Sunday, May 19, 2024

Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Towards A Revaluation of Nigerian Poetry


Contemporary Nigerian poetry as I have enunciated before remains extremely varied and diffuse. It is still a new, evolving phenomenon. We are still very close in time to obtain a proper perspective. I have written irascibly somewhere before that the present generation of poets lacks an apparent ideology, but I realise now that with the disintegration of a single universal belief and the dislocatory effects of the times, the voices that reach us very strongly at the moment are voices from the marketplace that cannot be easily and apoethically designated with a single homogenising nomenclature. Who among them will become a part of the canon is very hard to say. But as scholars begin to study them seriously, certain poetic identities will begin to emerge.

What are the discernible trends? Any influences? Oh yes! Christopher Okigbo and Niyi Osundare. Soyinka has had no large following because he is an idiosyncratic poet that cannot be easily imitated. Aside from the cleansing of the language and the restoration of its lost consonance with a living environment, effectively, I argue, initiated by the female poets, another thing that is immediately discernible is the diminution of the public voice in much of the poetry being written at present – that self-possessed voice of one man speaking for that problematic abstraction, ‘my people’, inaugurated by Christopher Okigbo in his last sequence of poems, ‘Path of Thunder’ and taken to its utmost extent by the Osundare generation. Since then there has been an inward turning among contemporary poets. While their immediate predecessors were more public-inclined, more socially and culturally rooted, our contemporary poets seem to be rootless in all its ramifications, individualistic and politically introverted, and more ambivalent about their idea of nationhood.

And lastly, I must draw attention to the enormous scholarly and logistic challenges any interested scholar in contemporary Nigerian poetry is likely to face: one, the sheer preponderance of poets that have emerged in the present generation, and the concomitant critical challenges it poses for the scholar in sorting out from this thickly overgrown foliage, the fruits from the weeds; two the abysmal distributive system of many publishing houses. Every day, books get churned out, flooding the market and the press, except we never get to buy them in bookshops! For instance, three poets that appear to be enjoying at the moment critical applause in the press, and whom I would have loved to discuss in this essay are Hygenius Ekwuazi who has written a trilogy, Victoria Kankara and Jumoke Verissimo. Except for the last whose one or two poems I have come across in some anthologies, I am yet to read any poem written by the other two. In fact, in preparing for this essay, I have had to rely on the parts or the whole works of some of the poets that I have come across in book form, anthologies, journals, on the pages of newspapers and so forth. Yet it would seem inadequate, and ever unfair for a critic to base his whole judgement on the ‘except’ from a poet’s work. ‘Sometimes there are poets who need to be read in large quantities before their true worth becomes accessible to one.’ Our publishing houses, and even our poets – since some of them publish themselves – need to adopt a much more aggressive marketing style.

As John Bryant (2008:9) rightly avers, if a nation is to establish a cultural identity and voice of its own, let alone something as presumptuous as a national literature, it must have the means to produce or rather reproduce and distribute, that identity and voice. It must have a publishing industry. (8)



  1. Christopher Okigbo employed this ambiguous phrase in his long sequence of poem, labyrinth probably to indicate a poet’s difficulty in converting in fact certain oppressive and baffling experiences he passes through into detached and intense poetry. In other words the poet’s difficulty in finding an ‘objective correlative’ for his apprehension of certain aspects of reality.
  2. The lines are excerpted from Nduka Otiono’s Voices in the Rainbow (1997), p. 23.
  3. An excerpt from Mujidah Olaifa’s Daughter of Hauwa, Lagos: Malthouse, 1999, p. 51.



Abdullahi, Denja. ‘Mairogo’ The Daily Times 12 June, 2004.

Adewale, Gabriel Toyin. Naked Testimonies, Lagos: Mace Associates Limited (1997).

Adewale, Toyin (ed.) Twenty Five New Nigerian Poets, Berkeley, CA: Ismael Reed, 2000.

Agbada-Nwanchukwu, J.O.J. “The Language of Post-War Nigerian Poetry of English Expression” In African Literature Today, Eldred Durosimi Jones, Eustace Palmer (eds.) New Jersey: African World Press, 1992.

Aiyejina, Funsho. “Recent Nigerian Poetry in English: An Alter/Native Tradition” In Perspectives on Nigerian Literature 2, 1988.

