The Waste Land
Modernism in the Poetry of T.S. Eliot and Christopher Okigbo
Christopher Okigbo’s poetry has often been compared to that of T. S. Eliot, partly because Okigbo uses Eliot’s signature linguistic devices such as exploiting metaphor to create a densely symbolic dimension to his poetry. In addition, he also appears at times to be consciously invoking comparisons with Eliot through such means as similarity of titles, as in the correspondence between his own Four Canzones and Eliot’s Four Quartets. Also like Eliot, Okigbo’s poetry forces a critical assessment that moves beyond the content of the works themselves to enlarge the discussion about broader topics such as the meaning of poetry and the purpose of the poet in modern society. Christopher Okigbo's poetry reveals a man who was not merely aware of the work of Eliot, but who effectively drew upon him as a model for bringing to African poetry a modernist perspective. This may be due in part because he saw in Eliot’s bifurcated identity as an American who is best known as a British poet an accurate reflection of his own sense of himself as an outsider; an African poet infusing his work with the sensibilities of Anglo modernism. Finally, both Okigbo and Eliot have each suffered the slings of criticism that their poetry, for all its...
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