THE remains of renowned emeritus professor of literature and poet, Professor John Pepper Clark, was committed to mother earth at exactly 11.30p.m., on Thursday in his island country home in Kiagbodo town, Delta State, after a brief lying in state for few family members.
Clark was buried after few words of prayers by Pastor Ituah Ighodalo represented by Pastor Jolomi Guoti and Pastor Ken Okochu of Trinity House, while surrounded by his widow, children and few family members at the graveside near his parlor, which he had long prepared.
True to his last will, Clark was buried within three days of his transition and was not kept in mortuary or taken to any place of worship for funeral service.
The renown late literary giant was given a peaceful burial also in accordance to his last wish, as only few family members were allowed into the house during the lying in state.
Late JP Clark’s corpse earlier landed Kiagbodo main town at about 8:48pm, before it was conveyed in a wooden boat to his house at JP Clark Creek Island in the outskirt of the community.
The casket was carried by community youths from Delta State Government Ambulance that brought the literary icon from the Asaba International Airport.
The literary giant died on Tuesday, October 13, aged 85.
He was born in Kiagbodo to Ijaw parents in 1935. He schooled in Nigeria till his first degree in English from the University of Ibadan and then went on to work both at UI and then later at the University of Lagos. While in these two places, he was actively engaged in literary activity, being founder of the student poetry magazine The Horn at University of Ibadan, and also coeditor of the literary journal Black Orpheus when he was lecturer at the University of Lagos.
Clark studied a year at Princeton, after which he published America, Their America (1964), which was a criticism of middle-class American values and black-American lifestyles. His works also included Poems (1962) and A Reed in the Tide (1965), His Casualties: Poems 1966–68 (1970) which talks about the Nigerian civil war, Decade of Tongues (1981), State of the Union (1985, as J.P. Clark Bekederemo), and Mandela and Other Poems (1988). He wrote and published plays as well.
As one of Africa’s leading authors, he has continued to play active roles on literary affairs even after retirement, resulting in his receipt of the Nigerian National Merit Award for literary excellence in 1991. Howard University published his two definitive volumes, The Ozidi Saga and Collected Plays and Poems 1958-1988. He held visiting professorial appointments at several institutions of higher learning, including Yale and Wesleyan University in the United States. The poem reviewed here below is one of his most studied. This poem should not be confused with another of the same title by Wole Soyinka, the other Nigerian great.
Coming and going these several seasons, Do stay out on the baobab tree, Follow where you please your kindred spirits If indoors is not enough for you. True, it leaks through the thatch When floods brim the banks, And the bats and the owls Often tear in at night through the eaves, And at harmattan, the bamboo walls Are ready tinder for the fire That dries the fresh fish up on the rack. Still, it’s been the healthy stock To several fingers, to many more will be Who reach to the sun. No longer then bestride the threshold But step in and stay For good. We know the knife scars Serrating down your back and front Like beak of the sword-fish, And both your ears, notched As a bondsman to this house, Are all relics of your first comings. Then step in, step in and stay For her body is tired, Tired, her milk going sour Where many more mouths gladden the heart.