October 17, 2020

The Example of J. P. Clark, By Ogaga Ifowodo

On 14 December 2019, which is ten months ago, I had one of those chance encounters that seem too propitious not to memorialise. So I made the following post, together with photos, on WhatsApp and Facebook, entitled Setting out for Lagos with Prof. J. P. Clark-Bekederemo: “I entered the VIP lounge at the Osubi-Warri Airstrip to catch the morning flight for Lagos then took a seat before looking around. And there was JP, its lone occupant, sitting in a corner, contemplative. I went to greet him — in Isoko, his grandma was from Iyede, as he never fails to tell me. He tapped the seat next to him and bid me sit down. Poet, playwright, memoirist and elder statesman of Nigerian letters. Showed me a new volume of poems to be out next year. Hurray, he is still writing! I started my morning with a Master!”

What I did not add was that I felt shamed by the fact that at eighty-four, John Pepper Clark — he would compound his last name with Bekederemo many years after his fame had been firmly established (but simply JP as he was endearingly known) — had completed yet another manuscript of poems, not mentioning his many plays, while I was still ruminating about just my fifth volume. I swore that day to set to work right away. On the midlife book in which I return to my childhood, hoping to conjure some of the magic of place(s), faces and experiences that shaped my primitive heart, to be captured in fifty-five sections of varying lengths…. Click here to read full article

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