Looking Back and Looking Forward: A Review of Tolu’ A. Akinyemi’s The Morning Cloud is Empty

The Morning Cloud is Empty is a collage of rich imageries from a past so young that it is cradled in the present. More succinctly, this book very well captures the expression; looking back and looking forward without losing sight of the present. Tolu’s muse wields an enrapturing omniscience as his poems evoke the familiar aroma of African writing, while also simmering with metaphors carved out of contemporary lingo and rippling towards uncharted territories via experimental writing. Considering that the intersection between the past, present, and future is chaotic and uncertain, the opening poem “Float” extends an invitation to readers “to float through immaculate corridors…” and “…wade through chaotic disorders.” The author urges the reader to lean into chaos and embrace the spontaneity of free-spirited, roving clouds and the Brownian motion of its gaseous components.

He explores themes such as; identity, culture, grief, sweet and sour love as well as other varieties of tender affections, pain, politics, hope, healing, humor, morals, memories, inflation, digital privacy, climate change, and the pandemic. The diversity of thoughts in this work can be likened to what one might see when a hollow cross-section of the morning cloud is viewed under the microscope of deep reflection and the magnifying lens of poetry. As I read these poems, I imagined atmospheric gases bombarding the walls of the poet’s mind and crystalizing into verses that pulsate with spellbinding beauty. With such diversity of thoughts, when wedded with simplicity and brevity, the poet has successfully served a buffet that promises a full-course meal for everyone regardless of their dietary restrictions.

A reader might ask; can (the) emptiness (of the morning cloud) inspire a collection that’s so rich and enjoyable to read? Flipping the pages of this book answers that question. The morning cloud emptied itself into the poet’s mind and he makes us see the pains (personal or otherwise) that have evaporated in silent tears from the enclosure of quiet rooms condensing and returning to us. For instance, in the poem, “Not the One” Tolu’ presents a snapshot of a broken woman and points out “the memorabilia of scars she carries…” and in “Tender Soul”, he oscillates between description and explanation of her pain; “Woman, your soul is tender, but the cruelty of the world has, made you a steaming soup.” In the poem “Washed”, the poet attempts to explain the process involved in the manufacture of broken people from pain, rage, and dead dreams, thus: “He was, a mixture of pain and rage,… There was a turmoil within…” p.30 and caps it all with the universal sadness of watching “dreams scream before disappearing into the storm” p.35.

Furthermore, Tolu’ dons a satirical hat, weaving in humor-dripping lines into bold verses that call out despots and demagogues. Describing himself as a “Poet of Conscience” he does not hold back in calling out those who chant the anthem of greed (p.21). Tolu’ experiments with a fusion of drama and poetry as he uses theatrical terms like acts and scenes in the poem, Elections II.  Describing the writer’s moral bond to be society’s torch—licking up injustice and illuminating the path of justice, he wrote, “…truth is the cross I bear” p.20. He goes on to lament the realities of climate change in the poem “Losing the War”, in which he writes about deforestation and drought in a gripping language—”we pray, but the clouds are no longer gathering. We can see neither the ark nor the rainbow” p.26. Tolu attributes the “climate war” to capitalist emissions and the greed of individualism as he adds his voice to the fight for environmental consciousness via the brilliant use of personification.

As with many a dark cloud, there is a silver lining to this collection. This is seen in themes like courage, resilience, hope, and nature appreciation spread around the collection like gems. In the poem, “Stream of Hope” he writes: “On the tablet of my heart, there is a hummingbird and a dancing tree…” p.32. and in “Hill of Hope’, he writes about how hope can “…provoke the gods to come to our aid” p.34. Tolu’ also dives into culture and identity as metaphors from his roots spice up the collection. He presents poetic cultural artifacts from Nigeria as in Talking Drum and snapshots of self-discovery by placing his name under the microscope of reflection as seen in the poems: My Name I, II, & III. Nature appreciation is also captured in poems such as “Two”, “Autumn”, and others. Tolu’ closes with an open letter to budding poets and urges them to embrace growth. With beautiful postcards from his journey, he paints a picture of magical possibilities only obtainable in the ‘pain’ of bloom.

Every reader would appreciate how Tolu’ writes with urgency without necessarily hurrying his muse. This is seen in how several poems were written in parts like My Name I, II, & III, Elections I & II, and The Morning Cloud is Empty I, II, & III. He takes a back seat and lets his muse sit behind the steering, how admirable! He continues to massage the udders of the thoughts which led to a poem to milk the very last droplet of poetic nectar before moving on. Anyone looking for poems that emit beauty and spur them to reflect on the modern, mundane, and memorable would love this book. It is an intercontinental buffet with something for everyone. I highly recommend it for everyone, everywhere.


Ehi-kowoicho Ogwiji is a multiple award-winning creative writer and an astute brand communications copywriter. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Eboquills. As Founding Editor, she aims to build a support system for creatives while encouraging and promoting African literature. Ehi is also Eboquills’ Creative Director who leads the team and ensures the harmonization of efforts.

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