Piano and Drums is a poem in which an African male listens to firstly the sound of drums, which take him to a primal area with his mother and in a tribal atmosphere, then he listens to a piano and thinks forward to the future and a more complex way of living.
Telephone conversation is a poem in which an African male wants to rent a flat from a white lady, who we find out through the poem is racist.
Both of these poems have been written by Nigerian born poets, both of who were born and started their education in Nigeria. They both then moved from their homes in Nigeria to be educated in a more modernised English speaking country. In both poems, the writers have made an obvious divide in culture and race. In Telephone Conversation, it is very clear that the landlady who is renting out the house to the man is racist, and very fake. She seems a lot less educated than the male on the telephone and a lot more rude and inconsiderate. An example of this is after the lady down the other end of the line has asked how dark he is:
“‘West African sepia’ – and as an afterthought
Down in my passport.’ Silence of spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece ‘WHAT’S THAT?’ conceding
‘DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS.’ ‘Like brunette.’
‘THAT’S DARK ISN’T IT?'”
This clearly shows the lack of intelligence and racial maturity of this landlady. In both of the pieces the writers make the distinction between their native African practices and the new complex Western way. An example is in Piano and Drums he thinks of how the drums ‘make my blood ripples’. He thinks back to his native origin (he was born as the son of an Ijo chief) when he hears the rhythmic beating of the bongo like drums. Yet when he hears the wailing piano he thinks of new horizons and uses much more complex language.
Both of the poems bring out the ways in which people can make cultural and racial differences more acute. In one sense, the author in Piano and Drums (Gabriel Okara) is bringing out the different lifestyles in which he has lived and the different environments he has worked in. Yet in the second poem Telephone Conversation (Wole Soyinka) it is another person judging him and presuming he will be different because of the colour of his skin.
In both poems the writers use a similar style of writing as they both use the style of almost listing the thoughts that are going through their heads. An example of this is when Gabriel Okara, in his poem writes:
paths with no innovations
rugged, fashioned with the naked
warmth of hurrying feet and groping hearts”
In these poems, though, I do think that there are some differences. One is the fact that Gabriel Okara is taking the truth as he sees it and bringing out the racial differences himself. Whereas in Telephone Conversation, someone else is taking the racial differences into her own hands, when she doesn’t know anything about him yet still judges him. I think that this make s Telephone Conversation a lot more insulting and shocking. I think that this poem Telephone Conversation is meant to be shocking as Soyinka Wole was a political activist. The poem by Gabriel Okara is not meant to be shocking, or politically incorrect, it simply shows the way in which two different types of music take him to another place; he is trying to share his image with others.
In both of the poems, the writers manage to paint a very vivid picture in my head. I think that they are able to do this by using very distinctive words to describe the place they are in or going to. In the Piano and Drums, the description of the more native home is very clear as he uses such phrases as:
“primal youth and the beginning,
I see the panther ready to pounce,”
“Once I’m in my mother’s laps a suckling”
These words seem to give me a very clear image of what he is seeing. For example the word primal makes me imagine a very basic scene with no distractions or modern conveniences. In Telephone Conversation I got a very clear idea of the awkwardness that the author was feeling, and an almost nauseating claustrophobia of shock when the lady is so racist to him. An example of this is when he describes the un-clean nature of the phone box:
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar-box.”