Book Review: Christmas For Wide-eyed Monsters

By Blessing Bassey:

Poetry comes with its own intricate styles and embellishments, that sometimes, you’d have to re-read a verse or stanza to understand the poet’s imaginative expression or form an opinion of your own.

Even with its complexities, lovers of poetry would still have to figure a way to enjoy a poetic piece without going through an episode of brain fog.

Thankfully, students and lovers of poetry who, like me, have often had to go through series of head scratchings to uncover the hidden meanings in a stanza or verse or line of a poem, can now rest assured that a worthy poet has surfaced the face of the earth; and it’s none other than Marvel Chukwudi Pephel.

Pephel is a Nigerian short story writer and poet and his poem, Ogene, have been featured in the 10,000 socks, printed in Sweden and distributed across the world. Given his love for poetry and larger than life paintings, Marvel Chukwudi Pephel weaved words into paper, publishing his first poem collection, Christmas For Wide-Eyed Monsters.

But for non-poetic conformists, Pephel has made his poems so easy on the eye using everyday conversational language that’s difficult not to spot. If you’re like me who loves to read good ‘ole poem collections but cannot escape getting stuck in a puddle of literary devices and poetic cluelessness, Christmas For Wide-Eyed Monsters will change your perception from the very first moment you grab a copy. Apart from getting lost in a world of digestible poetics, you’ll discover that poetry wasn’t so bad after all, thanks to the poetic style and structure that Pephel employed to bring Christmas For Wide Eyed Monsters to life.

Described in the synopsis as ‘a strikingly brilliant book written with clear eye for plain language.’ Christmas For Wide-Eyed Monsters is much more than that. The thirty short but engaging poems are relatable, and as you read even further, your mind will be treated to vivid pictures of everyday life. The first poem, Let Peace Be Still, draws from the poet’s perspective of finding calmness in the challenges of life, an experience that we all go through in our lives.

If death were to be green leaf upon my soul,
Then let the gliding gulls swoop down
Upon dancing waves
Let sunlight walk in through the curtain of my soul
Let peace be still

While some experiences are manageable, others will make you wish for something as
horrific as death; a move to ‘end it all’ so to say.

Somehow, Pephel didn’t let the reader wallow in self-pity and feelings of dying. In the second poem that follows, Pephel struck the reader with a timely reminder of what they may be missing if they decide to leave for a world different from mother earth. Whether or not it was an unconscious effort to distract the reader from ranting about sad experiences, it’s amazing to see how Pephel brilliantly introduces the reader’s eyes to the beauty of mother earth, her grandeur and garland.

Look at the seas.
Look at the skies.
What do you see…?

Somehow, your mind will go on a trip to wander about the landscapes of different cool places that you’ve actually never explored but would love to, if given the opportunity. With the noise that comes from society – the pressure to be perfect – would you rather crave for peace or keep living, with the hopes of finally striking gold? Pephel has got the answer which he tactfully introduced in the seventh poem, Raison D’etre.

I am alive today
I will drink for just that amazing reason
And wear life like fuzzy clothes…

Even with the stones that life throws at him, Pephel believes that he can make mansions out of them. And you should too. But he didn’t stop there. In the tenth poem, Agbara Boy Wey Dey Wear Agbada, Pephel infuses a Nigerian twist, using the Igbo and pidgin languages as assets to drive home his message of hope.

𝘔𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘪 𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘪 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘪 𝘥𝘪𝘬𝘦…
This is for folks cashing out from legal hustles,
This poem is for the strong,
For folks making it despite the odds…

The true Nigerian spirit of ‘never giving up in the face of adversity’ is used here, and as you read through, you’ll feel the urge to keep going through the adversities despite the odds. You are also left to work out for yourself the key takeaways of this poem, written as one brief but compelling motivation.

Christmas For Wide-Eyed Monsters may be a chapbook of snappy, relatable poems, but it’s important to not treat it as a summarised version of Pephel’s thoughts and motivations, or scan through the pages in a hurry with the hopes of finishing off under five minutes.

For what it’s worth, Christmas For Wide-Eyed Monsters has got underlying tips for living better lives; there are stories that will make you laugh, frown, or do both; motivational pieces that will pinch you to keep going.

And then there’s more. As slender as it is, part of what makes this book magical is that it succeeds in rolling several stories into connected verses of convictions, misconceptions, and implications.

Blessing Bassey
Blessing Bassey

Blessing Bassey is a Nigerian writer who's always curious about people, places and events, a type of curiosity that drives her to write stories about everyday life. Her articles have been featured on Opinion Nigeria, Daily Trust, Sahara Reporters and others. You can find her stealing the day away at an outdoor park whenever she's not writing, or reading a book about anything that piques her interests.

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