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J. P. Clark Bekederemo (John Pepper Clark Bekederemo) Biography

(1935– ), (John Pepper Clark Bekederemo), America, Their America, Poems, A Reed in the Tide

Nigerian dramatist, poet, and critic, born in Kiagbodo, Ijaw country, Niger Delta, educated at the University of Ibadan. Clark travelled to the USA as Parvin Fellow at Princeton in 1962; his view of America, in his hard-hitting, splenetic America, Their America (1964), caused considerable controversy. The poetry contained in Poems (1962) and A Reed in the Tide (1965) combines African and European techniques to unusual effect. Casualties: Poems 1966–68 (1970) contains mainly poems which mourn the human losses suffered as a result of the Nigerian Civil War (196770). Poems from all three collections have been published in A Decade of Tongues: Selected Poems 1958–68 (1981). Further collections include State of the Union (1985) and Mandela and Other Poems (1988). Drawing from Ijaw mythology and ritual, Clark's plays are more directly committed to African cultural values than his poetry. Those values imply a cosmos similar to Greek tragedy in his best-known play, Song of a Goat (1961, perf. 1962), written in a jagged blank verse. Song of a Goat, The Masquerade, and The Raft, all set in the Niger Delta, were collected in Three Plays (1964). Clark's research into Ijaw traditional myths and legends at Ibadan's Institute of African Studies has resulted in his scholarly edition and translation of The Ozidi Saga (1978) which has inspired both a play, Ozidi (1966), and a film, The Ozidi of Atazi (1969). The play, like the saga, focuses on Ozidi, a posthumous son born and raised to avenge his father's murder, and tragically killed in war by his own comrades. The film, directed by Frank Speed in close collaboration with Clark, records highlights of a seven-day festival in which villagers from the Niger Delta re-enact Ozidi's fate. The Boat, The Return Home, and Full Circle, each performed in 1981, are published in The Bikoroa Plays (1985). His Collected Plays appeared in 1992. Clark's series of essays on African poetry have been collected in The Example of Shakespeare (1970).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Cheltenham Gloucestershire to Cockermouth Cumbria