Living the myth: Revisiting Okigbo’s art and commitment

Dan Izevbaye

Abstract


This is a study of the nature and sources of the persona’s quest in Christopher Okigbo’s poetry. The protagonist in Okigbo’s
writing explores the fluid borders between aesthetic and spiritual states, with language and social action as instruments of the
self’s aspiration towards spiritual and aesthetic fulfillment. Although Okigbo’s narration is presented in the form of dramatic
ritual, the distance or severance of the material from the poet’s own spiritual history is not total, for the historical content
eventually intrudes into the writing and reestablishes the authentic autobiography of the poetic self. The historical context, the
1960s, is an age of transition. Okigbo’s characterisation of his persona as an actor in a state of personal transition reflects the
poet’s sensitive immersion in the spirit of his times and establishes Okigbo the poet as perhaps its ideal representative. One of
the issues raised in this study is that in spite of the protagonist’s recurrent return to the point of passage, there is a relentless
drive towards death seen ambiguously as the ultimate goal and state of perfection as well as the perfect form of transition. The
central question explored in this study is the roles of poetic diction, the tense politics of the 1960s and the poet’s own intense
temperament in determining his peculiar choice of resolution to the dilemma at the centre of his poetry. Key words: Aesthetic,
myth, Nigerian poetry, ritual, Christopher Okigbo.

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