The African poetry critic GMT Emezue writes of the collection Next to Reality by Christian Otobotekere: "it takes the reader on a mind’s journey into phases of events and moods where life is re-experienced in an imaginary threshold that is next or alternative to reality. Through a philosophical hindsight that investigates the condition of man on earth and his relationship with nature, the poet recreates vivid images of the past. The platform for this imaginative exploration is poetry while the vehicle for this mental perception is the mind.Through the poet’s mind, therefore, memories flash through as “bracing winds and fawning waves,” which are timeless and immortal sources of joy that keep the poet’s spirit uplifted. In a semi-religious reflective mood, the poet contemplates the act of remembering. Through the mind, therefore, memories flash through past events, travels, which are timeless and immortal sources of valuable experiences which the poet seeks to communicate. In different sections and through different scenes, the journey into the past sometimes re-captures episodes and days of danger and fear when men shrank in terror from predator animals. Although the collection is divided into six major sections which the poet calls phantoms, yet the poetic mood could be surmised into three major types. The first mood, albeit euphoric in nature, is informed by the poet’s pre-occupation with nature. For the poet, the ‘stunning drama’ of life is wrapped up in an aura of awe and wonder through which he sees beauty in everything. Thus, whether in the description of natural or human environment, the poet’s sensibilities constantly operate in heightened realm where beauty is often conveyed with such contrasting dichotomy that reveals the poet’s awareness of dualities as defining frameworks for human existence. For instance, his extrapolations on nature in “Can you join us?” focus on the contrast between age and environment In the poem “Tourist Bonanza” this duality is presented through the idea of mortal man playing out his life of drudgery and cyclic responses to materialist realism.
Sometimes the poet argues that it is the entrenchment of man in the game of surviving in life’s whirlpool that robs his sensibility of appreciation of the “grand design of fire dancing red before us or the burst of fiery light of racing meteors” which are Nature’s beauteous gifts. In his appreciation of and near-sanctifying approach to issues on nature, Christian Otobotekere reminds us of English William Wordsworth and John Keats; those two great English Romantic poets, whose love and expression of nature and beauty remain unparalleled in English poetry.In his enunciation of a philosophical insight that focuses on simultaneous existence of good and evil in the world, Otobotekere employs Africanist ontological hindsight that expresses a holistic multi-dimensional universe where all (good and evil) exist harmoniously. Hence it is the same hand that contrived the “swooping hawks” and “constrictor” that created the fragile “brood of chicks” that serves as prey for these predators. But more fascinating for the poet are the rare instances where the brutish predator assumes the garb of docility that defies human understanding.The third major mood phase is captured by recollections of divinity and all associations with the divine like death or a trip to Jerusalem. This leads the poet to ecstatic meditation and conceptualization of divinity.Delivered in a language that is constantly evocative of his native Izon speech pattern and thought forms, the poems in this collection reveal Otobotekere’s wittiest and penetrative insight into the beauty of nature’s interaction with itself, people and other worldly beings."