July marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Chinua Achebe’s first book, Things Fall Apart.
The novel, which became so popular and earned Achebe the moniker ‘father of African literature’ is still celebrated for its genius and for depicting the life of Igbo people before, during and after colonisation.
He went ahead to write other novels, short stories, children’s books, and essay collections. He also had a number of poems and poetry collections, including Beware, Soul-Brother, and Other Poems (1971), Don’t Let Him Die: An Anthology of Memorial Poems for Christopher Okigbo (editor, with Dubem Okafor) (1978), Another Africa (published in 1998), and Collected Poems (2004).
His poetry has been praised for its richness in wisdom and oral tradition. Achebe himself said that his poems “come with stories.”
In one of the poems, Pine Tree in Spring, Achebe highlights endurance in the wake of betrayal and treachery. The poem was dedicated to French poet and politician, Leon Damas, who was the founding member of the negritude movement. It is a poem that hails the poet and praises his resilience, which Achebe seems to desire.
Pine Tree in Spring
(for Leon Damas)
of green memory
across the breach of a desolate hour
that stood guard
alone in austere emeraldry
over Nature’s recumbent standard
lost now in the shade
of traitors decked out flamboyantly
marching back unabashed to the colours they betrayed
erect and trustworthy
what school can teach me
your silent, stubborn fidelity?