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J.P Clark Stirs Debate On African Literature

Posted by By Erhumu Bayagbon on 2004/08/22 | Views: 2244 |

J.P Clark Stirs Debate On African Literature


POET and university don, Professor J.P Clark-Bekederemo has asserted that English and French Languages form part of the way African writers are raised in modern times.

POET and university don, Professor J.P Clark-Bekederemo has asserted that English and French Languages form part of the way African writers are raised in modern times.

Clark-Bekederemo, who is one of the seven elected foundation fellows of the Nigerian Academy of Letters, submitted that writers in Africa are in a cul-de-sac, as it concerns the issue of language. He spoke at the public presentation of his collection of new poems entitled Of Sleep And Old Age, which held over the weekend at the Greetings Hall of the Yoruba Tennis Club, Onikan, Lagos.

"African literature is raised by Europeans... and African literature is part of living the lives we are called upon to live by white people. English is part of the way we are in modern times..." he said in response to one of the three questions raised by the reviewer of the anthology, Dr. Bosede Emanuel.

Dr. Emanuel, who described African writers as cultural half-casts, noted that his comments on the collection would throw up questions such as: What is poetry

What is African literature
And for whom is poetry written
After presenting his review of the glossy, bold print collection, he concluded that Clark the poet, is lyrical and the images in the poems are African. He also compared Clark's style with T.S Elliot's.

But of particular concern to the reviewer was Clark's stand on religion. To give credence to his worry, he read the last poem in the collection, entitled My Testament. There, Clark-Bekederemo chants: "This is to my Family/ Do not take me to a mortuary/ Do not take me to a church/ Whether I die in town or not/ But take me home to my own/ And let me lie in my place/ On the Kiagbodo River/ If Moslems do it in a day/ You certainly can do it in three..."

The event, which started behind schedule, attracted writers as well as literary enthusiasts. The chairman of the occasion, Mrs. Hairat Aderinsola Balogun, who described Clark as a prolific writer, opined that if "you are over the age of 60, you will feel and experience the poems in the collection. The poems alert the younger ones of the fear of ageing. But it also mirrors the pleasure of old age."

No doubt, it was that pleasure that drew a large number of old men and women who came to felicitate with Clark. This was demonstrated when the writer was called on stage to read some of his poems.

But before Clark commenced readings from his new collection, he warned: "We poets are not the best readers of our poems." He, however, kicked off his reading with the poem, Body Language, a 'song' which appeared to be the popular demand from the audience. Other poems he read, in a performance that spanned over 15 minutes, include Time and Tide, The Flowering of an Almond Tree and Of Sleep and Old Age among others.

The event also featured readings from Clark's niece, Miss Bekeakpo Clark.

However, the publisher, Crucible Publishers Ltd, Sesan Dipeolu informed that aside publishing works by notable Nigerian writers like Wole Soyinka and J.P Clark, his outfit is ready to partner and assist young, budding authors.

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