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Comparing and Contrasting Wole Soyinka and John Pepper Clark’s Poems of the Same Name, Abiku

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Both poems entitled Abiku discuss the title child who returns to haunt his family after dying at a young age. However, they are formatted and presented in different manners to give alternate meanings to the story presented. The first, written by Wole Soyinka, is written in stanzas, while John Pepper Clark’s is in block form. However, they also share a variety of qualities in common, such as nature imagery and belief in incarnation. One similarity between Soyinka’s and Clark’s poems is the belief in incarnation. Both discuss the Abiku, which is a young child who dies before reaching puberty and continues to haunt his mother after his passing. First, Soyinka’s poem contains specific instances in which the Abiku torments his previous…show more content…
For example, it is said that the Abiku will come again when “the snail is burnt in his shell,/Whet the heated fragment, brand me/Deeply on the breast” (Soyinka 9-10), which is a negative occurrence in nature that would foreshadow something much worse. In addition, it is clear that the Abiku is returning when “the ground is wet with mourning/White dew suckles flesh-birds” (Soyinka 21-22). In contrast, one significant difference between the poems by Soyinka and Clark is the format, as one is written in block form and the other is in stanzas. First, the piece by Soyinka contains stanzas, which are used to group specific ideas and themes together, as well as indicate a shift into a new idea. However, the primary use of this format in Abiku is to demonstrate the many lives of the Abiku as it continues to torment its mother. This also adds to the belief in incarnation of the African people. Conversely, Clark use block style poetry in order to demonstrate the circular manner of the Abiku’s numerous reincarnations. There is no separation between the lines, showing that the Abiku keeps on returning with very little break in between. It is interesting to read two pieces of literature on the same topic, but written in different manners to get a new perspective. For example, Clark’s focuses on the circular manner of the reincarnation, while Soyinka’s stanzas demonstrated the many lives of the child. While there are
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