Gabriel Okara, a Nigerian poet, is immersed in folk-tradition and ballad. One can discern influences of native tradition and English romantic tradition and he often tries to create a synthesis between the two. He often utilizes ‘transliteration’ and thereby renders his poems regional, yet universal. His poems are often marked for their lyrical musicality.
Gabriel Okara’s “Were I to Choose” is reminiscent of Yeats’ “Adam’s Curse.” Adam toiling in the soil can be compared to the Negros working in the soil. They broke the stone themselves which was their very foundation. The red streams are symbolic of the multilingual diversity that reaches the womb Africa.
Cain metaphorically represents the next generation. ‘I’ in Okara’s poems generally refers to the tribe. The poet implies that he is currently imprisoned in the present generation and its identity crisis. The earlier generation’s gaze would not go beyond; but his does and to him, the world is looked at from the brink. Written in 1950s, the period of Nigerian Independence, the poet sees his ancestors-their slavery, their groping lips and the breasts muted by heart-rending suffering. His vision goes outside and backwards. The memory is like a thread going through his ears.
Cain was a wanderer, who if caught by anybody, would be definitely slain.…