The one I handed out in class:


and another one for further reading :


A cartoon and an interview

February 12, 2012

A cartoon made by some students to explain the literal meaning of the poem.

An interview with Nobel Prize Wole Soyinka.

Telephone Conversation

February 6, 2012

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 dumbfounded 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 clanged 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 blond. 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?”

Wole Soyinka 1962

* Buttons to be pressed by caller who has inserted a coin into an old type of British public pay phone.

Soyinka, Wole (1934)

Nigerian playwright, novelist and poet, educated at the Government College, Ibadan and the University of Leeds.

After his degree at Leeds, he worked as a reader for the Royal Court Theatre in London before returning to Nigeria in 1959, where he subsequently held various research and teaching posts in drama at the universities of Ibadan, Ife and Lagos as well as working for Nigerian radio and television. He was imprisoned 1967-69 for alleged pro-Biafra activities, an experience recorded in his The Man Died: Prison Notes (1972). In 1975 he became Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Ife. Soyinka is primarily a dramatist, his work ranging from the early comedy of village life, The Swamp Dwellers (1958), to The Road (1965), a Beckettian drama set in a Lagos `motor park’, and The Bacchae: A Communion Rite (1973), based on the classical tragedy by Euripides. Much of his drama uses mime, dance, myth and supernatural elements. In 1976 he became the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Bloomsbury Dictionary of English Literature