous arrows and will fall eventually, to bless the household of the hunter in whose field it drops – and none other. By hunting convention – the beast belongs in the household of the hunter in whose field it falls, no matter whose arrows are sticking out of its rump. This is the law of copyright in a mad nutshell.

Serial indebtedness is not exclusive to writing. One could argue that a city trader does not impoverish one Paris bank by five billion pounds without enriching someone somewhere by a princely sum. Or that one country does not become superlatively rich without impoverishing its trading partner superlatively. [The theoretical potential of the quintessential mister average, Jerome Kerviel, (or Societe Generale for that matter) to hobble the known world is a little terrifying, but it has ever been so: one could as easily add value or take away, write the Bible or Mein Kampf.]

There’s no denying the years of affliction a writer undertakes to put his name on the spine of an important book – and there have been books that have literally changed the course of history.  Yet, each seminal book, each turnpike essay, has as it were, the quills of tribes of writers both living and dead quivering in the rump of the bull on the desk. The bigger the beast, the more it owes humanity. That is one context of my 2006 poem, The Empty Page (which is probably the final destination of seekers of true originality):

The Empty Page

When I wrote the solemn pledge, I AM TRUE
I did not walk too far along to find I was a lie.
(For the bug smoked in the guts of fish
is fish.)

So I erased and found the small
and pompous words I AM;
which was a name that God had chosen first.

Now, I am not God

(Although I can also on an empty page
create a world that won’t acknowledge me),
so I erased again and left
the humble, uncontentious I;

Until the lie of life began to dawn on me
in greying hairs
and I saw ahead of me
the days when even ‘I’
would be a lie.
So I erased again, and found the empty page.

I found the true, the empty page.

Chuma Nwokolo

3 Replies to “Raging Bulls and Empty Pages”

  1. tamsgogo says:

    I have read your piece on the writer as a hunter set at the beast.
    As a writer,I know that I have also gone after issues to present them a manner that would be understood.The issues in the Niger Delta crisis in Nigeria which many have prayed that writers be bold to uncover the nitigrity of the causes of the kidnappings,abduction,blow-up of pipelines and bunkerings.
    The ‘Dying Voice of Gongs’ is a fictional novel. An effort that presents the issues in the eyes of the protagonist; Isitima, who plays his role out in tasking the authority to address injustice.unemployment,ill-environmental practices and infractrustural development as well as building the capacity of the people.

    Reply
  2. Chuma says:

    Hi Tamsgogo,

    All the best of luck with your novel, Dying Voice of Gongs. As you probably know, placing longer fiction sometimes becomes as thorny as resolving the issues of the Niger Delta itself. Happily, there are many other channels for venting solutions, other than long fiction: the soapbox for instance, and there are soapboxes aplenty. Ken Saro Wiwa, of course, tried both fiction and the soapbox.

    And in a suitable form, there is always African Writing…

    Chuma

    Reply
  3. Tamunobarabi Gogo Ibulubo says:

    Chuma,
    A piece to encourage not a depairing soul but to prompt for varied options to telling the issues.An effort so much appreciated.Indeed a time taken to response to my comment placed here tells how much active you are to ensure feedback.Every genre is definitely explored to break the secrecy that has beclouded the issues,not only in the Niger delta but that are determinately driven to keep the poor low and pain inflicted by the very people that hold their trust to lead them rightly to some level of economic empowerment will continue to gain writers attention;as features,drama,poetry, prose or serial.

    Not necessarily on issues of Niger Delta,I have collected about 55 poems for paper cover publication.

    Tamunobarabi [my real name]

    Reply

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