The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3

By John Clement Ball | Go to book overview

O

Okara, Gabriel
OBI MADUAKOR

Gabriel Okara belongs to the first generation of self-conscious artists who began shaping the language of English-language Nigerian poetry in the 1950s. From the Ijaw community in the Niger Delta region, where common speech itself is seen as poetic, Okara worked the musical cadence of his native tongue into his poetry and fiction.

Born on April 24, 1921 in Rivers State, Okara was largely a self-made man who improved himself through private reading and tutoring. He began secondary school education in 1935, completing it after interruptions from World War II at Yaba Higher College in 1941. He worked for several years as a bookbinder in Enugu, reading widely in his spare time to prepare for a writing career. In 1960, he obtained a diploma in comparative journalism from Northwestern University in Illinois. During the Nigerian Civil War (1967–70), Okara joined fellow writer-intellectuals from Biafra (Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, Nkem Nwankwo) who toured the United States to present the Biafran case. After the war, he held managerial positions in various federal and state government media corporations. He currently lives in retirement at Portharcourt, Rivers State.

Okara is known for his poetry collection The Fisherman’s Invocation (1978) and his groundbreaking novel, The Voice (1964); he has also written children’s stories. The Fisherman’s Invocation brings together early poems from the 1950s and war poems written in the 1960s. “The Call of the River Nun” earned Okara widespread acclaim with its incantatory rhythm, lulling music, and haunting nostalgia. Far from home and feeling enclosed by the urban environment, the speaker evokes deep nostalgia for the native river, figured as a nurturer of poetic creativity, where Okara played as a child. Arguably Okara’s most wellknown poem, “Piano and Drum” explores cultural conflict – the dilemma of the African intellectual tom between two worlds – as the drum evokes traditional life and the piano the modem. The poet clearly favors the simplicity of traditional life, which he returns to repeatedly.

Okara’s poetry often explores the theme of creativity and the mystery of artistic creation. In “Mystic Drum,” for instance, Okara sees the African talking drum as a muse figure: as the drum beats, the poet is thrown into a fit of creative frenzy and the natural world begins a cosmic dance. Several poems address human destiny from a philosophical viewpoint, including “Spirit of the Wind” and “Were I to Choose.” The Biafran war poems introduce a public voice to Okara’s poetry. Although compelled by the national emergency to use poetry as an instrument of propaganda, public statement of even a quasipolitical nature is not Okara’s forte. The war poems lack the mystic undertone of his earlier poems, revealing a poet struggling to be himself and find his voice.

Unlike his poetry, Okara’s novel, The Voice, had a mixed reception initially, even among Nigerian intellectuals. Reacting to the novel’s transliteration of an Ijaw speech idiom into English, one eminent critic of African literature dismissed it as “a gallant failure.” But its reputation was enhanced when Heinemann reissued the

-1270-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editors i
  • The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Literature WWW.Literatureencyclopedia.Com ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Entries vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Notes on Contributors to Volume III xv
  • Introduction to Volume III 937
  • A 942
  • B 980
  • C 995
  • D 1034
  • E 1052
  • F 1066
  • G 1094
  • H 1121
  • I 1145
  • J 1154
  • K 1167
  • L 1180
  • M 1198
  • N 1252
  • O 1270
  • P 1277
  • Q 1296
  • R 1300
  • S 1325
  • T 1365
  • U 1370
  • V 1373
  • W 1378
  • Z 1398
  • Index 1400
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 1484

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.