Can Christopher Okigbo be considered an African modernist?

Essay by tim_aychUniversity, Bachelor'sB, April 2010

download word file, 12 pages 0.0

Should Okigbo be described as an African modernist poet? <2,800 words +- 10 per cent tolerance>

THERE are many factors to be taken into account when discussing Christopher Okigo and if he should be considered an African modernist.

It is important to look at the socio-political climate - the war across the continent which was happening - and the link between his words, the sound of his poetry and the relationship between tribalism and his intended audiences.

Okigbo's influences are not limited to Africa, he borrows from Gerard Manley Hopkins as well as a mix of European, Asian, and African influences. He takes from African and western religion and, from his time studying classics, takes influence from romantic, pastoral and classical Greek and Latin influences.

At the beginning of his poetic career Okigbo was eurocentric and modernist in his approach to poetry and this drew criticism.

"Heavensgate is a dressed up Christian ritual...

The invocation of an indigenous deity is patently insincere." (Chinweizu, Jemie and Madubuike, P163)

In examining the transformations in its formal properties and thematic content that African poetry had undergone since its evolution, Ken Goodwin observed in Understanding African Poetry early forms of African poetry were "derived from English models", "naïve" and "sometimes pathetic in their acceptance, or partial acceptance of the white man's values".

Gerald Moore and Ulli Beier also concluded much African poetry of the early 1960s suffered "from an overdose of [Ezra] Pound, [Gerard Manley] Hopkins or [T. S.] Eliot" (p. 23).

But Okigbo wanted to become the preacher, town crier and profit, warning his countrymen about war and the abuse of power and so he adopted more traditional modes, infusing tribal song and proverb into his work.

He made a conscious effort to speak in a more African voice and although his poetry...