Blurb “Twirling in the Flames is a collection of poetry and prose about individuals living through the human experiences of love, discomfort and tragedy. The collection takes an unapologetic look at the reality that the human condition is nothing if not an emotional journey, and explores the power of love, and what it does to those who stumble into its grip. The pieces in this literary debut are choreographed to share the profundity of everyone’s dance through the fire that life invariably puts in our paths, and to remind us all that we are more fireproof than we think.”
Themes Regret, Emotions, Love, Heartbreak, Pain and Suffering.
Editing Mostly well edited, a couple of errors.
If you like poetry, read our review of another collection of poems, Clinical Blues.
We share our thoughts on poetry separately because of the nature of poetry collections. Different poems appeal to different people. So brace up for the long ride…
Lady B Neither of us reads a lot of poetry but we challenged ourselves when we started this blog to read outside our comfort zones. I liked several poems in this collection but the review would be lengthier if I discussed them all so I’ll restrict myself to discussing a few.
Mo A complete amateur guide to writing a poetry review… Again. Disclaimer – I feel like a fraud reviewing something I do not like that much…
There was a time I enjoyed reading some E. E. Cummings and poems from school but that was it. I feel like I’m not deep enough to understand poetry and my opinion shouldn’t be taken into consideration either. Unlike our last poetry collection, this book was much easier for me to read as it has less complex phrases (thank God).
What worked? Twirling in the Flames is divided into three parts; Emote, Love and her Antitheses and Utterance.
Lady B Emote has 23 poems. The poems are about human emotions of despair, regrets and heartbreak from relationships. Keep a dictionary handy, you are about to learn a few new words (or maybe, that was just me).
It opens with a poem My Metier, a call to the reader to stay with the poet as she writes about pain and darkness. This is necessary as this is a difficult book to continue reading because of the themes explored. I think most people do not want to dwell on difficult themes such as those addressed in this book.
“Why so dark? / Why so somber? / You adjure me to write happy / To let my spilled ink fill the world with joy / Because pain and darkness make you uneasy”
For You, a poem about heartbreak was relatable especially the lines about letting an ex know they should treat the next person they meet better than they treated you. This was how I felt when I was younger but as I got older, I stopped caring about how an ex treated subsequent people. The contrast between For You and For Me made both poems stand out in this section.
Mo In Emote, Tinu writes about different kinds of pain as an emotion; hurts and brokenness. To my untrained, amateur eyes, the progression of each poem felt like a puzzle coming together. My favourite from this section is For Me because I could relate to it.
“Because hurt people hurt people / It is a reminder to love me”
Lady B Love and her Antitheses has 26 poems. I have renamed this part “The Antithesis of Love.” Why? The poems are mostly about the darker side of love; betrayal, heartbreak, pain and even reluctance to love as seen in Flammable:
“Love is fire / I want to be warm / But I’m not ready to burn”
I liked the use of simile in A Necessary Defiance (one of the few about the brighter side of love) as it makes the poem’s descriptions more vivid.
“Stilled my trembling hands / And sheltered me like a chrysalis”
In Fickle Much? the vividness is from metaphoric descriptions:
“You took my hardness / And my stony coldness / And chipped at them frantically / You were relentless / Even when my jagged edges drew blood”
I liked Apathy for its simplicity and relatability. Most people have felt this way when they moved on from a relationship and Tinu captures it articulately.
Echelons of Goodness is about someone questioning the goodness of the person who broke their heart. The title and the poem create an interesting picture in your mind; thinking about the quality of goodness in a ranking system.
Lady B Utterance has 17 poems. Some of these poems are real life experiences of people which they shared with the author.
In Me Too (based on the social media movement) Tinu reminds us of the many people who may have tried to share their stories too but couldn’t go through with it. This part of the poem reproduced below is poignant, kudos to Tinu for expressing it in a crisp yet powerful manner:
‘Me too’ / The words some screamed / Screams we didn’t hear / And won’t ever hear / Because they scream / From six feet beneath
My favourite poem in this section is No. It’s a short but succinct poem about “no” being a sentence. This goes to the heart of the issue of consent.
Overall, Utterance has the best poems in the collection. Tinu was able to convey the pain of the people the poems were written about. The poems were heartfelt and engaging so you pause to consider the heartaches of the subjects of the poems.
It took a second reading of most of the poems in Twirling of the Flames to understand them. I’m glad I patiently read them again as I appreciated the book once I understood these poems. Even though the poems are mostly free verse, they have a natural rhythm that makes them easy to read aloud. Thus, Tinu shows her literary dexterity in the choice of words in her poems.
I liked that she occasionally threw in Nigerian colloquialisms like “Question for the gods they say” (Frozen Spoons, one of my favourite poems). And “Taking painkillers for your headaches / Like the quintessential Nigerian” (Echelons of Goodness). There is also urban slang – “So rich in unending feels” (Obsidian Melodies). Nevertheless, Tinu’s poems are universal and will appeal to both lovers of poetry and the occasional reader of poetry.
Mo In Utterance, Tinu writes about experiences shared with her. I liked 8 for Silence most, the words were few but laced with deeper meanings. You could imagine a paragraph for each line. The few words convey so much. I also liked the poems on Patricia, I love how Tinu has written each phase and conveyed the pain, turmoil, fear and experiences.
I may not be a big poetry fan but I do like the occasional poem. Don’t let my words discourage you. If you love poetry I think you’ll like Tinu’s Twirling in the Flames. And if, like me, you read poetry grudgingly you’ll still like this book.
What didn’t work?
Lady B I read Shards a number of times and did not understand what the metaphors represented. I think the poem was too vague. If you’ve read Twirling in the Flames, I’d be much obliged if you could shed more light on this poem.
City of Stars is one of my favourite poems but I don’t see how the title relates to the poem.
“Oil and water seldom mix” – (Frozen Spoons). Actually, oil and water doesn’t mix. “Seldom” is a wrong word choice here.
“A problem shared / Is a problem half-solved” (Let the Words Die). The correct expression of the idiom is “a problem shared is a problem halved,” and this would have worked better rhythmically.
Unless Tinu is claiming poetic licence, I think “wrench” is used incorrectly in Apathy.
“Bathe” should have been “bathed” in a couple of poems; Obsidian Melodies and Before Forgetting.
Mo A Stranger’s Freedom is a good poem but stuck out like a sore thumb in Utterance. In fact, it was out of place in the entire collection. Also, I think the caveat added at the end was unnecessary.
Page numbers 125.
Damage N1,000 on Okadabooks.
Many thanks to Tinu for sending us copies of her book for an honest review.
Are you unenthusiastic about reading poetry like Mo? Do share your thoughts on why you don’t like poetry in the comments section.