13 May Poetry Colloquium with Dr Ogaga Ifowodo
Just to say thank you to all who joined me on Wednesday when I was guest of the English and Literary Studies department, Delta State University, Abraka, at their Poetry Colloquium on Wednesday.
It took place in a 1000-seat lecture hall — about the appalling design of the hall, installed on the campus by TERTFUND with no thought to functionality (seating arrangement, acoustics, speakers and a sound system, a proper stage or platform, and, oh, AESTHETICS, never mind landscaping of the environs, the less said the better) — but it was standing-room-only full!
The ardent and enthusiastic students and staff, not only from ELS but other departments, more than made up for these setbacks. I would love to list all of you who lent the honour of your presence to the gathering but then this post would be too long! Still, I must thank most sincerely the Dean of Arts with his academic home in ELS, Prof Sunny Awhefeyada, the HoD of ELS, Dr Enajite Ojaruega, their colleagues, the students who dramatised sections of THE OIL LAMP (Madam Edoja bringing tears to the eyes of quite a few, my third poetry volume whose theme is the Niger Delta has been on the reading list for several years, I was happy to learn), the delegation of the University of Benin Distinguished Alumni association, Warri Branch, led by Mr Osa Ikpomwosa, relatives, friends, associates and poetry enthusiasts who chose to give the day to poetry.
I had long boasted that the largest audience that had ever heard me read a poem was at my alma mater, Federal Government College, Warri, when I recited my first poem written as a 17-year-old before the entire school in our Assembly Hall (now named Davis Hall in honour of P. H. Davis our legendary principal) as the additional honour of winning the first prize for Independence House in the poetry category of our Inter-house Festival of Arts and Culture.
The DELSU Poetry Colloquium audience has broken my secondary school’s record! I wish to thank the students especially for their memorable dramatisation of “Jese,” the first section of THE OIL LAMP. Grateful thanks to Prof Sam Ukala who hurried from a meeting in Asaba to join the tribe. The dramatist he is, he did a good impersonation of Wole Soyinka when he joined me to “speak” the closing poem “Theme of the Half-child (Conversation with Soyinka),” an intergenerational dialogue on Nigeria: Soyinka lamenting his fate as a member of the wasted generation and I as a survivor of the stillborn generation! To all of you, I say, may your lamps never lack oil!