Kevin Kellman. Source: solsticelitmag.org
At any time, it has been an interesting exercise doing a study of Nigerian poetry, rewarding for anyone who appreciates the genre, because, no matter your taste or expectation, you are sure to find a poet that caters to it. You only need to pick a poet or period. Here is why Kelvin Kellman catches our attention: to sample his work will expand our understanding of contemporary Nigerian poetry.
To begin with, we must locate Kellman within the literary tradition he inherited, between the 1950s and 1980s, the period that signalled modern African and Nigerian poetry. Poetry was basically a vehicle of decolonisation and radicalism for poets disenchanted with colonialism and the failures associated with postcolonialism: leadership corruption, military interregnum and general social decadence. Texts such as West African Verse (1967) edited by Donatus Nwoga, Labyrinths (1969) by Christopher Okigbo, Poems of Black Africa (1975) edited by Wole Soyinka, The Poet Lied (1980) by Odia Ofeimun, Voices from the Fringe: An ANA Anthology of New Nigerian Poetry (1988) edited by Harry Garuba cannot be forgotten. They have become touchstone marking those times and beyond. But since the year 2000, following the military handover of power to civilian rule in 1999, the new millennium has provided a new context for Nigerian poets, inspiring entirely new themes in addition to reinforcing older concerns. Of course, by the middle of the second decade of the millennium, an indisputable canon had emerged, The Sahara Testaments by Tade Ipadeola, as espoused by the foundational critic of Nigerian literature, Dan Izevbaye.