Category Archives: Literature

They Said Nigerians Don’t Read

I have been working  through some books lately, in which Nigerians “in general” (and you know how I feel about generalizations) have been criticized for not having much of a literary culture. People say Nigerians only mostly read Christian or self-help books, and news papers. Honestly, I cannot say that this isn’t true. It’s a terrible problem, made even more terrible by the fact that very few people actually consider it a problem.

I believe it starts with the way literature is taught in most Nigerian schools – to build up a catalogue of practically meaningless facts, rather than to grow literary curiosity and thought. I remember one of my literature teachers in secondary school very fondly – the one who did her research and actually seemed to know what she was talking about, not the lazy one who said “basically” at least twice in every sentence he uttered. Every time we talked about forms or genres, she would always say that an example of the epistolary form is “Mariama Ba’s So Long A Letter“. She repeated this phrase in this particular arrangement so many times, I can hear her voice saying it even as I type it.  Not, “So Long A Letter by Mariama Ba,” not “Mariama Ba’s novella,” not any other variation of that phrase.

This was a fact that I learned in order to pass exams. It was introduced to me as such, and it stuck. We never discussed the actual text and its merits as a distinct work of literature. I wonder now if my teacher had actually read the book, or if she was merely reeling off facts she herself had come across in her education. I had always assumed that she must have read it, but thinking back now to how she hardly said anything else about that text in spite of how often she mentioned it, or how she never had any other examples for the epistolary form, I wonder.

We can’t excel at things if we don’t teach them practically! We would have more literary curiosity if we taught literary curiosity and appreciation. We would have more sporting champions if we taught students games on the fields rather than in the classroom. Like, why on earth do I know the dimensions of a basketball court, the rules of scoring, and the history of the game, but I never touched a B-ball all my years in secondary school? Why did I learn about Cricket, and different kinds of sporting injuries? Just… why?

We did far more literary analysis in my CRK (Christian Religious Knowledge) class than we did in my Literature class. So, it’s no surprise that the students grow up to appreciate texts that expound on biblical teachings but not much else. Nigeria’s most read books seem to consist entirely of self-help self-published books. Bible is awesome and all, but literature is also essential!

Maybe people would recognize the fiction in newspapers if they were exposed to other forms of literary fiction. And maybe we would have more respectable Nigeria-based publishers if people had a home-grown appreciation. This way the best writers don’t have to pander to Europe/America and all the ideological pressures that come with that. If Nollywood can thrive, why can’t home grown literature?

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I Used to Think I Just Disliked Poems

Poems about Faith

At one point, I thought I hated poems. Gone were the days of nursery rhymes, silly kid poems, and poems read just because they were brilliant or lyrical, and played on words. Maybe there’s something about studying English Literature in a school setting that gives the left brain more authority when I read or hear most poems. I could no longer just sit back and read or listen, and enjoy: decide what I liked and what I didn’t care for. Poems became work, and not being particularly fascinated by most of the poems I came across in my English classes didn’t really help. However, this is a story of when I heard from God through some poems!

Fortunately, I recently regained some faith in poems and poets alike. I don’t know what, but somehow I was drawn to a book of poems while I was perusing a bookstore not so long ago. Where I would normally caress a book longingly, and maybe read a few pages of it if I couldn’t afford it, I actually ended up buying this one. And I came across three poems, which I have included below in the order which I read them.

This was at a time when I really needed some sort of encouragement in my faith. I really needed a sort of reconnection that I wasn’t getting from my daily devotions which had become mere routine and lacked the presence and the peace they should have had. These poems, particularly the third one, drew such an overflow of awareness, emotions, and epiphanies from me, it simply seemed stingy not to share.

I hope they take you where they took me.

 

My Church

My church has but one temple,

Wide as the world is wide,

Set with a million stars,

Where a million hearts abide.

 

My church has no creed to bar

A single brother man

But says, “Come thou and worship”

To every one who can.

 

My church has no roof nor walls,

Nor floors save the beautiful sod-

For fear, I would seem to limit

The love of the illimitable God.

–          Author Unknown. Signed E.O.G.

 

There is No Unbelief

There is no unbelief;
Whoever plants a seed beneath the sod
And waits to see it push away the clod –
He trusts in God.

There is no unbelief;
Whoever says when clouds are in the sky,
“Be patient, heart; light breaketh by and by,”
Trusts the Most High.

There is no unbelief;
Whoever sees ’neath winter’s fields of snow,
The silent harvest of the future grow –
God’s power must know.

There is no unbelief;
Whoever lies down on his couch to sleep,
Content to lock each sense in slumber deep,
Knows God will keep.

There is no unbelief;
The heart that looks on when the eye-lids close,
And dares to live when life has only woes,
God’s comfort knows.

–          Lizzie York Case

 

A Prayer For Faith

God, give me back the simple faith

that I so long have clung to,

My simple faith in peace and hope,

in loveliness and light –

Because without this faith of mine,

the rhythms I have sung to

Become as empty as the sky upon a starless night.

 

God, let me feel that right is right,

that reason dwells with reason,

And let me feel that something grows

whenever there is rain –

And let me sense the splendid truth

that season follows season,

And let me dare to dream

that there is tenderness in pain.

 

God, give me back my simple faith

because my soul is straying

Away from all the little creeds

that I so long have known;

Oh, answer me while still I have

at least the strength for praying,

For if the prayer dies from my heart,

I will be quite alone.

–          Margaret E Sangster