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How To Understand The Anvil And The Hammer By Kofi Awoonor

The Detailed Overview of the Poem
The poem “The Anvil and the Hammer” is an African oriented poem not just because the poet (Kofi Awoonor) is an African but the subject in discuss is about Africans and their relationship with culture. The mixture of African culture with alien culture has remained like a wide spread disease within the Africa of today; the reasons stemming out of colonial impacts and haywire civilization. 


From the words of Williams Wordsworth, “poetry is an expression of man’s inner most feelings”. Quite undeniable truth such definition revealed because “The Anvil and The Hammer” by Kofi Awoonor did reflect the inner most feeling of the poet. Kofi Awoonor, in the poem, spoke of cultural clash within Africa which the poet also felt. Kofi’s active literary periods were between 1960s and 1970s; not far from the time of Ghana’s independence and the period most African countries gained their freedom from the shackles of the colonialists. No wonder the poetic messages of African poets such as Dennis Osadebay, Bernard Daddie, Gabriel Okara, Syl Cheney-Coker, David Rubadiri, revolved around subject similar to The Anvil and The Hammer by Kofi Awoonor. 

It is hard letting go of the poem’s message, even the millennium generation of poetry readers can still attest to the message passed across by the poet because the impact of foreign culture has highly overridden the African culture beyond the period Kofi crafted this poem (which was around late 1970s). For a comprehensive biography of Late Kofi Awoonor, naijapoets.com suggests the visit to wikipedia website.



The Thematic and Other Factuals
How does the form of the poem assist the themes? It is necessary for the readers to relate the poem’s structure to the theme development. The 21 line poem is void of end rhyme and stanza equality in the sense that each stanza varies in number of line count. The first stanza is four lines introducing the poet’s nature of transformation by metaphorically comparing himself to an iron been shaped into a new form. The use of “caught” in the poem proved that the change witnessed by the poem speaker was sudden and unintentional. 

The second stanza tells of was life was before his transformation process began:
“The trapping of the past, tender and tenuous
Woven with the fiber of sisal and
Washed in the blood of the goat in the fetish hut
Are laced with flimsy glories of paved streets
The jargon of a new dialectic comes with the”

According to the third stanza, which proved that one never misses a good thing till it’s gone; the poet realized that the deed is done and no going back on his newly acquired lifestyle, he then earnestly begged for a way to mix his tender culture with his newly acquired jargon. What necessitated his clamor for old woven African culture was narrated in the fourth stanza of the poem. The reason remained that his experience has brought him the truth that the foreign culture is not superior to his native culture as earlier proclaimed by the foreigners. The fifth stanza further claimed that the live and strength in the African culture.


Anyone who has keenly studied the poem “The Anvil and The Hammer” might come to realize that the poem is divided into three segments in terms of tone; the present, the past and the aggressive conclusion. Within those segments came the theme of nostalgia, the theme of past to present (transformation) and the theme of natural-is-better-than-artificial. Looking at the theme of transformation from the poet’s opinion, such is never an easy task. Truly it has never been when one imagines the lengthy years and long period of sitting in a classroom to study the Western culture; such is not fair to African generation and the under-development in Africa can well be linked to this snail-slow process_ all in the name of feeling among. The theme of transformation which took the whole of stanza one and two, where the past was compared to the present with the affirmation that the past , though “Woven with the fiber of sisal” was “tender and tenuous” but the present seems complex coupled with the transformation “pangs”. 

The natural African culture was preferred by the poet to acquired culture which could not be ignored:
“We hear their songs and rumours everyday
Determined to ignore these we use snatches from their tunes
Make ourselves new flags and anthems
While we lift high the banner of the land”

The Anvil and The Hammer by Kofi Awoonor contained many descriptive adjectives and gerunds “delivered” “lift high” “rivers’ estuary” “perpetual” “fetish” “dialectic” “transforming” “trappings” “forging”. Line 21 “the splash and moan of the sea” is personification. “the anvil” and “the hammer” are both instances of symbolism. The whole of the poem is an offspring of metaphor with the use of “I” “we” “anvil” “hammer” etc; they all represented Africans and their culture. Alliteration in “lift high the banner of the land” ”the trapping of the past, tender and tenuous”.

It must be noted that “The Anvil and The Hammer” by Kofi Awoonor shares the same ideology with the poem titled “Piano and Drums” by Gabriel Okara in the sense that they are not just cultural incline, their arguments seem align.
[As you read this post, I’m convinced that you have a personal reaction in terms of subtraction or addition, endeavor to add it to the comment box below]

Likely Questions on The Anvil and The Hammer by Kofi Awoonor
  1. Examine three poetic devices in Awoonor’s “The Anil and The Hammer”
  2. Explain the use of symbolism in The Anvil and The Hammer by Kofi Awoonor
  3. Discuss the changing mood of the poet in “The Anvil and The Hammer”
  4. How relevant is the use of metaphor in The Anvil and The Hammer?
  5. Give a detailed justification to the title of the poem The Anvil and The Hammer
  6. Examine the theme of dilemma in The Anvil and The Hammer by Kofi Awoonor
  7. Shed light on the concept of “the anvil” and “the hammer” as regards Awoonor’s poem
  8. What is the thematic preoccupation of Kofi Awoonor in The Anvil and The Hammer?




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