Monday, July 24, 2006

ojaide: truth or hokum?

A recent interview given by the poet, Tanure Ojaide, has got Nigeria's so called 'younger writers' in a proper huff. Ojaide had much to say about his work, and the country's poetic production in the main, but it is what said about the '3rd or 4th generation' of Nigerian writers that is in contention. In short, Ojaide declares that:

"There’s still no new generation you can identify in Nigerian poetry now."

There have been many responses to Ojaide's views on the younger poets, including this one, by Obi Nwakanma:

TANURE Ojaide’s “bombshell”.... turned out to be quite a whimper. The poet neither provided new, thoughtful insight into the nature of writing, nor did he advance a vital, compelling examination of the social issues around Nigerian literary culture particularly, or its unique expression within the tense intermingling that frames literary production in every era, and how that is shaping critical response to Nigerian literature in the larger backdrop of developments across cultures and within new currents.

What came out of the Ojaide interview is a rather glib statement, in which Ojaide dismissed new Nigerian writers as “copycats.” For a poet, that is a very drab worldview. Tanure Ojaide was responding to a statement made by Akachi Ezeigbo about a “fourth generation” of Nigerian writers. Ojaide’s answer needs reproduction here: “I still believe” he said “there is no new generation yet…when you look at Wumi Raji, he’s basically Niyi Osundare. When you look at Akeem Lasisi, he’s basically Niyi Osundare. There are some poets I read they write after my poems. This is to say they haven’t got a voice of their own. We shouldn’t deceive ourselves. There is still no new generation you can identify in Nigerian poetry now.”

Ojaide further says: “if you place my latest collections, maybe, Water Passion and Oil Remedies or House of Words, side by side with what the new poets are writing, you can hardly see any generation gap as you can see between us and the Soyinka generation. So, I think our generation continues - what I call the New African Poetry. It’s too late for anybody to separate them. I’ve read Maik Nwosu, Ogaga Ifowodo and others, and I haven’t seen any difference yet.” And this in fact is the crux for me. Ojaide’s does not even know the generation he’s describing. I suppose he meant Remi Raji, of whom he ascribes an Osundare influence but that is a small matter. In the broader contest of national poetry, there are often continuities.

Read Nwakanma's piece...

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