Inhabiting Love: Abu Bakr Solomons- Book Review

An early poem in this collection, titled  “In the morning” (pg.7) suggests that as “morning closes yesterday” that, yes, “it is safe to dream again”; we can see this as a start of an unbridled meditation on life, loss and longing that sweeps the reader away with eloquent observations and subtlety . The texture of the universe is found there. Marrakech, Kalk Bay, the Bokaap, Humansdorp and Athlone are un-uprooted. They become standing-solitude words (and worlds) filled with a sense of futility, helpless language, silence and symbolism, spanning heritage and culture, pronounced legacy and non-prosperity.

The poet goes deep into the heart of the unknown, the unfamiliar, the anointed, the romance of life, the circumspect blood knot of knowledge and makes us awaken to the fact that we are all purveyors of both dirt and truth. In the following line there is a dichotomy that exists between nature and humanity, whereby the tree takes on the behaviour and natural personality of an individual on man’s most basic terms, tinged with scepticism and caution.

In the garden, a leafless tree cautious:

(pg. 7)

The poet is seer, sage, prophet and an instrument in these challenging times of trial encompassing cognitive bodies of light. The light spoken of here is the good in the world displayed in this powerful poetry collection. It also refers to the innate responsibility of every poet, a stark reminder of the poet’s call to action, the promotion of intimacy within relationships. Poetry can be used as a psychological, radical and political device. A soothing balm that puts a band-aid over the everyday atrocities of humanity. The light-play between these words shows the breath-work of empathy for your fellow man in less fortunate and marginalised circumstances. There are life lessons that the reader takes away from the lament of the cruel and malevolent world of the poet.

And to counter this, I divide what is left

(“The arithmetic of forgetting”, pg. 42)

The poet never forgets he is an African with an idiosyncratic African sensibility when it comes to the texture of hair and the wearing of a wig to disguise identity and shame.

And the dreadful itching  vanished,

conquered like a virulent ville curse, exorcised

(“Wig (less)”, pg.42)

The phrases and ideology shown here on these pages impact the common sense and literal understanding of the meaninglessness of scarcity, poverty, marginalized writers writing about trauma and lack in modern South African society. What has always curbed and healed to a certain extent man’s enthusiasm for the taste of political  violence and brutality is the output and statements of South Africa’s poets. There is a sadness described in “The day is like a red circle” where the line shifts to announce ” saves a revolution threatening to escape” (pg.26).

Brightens and fades, straining your eyes

(“Fog”, pg.30)

Here reservation and survival is king. They test the reader’s assignment. In this flowing coping mechanism of a masterpiece that details the minutiae of the flow and ebb of daily life the poet transitions from seeker into witness stating the facts of accumulation and spiritual hangover. The turning point of each poem comes with entropy and impulse, electric synchronicity and a kind of physical chemistry that demands that you take mental notes as you dive into vessel, darkness, sham, light and the embodiment of God. There is an air of unrequited love in the following poem that shatters the illusion of childhood. We eavesdrop on the loneliness, discipline, will and stamina of a studious child.

I fell in love when I was 10

(“Piano tutor: Athlone”, pg.39)

The poems have a temporality about them, the cadence at times filled with knowledge, romantic upheaval, wretchedness, unspoken want, animal need, human desire, lightning and flame and volcanic pause. The collection is nurturing and spasmodic food for thought.

I remember coming home one evening

and there was a telephone call

…and someone said M. tried to commit suicide last night,

she’s in hospital… and I recalled her

(“The logic of nothingness”, pg.44)

The book is divided into levels that dig at the soul. Phases that speak in unwavering tribulations to the heart and mind of the poet. “Inhabiting love”, “The geography of remembering”, “Signs”, “The arithmetic of forgetting”, “Where we live” and “Cleaning”. This is itself an explanation of the principles South Africa was founded upon. The African Renaissance, social cohesion, the Rainbow Nation, intrinsic democracy, the restoration of values and thoughtful leadership. The poetry is compiled and stained with colour and sensitive  authenticity.

In the midst of global disorder,

democracy’s racist advocate emerges –

comic catastrophe, all is lost or won

(“Magog, war dog”, pg.48)

In this work and my own work as a poet I have realised that there is a “creative” society at work. I feel every poet is given a mandate. In these lines you will find a blueprint of the artist’s life experience and childhood. I found peace of mind in these pages and examples of contributions of scourge, sparks of the figment of imagination. The poet is aware that the audience of this work, their knowledge must be sated. The images have a life of their own, an electric charge and an almost sensual impulse.

There are rumours that voices echo

(“Dispossession”, pg.52)

There is achievement here. Breakthrough that comes in waves and tinny vibrations. The poet never mocks when delivering salutations within the passage of the discomfort of betrayal. Words anchor, exit, recover and relapse from a cathedral spire to a glass ceiling shaking the reader to their core with unflinching honesty and grandiose strutting.

It is humble submission to scour away

(“Cleaning”, pg.56)

There is a dead world that tears you away from abnormal notions that discredits philosophising dreamers and pre-existing stuff made of legend. This legend functions as a buffer between tumultuous consequence and difficult aftermath. It is encouraging to see joy alongside discomfort, and written with a clarity of vision. In “So what shall we see through frozen words” (pg.58) the poet confronts himself, the contradiction as well as the mentality of love and to muse and here the climate of winter, dew, sun, daybreak are preconditioned in the comfort zone of breath.

cannot stir images captive in the heart

(pg. 58)

The collection is a painful treatise on life. Life filled with the best of intentions, life filled with the possibility of reward, the hope of the betterment of society, the milk-fed imagination of a child’s memory, a non-idyllic life filled with people carrying the weight of the world upon their shoulders; but there is childlike wonder and innocence as well. It declares that life is suffering and that you, the reader, are more than you think you are.

Inhabiting Love: Abu Bakr Solomons. Botsotso, Johannesburg, 2020. ISBN 978-1-990922-49-7. 60pp

Abigail George
Abigail George
Abigail George is an author, a screenwriter and an award winning poet. She is a Pushcart Prize, two-time Best of the Net nominated, Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Prize longlisted, Writing Ukraine Prize shortlisted, Identity Theory's Editor's Choice, Ink Sweat Tears Pick of the Month poet/writer, and 2023 Winner of the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award. She is a two-time recipient of grants from the National Arts Council, one from the Centre of the Book and another from ECPACC. She won a national high school writing competition in her teens. She was interviewed by BBC Radio 4, and for, the USA Today Network and The Tennessean. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram @abigailgeorgepoet.