The Noble Prize organization shared this video on Twitter a few days ago as part of their congratulatory message to Nigeria on its 54th anniversary.
It’s a video of Soyinka reading “Lost Poems.” The poem is in his 2002 poetry collection titled Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known. I strongly recommend the collection to anyone interested in Soyinka’s more recent poetic work.
The text of the poem is printed below so feel free to follow Soyinka as he reads.
I think sometimes of poems I have lost —
Maybe their loss it was that saved the world — still
They do get lost, and I recall them only
When a fragment levitates behind
Discarded invoices, the black-rimmed notice
Of a last goodbye, a birth, a wedding invitation
And other milestones of a lesser kind.
The moment torments — why? Beyond
An instant’s passion, dubious flash —
Satori in a bar, taxi or restaurant, an airport
Waiting lounge — that births the scribble
On a stained napkin, what cast of the ephemeral
Once resonates, then spurns the mind
The morning after? All that survives
Mimics a wrinkled petal pressed
Between pages of long-discarded books.
A falling leaf trapped briefly by the passing sun
It flashes, a mere shard of memory
But filled with wistful accusations
Of abandonment. Too late,
No life to it. The book is closed
The moment’s exultation or despair
Drowned in wine rivers, shrivelled
In suns of great wars. I turn
These scrapbooks of a moment’s truth
To cinders, their curlings curse in smoke —
Once more fugitive beyond recall
Of usurper’s summons by
The morning after.
I think of voices I have lost, and touches,
The fleeting brush of eyes that burrows
Deep within the heart of need, the pledge
Unspoken, the more than acts of faith
That forge an instant world in silent pact
With strangers — deeper, deeper bonds
Than the dearest love’s embrace.
Post image by Victor Dlamini for Books LIVE via Flickr