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A nefiok Akpan is one of those poets who write like they are blacksmiths. He forges fragments of images and strings them together into a poetic montage. That way, the poem is unified without losing the individuality of its many parts. When you read this poem, take it in bit by bit, line by line, image by image. Rush it, and you’ll ruin it.

If you know your African literature, you’re probably wondering about the title. Yeah, Anefiok is riffing off on Wole Soyinka’s dense and compelling essay, “The Fourth Stage.” Read the poem. Accept Anefiok’s invitation to you to think about humanity’s struggle to grasp itself, the world, and the abyss that lies between.

My favorite line:

Chaotic and serene in the nostrils of a giggling god


Fourth Stage

Far below
The slippery slope of a thousand tears,
Condensed into a mountain-side pulpit,
Moulded parcels of sustained grief obits in silence,
Moistened eyes leapfrog harmony and
Cryptic darkness muscle the world to a form.
Far beyond the sheltered rallied consolations,
Orphaned tears swept a tribute to God.
In the hallowed distance of drained time,
A mergence of light, emptiness and umbilical cords
Earthen jubilations and muffled tattered joys…

As we ants about; load and unload and load again-
The earth lies undressed in the scabbard of a market square;
…Chaotic and serene in the nostrils of a giggling god.
The allure of the graveside invites gaudy dances still,
The chuckling reels of newborns echoes across the unformed.
We float around, hugged by the ovarian web of fate
Yet we foolishly struggle to un-ration ration rationally
Like strands of cigarette smoke in the tapestry of endless winds,
Hopeful of meaning out of these meaningful meaningless meanings,
So we chase the enlightened sun to its home in search for light,
Who throws a puff of darkness from it armpit, enjoy a laugh
And spring behind us again dressed as the prayed new dawn.

Between the welcoming claps and the farewell gazes,
The earth is the uterus; the grave the passage; the womb the entrance.
Like succulently lustrous yams are culled from rotten seeds-
He who must wake must sleep, for so was the world conceived,
Not of time but in time of death and birth and the lives in between.


Image Via 

Anefiok Akpan 4A graduate of the University of Ibadan where he studied advertising, Anefiok currently works as a part time Copywriter and Social Media Analyst at the Nigeria Centenary Project.

Anefiok speaks Hausa, Yoruba, Ibibio, Efik and English. He loves traveling and meddling in people affairs and is an aspiring photographer. He is the 2008 winner of The Wole Soyinka/Dapo Adelugba Prize for Literature.


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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.

12 Responses to “BRITTLE PAPER POET—“Fourth Stage” by Anefiok Akpan” Subscribe

  1. Deoye Falade 2013/10/25 at 10:49 #


  2. Deoye Falade 2013/10/25 at 10:50 #

    We float around, hugged by the ovarian web of fate Yet we foolishly struggle to un-ration ration rationally Like strands of cigarette smoke in the tapestry of endless winds, Hopeful of meaning out of these meaningful meaningless meanings..

    Just beautiful

  3. Charles 2013/10/25 at 16:23 #

    Orphaned tears swept a tribute to God.
    In the hallowed distance of drained time

    Well cooked imagery and you brought the gods within smelling proximity.
    I know they would scamper in retreat from our prying senses.
    Well done Dante!

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