The 3rd meeting of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA- Lagos chapter) held on Saturday, 14th April 2012 at ‘The Little theatre’, Artists village, located within the National Theatre grounds, Iganmu. It was a day where poetic rendition was at its finest. Pursuant to the reading of an extract of “A poet’s death is his life”, culled from the treasured writings of the great Kahlil Gibran (which inspired the day’s theme), intellectually minded and poetically inclined duo of Ralph Tagathata and Sheriff Garba, were called upon to discuss same.
Ralph was of the view that the reason poets were not celebrated when alive was premised on the sublime nature of poetry. It dealt with ongoing issues which people had various opinions about. Society was cruel, with less than 1% unaware of what poets were doing. He made references to cart Green, Christopher Okigbo (who many believed committed suicide at 35), Arthur Rainbow who wrote his masterpieces before the age of 19, publicly renounced the art, became a slave trader and died before 35, while John Kings died at 37. English Poet, Gerald Hopkins lived in a monastery and wrote an array of brilliant poems. He confided in his friend Robert Bridges never to publish same when he was dead. Thirty years after his death, Robert reneged on his promise and published same. His poetic pieces were hits.
Ralph further stated that “Language and Vision” were two elements of poetry which a poet must be armed with. The “consciousness of the time” enables a poet to project 100, 200 years into the future but frustration had played a role in pulling them down. He also stated that Wole Soyinka was stubborn, even though there were times he wanted to give up, but he didn’t. Poets are known to be the unacknowledged legislators of the world. “A good number of poets get celebrated 100 years after, with a few gaining recognition during their life time”.
Sheriff Garba was on all fours with Ralph’s view and stated that A poet’s death is his life by Kahlil revolved around “the loneliness of the human soul”. Christopher Okigbo certainly lived his poetry. “Works speak for us and bringing out our works keeps us alive for thousands of years. Work is the basic threshold and if you don’t do that, you can’t be guaranteed immortality”. Lending their voices to the poetic discourse, Lari Williams opined that poets ought to be recognized for their works in life and not after they’re dead.
Odia Ofeimun (author of A house of many mansions, Nigeria the beautiful, taking Nigeria Seriously), was of the view that “poets were doing well but the audience weren’t doing well” based on the minimal reception of poetry. “Nigerians don’t read, hence it creates problems for those who write. We write in English and loose those who are meant to be reading them. In Lagos there’s hardly a place you can buy poetry books unlike my time. There aren’t even places where poets can carry out readings of their works”.
He also opined that poets needed to know certain “trade secrets’. “If the poet hasn’t acquired trade secrets to winning the audience, he’s in trouble”. He also believed that Christopher Okigbo committed suicide (via the Biafran war) and made reference to what the dead poet once said about ‘going through the narrow neck of the calabash’. “The Second world war cleared many poets, and as a poet you must be willing to sacrifice everything and not waste what God has given you”.
It was a brilliant discourse with members of the house also making their contributions known.
Hakeem Lasisi and Evelyn Osagie performed a ‘romantic poetic duet” – “kerebuje”, stunning the members. Iquo -Diana rendered a beautiful traditional poetic piece starting with “Ekon ke”, while Lari Williams showed his dexterity on the drums with his thrilling poetic piece “Drum Call”. There were poetic readings by Ralph Tathagata, Sheriff Garba and new/old members. ANA’s meeting comes up every second Saturday of the month, and May’s edition will focus on the great weights of ‘short stories”.