Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Okigbo

(A little background on the poem: it is written in the form of a canzone, a type of Italian or Provencal poetry that is usually set to music.  “Debtor’s Lane” is part of the series of four canzones that Okigbo wrote between 1957-1961. An Ogene is a traditional Igbo instrument.)

—————————————————–

A & B: THIS is debtors’ lane, this is
the new haven, where wrinkled faces
watch the wall clock strike each hour
in a dry cellar.

A: NO heavenly transports now
of youthful passion
and the endless succession
of tempers and moods
in high societies;
no blasts no buffets
of a mad generation
nor the sonorous arguments
of the hollow brass
and the copious cups
of fraudulent misses
in brothels
of a mad generation.

A & B: HERE rather let us lie in a new haven,
drinking in the air that we breathe in
until it chokes us and we die.
Here rather let us lie with wrinkled faces
watching the wall clock strike each hour
in a dry cellar.

B: THERE was the tenement
in hangman’s lane
where repose was a dream
unreal
and a knock on the door
at dawn
hushed the tenant humped
beneath the bed:
was it the postman
or the bailiff with a writ?
And if the telephone rang
alas, if the telephone rang …
Was he to hang up his life
on a rack
and answer the final call?

A & B: HERE rather let us nest in a new haven
awaiting the tap tap tap on the door
that brings in light at dawn.
Here rather let us rest with wrinkled faces
watching the wall clock strike each hour
in a dry cellar.

 

Originally published in Black Orpheus, Number 11, 1962.

Image via

Tags: , , , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

The 2019 Gerald Kraak Prize Goes to Nigeria’s OluTimehin Adegbeye

OluTimehin Adegbeye

The 2019 Gerald Kraak Prize has been awarded to Nigeria’s OluTimehin Adegbeye, for her nonfiction piece, “Mothers and Men,” described […]

Binyavanga Wainaina, Bestselling Author, Queer Icon, and Great Literary Influencer, Passes on at 48

BINYAVANGA WAINAINA PASSES ON

Binyavanga Wainaina, the great Kenyan writer, bestselling memoirist, queer icon, beloved literary influencer, and arguably the best prose writer of […]

Membrane: A Festival of African Literatures and Ideas | May 23-26 in Stuttgart

Membrane Book Festival Stuttgart (1)

Three major cultural organizations in Germany, Literaturhaus Stuttgart, Institut français and Akademie Schloss Solitude, are hosting a four-day international literary […]

Akachi Chukwuemeka, Poet and Editor of the University of Nigeria’s Literary Journal The Muse, Passes on at 21

Akachi Chukwuemeka - graph

Chukwuemeka “Akachi” Emmanuel Ugwoke, a Nigerian poet and editor of The Muse, the literary journal of the University of Nigeria, […]

The Caine Prize Announces 2019 Shortlist

Untitled design (8)

Five writers—from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria—have been shortlisted for the 2019 Caine Prize, for short stories that explore “the […]

Short Story Day Africa Announces 2019 Prize Theme: Disruption

ssda 2019 - disruption

Short Story Day Africa has announced the theme for its 2019 Prize: “Disruption.” The prize will be open to submissions […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.