Other Voices: Poetry of Three Nigerian Female Writers

This review, titled 'The Other Voices: The Poetry of Three Nigerian Female Writers' is by Ezenwa Ohaeto. The full piece was published by Taylor & Francis for the Canadian Journal of African Studies/Revue Canadianne des Études Africaines, Vol. 22 (3), 1988: pp.662-668. Image: Tolu Aliki.

Nigeria has produced few female poets, although some female writers have been publishing poems in various journals and anthologies. In contrast, female novelists have been geometrically increasing. The female poets thus deserve attention because they not only constitute some of the “unheard voices,” but they also possess significant insights into the realities of con- temporary times. Lloyd Brown feels: “the women writers of Africa are the other voices, the unheard voices, rarely discussed and seldom accorded space in the repetitive anthologies and the predictably male-oriented studies in the field” (198I, 3). Female poets could offer a complementary alternative to the poetic vision of Okigbo, Soyinka, Achebe, Clark, Okara, Udechukwu, Enekwe, Ofeimun, and Osundare.

In this piece, the author reviews three poems: The Spring's Last Drops by Obianuju Catherine Acholonu, The Cassava Song and Rice Song by Flora Nwapa and Sew The Old Days and Other Poems by Molara Ogundipe-Leslie; concluding that:

Artistically, Nigeria’s female poets still need to be adventurous. How- ever, the female poets should be commended for as Katherine Frank observes, “there are surely vast silences to be broken, silences of African women who have ceased to write or who have never written at all because they have felt there was no audience to hear their words (1984, 47). Never- theless, the fact that these faltering early steps are being taken indicates that this is the planting season of female poets in Nigerian poetry. In the harvest, we fervently hope to pluck the robust yam tubers and the fledgling seed- lings. The study of contemporary Nigerian poetry may never be complete without the assimilation of these feminine poetic impulses.
— Ezenwa Ohaeto

It is important to note that this review was originally published in 1988, since which a lot of notable Nigerian female poets (and writers) have emerged. These women continue to break vast silences, and are using various outlets - from spoken word to visual art - as a medium to branch out, sow seeds in the hearts of their readers and also render their voices to deconstruct certain constructs. This piece helps appreciate this growth, and calls on more to women to write - audience or no audience.