Perspectives of Abiku – Written separately by Wole Soyinka and JP Clark


Poetry is borne out of creativity and its defiles the trust of logical writing. You have probably read this on some blogs or websites. But there will be a lot to think about; the ancient name and meaning of Abiku. How it troubled homes, communities and societies. The violence, sorrow, fear and  pain, African mothers experienced while they journey though motherhood.

I find sense in telling you how fascinating I find this: 2 Prominent Poets – 2 Poems – 2 Different Perspectives – Same Title.

Abiku is a Yoruba language spoken in Nigeria, Benin and Togo. Which means born to die. It is derived from the two Yoruba words abi (that which possesses) and iku (death).

Abiku refers to the spirits of children who die before reaching puberty; a child who dies before twelve years of age being called an Abiku, and the spirit, or spirits, who caused the death being also called Abiku.

Rituals and sacrifices are made to appease it. But an Abiku chooses to be indifferent to the plights of its parents. It enjoys taunting and tormenting its mother by repeating the cycle of birth, death and rebirth in short successions. A woman whose firstborn is believed to be an Abiku usually ends up without a child of her own.

Wole Soyinka’s and John Pepper Clark’s poems have been compared, probed and analyzed on different literary levels.

So Iet’s share our thoughts on ABIKU by the two poets.

Any similarities? Any differences? What are your personal observations?

Do you know of any other poem who had reasoned within the context of “Abiku.”


ABIKU by Wole Soyinka
In vain your bangles castCharmed circles at my feet;

I am Abiku, calling for the first

And the repeated time.


Must I weep for goats and cowriesFor palm oil and the sprinkled ash?

Yams do not sprout in amulets

To earth Abiku’s limbs.


So when the snail is burnt in his shellWhet the heated fragments, brand me

Deeply on the breast. You must know him

When Abiku calls again.


I am the squirrel teeth, crackedThe riddle of the palm. Remember

This, and dig me deeper still into

The god’s swollen foot.


Once and the repeated time, agelessThough I puke. And when you pour

Libations, each finger points me near

The way I came, where


The ground is wet with mourningWhite dew suckles flesh-birds

Evening befriends the spider, trapping

Flies in wind-froth;


Night, and Abiku sucks the oilFrom lamps. Mother! I’ll be the

Supplicant snake coiled on the doorstep

Yours the killing cry.


The ripest fruit was saddest;Where I crept, the warmth was cloying.

In the silence of webs, Abiku moans, shaping

Mounds from the yolk.

ABIKU by John Pepper Clark 

Coming and going these several seasons,
Do stay out on the baobab tree,
Follow where you please your kindred spirits
If indoors is not enough for you.
True, it leaks through the thatch
When floods brim the banks,
And the bats and the owls
Often tear in at night through the eaves,
And at harmattan, the bamboo walls
Are ready tinder for the fire
That dries the fresh fish up on the rack.
Still, it’s been the healthy stock
To several fingers, to many more will be
Who reach to the sun.
No longer then bestride the threshold
But step in and stay
For good. We know the knife scars
Serrating down your back and front
Like beak of the sword-fish,
And both your ears, notched
As a bondsman to this house,
Are all relics of your first comings.
Then step in, step in and stay
For her body is tired,
Tired, her milk going sour
Where many more mouths gladden the heart.


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