Festival Poetry Calabar 2015: Theme Address – Exploring the Cultural Richness of Poetry


Festival Poetry Calabar 2015
Festival Poetry Calabar 2015

Over the years, poetry has functioned as a means of educating and enlightening people about their cultural backgrounds using culturally-inclined imageries and themes. With culture being defined as the arts, customs and habits characterizing a particular society; poetry serves as a form of arts capable of propagating and promoting cultural values beyond borders. Linking cultural richness with poetry is therefore befitting.

Interestingly, from the Anglo-Saxon period to contemporary times, poetry has been instrumental in preserving how earlier times were culturally spent via verses depicting and immortalizing lived ages. For example, a poem entitled ‘Deor’s Lament’ anonymously written during the Anglo-Saxon period exposes the reader to the cultural intricacies of the relatively unstable period.

For thirty winters Theodric ruled
the Maering stronghold with an iron hand;
many acknowledged this and moaned
that passed away; this also may
(Culled from Deor’s Lament)

The present itself has been aptly captured by modern poets in poems regarding the happenings of their respective societies in culturally-fermented lines. A good example of this is Wole Soyinka’s poem entitled Abiku.

More so, the language of poetry is directly proportional to the poet’s vocabulary which is guided and guarded by his/her cultural knowledge. With poetry deriving its words from a ‘culturally-affiliated’ dictionary, the expenditure of culture is undisputedly financed by poetry. Taking a bite at poems of diversified geographical origins, a reader who afterwards becomes ‘cosmopolitan’ is exposed to different cultural terminologies espousing him or her to cultural bliss. Having established language as a fundamental part of both culture and poetry, it becomes impossible to question the formidable alliance of the latter duo.

The nature of poetry is undiminishing making it possible to completely define a set of people within a cultural context. Perusing the poem ‘I am an African Child’ taken from Punctured Silence by Kolade Olanrewaju Freedom, one can perfectly identify with the black race:

I am an African child,
I wear the night as my skin,
I am polished by the sun
To glisten like a wet dolphin

I am an African child,
A tiller of the ground,
An enchanter of the soil,
I sow sweats to reap springs.

I am an African child,
A vibrant member of a cultural posse
That gleefully entertains the Sun
Without being paid a cowry.

It has been ascertained that poetry defines a people by preserving their existence in culturally rich lines. A poem entitled ‘Calabar’ by Eriata Oribhabor justifies this assertion. Read below:


Timid in vegetation,
Built in modernity,
Mix of sweet habitation;
The old and the new
In serenity-flow.

A welcome of quietude
Culture-friendly latitudes
Palpable in postures-dignified.
A people, blessed in ambience
Of nature’s mien and decency.

This world of comely embrace
Yesterday’s quilt of sweats
And foliage drops, scented by comely
Springs of nature, dangling before
Our eyes, keeping me ever
Clapping for you; Calabar.

Indisputably, Calabar remains the No. 1 tourism destination in Nigeria for its prestigious culture, scenic serenity and hospitality. The poetic mission of ‘Poets in Nigeria’ to Calabar is therefore to support and promote the aforementioned attributes. Going forward will require credible collaborations to put in place an annual event to attract literary-minded people from all over the world.

Kolade Olanrewaju Freedom
Author, Punctured Silence

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