Words That Last Forever
Poetry has always been known to speak to the depth of the soul. April is National Poetry Month and Nigeria has birthed some great poets. In celebration of the month, we have compiled our list of five Nigerian poets whose words will indeed last forever.
Okri is a poet and novelist born in 1959 in Minna. He later moved to London before returning to Nigeria with his family in 1968. Okri left the country through a grant from the government, which allowed him to study Comparative Literature at the Essex University in England. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1987. He was awarded honorary doctorates from the universities of Westminster and Essex in 1997 and 2002 respectively. Some of his notable works in poetry include a collection of poems, An African Elegy and Mental Flight.
Born in Ojoto, Nigeria, in 1932, Okigbo was from a Catholic home and attended Government College Umuahia and the University of Ibadan. He entered the University of Ibadan to study medicine first before concentrating on Greek and Latin. Known and respected as a post-colonial African poet, he was also known as an activist. When the Nigeria-Biafra war broke out, Okigbo joined as a major and died in combat in 1967. Among his works were Heavensgate, Path of Thunder and Collected Poems.
Segun was born in 1930 in Ondo town and went on to attend the University College, Ibadan. The college was affiliated to London University and she graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English, Latin and History. She has co-authored and edited 11 children books including the classic autobiography My Father’s Daughter and its sequel, My Mother’s Daughter. Both have formed the subject of university theses and literary articles in Nigeria and overseas. Her works in poetry include Conflict and other Poems, The Pigeon-Hole and Wrong Destination.
Soyinka is a playwright, novelist and poet born in 1934 in Abeokuta. From the government college in Ibadan, he left to the University of Leeds where he got his doctorate in 1973. He was a dramaturgist at the Royal Court Theatre in London between 1958 and 1959. He was awarded a Rockefeller bursary in 1960 and returned to Nigeria to study African drama. Soyinka’s poems include Idanre and Other Poems, Poems from Prison, A Shuttle in the Crypt, Ogun Abibiman, and Mandela’s Earth and Other Poems.
Achebe is globally acclaimed as a novelist but not many people are familiar with his work as a poet. Born in 1930 in the Ogidi town, he studied English and Literature at the University College, Ibadan. After an automobile accident in Nigeria in 1990 that left him partially paralysed, he moved to the United States. There he taught at Bard College and Brown University respectively. His works in poetry include Mango Seedling, Refugee Mother and Child, Collected Poems and Another Africa—which combine as an essay and poems with photographs by Robert Lyons.