Book Review – ‘The Arrival of Rain’ by Adedayo Agarau

I purchased a copy of this book on Amazon.

In The Arrival of Rain, talented Nigerian poet Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau examines love, loss, grief, war and family through the lens of water in its many guises. We see a young man living in turbulent times, examining events and their shaping of him as he works his way back towards a sense of identity.

From the very opening poem it is clear this is raw, confessional work. Adedayo laments lost loves of all kinds; family, girlfriends, nationhood, the self. In the poem titled ‘;’ he reflects on the intergenerational nature of loss:

give me a new thing to cry about / & i do not mean love

or my father’s disappearance             or my mother’s tears gathering to form an ocean

This reflection echoes throughout the collection as he considers how these losses and the grief that accompanies them shape and are shaped by his world. 

Agarau loops back again and again to his sense of self in a series of self-portrait poems, as though pausing each time to revisit his identity and its development. His first portrait captures a young man consumed by grief in the absence of his father and grandmother; he is lost. By the fifth portrait, we see the undercurrent of righteousness emerging as Agarau expands that grief into a social consciousness:

i would rather nurse a wound than nurse a dead

boy

in my heart than clean for a gallery of dying butterflies than watch his mother fly

over the bridge than hang a ghost on my wall & remember how we turned sand into

homes for our feet than say you promised to be my sunrise

Water is the motif which appears again and again throughout this collection. The rain to which Adedayo refers is many things: the sweet cadence of his grandmother’s voice, the flooding tears of the bereaved, the blood-flow of sacrifice, both in faith and war. Oceans both give and take away and the duality of their nature is realised exceptionally well in these poems. Water soothes, cleanses, renews, boils, gives life, and withholds it. Agarau has found here a perfect allegory for the spectrum of human emotion. For all the turmoil, however, there is a sense of release towards the end of the book as Adedayo returns to a sense of self, unshackled from the past and struggling towards a sense of peace.

i feel nothing but beautiful

my body is the crossroad where god turned water to languages

gracious god

The language in The Arrival of Rain is rich and lush, lending a melodious quality to what can be stark and confronting content. Adedayo Agarau weaves the beauty and pain together in a delicate balance, to remind the reader that one can pull something meaningful from adversity and trauma, and that those events, while formative, are not always shackles. As he so poignantly phrases it himself, water the tree when you find the boy.

The Arrival of Rain is available now from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press.

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