Sanity amidst Chaos: Navigating the Lagos Cityscape in Nigerian Poetry

Keywords: navigating the Lagos cityscape in poetry; a complex linkage between living and surmounting daily challenges posed by the cityscape; searing poverty against limitless opportunities; selected Nigerian poets; Odia Ofeimun; Lagos of the Poets; Nigeria


This paper focuses on the delineation of the phenomenology of Lagos’s cityscape in the cross-sectional poems of contemporary Nigerian poets. While there is abundant literature on the city and fiction, the same cannot be said for the city and poetry, especially from the African perspective. Being often referenced in the portrayal of social contradictions, Lagos in Nigerian fiction has been explored to represent sophistication, decadence and anonymity. Again, while fewer articles and anthologies/collections have drawn attention to the pervading anonymity, chaos and inclusiveness of Lagos in poetry, several essays and books intersecting the city and fiction have been harvested on the cityscape’s boisterous posturing. Given the paucity of essays on its imaginative portrayal in poetry, we focus, in this paper, on the stylistic representations of the mystique of Lagos in the works of selected Nigerian poets. Apparently, Lagos was the former Nigeria’s political capital, but now serves as its economic capital, and has attracted varied writers in the past years. Although many people come to Lagos for different reasons, not all of these migrants capture their experiences in poetic engagement. Utilising the concept of political ecology, the paper seeks to evaluate how the selected poets have portrayed the complex linkages between living in Lagos and surmounting the daunting challenges posed by the cityscape. Poems have been selected from Niyi Osundare’s Songs of the Season (1990), John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo’s State of the Union (1985), Rashida Ismaili’s “Lagos” (1995), Remi Raji’s Webs of Remembrance (2000) and Odia Ofeimun’s Lagos of the Poets (2010). The paper looks at how the selected poets have represented the ideas of Lagos’s cityscape in their poems.