I have re-read the and searched through my notes tirelessly trying to pick a favourite poem from Firstborn – I honestly can’t. The debut collection of poetry by Sarah Aluko is as relatable to the millennial woman as it is enjoyable to read. Sentences in the poems form valuable life lessons as they awaken unearthed levels of self-awareness. I’m not shy in admitting that I was taken aback in some thought-provoking moments.
Firstborn depicts a journey of self-discovery and self-love through the challenges of heartaches and fear of non-acceptance that provides guidance and support for any female navigating down that road. At times in the beginning section, it seems as if the author is yearning for somebody to be there for her. Before evolving through the poems to reveal that by God’s grace, she had always been there to catch herself all along.
The layout of the poems is creative in itself, if not slightly confusing at times. Combined with not many poem titles, it can be unclear at times where one poem ends and another begins. Nevertheless, the illustrations by the talented Lola Betiku are off just enough quantity that they beautifully complement the words without distracting from them. The use of the illustration of a naked woman goes perfectly with a book wherein the author is laying herself bare, her wounds dug open, and we travel through her journey of healing and finding herself.
With barely a rhyme in sight, Aluko’s poems flow to their own tune, with turns of phrases to be read and never forgotten. The majority of the book is made up of short poems, just a few lines or even one. Yet it was the shortest ones that hit the hardest, ‘That speak volumes’, as Aluko said herself in her poem ‘Short Poems’. I can’t help but wonder who was the inspiration behind such words, what where the stories that inspired such beautiful poems and was that the end? Where the poems moments in stories that we will never know the ending too?
Touching on themes such as lust and abstinence, Firstborn enables discussion of such topics through another person’s point of view and life experience. Unrestricted, outspoken, Firstborn tells several stories of how and what is love, developing into a discovery that love is far more than physical attractions. It is hidden in the little phrases we use for one another in, ‘How He Says I Love You.’ And it is sometimes scared and awkward as depicted in, ‘You-part (iii)’. And even if love fails, Firstborn is a plethora of support and guidance. Even offering a practical guide aptly titled, ‘How To Get Over A Breakup…’ among the independent self-love messages.
Although I can’t choose a favourite, I feel it dutiful to end with, what I feel is, one of the most important, ‘Things My Mother Taught Me’. A poem that emits the tone of Firstborn, “You are and always will be enough.”