By Suraj Attahiru Attahiru
“MEMORIES talk aloud mindless of the moment, mindless of the mental state of mind,” from Umar Yogiza Jr’s How I Killed Suicide. It is an exploration into depression, the power of its pondering noises and silences, and a step by step into workable resistance; a tool of molding a safe way out of this odd, hostile world’s endless demands.
Steeped in Marxism school of thought, the poet’s mixed interrogation in prose and poetry has a penetrating elegance, stewed with uncontrolled thunderstorm that lays bare the damage done by chronic depression, suicidal thoughts – its ineffable silent symptoms and how it keeps on killing young talents:
“The first day I almost took my life was when rambling voices in my head became too loud to bear, reaching a crescendo that shot me off into isolation – talking and counter-talking to myself – receiving all manner of commands to kill myself or disappear more. I became helpless when one of the voices bombarded me with questions I had no answers to, viz, am I a success? How can one define my life in a single word in my absence? What will I be remembered for? How will I be less regarded as a poet when I am no more? Will the lid covering my ‘fraudster status’ be upturned? Would people see the worthless personality that’s ‘the me’ I see every day in the mirror?
“It was the most terrifying moment of my life, and restlessness was the word. My ability to focus on a thought for just a second disappeared. Every thought dies at its birth. My existence was summarized as a huge mistake. Terrible voices wishing me dead never relented – one repeatedly reminded that, people who know me as a failure, only pretended not to have a knowledge of it. Whenever I was meant to carry out a task or progress on an idea, I would be overwhelmed by another – like, wanting to sleep, read, write, watch a movie, etc. Somehow, thoughts of wanting to be the richest man on earth dawned. If I was thinking of going to a construction site where I used to work, other issues will fight for attention. How can I possibly do all things, be everything, and be everywhere at the same time? I must be a fool – another voice from the void chides me. I was totally broken down and gripped by the cruel embrace of death, found everywhere I stepped my foot, posing as a sweet home to a better living.”
Yogiza Jr, a young poet, damaged by the prospect of early fame, expectations, and trapped in the self web of piercing reality and dark, assuring imagination, achieves a mastery of delicate tone in this work. In the second part of the book, the poet struggles to narrate the beginning: “penetrating with moments that shocks (sic) and bites (sic) one’s attention: “the shrill voice in my head, trained me/in the art of dying, I only failed as an artist/on the verge of dying…/overlaid by chronic despair/throat-gripped by rope, ready to give up/the one on the stage happened to be me/traduced by sordid expectations/brightened by erratic hopelessness.”
And then again, “the remote control of suicide is not/in what one lost or gained from life/but on many things crumbling fast as packs of cards.”
The conceit that pillared this book is that of Danteism. Yogiza presents plausible symptoms of chronic depression that every creative is trying hard to either hide or deny into his or her consciousness. There is the quieter state of depression and suicidal thoughts and dangers, especially when young writers and poet are busy: “there is a time in my mind when/the road into sanity is unclear, I run/I run, to destroy the scale/of balanced madness and creativity/door into my heart besieged/by fresh images of horror and darkness/running from confirmation of lies/claiming to prefigure my mortality”
Yogiza Jr honed his dark decisions making it his lowest moment till they glint with fearful facts and unsayable insight. Fate has no balance in its scale, no right moment! We often forget that everything about us vanishes! The world will outlive us and we come from nothing! Bring nothing, and are going into nothing out of this world: “I have watched real people run run/and run with neither map nor/reposing destination/only to forget pieces of themselves behind/I don’t want to run anymore/ I met a traveling physician in my sanity/a trained schizophrenia/every step taken leads to bitterness my dream/wanes-sickened and exhausted”
Yogiza, gives us a wrenching tale of sordid mental war, and of the struggle of living under the threats of mind imperilled by unseen bullets. In this book, the metaphors of lust, lost, fear, and grief become the roots of the conflict as they supply nutrients for the unstable, afflicted mind:
“Finding this world unsafe, I took up arms in my mind to defend my journey through to other sides of life; I wrestled in boiling pains without a mapped-out plan. I began an aggressive search for a spiritual faith to hold on to but giving up my life mattered most – feeling that only death would give me a kind of peace my mind was imagining, so it seemed. In a flashback, my past failures, pains and tragedies returned to my head at a swoop, my sanity would gasp, searching for mythical clues amidst the whistles, drums and darkness clattering in my ears. I saw my failures and that of others, mistakes and losses, grand mysteries – I lost the courage to ask questions. I heard the usual last payers said to the dead before being lowered to mother earth, I saw a decorative casket raised shoulder-high, I wished it should be me.”
Underneath the soul of every young creative, in Nigeria, in Africa or anywhere in the world, there is a hunger of the innocence amid curiosity, a mind that is thirsty for success and urgent understanding of so many things. If all the young poets in Nigeria who embrace suicide as the only option could have the opportunity of reading this book, How I Killed Suicide, I believe they could be saved. These are stories and short poems confronting suppressed, dark anxiety, loss and grief in the emotional landscape of the mind.
* Attahiru (Attah De-Titan) is a performance poet and student of Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa, Nasarawa State