Waiting – Niyi Osundare

Posted: July 22, 2011 in NIGERIAN POETRY
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I discovered this poem when I was surfing other sites dedicated to African poetry. As I have already indicated here on this blog, Osundare is one poet whose works I hold in great admiration.

Osundare was born in 1947 in Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State, Nigeria. He is a prolific poet, dramatist and literary critic with degrees from the University of Ibadan (BA), the University of Leeds (MA) and York University, Canada (PhD, 1979). Previously professor (from 1989) and Head of English (1993–1997) at the University of Ibadan, he became professor of English at the University of New Orleans in 1997. He has a lovely wife Kimi and 3 children, two girls, one deaf, and a son who still lives in Nigeria. His deaf daughter is the real reason Osundare is settled in the United States. She could not go to school in Nigeria so they found a school in the U.S. for her and so Osundare could be closer to her they moved with her.

This poem is a wakening tribute to a concept which might pass overlooked by many an observer. But as is the duty of the bard, Osundare dotes upon the unsung and brings its music to the ear of the listener. Here is his tribute.



This poem by Osundare is marvellous more for its structure than for its content. The entire poem is one long run-on; a single sentence that blabs on till the end, leaving the reader both amused and asking for more.

But the poem’s title contrasts with its structure. A poem titled as WAITING should have been a tedious read, with lines closing after a long winding, and holding brief for a tiresome, monotonous culture. It doesn’t! Instead, the lines come to a quick close after a few alphabets – just one in some instances – which makes you jump as fast from one line to the next in a sense of hurry rather than of wait. The most striking of such use is where “yawn” is split to make an alphabet per line, giving you a sense of yawn, even inducing a yawn in you if you should read the poem a few times over. That is the quality of the word itself and as Osundare spreads it over the page, the mind of the reader is effectively lulled alongside.

So what is the poem saying? Take it in here: it only tells of rain-drop! A Rain-drop so glorified and extolled in lines as sacred as those above. Immortalised!

To add to the mystery of the poem, Osundare begins it as though he has been saying something all along that we know nothing about, or have not been listening to. He says that something is waiting longer than the moon yawns in a brown sky. A brown sky then should be a boring sky, holding not very much excitement. And when he adds “with heels of fleeting fancies”, we understand the boredom much more. Fleeting fancies are preferences that change with every next moment. One minute you want to do this, the next minute your mind is changed! A true epitome of boredom!

He now tells us that what he talks about is “a diamond tear”. But from whose eyes? We have no idea. The tear is waiting, as though holding on for an increased pity for the one who bears it. Truth be told, unshed tears increase sorrow as much as they invoke greater pity.

We only become aware that he talks about a rain-drop, shaped in a diamond configuration, when he concludes that it is “in the eye of the cloud” and as it is, it’s getting ready to drop. Then we understand the bigger picture that Osundare is trying to paint. He has successfully brought us to compassion with the period before everyday rainfall, likening it to the burden of sorrow which he has caused us to bear in the somehow sad and melancholic lines of this poem. Another great piece from my favourite poet coming out of Nigeria!

  1. Tiwaa says:

    First thing that jumped at me was the structure of the poem. I’ve never seen a poem written this way. I love the imagery in this poem, especially the “yawn” part, that was really creative, and I love your review. It really helped me fully understand the poem. I didn’t even realize that the poem was just one sentence, and the first thing that popped into my mind when i read “fleeting fancies” was aeroplane in the sky. hehe, but that wouldn’t make sense. Nice review!


  2. paapa kwesi amerado says:

    It is amazing how he describes the atmosphere before rainfall. And yes the title is contradictory to the poem itself. All in all it is a beautiful poem and i like the structure.


  3. tomi says:

    I love the structure of d poem, your review has made me understand the poem. I didn’t understand it b4. The title realy contradicts the poem.


  4. @readjerome says:

    I love Niyi Osundare. His book “Midlife” was the first poetry collection I ever read. Great review


  5. Leederrty97 says:

    This man is awsome, more, Niyi, more.


  6. Nket Godwin says:

    The poem is brilliantly write. Perhaps Osudare intentionally disperses the lines to show the enigma in the theme treated in the piece. Not as meek as we (the readers) thought. Very well penned


  7. Rita says:

    It’s a nice piece from osundare


  8. solomon says:

    great to meeting Osundare


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