Year of Publication: 2014
“She makes us, she breaks us,” p9 Ojo notes from the beginning. In fact, it is the albumen upon which the fundamental premise of the book commences. Think of it this way, the fact that the title in itself is proverbial, gives much to think of, even when the reader has swallowed down word after word; from the Albumen through to Yolk to Woman.
Life is a Woman Breaking Eggs nonetheless is a chilling, refined debut of a writer whose style, thematic concerns and language use gives much to desire. The book, which is divided into three parts; homologous to the parts that make up an egg except for Woman, we are left to puzzle out.
Ojo’s “A Girl’s Pledge” is indeed an important poem with a theme that is not far-fetched from our homes. In fact it is everything about girlhood and recounts the coming-of-age story of a girl:
“A girl may not count
how many truths she told
which truths she will not tell
until the cows come home
she knows by layers
rows of burrowed on mama’s brow
mowed, planted lines
between folds of time” p13
Having lived in two different continents, back and forth, first born in the United Kingdom, then moved to Nigeria for her formative years, then back to the United Kingdom, Ojo gives us glimpses of life from all angles. Indeed, In Yolk, the second part of the book, “what does not break us, holds us” p33. Coupled with race and identity in a foreign territory, the narrator in “Say My Name” is confronted with the questions, “what’s your name, love?” p43 and “Can you spell that please?” p43 While Life is a Woman Breaking Eggs goes beyond the limit of cultures, the reader sits in the mind of the narrator per assumption that what if the reader were to be the narrator? In what seemed to be a useful engagement, vis-à-vis the confrontation, the narrator in responding:
“My name is bite free
Bark it in rapturous song
Wrap the vowels around your tongue
Say my name” p43
With a disturbing approach to making choices, whether “home” or “away”, p45 in Eggs Crack Easy, the narrator instructively demands “Break, watch it spill” p45 Again, the narrator appears to encounter culture shock, with regards to change of environment, where “homing pigeons land to yield” p45 and told to “forget yam” and “welcome potato” p45 Nonetheless, could we focus our “eyes on the yolk” p45 which inadvertently assumes the role of the “root of soul” p45? Perhaps, after all, there’s no belittling the ultimate fact that eggs indeed crack easy.
The final part, perhaps, saving the last for the best, narrates concerns about womanhood and feminism, begins:
“She’s breakfasting on twin yolks
laceration on her tongue singing
no more scrambled eggs” p57
In Girlfriend… where truth is sacrificed for lies even in worst scenarios “you lied when he hit you”, p61 “you lied when you couldn’t walk”. p61 Or, perhaps, is it love that has been sacrificed for lies? That notwithstanding, in “A Woman Knows Her Place”, there is believe and hope that indeed “a woman knows her place and how to get there” p74
There’s so much many readers would identify with this brief but intellectually engaging collection of poems. Ojo has written what ultimately appear to be a strong debut, more importantly the defining clarity of language use and the complexity of pivotal subjects dealt with in a cool but intelligent approach.