Breaking: Renowned poet, playwright J.P. Clark dies at 86

October 13, 2020
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J.P. Clark

By Kazeem Ugbodaga

Renowned Nigerian poet and playwright, Prof. John Pepper Clark, popularly known as J.P. Clark died on Tuesday at the age of 86.

A statement from the family signed by Prof. C. C. Clark and Mr. Ilaye Clark  on behalf of the family  said: “The Clark-Fuludu Bekederemo family of Kiagbodo Town, Delta State, wishes to announce that Emeritus Professor of Literature and Renowned Writer, Prof. John Pepper Clark, has finally dropped his pen in the early hours of today, Tuesday, 13 October 2020.

“Prof. J. P. Clark has paddled on to the great beyond in comfort of his wife, children and siblings, around him.

“The family appreciates your prayers at this time.”

Clark was born on 6th of December 1933 in Kiagbodo to an Ijaw father and Urhobo mother, Delta State.

Clark received his early education at the Native Authority School, Okrika (Ofinibenya-Ama), in Burutu LGA (then Western Ijaw) and the prestigious Government College in Ughelli, and his BA degree in English at the University of Ibadan, where he edited various magazines, including the Beacon and The Horn.

Upon graduation from Ibadan in 1960, he worked as an information officer in the Ministry of Information, in the old Western Region of Nigeria, as features editor of the Daily Express, and as a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan.

He served for several years as a professor of English at the University of Lagos, a position from which he retired in 1980. While at the University of Lagos he was co-editor of the literary magazine Black Orpheus.

In 1982, along with his wife Ebun Odutola (a professor and former director of the Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of Lagos), he founded the PEC Repertory Theatre in Lagos.

A widely travelled man, Clark had, since his retirement, held visiting professorial appointments at several institutions of higher learning, including Yale and Wesleyan University in the United States.

Clark was most noted for his poetry, including: Poems (Mbari, 1961), a group of 40 lyrics that treat heterogeneous themes; A Reed in the Tide (Longmans, 1965), occasional poems that focus on the Clark’s indigenous African background and his travel experience in America and other places; Casualties: Poems 1966–68 (USA: Africana Publishing Corporation, 1970), which illustrate the horrendous events of the Nigeria-Biafra war and A Decade of Tongues (Longmans, Drumbeat series, 1981), a collection of 74 poems, all of which apart from “Epilogue to Casualties” (dedicated to Michael Echeruo) were previously published in earlier volumes;

Others are: State of the Union (1981), which highlights Clark’s apprehension concerning the socio-political events in Nigeria as a developing nation and Mandela and Other Poems (1988), which dealt with the perennial problem of aging and death.

Clark’s dramatic work included Song of a Goat – premiered at the Mbari Club in 1961, a tragedy cast in the Greek classical mode in which the impotence of Zifa, the protagonist, causes his wife Ebiere and his brother Tonye to indulge in an illicit love relationship that resulted in suicide. This play was followed by a sequel, The Masquerade (1964), in which Dibiri’s rage culminates in the death of his suitor Tufa.

Other works include: The Raft (1964), in which four men drifted helplessly down the Niger aboard a log raft; Ozidi (1966), a transcription of a performance of an epic drama of the Ijaw people and The Boat (1981), a prose drama that documents Ngbilebiri history.

-With assistance from Wikipedia

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