Writing resistance: Dissidence and visions of healing in Nigerian poetry of the military era

Oyèníyì Okùnoyè

Abstract


In spite of the fact that about thirty years of military rule impacted negatively on various spheres of Nigerian life, this essay argues
that it also served as a catalyst for the growth of Nigerian poetry. It contests the critical standpoint that exclusively identifies
socially sensitive poetry in Nigeria in the closing decades of the twentieth century with a particular ‘generation’ of poets and
situates the phenomenal growth of Nigerian poetry within this period – which also coincides with the military era – within the
flowering of a vibrant civil society and activist writing. It maintains that more poets and tendencies than have been associated
with the experience contributed to its making and suggests that this tradition constitutes a major component of the corpus of
Nigerian poetry of English expression. In reappraising the growth of Nigerian poetry in the last three decades of the twentieth
century, this paper argues that writing against dictatorship – the defining character of this tradition – has enriched Nigerian
poetry in more ways than critics have suggested. It correlates developments within the political sphere with corresponding
responses in the Nigerian poetic imagination to define the unique character of this major phase in the development of Nigerian
poetry. Key words: Nigerian poetic imagination; post-civil war Nigeria; pro-democracy agitation; resistance poetry.

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