Here we are with our third challenge. This time the poem is longer and a bit more difficult as far as the language is concerned. At this stage I do not want to spoil your pleasure of reading this poem so I am not giving you any "language support." If I did, I would jeopardize one of the aims Soyinka wants to achieve. So try to answer this question first: why do you think the language is so refined?
Next week I will pose some guiding questions, which will help you focus on certain key elements. I hope you will like this poem as much as I do. Enjoy it!
The following poem is a realistic piece which the Nigerian poet Wole Soyinka wrote and performed in
Wole Soyinka (1934-)
Telephone Conversation (1959)
The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self-confession. “Madam,” I warned,
“I hate a wasted journey – I am African.”
Silence. Silenced transmission of
Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,
Lipstick coated, long gold-rolled
Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was, foully.
“HOW DARK?…” I had not misheard, … “ARE YOU LIGHT
OR VERY DARK?” Button B. Button A. Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar-box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfoundment to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis –
“ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?” Revelation came.
“You mean – like plain or milk chocolate?”
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted,
I chose. “West African sepia” – and as afterthought,
“Down in my passport.” Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness changed her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece. “WHAT’S THAT?” conceding
“DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS.” “Like brunette.”
“THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?” “Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but madam, you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Are a peroxide blonde. Friction, caused –
Foolishly madam – by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black – One moment madam!” – sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears – “Madam,” I pleaded, “wouldn’t you rather
See for yourself?”