PdS Black Voices Series Presents: OLATUNDE OSINAIKE
30 Day Free Trial
i’ll be honest: it is unclear when the offer starts : sure persuasion does not ask for much : maybe an initial here or there : or maybe an open palm to spook maybe shudder : or maybe a bronze-polished slab to crochet the bluff into some strange currency : or maybe bruised bodies are bartered instead : or maybe the moment can scoop us up : to look at the marked-down price of all this cotton : i mean we are all sold to something : no stipulation is as game as we have ever been : still persuasion does not ask for much : perhaps it should : if this is all that terms and conditions have in hand : why not shake it : why not purse all of these fermented tears : why not look me in the eye : and not regret thieving me earlier : if i am a wallet brown as a thrash : and as loose as the parchment that matches my singed twinge : if i am leather stricken to change : and i can’t help myself or my bend or my break or my achilles : i’ve been thinking : does it even matter : that steal away is the only spiritual i know by heart : does it even matter which body exits the pew that afternoon : does it even matter what scripture was hanging over their heart like a dreamcatcher then : does it even matter the meal they were looking forward to : does it even matter the hospital they were birthed in : does it even matter what their first words were : does it even matter what hue of brown the gavel is : or what mall the prosecutor got his pressed suit from : or what pleading does in this case : or what pleading does in any case : or what seraphic a jury could swear to : maybe the bible : or maybe free shipping : or maybe the thunder that floods a sentence when it strikes : or maybe i ain’t got long to stay here : and i know how this ends : that it does
in defense of renovation
for one do you recall how, in any instant, air persists upon
its own fervent darting, making a capable chimney out of you
throat, the unleashed gratitude left wedged in the symphonies
of pores humming relief doesn’t happen overnight & so I consider, in the same way, how a dead clock, pregnant with error, births a quiet truce in the stutter of a tardy sunset, I know favor may not come when I want & yet I think about each sun adjacent grin our bodies have marinated within, their tilt exclusive to the days
starved of busy shine, where safe is a con of burnt caveat writing
its own riddles steeped in a cold & unforgiving brew I do not take in as I do not want & my mouth is still fresh with demolition &
its cloyingly sweet contrast to bricks that used to line my jaw & couch my sunken speech void of any reason to lift & I mean all this
to say once my shoulders were estranged cousins to debris
& trampled air & they lived across from limit & loss & falling in love died when they were & come look they’re still so young & some days speak with slight lisps where the pause stays tentative & exhales & exiles are similar in the tongue of an exacting language
we have yet to ever really hear & fluency isn’t anything ever worth
keeping so long as there exists gravity to keep my sternum brave & honest & the shrugs are all the slang they will ever need to last
in this staggered chant of wander & of hearth foreign tied to ankles drawn to clash & lag & I know resolute how it lived on that same frayed block & kept in contact to envelop me & my wilted shoulders whenever they could lift to soak all the brine from my brow & I would insist shrines be made from my calluses & my palms would stubborn into stout shrines of reunion & now I know all of this is just past tense but I remembered relief doesn’t happen overnight & relief didn’t, so I emerged,
a living room despite & I made the mourning breakfast once more & I stayed a surplus without a dwelling that can hold me.
A few good words with Olatunde
BVS: In “30 Day Free Trial,” I was very interested in the use of the colon—for me, they worked as doors opening down a never-ending hallway, connecting the disparate clauses to each other without necessarily prescribing how I should connect them (or, at least, in a way in which the way I connected them changed). What did this grammatical choice mean to you?
OO: Thank you for that question – your reaction was, in fact, part of the reason how I came upon the form for this poem. I was challenged recently to deliberate joy – that it is not as much of a feeling as much as it is a gentle commandment for the day-by-day. I think of that comment during each moment now and also consider how it relates back to what equity the colons serve in this poem. With discovery comes the responsibility of interpretation, the tutelage we hold over our own joy and how spry of a choice it is to plant and repurpose meaning from the connections we make. To an extent, I think we tend to jail ourselves in our own thinking where we’ll start down a road and fully commit ourselves to the cause of that road without much care for why we have assumed and why we believed those things. Our experiences are just one tool we have entering these places of self-reflection and so the grammatical decision to use colons was one I maintained on behalf of option and lending the reader ways to ascribe their own value to each phrase as well as to the poem at-large. The wonder, for me and hopefully the reader, is initiated in this steady progression of curiosity where we have the opportunity to take in and value this simple process of renewal as the refined exclusive contributions we offer the work.
