Tag Archive: African Poets

Ibadan is a city located in south-western Nigeria and is the capital of Oyo State with a population comprised mostly of the Yoruba people. The name Ibadan is derived from the Yoruba words Eba Odan which literally means ‘between the forest and plains’.

J.P. Clark’s poem is a short description of the city.




     running splash of rust

and gold – flung and scattered

among seven hills like broken

china in the sun.


It’s the last Tuesday of March, so let’s join Regular Rumination et al with the talk about poetry.

You’ve probably seen this on some other blog or website, but there’s no harm in telling you how fascinating I find this: 2 Poets – 2 Poems – 2 Different Perspectives – Same Title.

Abiku is a Yoruba (a Niger-Congo language spoken in Nigeria, Benin and Togo) word meaning  born to die. It is derived from the two Yoruba words abi (that which possesses) and iku (death). Abiku is the name given to the spirit of a child who does not live for long, but chooses to be reborn several times to the same family.

Rituals and sacrifices are made to appease it, but an Abiku chooses to be indifferent to the plights of its parents. It enjoys taunting and tormenting its mother by repeating the cycle of birth, death and rebirth in short successions. A woman whose firstborn is believed to be an Abiku usually ends up childless.

Wole Soyinka’s and John Pepper Clark’s poems have been compared, probed and analyzed on different literary levels, but as I stated before, “I am not a big fan of academic commentary on poems”.

So Iet’s share our thoughts on ABIKU by the two poets.

Any similarities? Any differences? What are your personal observations?

Do you know of any other poems with the same title but from two or more perspectives?


ABIKU by Wole Soyinka

In vain your bangles cast

Charmed circles at my feet;

I am Abiku, calling for the first

And the repeated time.


Must I weep for goats and cowries

For palm oil and the sprinkled ash?

Yams do not sprout in amulets

To earth Abiku’s limbs.


So when the snail is burnt in his shell

Whet the heated fragments, brand me

Deeply on the breast. You must know him

When Abiku calls again.


I am the squirrel teeth, cracked

The riddle of the palm. Remember

This, and dig me deeper still into

The god’s swollen foot.


Once and the repeated time, ageless

Though I puke. And when you pour

Libations, each finger points me near

The way I came, where


The ground is wet with mourning

White dew suckles flesh-birds

Evening befriends the spider, trapping

Flies in wind-froth;


Night, and Abiku sucks the oil

From lamps. Mother! I’ll be the

Supplicant snake coiled on the doorstep

Yours the killing cry.


The ripest fruit was saddest;

Where I crept, the warmth was cloying.

In the silence of webs, Abiku moans, shaping

Mounds from the yolk.


ABIKU by John Pepper Clark 

Coming and going these several seasons,
Do stay out on the baobab tree,
Follow where you please your kindred spirits
If indoors is not enough for you.
True, it leaks through the thatch
When floods brim the banks,
And the bats and the owls
Often tear in at night through the eaves,
And at harmattan, the bamboo walls
Are ready tinder for the fire
That dries the fresh fish up on the rack.
Still, it’s been the healthy stock
To several fingers, to many more will be
Who reach to the sun.
No longer then bestride the threshold
But step in and stay
For good. We know the knife scars
Serrating down your back and front
Like beak of the sword-fish,
And both your ears, notched
As a bondsman to this house,
Are all relics of your first comings.
Then step in, step in and stay
For her body is tired,
Tired, her milk going sour
Where many more mouths gladden the heart.

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 doubts
You lifted the lamp of love
And I saw in your face
The road that I should take.

Kwesi Brew (1928-2007) was and still is one of Ghana’s foremost poets. He is known for his simplicity in writing and that, perhaps, is what made me fall in love with The Mesh.

I am not a big fan of academic commentary on poems, with all the technical details and huge words that sometimes overshadow the poem itself. There are times when I have seen some of my poems butchered by those who consider themselves analysts of poetry.

Poetry offers a kaleidoscope of perspectives to any given subject, acting as a prism that separates the light of human thoughts and emotions into a stream of resplendent words. Each reader will approach a poem from a different perspective, gaining a unique insight that even the accredited poet may not be aware of.

That said, I would like to present my views on Brew’s The Mesh.

As a poet, I always face the challenge of summarizing my message in a single stanza. There is always the possibility of digressing or overdoing it. Brew, however, is able to present his message about love in seven lines. In its brevity, it speaks of dilemma, contemplation and then guidance.

We all lose our bearings concerning one issue or another in our journey through life, especially when it comes to love. To stay or not to stay? To love again after being betrayed and heartbroken?  And isn’t it such a blessing when we meet that person who is willing to stay by our side and help us through those difficult moments.

Many love poems focus on imagery and metaphors about romance, feelings, the looks of the beloved and so on and so forth. There a scores of lines that talk about moments shared and moments lost. The pain one suffered when they lost their true love to some unforeseen catastrophe or how another stole said loved one. Brew on the other hand, focuses on the most important moment of all. The moment of commitment, without which one cannot truly love.

Love is not a game we play when we are bored. Neither is it the kissing and fondling often seen in movies and soap operas. It is a serious commitment we each have to make at some point in our lives to family, friends and most importantly, to that special person we want to spend the rest of our life with.

The Mesh tells me that loving someone may come with moments of doubt, but the right person will always accept your love and give all of theirs in return, no matter what the circumstances. This, perhaps, is what makes the title such a paradox.

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