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Foremost Nigerian poet, John Pepper Clark is dead

Foremost Nigerian poet, John Pepper Clark, popularly called J.P. Clark, is dead.

He was 85.

The poet, who has been ill for a while, died on Tuesday according to family sources tell NewsWireNGR..

Mr Clark, who studied at the University of Ibadan, was a professor of English at the University of Lagos from where he retired.

The Late Clark was Born in Kiagbodo, Nigeria, to an Ijaw father and Urhobo mother, 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 held visiting professorial appointments at several institutions of higher learning, including Yale and Wesleyan University in the United States.

Clark’s contribution to other genres includes his translation of the Ozidi Saga (1977), an oral literary epic of the Ijaw that in its local setting would normally take seven days to perform, his critical study The Example of Shakespeare (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970), in which he articulates his aesthetic views about poetry and drama and his journalistic essays in the Daily ExpressDaily Times, and other newspapers.

He is also the author of the controversial America, Their America (Deutsch, 1964; Heinemann African Writers Series No. 50, 1969), a travelogue in which he criticizes American society and its values.

While the furore generated by this book arguably catapulted him into the international literary limelight, the damage it and Casualties have done to his reputation seems permanent; in both works he infuriated and alienated a large audience and some influential critics. In his defence, Clark has maintained that he merely portrayed events as he saw them.

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