Wole Soyinka was born on the 13th of July 1934 in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. His interest in literature led him to study English literature, Greek and history at the University College in Ibadan. He then later relocated to the University of Leeds to continue his studies in literature.
At this point, he had begun teaching drama and literature at various universities in the country, predominantly, Lagos, Ibadan and Ife. He founded a theatre group in 1960 called the 1960 Masks and three years later he published his first poem, Telephone Conversations.
Wole Soyinka Poems
Some of his other popular poems which have been published include:
- Idanre and other poems (1967)
- A Big Airplane Crashed Into The Earth(original title Poems from Prison) (1969)
- A Shuttle in the Crypt(1971)
- Ogun Abibiman(1976)
- Mandela’s Earth and other poems(1988)
- Early Poems(1997)
- Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known(2002)
Soyinka has been influenced by the Irish writer J.M Synge and many other prominent writers. However, he has uniquely linked his foreign influence with popular African tradition. His writings are based on Yoruba mythology, one of which is the Yoruba god of iron and war – Ogun. Also, Soyinka’s poems are closely linked with his play.
On this note, we wrap up this post with Soyinka’s first published poem – Telephone Conversations.
The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off-premises. Nothing remained
But self-confession. “Madam,” I warned,
“I hate a wasted journey—I am African.”
Silence. Silenced transmission of
Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,
Lipstick coated, long gold-rolled
Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was, foully.
“HOW DARK?” . . . I had not misheard . . . “ARE YOU LIGHT
OR VERY DARK?” Button B. Button A. Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar-box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis—
“ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?” Revelation came.
“You mean—like plain or milk chocolate?”
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality. Rapidly, wavelength adjusted,
I chose. “West African sepia”—and as an afterthought,
“Down in my passport.” Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece. “WHAT’S THAT?” conceding,
“DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS.” “Like brunette.”
“THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?” “Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but madam, you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Are a peroxide blonde. Friction, caused—
Foolishly, madam—by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black—One moment madam!”—sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears—“Madam,” I pleaded, “wouldn’t you rather
See for yourself?”