In Inspired: My Thoughts Revealed, the Ghanaian immigrant Sylvanus Banini explores love, lust, and romance with a smattering of other topics such as war, death, and birth mixed in.
All the poems are italicized and centered on the page, unhappily the mark of an amateur. That’s unfortunate because Banini engages some important and underrepresented topics, such as in the poem “Child Solider,” which begins promisingly with clean language and a simple metaphor, “They cry for help / Yet we dance to politics” but continues on in unrelievedly abstract fashion, “Their effort becomes our success” and “We kill with our ambitions”. The poem never gets to any concrete imagery or significant detail. This is not to say that we necessarily need a photorealistic display of violence–but the poem never lets us connect directly.
In his many love poems, too often Banini’s language leans toward the purple and the old-fashioned, as in the poem “This Poem,” in which he writes, “Such is my unlettered love, / Silent night holy night, but within the grips of darkness / fornication a fashion / And silence reveals the sobs of tainted affections / In the midst of segregated words the beauty of silence revealed / in this poem.” Although pairings such as “unlettered love,” “fornication” and “fashion” effectively employ alliteration, the descriptions remain vague and keep the reader at a distance from any embodied experience.
Banini occasionally unleashes a potent line, as in the poem “A Hidden Power,” which includes the evocative “I am the beauty of a bad silhouette”. Because this poem is accompanied by a graphic of the African continent filled with words such as “abolitionist,” “jazz” and “reformer,” the image of a “bad silhouette” is evocative of the suffering and achievements of peoples of the African diaspora.
Though this is not an accomplished work of literature, readers interested in a Ghananian-American lens may find Banini’s work inspiring.