The Introduction

The wave of poetic analysis today takes us in naijapoets to the poem titled: My Husband’s Tongue Is Bitter By Okot P’Bitek.

The poem reminds me of the Igbos, one among the ethnic groups in Nigeria. The Igbo people are so culturally inclined to the level that their culture reflects everywhere they find themselves. During the precolonial and the colonial era in Nigeria, the Igbo had a very different system of government which deferred from that of the Yoruba and Hausa; why? The Igbo people lived in clans.

The Summary

According to the first line of the poem “My clansmen, I cry”, which gave an impression that the poem persona was an Igbo woman who wasn’t happy with the ill behavior of her husband and decided to table the matter before their clansmen.

OVERVIEW OF THE POEMPoem title:- My Husband’s Tongue Is Bitter 

Poem author:- Okot P’Bitek
Poet’s point of view:- First Person Point Of View (The Woman’s Husband) 
Category:- Marriage/Family
Major poetic device:- Repetition 
Major theme:- Comparing beauty (African style to the western style)

The Structure

This Okot P’Bitek poem consists of sixteen stanzas. The first three stanzas introduced the readers to the plight of primitive wife of a civilized African man. 

Stanza 4-6 shows that Ocol (the husband) has developed reasons to detest African ways not excluding his wife ” My husband pours scorn/ On Black People” because he’s now a modern, progressive, civilized man. The wife told the clansmen that she wasn’t angry with her husband (a huge lie), she claimed that a true African wife is capable of competition. 

When the poem got to its fifteenth stanza, the wife dropped the bombshell on not only the clansmen but on the readers as well. In the form of advice, she reminded Ocol (her husband) of the solid importance of being an African in terms of custom and tradition which cannot be overridden by any inferior culture.

The Devices

The obvious poetic devices are repetition of phrases “the insults” “my man” “Black people” “love”. Other devices are alliteration “terrible things” metaphor “the ugly coat of the hyena” imagery “glowing charcoal” simile “is like raw yams”.

The Themes

Few of the themes in the poem has to do with the virtues in African customs and traditions. Through this poem, the importance of the clansmen can be felt. They served as the peacemaker within the clans.

Just as in poetic themes of many African poets, the comparison between the African culture and western culture is also evident in this poem. I can liken the poem speaker’s claim at last stanza to that of Dennis Osadebay in his poem “The African Plea” where neither the African lifestyle nor the Western lifestyle was condemned; Dennis Osadebay and Okot P’Bitek were of the notion that both cultures should equally embraced rather than placing one above the other.

Quoting the stanza 15-16 where the major motive for the poem lies:- “Listen Ocol, my old friend, The ways of your ancestors Are good, Their customs are solid And not hollow They are not thin, not easily breakable They cannot be blown away. By the wind Because their roots reach deep into the soil.

I do not understand The way of foreigners But I do not despise their customs. Why should you despise yours? Listen, my husband, You are the son of the Chief. The pumpkin in the old homestead Must not be uprooted!”

Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry (the Leo with wings flying)

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