The poem takes the reader through undefined spaces and into unrealized situations that hint at emotional states and physical qualities. There are references to transformation, emergence, struggle, fear, and pain. These fade as the poem progresses and the reader comes to understand that the bird referenced at the beginning of the poem has been set free, or fought its way free. Despite the curses that follow it, it’s able to circle in the sky and speak of love.
‘Night Flight’ by Segun Adekoya is a seven stanza poem that’s separated into sets of four lines. These lines follow a simple rhyme scheme of AABB CCDD, and so on, changing end sounds as the poet saw fit.
Adekoya makes use of several other poetic techniques. These include alliteration, enjambment, and caesura. The latter occurs when a line is split in half. Sometimes with punctuation, sometimes not. For example, the third line of the first stanza: “Begin the fight, spiritual and visceral” or the third line of the last stanza: “The lore of love, the large lay of labour”.
Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For instance, the first line of stanza one with the phrase “A stream of curses courses” and lines three and four of the second stanza with the phrases “As they stagger out of deep darkness, rend / The dress of dream and wait for the end”.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. There are a number of examples in the text, these include the transition between lines three and four of the second stanza with the line that ends “out of deep darkness, rend” and then jumps down to “The dress of dream”.
Analysis of Night Flight
In the first lines of ‘Nigh Flights,’ the speaker begins by describing a piercing sound, that of a string of “curses”. They travel through the nighttime air and connected with the “broken notes” of a bird. These sounds create a frightful environment that leads to contention between the spiritual and the “visceral” or physical. This conflict is made audible through the lungs.
‘Night Flight’ is made up of a string of sensorial images. Sometimes these images feel connected and other times it appears as though Adekoya was striving to create a larger mental landscape. This landscape includes darkness, light, sound and dream-like sights.
In the second stanza of ‘Night Flight,’ the speaker describes how the sound of the first stanza was heard by “Awakening hearts”. These creatures, which aren’t described in detail, “stagger out of deep darkness” and shake off their dreams. Now, they must “wait for the end”.
This series of dark imagery brings to mind the night-time purists of animals or even humans as they prowl paths through a forest or city. The “Blood” spectacle is something they must “bear” as they “tackle their fear”. These lines are incredibly alliterative, lending this poem a musical quality. It benefits from being read out loud.
The third stanza describes what is already apparent, “There is magic in the breath of air”. The “magic,” air, and everything within it, “moans a little”. There is an emotion too, but in general, the “music” of the space is “fair” or beautiful and generally pleasing.
In the next lines, the speaker introduces the active and sometimes violent action again. They describe a “fatal phase” that “phrases out all the sums”. This refers, vaguely, to a change of some kind. An overhaul of how things are, and an introduction into a new way of being. It connects to the idea of conflict between the physical and spiritual in the first stanza.
In the fourth stanza of ‘Night Flight’ Adekoya’s speaker makes use of all the same techniques, depending heavily on rhyme and rhythm to unify the lines. The speaker describes the “battle of bread and butter”. It’s real, basic, and integral to life. It’s also beautiful and bitter.
The battle takes place in the very human world of “hot sin city streets”. Connecting again to human senses, the speaker describes these streets as hot enough to burn “worker’s” feet.
There was a pause in the sounds that first made an appearance in the first stanza. Now, the birds are back in the poem and the “lore again is lit”. The bird emerges from the darkness that engulfed it in the first stanza. It “breaks away” and cleans itself off, like a “soaring phoenix”. Now, it can sing.
There are a number of large vocabulary words in the sixth stanza. These include “torrent” and “imprecations” in the first line. As the bird takes off, a whole hoard of curses follows it. The source of these curses is a “witchcraft” that has yet to lose its bright light. Its power is strong. Despite this, its “malediction,” or evil magical words, do not “fell” the bird. As an example, the speaker provides the dove that “hovers still in fair weather”.
In the final stanza of ‘Night Flight,’ the speaker continues to describe the actions of the hovering dove. It, a symbol of peace and goodness, is “Writing” through its movements, “rippling circle[s]” in the sky. It’s moving freely and trying to “teach the world…The lore of love”. The struggle that the previous six stanzas of ‘Night Flight’ set out has been overcome and now the bird is able to speak to the “labor” that has thus far been “Laid waste in the war with a raw neighbor”. The end of the poem is hopeful, although it is not entirely clear where it goes from here.