Monday, February 9, 2009

Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka is one of the greatest and most famous poets Africa has ever produced.
Born in 13 July, 1934 at Abeokuta in the western region of Nigeria in to a Yoruba family, he studied at the University of Ibadan from 1952-1954 before he traveled to Britain to study English language at the University of Leeds from 1954-1957 and graduated in 1958 with honors in English Literature. He worked as a play reader for a while at the royal court theatre and on his return to Nigeria; he became a senior lecturer at the University of Lagos.
Apart from poetry, Wole Soyinka has written a lot of drama, prose and he also sings.
A lot of his poems have been translated into foreign languages and he has won several local and international awards including the noble prize in literature in 1986. Wole Soyinka is a pride to the Nigerian people and an icon in African literature as well.

Wole Soyinka played an important role in the political history in Nigeria and Africa. He was put in solitary confinement for appealing for cease- fire between the warring parties in an article, by the military government of Yakubu Gowon. Also, during the Abacha’s government from 1993-1998, Wole Soyinka went on a voluntary exile because his life was at risk under the military detector because of his incessant involvement in political affairs, and by 1999, he had returned into the country. . He has also criticized the tyrannical and bad government that has drawn Nigeria and Africa in the backwaters of underdevelopment.
From Jail, he published a collected of poems he titled, ‘From prison’ He has also wrote a memoir from jail titled, ‘The man died’ of which he narrated most of his prison life experience amongst other famous books he wrote like; The lion an the jewel, Mad men and specialist, The beneficiation of the area boy, inter alia .
Indeed, Wole Soyinka is a living legend and a pride to the Nigeria people and the world at large. Amongst his poems is one titled, ‘Death in the dawn’

In this poem, the poet was inspired to write after experiencing the death of a traveler in a motor accident. Through this experience, he tries to tell us about the uncertainty that faces us in life. Man is like a person going trough a journey and we are all strangers here.

Death in the dawn.
Travelers mist set out
At dawn. And wipe your feet upon
The dog-nose wetness of the earth

Let the sunrise quench your lamps. And watch
Faint brush prickling in the sky light
Cottoned feet to break the early earthworm
On the hoe. And shadow stretched with sap prostration
This soft kindling, softness receding breeds
Racing joy and apprehension for a naked day. Burdened hulks retract,
Stoop to the mist in faceless throng
To wake the silent markets- swift, mute
Procession on grey byways………………

On this
Counterpane, it was-
Sudden winter at the death
Of dawn’s lone trumpeter. Cascades
Of white feather-flakes……but it proved
A futile rite. Propitiation sped
Grimly on, before
The right foot for joy, the left dread
And the mother prayed, child
May you never walk
When the road waits, famished

Traveler, you must set forth
At dawn
I promised marvels of the holy hour
Presage as the white cock’s flapped
Perverse imp laments-as who would dare
The wrathful wings of man’s progression…

But such another wraith! Brother
Silenced in the startled hug of
Your invention-is this mocked grimace
This closed contortion-I

By;Wole Soyinka
Complied by;Egoh Salem

Kwesi Brew

Kwesi Brew is one of the greatest poets from Ghana and the world at large.
He was born into a Fante family, one of the local tribes in central Ghana.
He grew up as an orphan who was adopted by a British guardian, ‘KJ Dickens’ who became like his surrogate father. KJ Dickens’ developed his mind into reading and writing and at an early age, his talent in poetry was developing fast.

When he was in school, his interest for literature increased he participated in literary activities including poetry, drama and prose.
Shortly after he graduated, his poems started seeing spotlight. He became the winner of The British council poetry competition in Accra, Ghana.
Also his poems appeared in several journals including a journal, ‘Okyeame’,
and some other paramount African anthologies.

He developed played an important role in the history of Ghana and also in the development of poetry in Ghana and in Africa as a whole. His poem has inspired a lot of young Africans into writing.
His poems reflect on the African society, and through his poems, he has tried to correct some of the societal ills faced in the African sect
In 1968, he published his first collection of poems ‘Shadows of Laughter’ and in 1995, he published another collection ‘No Return’ amongst other books were his poems was published.
After his graduation, he was recruited into the administrative service that was set to take over from the British after independence. He also became an assistant district commissioner and then district commissioner. He also won for himself various local and international award.

This man is a pride to the people of the Gold coast.

