Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian playwright, poet and writer. He is the first black African to have been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature which he received in 1986. In 1965 Soyinka was imprisoned in Nigeria for 22 months for his political activism. He later published a collection of poetry made up of the pieces he had written while in prison on scrap tissue paper. Much of Soyinka’s work focuses on the meaningless of war, which humankind invests so much into. He has faced criticism from various fronts for speaking out about the “the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the colour of the foot that wears it,” and incorporating this perspective into his work and teachings.
Civilian and Soldier
My apparition rose from the fall of lead,
Declared, 'I am a civilian.' It only served
To aggravate your fright. For how could I
Have risen, a being of this world, in that hour
Of impartial death! And I thought also: nor is
Your quarrel of this world.
You stood still
For both eternities, and oh I heard the lesson
Of your traing sessions, cautioning -
Scorch earth behind you, do not leave
A dubious neutral to the rear. Reiteration
Of my civilian quandary, burrowing earth
From the lead festival of your more eager friends
Worked the worse on your confusion, and when
You brought the gun to bear on me, and death
Twitched me gently in the eye, your plight
And all of you came clear to me.
I hope some day
Intent upon my trade of living, to be checked
In stride by your apparition in a trench,
Signalling, I am a soldier. No hesitation then
But I shall shoot you clean and fair
With meat and bread, a gourd of wine
A bunch of breasts from either arm, and that
Lone question - do you friend, even now, know
What it is all about?
Harvest of Hate
So now the sun moves to die at mid-morning
And laughter wilts on the lips of wine
The fronds of plam are savaged to a bristle
And rashes break on kernelled oil
The hearth is pocked with furnacing of teeth
The air is heavy with rise of incense
For wings womb-moist from the sanctuary of nests
Fall, unfledged to the tribute of fire.
Now pay we forfeit on old abdications
The child dares flames his fathers lit
And in the briefness of too bright flares
Shrivels a heritae of blighted futures
There has been such a crop in time of growing
Such tuneless noiswes when we longed for sighs
Alone of petals, for muted swell of wine-buds
In August rains, and singing in green spaces.