BVS: Tell us about how you go about making poems—do you have ritual or a particular practice? Do you listen to music or sit in a specific space? Are you a computer person or a paper and pen one?
OO: It is very much some version of routine at this point: draft-heavy sitting in my favorite coffee shop during the late hours I have researched and found it is less frequented. The practice of writing poetry and, moreover, freeing myself to the art of this world is very much chiseled into my daily resolve. Sure, there are basics to my approach – writing on my computer, editing with paper and pen, jotting down observations into memos on my phone, grooving to anything between New Jack Swing and trapsoul music, and eating some chocolate covered almonds – but I must say that my writing rarely works out in the way I expect it will which is an aspect I imagine to be a beautiful imperfection of this process in itself. That I do plan to write during definite periods of time is more a reflex to my procrastination at times than it is for the opportunity to do so. My sincerest peaks of vulnerability tends to originate from the moments in which I lack expectation, that it is an endless and instinctive feat and one you have to keep yourself open to without any regard for time or effort to truly capitalize from. And so, even with the practicality of forecasting it, the hours in which I will pour onto the page are fundamentally disheveled and uninhibited. I have come to terms with it, but I realize that part of that is, almost ironically, fooling this body, mind, and spirit I have into believing I can control and schedule that out. With that being said, I’m glad to say my poems happen to me and, thankfully, they’re patient with me.
BVS: Whose work is inspiring you the most these days? If the “30 Day Free Trial” and “in defense of renovation” were in an anthology, whose poems would they lay beside?
OO: Very likely (hear: definitely) one of the toughest questions I’ve ever been asked while also being one of the most exhilarating. More for the reasons that it is very challenging, at times, to view my own work outside of anything resembling a lens of timidity and, often, I find myself more an admirer of the poetic landscape around me than the poems I’m able to weave together. I would say, though, that I should first acknowledge Jericho Brown, Danez Smith, Marcus Wicker, and Nate Marshall whose work I try to habitually vocalize my gratitude for. They’re a sort of Mount Rushmore, a quartet of modern-day black poets who I first found myself inspired by and whose work I was pulled into for various reasons. When I think of myself – still very new to the idea of being a poet and still fortifying what I vibe with in terms of aspirations for my own poems – I find myself returning to their work more often than not.
But I’m most influenced by poems in which I can readily identify the vital cycle of discovery and societal engagement with today’s climate. I’d like to not think myself privy to an anthology as I am acutely aware of the growth I am going through currently, but I also think about how reclamation is an underlying component of these poems and to my larger frame for writing. These poets all come to mind with work that I have relied on and resided in for lecture, love, and reflection: Eve Ewing, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Melissa Lozada-Oliva, Malcolm Friend, Eloisa Amezcua, Morgan Parker, Jose Olivarez, Siaara Freeman, Taylor Steele, Julian Randall, Chen Chen, Alfredo Aguilar, Khadijah Queen, JR Mahung, Kaveh Akbar, William Evans, Tiana Clark, Ariana Brown, Bernard Ferguson, Leila Chatti, Safia Elhillo, Justin Phillip Reed, Diamond Forde, Hanif Abdurraqib, George Abraham, Ada Limón, and Solmaz Sharif. Such fruitful and vivid work that I recall ruminating on over the last few months. I would say some tactical and thrilling mixture of these folks that I think share some elements is where I’d be honored to place those two poems in particular beside.
[Editor's note: I would read that anthology in a second! Olatunde, named writers, do it!]
Olatunde Osinaike is a Nigerian-American poet originally from the West Side of Chicago. He is Black, still learning and eager nevertheless. An alumnus of Vanderbilt University, his most recent work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Apogee, HEArt Online, Hobart, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Anomaly, and Columbia Poetry Review, among other publications. You can find him at www.olatundeosinaike.com.