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$50,000 Best Poet Prize: NLNG on the march

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$50,000 Best Poet Prize: NLNG on the march

Post  Admin on Mon Mar 02, 2009 4:54 pm

Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) has called for entries into this year's competition for the award of Nigerian Prize for Literature, a prestigious prize that many authors yearn to win before they hang their pens. If not for anything, the annual grand reception for this award at MUSON centre where eminent leaders of thought from all walks of life would gather to dine and wine together leaves a resounding memory. Last year, former president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, former interim government leader, Ernest Shonekan, and other great names were in attendance. All well meaning writers and literary critics in the Diaspora who were also represented were treated with utmost respect. One of the most conspicuous literary icons at the event, the oldest living poet, co-winner of the 2005 edition of the prize, Dr. Gabriel Okara, who ushered the winner, Kaine Agary back to her seat after the award presentation brought into focus, the realities about the essence of arts and culture in our society.

Then, a critical appraisal of the cash worth of the award, $50,000, sees it as a dividend of excellence indeed. Corporate organisations and individuals that are supporting literacy and literary activities deserve commendation. While some corporate bodies lavish their turnover on mere entertainment and copious activities that does not necessarily promote moral or have direct influence on the economic growth of the country, some of these bodies chose to be remembered for peculiar role they are playing in impartation of knowledge and sustenance of cultural image of the country.

Fidelity Bank Plc for instance, has also contributed its quota especially for sponsoring of the last 50th year colloquium programme organised to honour the father of African literature and author of the evergreen novel, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe.

In November 2008, governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Shinkafi hosted the Nigerian writers during the annual convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). He donated ultra modern library and transit bus to the association. Also, governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, supported the Garden City Literary Festival last year. According to the chairperson of Rainbow Book Club, Koko Kalango, the idea of the festival and its execution was the brainchild of the governor. Among other things, students, journalists, writers and literary critics in attendance had the opportunity to meet and brainstorm with great icons like Wole Soyinka, Kofi Awoonor, Elechi Amadi, Okey Ndibe and the likes. It was a wonderful experience because the guests had the opportunity to avail themselves with series of workshops or seminars that are ordinarily not easy to come by. More of these types of contributions are welcome from other governors and organisations. Some individuals and corporate bodies that have been involved in the ANA prize in the past also need to review their cash worth to add more value to the prize. Some of these personalities are allegedly backing out as they fail to participate in the last edition. This sounds not too good enough.

There is something important about personality and integrity especially to arts icons, and their disciples. It would be recalled that there was a thunderous reaction from the world of literati in 2007 when the NLNG decided to invite former military president that annulled the 'free and fair' 1993 election, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (rtd) to deliver a keynote address. The bone of contention then was the issue of integrity and the relevance of a personality like Babangida in the gathering of writers and human rights activists. Despite a mass campaign for boycott as masterminded by Kongi, the 1986 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Professor Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka, Babangida came with a handful of his disciples, but some writers stayed away with their wrath. Though Arthur Mbanefo, spokesman of NLNG tried all he could to convince the writers on their choice of the guest speaker, it appeared as an exercise in futility.

Surprisingly, the credible response of the audience at the last year edition probably because of the class of guests that were invited, suggested that writers are reactionaries and can hardly be fooled.

This in essence by now must have registered an impression on the heart of the management of the NLNG that the choice of the guest speaker and other invitees for this year's edition is likewise rigidly important especially to commensurate the value of their contribution to the world of arts and sciences in Nigeria.

Nigerian philanthropists, individuals and corporate organisations need to borrow a leaf from the NLNG and consider the relevance of sponsoring arts related events and awards because of its positive influence in all ramifications.

The Nigerian Prize in Literature has completed its full circle spanning through all the genre of literature. This year's edition will focus on poets and their works. This means that the next winner of this competition who would cart away the lump sum of $50,000 is a poet.

By Wikipedia context, poetry "is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning. Poetry may be written independently, as discrete poems, or may occur in conjunction with other arts, as in poetic drama, hymns or lyrics."

Early experts like Aristotle focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song and comedy in their definition of poetry. Later attempts also concentrated on features such as repetition, verse form and rhyme, and emphasised the aesthetics, which distinguish poetry from prose. From literary archive, dated back to the mid-20th century, poetry has sometimes been more loosely defined as a fundamental creative act using language.

It often uses particular forms and conventions to suggest alternative meanings in the words, or to evoke emotional or sensual responses. Some experts agree that devices such as assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhythm are sometimes used to achieve musical or incantatory effects in poetry. The use of ambiguity, symbolism, irony and other stylistic elements of poetic diction often leave a poem open to multiple interpretations. As usual, it is expected that NLNG will be transparent enough to defend the credibility of this year's winner to sustain their weight.

Nigerian poets are really making waves in the midst of their contemporaries in the Diaspora. While top notches like Wole Soyinka, Niyi Osundare, Gabriel Okara and their generation have left good impression in the peculiarity of their rhythms, young stars in the poetry are also leaving up to expectation. As a matter of fact, most readers in the past often expressed their apathy to poetry because of its boredom among others, but the response has improved with the dynamic change introduced to poetic lyrics by some poets nowadays. The fact still remains that poetry has gone far as a language in the world of literati and need to be encouraged in schools, and at home.

A critical review of Professor Osundare's poems for instance, showed that his poetry holds many images and its language is fluid. Osundare, a poet, is more concerned with the fate of his continent and in quite a few poems he refers back to the days preceding colonisation when Africa still had an identity. According to critics, his style for this choice is to create a defence against today's alienation. Songs of the Marketplace (1983) mark his debut and for his collection, The Eye of the Earth (1986) he was awarded both the poetry prize of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and the Commonwealth Prize for Poetry. He also received other awards such as the 1990 Noma Award, Africa's most prestigious literary prize.

"His performance at the 1991 Poetry Festival was memorable for his interpretation. It demonstrated his desire to return to the oral traditions of yester-years, which are at the roots of African poetry. He sets an example for many young Nigerian authors and poets. His work reflects a great sense of humour and satire. He doesn't write in a vacuum but holds mirrors in which his readers may see themselves in close up and with pleasure," read an excerpt on him from Poetry International.

In the words of Michael J. C. Echeruo in eulogising Okara, he described him as a poet that treats the heart diseases with poetic phrases.

"You laughed has always been on my list of poems for appreciation. It is a poem to make the

mind speak to the heart. It makes my students laugh with pleasure at the magic of verse, only then to find

themselves laughing with the author over business that is no laughing matter at all. 'Ice-block laughter' is a pretty phrase, and in the late 1950s we savoured it many, many times. It was a definition of otherness, a foreign institution (and, technically, a recent import). It made a point that we were all too anxious to express: namely, that we were the people of the sun, the sun burnt people. Our laughter was the laughter of the warm and open heart. We had heard the Senghorian celebration of our essence; with David Diop we were wont to be bitter and defiant in the spirit of those poems of his we read in Black Orpheus and in the much-neglected little anthology compiled by the bio-chemist and activist, Olumbe Bassir."

Without mincing words, poets are literary doctors that have solutions to most ailments that defile medical attention. They deserve a pat on the back, many say.


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