The consolidation of local traditions in the former colonies has depended on the capacity of poets to take on the challenges of selfrepresentation in a cultural climate relatively free of cultural cringe. The struggle to achieve that freedom is here illustrated in three case studies. The first shows African poets from the 1960s and '70s learning to use indigenous myths in a context informed by modernist writing. The second traces the growth of confidence in contemporary writing by women, chiefly from the Caribbean. The third examines the scope for creative overlap between a postcolonial predicament and a postmodern sensibility, as exempliWed by the bilingual work of a poet from South Asia. The extended treatment given his work is meant to show how the literal and metaphorical activity of translation is at work in the spread of modernist and postmodernist practices to postcolonial poetry.
'Our country is an abiku country. Like the spirit-child, it keeps
coming and going. One day it will decide to remain.'
Ben Okri, The Famished Road
A large proportion of African poetry in English from the period before independence shows a preference for an idiom closer to speech than to literary diction and syntax. As elsewhere in the ex-colonies, poets generally preferred free verse to the metres and stanzas of traditional British poetry. African poets excelled at patterning the