Unfortunately, Kwesi Brew died in 1998 at the age of 76. His poems are still read today and studied by African students. His contribution to Africa poetry was priceless, may his humble soul rest in peace.
Amongst his numerous poems in one titled ‘mesh’ a love poem


We have come to the cross –roads
And I must either leave or come with you
I lingered over the choice
But in the darkness of my doubt you lifted the lamp of love
And I saw your face
The road I should take

By; Kwesi Brew
Compiled by Egoh Salem
The poetry Africa(R)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

FAMOUS POETS- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born in London, England, in 1809, and she died at Casa Guidi, Florence, June 29, 1861. Her father, Mr. Barrett, was an English country gentleman. Possessing some means, he helped his daughter to acquire an excellent classical education; and, possessing considerable ability, he became, as she says, her public and her critic. "Her studies were early directed to the poets of antiquity, and, under the guidance of her blind tutor, Boyle, whose name she always warmly cherished, she mastered the rich treasures of AEschylus. The sublime Grecian possessed for her a charm which was only equaled by the fascination held over her wondering spirit by Shakespeare." While she was profoundly versed in Greek literature, and intimately acquainted with all the Attic writers in tragedy and comedy, she was thoroughly versed in pure and undefiled English. In her extensive correspondence with contemporaries, she shows a thorough knowledge of English literature, from Chaucer to her own time. Physically she was very delicate, but nature made up for her fragile frame by giving her a superior mental and spiritual organization. Miss Mitford, her intimate friend, describes her as a "slight, delicate figure, with a shower of dark curls falling on each side of a most expressive face, large tender eyes, richly fringed by dark eyelashes, and a smile like a sunbeam." Such, in brief, is a description of the attainments and person of the lady who, according to E. C. Stedman, was not only "the greatest female poet that England has produced, but more than this, the most inspired woman so far as known, of all who have composed in ancient or modern tongues or flourished in any land or clime." Almost before her childhood had passed, she showed remarkable preferences for the arts, but especially for the poetic art. Some of her poems written before she was fifteen, show strong marks of genius, and are worthy of preservation. Her first publication was an "Essay on Mind, and other Poems." This, it is said, was written in her seventeenth year. In 1833 appeared her excellent translation of "Prometheus;" 1838, her second volume of original poetry, "The Seraphim, and other poems;" and in 1839, "The Romance of the Page." While thus busily engaged in her work, she met with a personal calamity. A blood-vessel burst in her lungs, which forced her to remain at home close confinement for some time. At length her physician ordered that she be removed to a milder climate. In company with friends she went to reside at Torquay. At that place an accident occurred which saddened her life, and gave a deeper hue of thought and feeling to her poetry. Her favorite brother and two friends were taking a pleasure ride on a small vessel when the boat sank, and all on board were drowned. The shock caused a severe sickness, from which she never entirely recovered. It was a year before she was able to be removed to her father's house in London. For many years she remained in a darkened chamber, and received no visitors except her own family and a few devoted friends. While thus secluded from the outward world, she read extensively the valuable books in almost every language. In 1844 she came forth from her seclusion in two volumes of "Poems by Elizabeth Barrett." The melancholy thought showed traces of the sadness of much of her former life. In 1846, her thirty-seventh year, she was married to Robert Browning, noted English poet. In hopes of finding health, Mr. Browning removed to Italy. His wish was gratified, for under the sunny skies of Florence, his wife found the health which had forsaken her in her native land. In her adopted home she remained till her death. The revolutionary outbreak in 1848, furnished the theme for her next work. "Casa Guidi Windows" is a poem relating to the impressions that were made upon her mind by the events which she saw from the windows of her house in Florence. It shows great warmth of feeling for the Italians. In 1856 "Aurora Leigh" was published. This is a novel in blank verse, which the poetess declared to be her most mature work. While the poem is full of splendid passages, yet as a whole it is not considered satisfactory. It contains a prodigality of genius, with discordant mixture of material. Notwithstanding the lack of unity, which is so essential for a poem of such magnitude, a large number of critics consider "Aurora Leigh" the chief source of Mrs. Browning's fame. But perhaps an equal number look upon "Casa Guidi Windows" as "containing her ripest growth and greatest intellectual strength." Indeed the circumstances under which this poem was written, were such as to call out her best efforts. She was looking from her window, and beholding the Italians struggling for freedom. Being in full sympathy with them, her utterances were in accordance with her heart--they were lavish and unrestrained. In 1860 appeared her last publication, "Poems Before Congress," which evinced her deep interest in the people of Italy. She died in the following year, and a marble tablet in front of the villa of the Brownings records that in it wrote and died Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who, by he songs, created a golden link between Italy and England, and that in gratitude Florence had erected that memorial. "Last Poems," published in 1862, contained the literary remains of the priestess of English poetry. Some of her poems are especially admired. "Cowper's Grave," "The Cry of the Children," "A Child Asleep," and "He Giveth His Beloved Sleep," are jewels that shine with the brilliancy of the sun. Her genius was perhaps as great as that of any poet of her generation, but circumstances retarded its highest possible development. In certain intellectual qualities she was inferior to Tennyson, and the author of `Sordello,' but in others she was their superior. Be her exact niche, however, what it may, she occupies a favored place in English literature, and is undoubtedly one of the few leading poets of the nineteenth century. Her poetry is that which refines, chastens, and elevates.

