Guest Reviews

The Purchase of Song: Ṣẹnwẹlẹ Lawino at Fifty

By Tade Ipadeola


  • Title: Song of Lawino
  • Author: Okot p’Bitek
  • Publisher: East African Publishing House
  • Number of pages: 216
  • Year of publication: 1966
  • Category: Poetry

‘A song is a form of linguistic disobedience, and its sound casts doubt on more than a concrete philosophical system: it questions the entire philosophical order’. – Joseph Brodsky

In 1966, Okot p’Bitek, who wrote first in Acoli, then English – who made his mother his main muse – published Wer pa Lawino or Song of Lawino to wide acclaim, in Africa, by the East African Publishing House. At the time, there was no way of telling just how far Song of Lawino would travel. What was evident was that the poet had inaugurated a practice which defied easy categorisation and which ruptured the established conventions of poetry written in English or French or Portuguese and published on the continent. More…

Nautilus Rising: The Poetics of John Pepper Clark

By Tade Ipadeola


  • Title: Full Tide: Collected Poems
  • Author: J P Clark
  • Publisher: Mosuro Publishers
  • Number of pages: 423
  • Year of publication: 2010
  • Category: Poetry

‘Then struck the five hunters
But not together, not together.
One set out on his own into the night,
Four down their different spoors by the sea:
By light of stars at dawn
Each read in the plan a variant…’. – ‘Seasons of Omens’, J P Clark

A nation’s fortunes can be measured by the lot of her poets. In the case of Nigeria, it is a manifold tale of many dramatis personae and attitudes. Like Ireland, Nigeria has such a varied line-up of poets that it simply staggers the mind to list the players. Collectively, Nigerian poets have lifted the nation into a plane of regard such as few African nations can rival. The Congo, Ghana, Madagascar and South Africa are all strong contenders but Nigerian poets have so decisively weighed in that these other nations must ask: why are they so blest? More…