Babalola, A.E. “The Feminist Poetry of Toyin Adewale-Nduka” In Gender and the Politics of Representation in Africa. Joseph U. Yakubu and Oyeniyi Okinoye (eds.) Ago-Iwoye: JAS Publishers, 1999.

Bryant, John. “Fateful Lightning Writing in America, 1820-1865” In Introduction to American Literature; Pearson Custom Library of American Literature.

Chinweizu, Jemie and Madubuike. Toward the Decolonization of African Literature, Enugu: Fourth Dimension, 1980.

Ebereonwu. Suddenly God was Naked, Ibadan: Kraft Books Limited, 1995.

Ebereonwu. The Insomniac Dragon, Kraft Book Limited, 1997.

Eliot, T.S. “Tradition and Individual Talent” In Jon Cook (ed.) Poetry in Theory: An Anthology 1900-2000, Malden, M.A.: Blackwell, 2004.

Eliot, T.S. The Social Function of Poetry on Poetry and Poets, London: Faber and Faber, 1957.

Fredrick, Jameson. The Political Consciousness: Narrative As a Political Act, London: Routledge, 1981.

Garuba, Harry (ed.) Voices from the Fringe, Lagos: Malthouse, 1988.

Godwin, Ken. Understanding African Poetry, London: Heinemann, 1982.

Gomme, Anchor. Criticism and the Reading Public in the New Pelican Guide to English Literature: From James to Eliot Boris Ford (ed.) New York: Penguin Books Limited, 1983, pp. 401-428.

Ifowodo Ogaga. Homeland and Other Poems, Ibadan: Kraft Books Limited, 1998.

Ifowodo, Ogaga. Madiba, AWP. Trenton, 2008.

Kan, Toni. When A Dream Lingers too Long, Lagos: Hybun Publication International, 2002.

Lukas, George. Writer and Critic, London: Merlin Press, 1978.

Nduka, Otono, Voices in the Rainbow, Lagos: Oracle Books Limited, 1997.

Nduka, Uche. “Music of a Wound” The Vanguard 24 October, 2005.

Nduka, Uche. Chiarusco, Ibadan: Kraft Books Limited, 1995.

Nwosu, Angela. Waking Dreams, Lagos: House of Malaika and Hybun, 2002.

Ogundele, Wole. “Contemporary Nigerian Literature: 1970 to the Present” In The English Compendium, Adeleke A. Fakoya and Steve A. Ogunpitan (eds.) Ibadan: Brown’s Communications Nigeria Limited, 2001.

Olafioye, Tayo. The Poetry of Tanure Ojaide: A Critical Appraisal, Nigeria: Malthouse Press Limited, 2000.

Raji, Remi. Notes Towards the Bibliography of Nigerian Women’s Poetry (1985-2006) in Research in African Literatures Volume 39, No. 1, Ohio: Indiana University Press.

Raji-Oyelade, Remi. “A Season of Desert Flowers: Contemporary Women’s Poetry from Northern Nigeria” African Literature Today 24 (2004).

Sallah Tijan. New Poets of West Africa, Oxford: Malthouse Publishers (UIC) Limited, 1995.

Shoneyin, Lola. ‘Newspaper Slut’ The Post Express, 8 August, 1998.

Shoneyin, Lola. Song of a Riverbird, Ibadan: Ovalonion House, 2000.

Soetan, Ladi. Monologues and Other Formings, Lagos: Dredew Publishers, 1992.

Tomoloju, Ben (ed.) Ashes and Diamond, Lagos: Oracle Books Limited, 2001.

William, Oscar and Honig, Edwin. The Mentor Book of American Major Poets from Edward Taylor and Wart Whitman to Hart Crane and W.H. Auden, U.S.A.: Penguin Books, 1962.

Obakanse S. Lakanse
Obakanse S. Lakanse
Obakanse Lakanse, poet, teacher and literary essayist holds a B.A in English and an M.A in Literature-in English. He has published his poems and essays in some of the country’s best-selling newspapers and on


  1. This is amazing! Our wonderful, intellctual, brillant and contemporary Africana’s giant poet, i say, keep it up, more greese to your elbow.

SAY SOMETHING (Comments held for moderation)

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Popular Articles