Far be it for us to suggest how you ought to vote – in the upcoming elections for Professor of Poetry at your esteemed institution. What’s On Africa is not in the business of endorsements – however, when an opportunity arises to have the first Black African Nobel laureate, a living legend, in this green and pleasant land for an extended period of time arises, one must give good thought to the prospect. Afterall, the great man comes from a tradition of poetry as ancient if not more than your dreaming spires. Both parties, we submit will gain in learning if not esteem by his presence in your hallowed halls.
Now, in a field brimming with brilliant potentialities including smashing the gender block that has resulted in the conspicuous absence of women from the post’s illustrious roll call to selecting a son from that much maligned part of England, still reeling from civil war – there maybe a particular brilliance in choosing a sage voice, quite above the fray – but with resounding support.
Though there have been noises in some quarters that the bard is too grand for such a role, we beg to differ, for this lion in winter is not only active, but also eloquent and amusing, as you well know from the last time he wowed audiences in one of your great halls, and lately at that other great British institution, the British Library, for an 80th birthday conversation hosted by the Royal African Society.
As to the mutterings about the non-presentation of a statement of intent – we all know how badly those can go – at least when etched in stone. Plus, perhaps ‘no statement’ is only fitting from the man who famously said “A tiger does not pronounce his tigritude, he pounces” And should there be any doubt of his ability to ‘pounce’ in the poetic sense, perhaps you should read this by the writer Chibundu Onuzo, about Soyinka’s poetic take on the joys of living in England as a black body, circa 1960.
No doubt, you will vote to give ‘Kongi’, as Nigerians affectionately call him a much, much warmer reception in these more enlightened times.
Dele Meiji Fatunla,
For What’s On Africa
Oxford graduates vote to select the next University of Oxford Professor of Poetry this month, the winner will be announced on 19 June.