– By Gbenga Olowosile

Culled from:


Feature Poem

There is this great name
Associated with so much fame
To pronounce one needs not stammer
The name is Barack Obama

Though educated in America
He has his roots in Africa
A product of the black clan
And a complete black man

The black man was hardly seen
Because of the colour of his skin
The black man was hardly heard
He was treated like the dead

This used to be the norm
But now change has come
The dark days are now history
The black man has his victory

Martin Luther King had a dream
Long before some loser shot him
He stood by his conviction
And fought back every deception

He saw a world without racism
A world devoid of every evil whim
Where all that would ever matter
Is not colour but simply character

That world is here today
And change is here to stay
The people have spoken
The black man has been chosen

Gbenga Olowosile (2008)
The poem above celebrates not just the election of a black man (Barack Obama) to the most exalted seat in the world. Indeed, the office of the President of United States of America is the most powerful office in the world regardless of what anyone might say to dispel this fact. Yes, America is going through its tough times at the moment, with the global financial crisis and ailing economy but still, America has not at all lost its footing as the world’s most respected nation and the recent election of Barack Obama is a notable icing on the cake. Where is this article driving at? Let me lay emphasis that the poem you’ve just read not only celebrates the achievement of a feat never thought possible less than half a decade ago. It is a celebration of black victory. It is a celebration of the final liberation of the black race. It is a fulfillment of prophecy. That is what this poem celebrates.

When one thinks about the history of the black race, you can’t help but sigh and wonder how and why on earth a class of people was so mistreated and easily classified with animals and beasts of burden. The slave trade is a major issue that still hurts and haunts the black race today and hardly has this race recovered from the shock of such abuse centuries after. However, in spite of all precedence, some people chose to believe in a future and place their hope in the seeming inevitable. Martin Luther King is cited in the poem above and his convictions over forty years ago have been finally proven right.

Barack Obama’s story is arguably the most popular story in the world at the moment. Here is a young man who was relatively unknown in most parts of the world less than three years ago. He had the worst childhood and past anyone could think of. The odds were totally against him; talk about being a seed sown by two people who ended apart; talk about stuck between two worlds; talk about having to be raised by struggling grandparents and finally a single mom; talk about so many other negativities. The young man could have easily turned out to be another passer-by who had nothing to contribute to his world and of course no one would blame him. It would easily be said that his foundation destroyed him but alas, the man said ‘No.’ He determined that he would never allow his foundation or his past determine his future. He decided to take his destiny in his hands and even in the face of persecutions, ridicule and a strong tendency to fail, he pushed on and look at where he is today. So what is your story?

We have a lot to learn from this story. We learn lessons on hope in seemingly hopeless situations. We learn lessons on how to have faith even when there seems no reason to have faith. WE learn a lesson on endurance and perseverance amidst unending afflictions and we finally learn a lesson on how to stay courageous and speak out even in the face of persecution and death. It is not a crime to dream. You can afford to dream and believe it. Sometimes, our dreams could take longer than necessary but nonetheless, dream. Martin Luther King’s dream took forty years to become fulfilled but it all began with the dream. What is your dream? What is that thing you long for? What is that hopeless situation you are tired of? If you can dream it, you can believe it and if you can believe it, you can achieve it. The time of change has indeed come. Nigerians, it is time to arise and make that change. You don’t necessarily have to be President to make that change. The change starts right from this moment as you read this material in your hands. The ball is in your court. What would you do?

ARTICLE: Poem Exposition by Gbenga Olowosile