Wednesday, May 30, 2007

John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo

We managed to find JP Clark-Bekederemo, arguably Nigeria's best-loved and most famous living poet. We met with him at the Lagos Motor Boat club for drinks. At 74, he is still going strong. He is currently working on an 8-part documentary series on the Ijaws. A strong political contestation drives him yet onwards. I'd like to have as much passion and conviction when I'm his age..

We read this poem as we travelled around Yorubaland (more poems here).

Night Rain

What time of night it is

I do not know

Except that like some fish

Doped out of the deep

I have bobbed up bellywise

From stream of sleep

And no cocks crow.

It is drumming hard here

And I suppose everywhere

Droning with insistent ardour upon

Our roof thatch and shed

And thro' sheaves slit open

To lightning and rafters

I cannot quite make out overhead

Great water drops are dribbling

Falling like orange or mango

Fruits showered forth in the wind

Or perhaps I should say so

Much like beads I could in prayer tell

Them on string as they break

In wooden bowls and earthenware

Mother is busy now deploying

About our roomlet and floor.

Although it is so dark

I know her practiced step as

She moves her bins, bags and vats

Out of the run of water

That like ants gain possession

Of the floor. Do not tremble then

But turns, brothers, turn upon your side

Of the loosening mats

To where the others lie.

We have drunk tonight of a spell

Deeper than the owl's or hat's

That wet of wings may not fly

Bedraggled up on the iroko, they stand

Emptied of hearts, and

Therefore will not stir, no, not

Even at dawn for then

They must scurry in to hide.

So let us roll over on our back

And again roll to the beat

Of drumming all over the land

And under its ample soothing hand

Joined to that of the sea

We will settle to sleep of the innocent and free.

By: J.P. Clark


Anonymous,  11:34 pm  

Wow, brings back great memories of reading his work back in NNSS Abeokuta in the early to mid 1990s. Shame how we don't recognize and acknowledge the truly powerful ones amongst us- this man's writing could have(well, could still)invigorate and inspire generations.
BTW, a true disciple of Nigerian literature who doesn't know J.P Clark, or his work has some work to do!

'Okunrin meta

loomnie 7:03 am  

I too remember reading this poem for my high school exams! Brings back memories of those days...

Btw, you guys seem to be having a lot of work (fun) to do. Wouldn't mind being in your shoes (not exactly Fela's)!

Kola,  9:57 am  

'Okunrin meta you don't even have to be a disciple of Nigeria literature...any Nigerian not familiar with J.P. Clark has some work to do.

The Pseudo-Independent 1:32 pm  

This is an exquisite poem, and I thank you for sharing it. I'm particularly drawn to the lines.

eccentric nana 1:52 pm  

i love your love for nigeria, which can't be said for so many of our own.

Anonymous,  2:07 pm  

i love it, i can feel it

eccentric nana 2:14 pm  

by the way wetin you do mr olu oguibe? he sounded real antsy.

Jaja 2:56 pm  

Very Quiet Poem.

I ve always loved it from since.

Plus I love the comeback posts..

Thompson Oyonmi 7:11 am  

John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo inspired me.

Anonymous,  1:36 am  

Poems like this one rite here,the Casualties and the two Abikus(one from Clark & the other from Soyinka)reminds me of what was good about my secondary school days.This is the kind of poem that would remind one of William Wordsworth definition of poetry as "a spontaneous overflow of emotions recollected or captured in tranquility".

This poem reminds me other the other poems we read at the time:Night Fall in Soweto,An Irish Airman Forsees His Death,etc.
It's a great feeling.

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