Received Date: 23 July 2023 | Accepted Date: 28 August 2023 | Published Date: 30 October 2023
Author: Eyoh Etim
Keywords: River poetry, Nigerian poetry, postcolonial formalism, Joe Ushie, Gabriel Okara.
In this paper, the imagery of rivers and their semantic significance in Joe Ushie’s ‘Bekwang River’ and Gabriel Okara’s ‘The Call of the River Nun’ were investigated. The study is necessitated by the assumption that given the geographic commonalities between Ushie and Okara, there are bound to be corresponding continuities in their topographical verses, specifically in terms of how they depict the bodies of water in their immediate environs. The paper adopts the eclectic approach; drawing critical tools from ‘postcolonial formalism’ as its conceptual framework in combination with the ideas and concepts drawn from the intertextual theories of Mikhail Bakhtin, Roland Barthes and Julia Kristeva, in an attempt to establish the intertextual practices – possible convergences and divergences – in the poem/s of Ushie and Okara. The analysis of the selected poems, Okara’s ‘The Call of the River Nun’ and Ushie’s ‘Bekwang River’, reveals that the river motif, which is strongly present in the poems of Ushie and Okara, does not only serve as a poetic representation of the state of their physical landscapes but is also used to make important poetic commentaries that touch on human nature and the political circumstances of their milieu. The poetics of Ushie and Okara also intertextualise at the level of tropes, as can be seen in the personification and metaphorisation of rivers in the poems analysed, which are deployed to make major statements on the flow of time and its implications on human actions. The study then is indicative of poetry and poets’ place in society as the watchers of the times, preservers of traditional norms and values, pathfinders in a directionless universe, prophets who warn and exhort the people, and the defenders of the oppressed.
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