Anthologies and the Mapping of Africa’s Poetic Imagination
The IUP Journal of English Studies
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This paper examines the role played by anthologies in the evolution of African poetry and in the development of the critical enterprise they have generated. In doing this, the study carries out a discursive evaluation of three anthologies of African poetry covering different regions of the continent. The study gives credence to the anthologies as authoritative representation of the African experience from the precolonial era to the contemporary period, and thus they constitute the most instructive media on the evaluation of African poetry. Nevertheless, there is a need for more anthologies to be produced periodically in order to fully represent the African condition as it evolves and engenders new poetic sensibilities.
One of the remarkable but unacknowledged trends in the evolution of African literature in
the last fifty years has been the significant presence of African poetry anthologies which
contain poems by poets from almost every country on the African continent. There is no
doubt that the tradition of anthologizing has contributed a great deal to the robust presence
and entrenchment of African poetry. Reading through some of the anthologies often
gives the reader a broad and even holistic view of the tenor and significant tropes of
African poetry as well as the sociohistorical underpinning sustaining them. An evaluation
of the anthologies leaves the reader with a robust understanding of what constitutes and
inspired the continent’s poetic imagination. Nevertheless, in spite of the significant even
indispensable role of the anthologies in the growth and study of African poetry, they are
hardly ever acknowledged in the critical discourse on African literature. Rather what
scholars of African poetry have done over the years is the study of the poets and their
works without giving a thought to the bigger platform created by the anthologies as an
affirmation of their poetic relevance. In truth, some of the very prominent and authoritative
anthologies validate a poet’s relevance or otherwise. Hence, the presence of a poet’s
work on their pages is an attestation to his or her relevance.
English Studies Journal, Anthologies, Mapping, New African Poetry, West African Verse, Gladys Casely-Hayford, Africa’s Poetic Imagination.