Book Review: Whose Fault, Kismet or Impediment? A Chronicle Of Lamentations | Iliya Kambai Dennis

Your life is a battlefield. You have fought many times; still fighting to create a contradiction between your past and your current dilemma. In the last two nights—after your boss ushered in your retrenchment letter—you contemplated your relationship with bad luck. You probed your spirituality. Something must be wrong with you. Or something must be wrong with God’s plan. Why does every good thing only last a long time in your dream? Who is responsible for your misfortune? “I’m all alone; no one understands,” you thought. But you are wrong. You’re not alone. Among the many people who have had a share of your kind of pain, and who understand the mechanism of such wars, Peter Okonkwo offers his intentional philosophic collection, “Whose Fault, Kismet or Impediment?” in solidarity.

Addressing ‘obstacle’ in the opening poem, “A Conversation with Obstacle,” the poet asks, what is your mission in a man’s life? (page 28). Who would claim not to have experienced the piercing claws of obstacles at some point in life’s journey? Is there anyone who hasn’t asked this question before?

The problem of impediments in people’s lives is a universal phenomenon: it’s like death. Inevitable. How many times have you been betrayed by hope because something unexpected happened at the verge of succeeding or breaking a milestone? Questions erupt: Why now? Why me? Exclamations emerge: Not now! Not again! How long must I continue this way? You become destitute. Weak. If not well managed, depression dumps and settles in the mind. Then suicidal thoughts would start creeping in. Or you’ll seek alternative means of bypassing the natural law of success, like ‘get rich quick’ schemes. 

Sometimes, when you’re faced with such dilemmas, you question the existence of God and his promises of a better life for you. For instance, you believe that: “God is our Shepherd; we shall not want.” Also, “God’s plan for us is not for evil but to prosper us and give us a future.” Yet there is no place that says everything will fall into place while you snore in your sleep—there has never been a successful person who didn’t pass through the agonizing toil of obstacles and impediments. You’d see this in the line: Wasn’t he, himself, crucified before the resurrection? (page 115)

In this collection, Peter Okonkwo provokes you to question the existence of obstacles. And by extension, the potency of God. Even though some Christians may find some of the poems in this collection unacceptable because they challenge their faith, when they patiently read through them, they are mesmerized by the wisdom of the poet.

In his offering, Peter Okonkwo gives you a chronicle of thought-provoking poems to ponder on. The poetry collection has a total of thirty-four (34) poems. Divided into two parts, the first part is an exegesis on the phenomenon of obstacles. A lamentation, confrontation, and interrogation.

In the opening poem, “A Conversation with Obstacle” the persona confronts obstacles and their activities in people’s lives, for example:

You’ve truncated and/ destroyed many destinies; /You’ve killed much hope/ and yet bury them;/ I have a question for you – /What is your mission/ in a man’s life? … / who exactly are you? /a spirit or a fiend? (page 28-29)

The persona’s confrontation and questions are pertinent, as anyone who has experienced the disastrous effects of impediment would agree. The use of rhetorical questions in the collection emphasizes how lost you tend to become when faced with circumstances beyond your control; the quest to search for answers you most times embark on—and how,  if care is not taken, you lose yourself completely to destruction.

But whose fault is it when you’ve prayed and cried out yet, languish in desperation?  (page 65). This is a question to ponder, as asked in the poem that birthed the title of the collection, “Whose Fault, Kismet or Impediment?” ‘Kismet,’ the idea that your life has been predestined, therefore you have no control over it. You’re left at the mercy of fate. Not your wisdom. Yet, in the poem, “Thanks to Obstacles,” the persona becomes thankful for the blockages created by kismet or impediment because they make him stronger if the lessons presented are well learned.

The second part of the book explores a variety of themes, such as friendship, hope, betrayal, death, and grief.

The collection uses literary devices such as repetition, rhetorical questions, and idiomatic expressions to drive its points and bring the reader to a point of self-examination. It’s a prosaic and philosophical collection full of wisdom like the one in Ecclesiastics.

In all, if you have been lost at a crossroads because of some predicaments and have wondered where you got it wrong, where your faith became little, or where your fate played a major role, then this collection will guide you through its long, long written narrative poems engrossed with wisdom.

Iliya Kambai Dennis is a writer and poet from Kaduna. He has been published in The MUSE, Persephone’s Fruit, Naked Cat, Salamander Ink Magazine, Feral: A Journal of Poetry and Art, Serotonin, Konya Shamsrumi, African Writer, The African Writer Review, Afreecan Read, and more. He is the author of the chapbooks Songs We Sing Before We Sleep (WRR Chapbook Series), Verses (Inkspired), and Litany of Longing (Konya Shamsrumi). He tweets @SonOfMalpauliya.