Literary Zone

Poetry----In the Small Hours

29 June 2007 at 09:16 | 2179 views

In the Small Hours.

By Wole Soyinka.

Blue diaphane, tobacco smoke
Serpentine on wet film and wood glaze,
Mutes chrome, wreathes velvet drapes,
Dims the cave of mirrors. Ghost fingers
Comb seaweed hair, stroke acquamarine veins
Of marooned mariners, captives
Of Circe’s sultry notes. The barman
Dispenses igneous potions?
Somnabulist, the band plays on.

Cocktail mixer, silvery fish
Dances for limpet clients.
Applause is steeped in lassitude,
Tangled in webs of lovers’ whispers
And artful eyelash of the androgynous.
The hovering notes caress the night
Mellowed deep indigo? still they play.

Departures linger. Absences do not
Deplete the tavern. They hang over the haze
As exhalations from receded shores. Soon,
Night repossesses the silence, but till dawn
The notes hold sway, smoky
Epiphanies, possessive of the hours.

This music’s plaint forgives, redeems
The deafness of the world. Night turns
Homewards, sheathed in notes of solace, pleats
The broken silence of the heart.

Akinwande Oluwole "Wole" Soyinka (born 13 July 1934) is a Nigerian writer, poet and playwright. Some consider him Africa’s most distinguished playwright, as he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986, the first African since Albert Camus so honored. Soyinka was born into a Yoruba family, specifically, an Egba family in Abeokuta, Nigeria in 1934. He received a primary school education in Abeokuta and attended secondary school at Government College, Ibadan. He then studied at the University College, Ibadan (1952-1954) and the University of Leeds (1954-1957) from which he received an honours degree in English Literature. He worked as a play reader at the Royal Court Theatre in London before returning to Nigeria to study African drama. He taught in the Universities of Lagos, Ibadan, and Ife (becoming Professor of Comparative Literature there in 1975).

Soyinka has played an active role in Nigeria’s political history. In 1967, during the Nigerian Civil War he was arrested by the Federal Government of General Yakubu Gowon and put in solitary confinement for his attempts at brokering a peace between the warring parties. While in prison he wrote poetry which was published in a collection titled Poems from Prison. He was released 22 months later after international attention was drawn to his imprisonment. His experiences in prison are recounted in his book The Man Died: Prison Notes.

He has been an outspoken critic of many Nigerian administrations, and of political tyrannies worldwide, including the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. A great deal of his writing has been concerned with "the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the colour of the foot that wears it". This activism has often exposed him to great personal risk, most notable during the government of the Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha (1993-1998). During Abacha’s dictatorship, Soyinka left the country on voluntary exile and has since been living abroad (mainly in the United States where he was a professor at Emory University in Atlanta). When civilian rule returned in 1999, Soyinka accepted an emeritus post at Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) on the condition that the university bar all former military officers from the position of chancellor. Soyinka is currently the Elias Ghanem Professor of Creative Writing at the English department of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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