Emeritus Professor and renowned poet & playwright Professor John Pepper Clark (popularly known by his initials J. P Clark) has passed on, aged 85. He died in the early hours of Tuesday, 13 October 2020.

Vanguard Nigeria reports that the news of the death was made public by Prof. C. C. Clark, for the family and by Mr. Ilaye Clark, for the children. The late Professor Clark was the younger brother of former Federal Commissioner for Information and South-South Leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark.

The statement from the family reads:

“The Clark-Fuludu Bekederemo family of Kiagbodo Town, Delta State, wishes to announce that Emeritus Professor of Literature and Renowned Writer, Prof. John Pepper Clark, has finally dropped his pen in the early hours of today, Tuesday, 13 October 2020.

“Prof. J. P. Clark has paddled on to the great beyond in comfort of his wife, children and siblings, around him.

“The family appreciates your prayers at this time.

Other details will be announced later by the family.”

Born on 6 April 1935 in Kiagbodo, Rivers State, Prof J. P Clark had his primary and secondary education at the Native Authority School, Okrika, and Government College in Ughelli respectively. He obtained a B.A degree in English from the University of Ibadan where he had served as editor of several campus magazines. Upon graduation, he worked for the Ministry of Information and as a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ibadan. He published his first poetry collection titled Poems in 1961 and would go on to publish A Reed in the Tide (Longman 1965), the Biafran war-themed Casualties: Poems 1966-68 (USA: Africana Publishing Corporation, 1970), A Decade of Tongues (Longmans, Drumbeat series, 1981), State of the Union (1981), and Mandela and Other Poems (1988). His plays included: The Raft (1964), Ozidi (1966) and The Boat (1981). An outspoken activist for the rights of his marginalized Ijaw Ethnic group, his work centers around institutional corruption, violence, colonialism among others.

Clark is perhaps most known for his 1965 poem “Ibadan” which has been widely reviewed and revered by critics. A catchy phrase that continues to thrill readers and critics alike after all these years goes:

running splash of rust
and gold-flung and scattered
among seven hills like broken
China in the sun.

In February, he presented fellow Nigerian writer, and admitted fan Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with the This Day’s Woman of the Decade Award.

May his soul rest in peace.