Holy Emotions is a volume of poetry by Kenyan poet and writer Vincent de Paul. Published by an online media, Create Space, Holy Emotions dwells mainly on the theme of love. We literally “hear” the persona expressing his love to, and indeed for, his daffodils- his object of admiration. This commentary focuses on the poet’s style- in the areas of diction, verse forms, and literary devices.
The first thing you will probably notice as you set to read Holy Emotions is that the poems are very conversational. The poet adopts this technique to enable him write as if he is actually speaking. The words are simple and clear, and not clogged by deep images- just as if he is in a conversation with someone standing right in from of him. Consider an excerpt from the very first poem in the collection, “Sonia Meets Sam”, which clearly illustrates simplicity:
What a sad mistake you made
Life forever torn, never to be mend,
Chided the voice in him
His sermon trailed
For the umpteenth time
When he looked her way
Marvelous beauty in the nave
Truly God’s handiwork
This simple, conversational style of poetry, I believe, makes the poems even more fun to read. They are very prosaically descriptive, and narrative in nature. However, it is a style I would rather relate to the German poet Bertolt Brecht, than any famous African poet (unless of course, among the contemporary poets). Talking about being prosaically descriptive, consider the poem “Original Sin”:
The cool linen sheets caressed her cheeks
She smelt him and the aphrodisiac
The red wine he’d drank her with
The acridity of his masculinity;
She stretched her hand for him, he’s gone
The memories of it failed
Except for the all-too familiar voice
The voice of her little black heart;
It was echoing and reverberating inside,
“The devil is beautiful…”
In this excerpt we notice the prose in the poetry from the first line. The second line introduces us to a character. The fourth line is very descriptive; the fifth line explains an action; and the sixth and seventh lines comment on the action and mood; the tenth line echoes a voice. A friend read this work and asked: “Is he writing poetry or prose?” I directed his attention to what validates the poetic merit of the lines as follows:
-the personification in “The cool linen caressed her cheeks”
-The assonance, rhyme, and consonance in “The acridity of his masculinity”
-the onomatopoeia and personification in “The voice of her little black heart…echoing…inside”, etc.
The beauty of conversational poetry is that it deeply reflects poets who “pick words from the street.” This is an expression I use to refer to people who write poetry as it comes, without thinking of the words but just writing with the spontaneity of the muse. However, as I read more deeply into the book I notice that there were indeed some of the poems that did not just “come from the street,” but which have had a lot of hardwork put into writing them- an effort which paid off in creating so much beauty. For example, in the poem “The Holy Trinity of Love” the poet highlights that trust, being truthful, and a sharing spirit, are three things that make love what it is. But these themes are stressed in a very colourful way. We read:
There are times alone you would be left
Rain of tears would make ya’ eyes drier
Unperturbed by doubt, baby, remain you
Stand ya’ firm even in the wildest of storms
Thine comes thy love with love though sleekest.
Solemnly shall be thine lost moments
Honey, no more pain in ya’ veins shall seeth’
All the day thereafter shall be like da’ mimosa
Roses and violets of da’ garden adorn you forever
Every time you kiss and do things of those in love.
Together hand in hand in the streets strut
Remember to each other sweet words whisper
Understand the life of the one who lives in you
Thou hast done all what thy sleekest thine heart
Hail the Holy Trinity of Love; Trust, Share, Truth.
Then, too, in Holy Emotions I noticed that the poet has a passion for breaking the “rules” of poetic styles and conventions. Breaking conventions in any art is not such an easy thing to do- unless you are already very knowledgeable about such rules- as is true of Vincent De Paul. When I first saw the title “Sonnet”, it was in the table of contents. I quickly flipped the pages to the page in which the poem was set, with eager anticipation like a hyena savouring its meal. For one thing I must remark that the title particularly caught my attention because, first, a sonnet is really not such an African art; and secondly, I wanted to see how the poet would be able to cope with the traditional rules of sonnets: the subject matter, the rhythm, the meter, the rhyme scheme, the diction, the stanza forms, and then the length. But on getting to the read the poem I noticed that Vincent had broken all the rules and kept to only one- the fourteen line length of the sonnet. I smiled.
Holy Emotions, for me, has been a great read. If you want to read a poet who writes in a way that makes you have the same pleasure in poetry as you would have got in prose, I suggest you get a copy of Holy Emotions by Vincent de Paul.