Love, heartache, and 9/11: A review of Tayo Oredein’s His Ph.D. is in Hypocrisy…and other poems about my crappy ex-boyfriend

On Friday I spent six hours out and about in Winnipeg. North. West. South. I spent much of that time on the bus, reading my Wellesley sister Tayo Oredein’s poetry memoir, His Ph.D. is in Hypocrisy…and other poems about my crappy ex-boyfriend.

It was Romeo and Juliet.  It was West Side Story.

But in Tayo’s case, Romeo cheated on his Juliet.

Tayo’s volume reflects a modern vibe and syntax, rife with repetition like the catchy chorus of a song. It reads with the clarity of a memoir, telling the story of her volatile romance with “Steve.” She, an African American Christian woman. He, a pale Muslim man. The poems follow a rhyming rhythm capturing the atmosphere and language of New York City at the turn of the millennium. It buzzes with trips in the fast lane of love, poetry in neon lights possessing its own musicality.

The poems snap an emotional image of falling in love, the butterflies, the excitement, the fireworks. My body might have been traversing all over Winnipeg the other day, but my mind was immersed in the story of the doomed lovers, doomed not by differences in race or religion or fractious families, but by human frailty and hypocrisy.

It’s a story of a lovesick girl who offers her beloved second chances. And third chances. Only to be rebuffed. Reading the bare, raw, honest poems, you feel like Tayo’s best friend as she confides in you her relationship’s journey. This book is for anyone who ever had an obsessive love for the “bad boy.” You know him. The one who, attractive and charming, opens you to new worlds yet who manipulates your heart and whose heart never belonged to you anyway. We rationalize his behavior over and over and over again. Until the relationship cracks apart.

Tayo then depicts the fall-out of her relationship’s demise, vividly expressing her unbearable, devastating heartbreak.

The book ends with the 9/11 tragedy, and Tayo’s wisdom to understand the meaning that her relationship with Steve gave her, how it informed her not to respond to the attacks in hatred, even though she was personally affected by the event (her best friend escaped from the twin towers). Although the book ends with a painful time in American history, there’s a sense of peace and resolution in the final poem. A sense of love, not for Steve, but a love resulting from an enlightened growth to look beyond superficial blame and animosity. As she writes in the preface, “everything, even heartache, happens for a reason.” Her sentiments mirror my own philosophy of living, of striving to leverage setbacks and pain into artistic endeavors and self evolution, seeking silver linings of sorts as much as possible.

Relationships. Connection. Loss. Growth. Isn’t that what life is all about at the end of the day? In Tayo Oredein’s His Ph.D. is in Hypocrisy…and other poems about my crappy ex-boyfriend you will find the essence of all of these elements.


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