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On Poetry

As a young child I didn’t like poems. I preferred stories. Poems seemed to give you a taste of a story when you wanted the real deal. My interest in poetry began in my early teens. Precisely the day my Literature teacher recited Abiku by Wole Soyinka. That poem gripped me with fear and curiosity. I was raised in a westernized Nigerian household where English was the main language sprinkled with affected Yoruba. My father didn’t and still doesn’t believe in superstitions or fetishes. My mother never told us any such stories so I lived in Enid Blyton’s blissful world where fairies strutted their stuff and goblins were bad creatures, the ones responsible for the stubbing of your big toe against a stone. This is the same world where little girls hair formed pigtails, and not scrunched up bunches that resembled tangerines that had been left out far too long.

Back to the poem.  An abiku is a child believed in some Nigerian cultures that is born and dies at will, only to be born again. Typically such children are marked physically so that they either remain, or are recognized if they do come back. It filled me with fear because I had heard about such stories in boarding house but no real confirmation that it was true until our teacher- can’t remember her name- read the poem out loud. It is a harrowing poem especially when you had classmates that claimed to be one of those and your mother wasn’t there to chase your fears away.

Yet I was curious because I wanted to believe there was a supernatural world. Not necessarily a bad one but something out of the ordinary. I wanted to believe ‘Grace’s’ mark on her face had indeed shrunk like she claimed as she got older because she had “come to stay”. I’ve changed Grace’s name- just in case. With facebook and others you never know.

As an adult I actually don’t know what to make of the whole abiku shenanigans because I know demons are real. But could a child really come and go at will? Perhaps its familiar spirits? What do you think? A friend told me of an aunt that was born with two missing toes. She had apparently come and then died as a child and they cut off her toes in order to recognise her if she came back. Behold the next child born after she died had two missing toes.

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7 responses »

  1. Pingback: Back to Blogsville! « Toks's Blog

  2. I personally think that abiku children are undiagnosed sickle cell children. My father claims to be an abiku; he is the only surviving child of his mother, and a sickle cell carrier. Interesting topic, though.

    Reply
    • Hey Miss T thank you for stopping by! I have heard that opinion too and of course it makes perfect sense. Plus there’s a myriad of illnesses out there that back in the day had no diagnosis. What do you then make of the ones who were born with marks or deformities that were placed on the last child that died? Like the lady with the two missing toes?

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Napoleon; First Emperor of Fierce, Passionate Love « Toks's Blog

  4. Dear Pawpawandmango,

    This post took me back years to sitting at my desk in a hot, dusty classroom at secondary school during Literature period wondering for the life of me how to make head and tail of this poem.
    We had to analyse poems in literature and I never quite understood all the stuff spouted by the teachers and some classmates. I thought ‘it is what is’ but that was never good enough so I soon cottoned on and joined the bandwagon of ‘rubbish-spouters’ (poetic licence invoked) in order to get better grades.

    On the subject matter itself, that is rather spooky and scary. I really don’t know what to make of subsequent children being born with similar markings to their deceased siblings but I’m just relieved I don’t really have to deal with it anymore.

    Reply
  5. BTW, it was really lovely to meet you in person today. I blogged about it here http://thewordsmythe.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/a-meeting-of-minds/

    Reply
    • SOOOOO COOOOOOOL to meet you too! Girl you have some energy, a long day and nearly longer car trip later and you still had the energy to post? I wanna be like you!! And thanks for the free PR!!!

      Reply

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