Ben Okri

Ben Okri, poet and Booker Prize winning author, was born in Minna, Nigeria in 1959. He studied comparative literature at Essex University in the late 1970s and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2002. He has since received numerous international awards and is regarded as one of Africa’s leading writers. In 2001 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). He is a member of the board of the National Theatre.

The final line of his poem ‘Turn on your light’ – Our future is greater than our past – is engraved on one of the pillars of the Memorial Gates.

Turn on your light

by Ben Okri
[an excerpt]

The new era is already here:
Here the new time begins anew.
The new era happens every day,
Every day is a new world,
A new calendar.
All great moments, all great eras,
Are just every moment
And every day writ large.
Thousands of years of loving, failing, killing,
Creating, surprising, oppressing,
And thinking ought now to start
To bear fruit, to deliver their rich harvest.

Will you be at the harvest,
Among the gatherers of new fruits?
Then you must begin today to remake
Your mental and spiritual world,
And join the warriors and celebrants
Of freedom, realisers of great dreams.

You can't remake the world
Without remaking yourself.
Each new era begins within.
It is an inward event,
With unsuspected possibilities
For inner liberation.
We could use it to turn on
Our inward lights.
We could use it to use even the dark
And negative things positively.
We could use the new era
To clean our eyes,
To see the world differently,
To see ourselves more clearly.
Only free people can make a free world.
Infect the world with your light.
Help fulfill the golden prophecies.
Press forward the human genius.
Our future is greater than our past.

© Ben Okri, 1999.
From Ben Okri, Mental Fight, Phoenix House: London, 1999.

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