Written by Kofi Awoonor

Kofi Awoonor was born at Wheta, near Keta in the Volta Region of Ghana, of a Togolese mother and a Sierra Leonean Father. He was educated in Ghana at Achimota College and the University of Ghana, where he graduated in English Language and Literature. He taught for sometimes at the University Institute of African Studies where he specialized in Vernacular Poetry. He was one of the editors of Ghana’s Literary Journals, Okyeame where some of his poems have appeared and has published a volume poetry. Rediscovery

The Anvil and the Hammer

Caught between the anvil and the hammer

In the forgoing house of a new life,

Transforming the pangs that delivered me

Into the joy of new songs

The trapping of the past, tender and tenuous

Woven with fibre of sisal and

Washed in the blood of the goat in the fetish hut

Are laced with the flimsy glories of paved streets

The jargon of a new dialectic comes with the

Charisma of the perpetual search on the outlaw’s hill


Sew the old days for us, our fathers,

That we can wear them under our new garment,

After we have washed ourselves in

The whirlpool of the many river’s estuary

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

And listen to the reverberation of our songs

In the splash and moan of the sea.


An Anvil is a block usually of iron with flat top concave side and often pointed end on which metals are worked in forging.

Hammer on the other hand is a tool with heavy metal head at right angles to the handle used for breaking nails etc.

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The poet of speaker is someone who is in a dilemma in his effort to transform himself to a glorious future. In his bid to move forward and to usher himself to a new era, he tries to use the available instrument the anvil and the Hammer to achieve his goal.

The poet is an African, who sees Africa in a confuse state of trying to use the European cultural values to solve all His problems. African under colonial yoke tries to use the acquired colonial values to get rid of colonialism so as to attend a new era of liberation or emancipation.

“Transorming the pangs that delivered me/into the joy of new songs

He vies civilization as not being fully European value, and therefore calls for a blend of cultural value between the European civilization and African heritage value. He does not see civilization as a total wipe out of African value. He recommends the reawakening of our past cultural value especially our good values and to mix it with the good aspects of others to build a concrete and unshakable future. This is to ensure that “The trapping of the past, tender and tonous” are “woven with fibres of sisal and washed the blood of the goat in the fetish but….” are laced with flimsy glories of paved streets. He believes that the colonial language as a language of writing or literature would serve as a valuable tool for intensive search and further discoveries of future technology and development in this regard. The poet in a clarion call demands for the good African heritage or value so that it can serve as a good background in our effort to develop in the European ideology or civilization.

He sees this as a panacea for future development and relationship with the on-going civilization or superior technology transfer. The speaker further advocates that, it is after we have acquired much of this so called technology transfer of civilization that we can sit down and develop it in our own culture pattern. “Determined to ignore these we use snatches/from their tunes/make ourselves new flags and anthems”.

He sees this as a way of preserving our values loosing the advancement made possible through the invading cultural values of outsiders. Bu so doing we will be bold to announce our arrival in the committee of advanced nations of the world. “And listen to the reverberation of our songs/in the splash and moan of the sea”.


Diction: The poem is complex for a lay reader to understand. Unlike Kofi Awonor’s songs of sorrow which is easy to understand at the surface value or reading. The imagery of breaking and remolding using the instrument of Anvil and Hammer makes it difficult to comprehend easily.

The words “tenous” and phrase “Jargon of a new dialectic” Charisma of perpectual out law’s hills call for serious pondering in understanding or interpretation. Anvil and hammer are used as symbol in the reconstruction or building the nation.


Enjambment or run on line:

This figure is excessively used on the poem. There is constant moving over of expression across the lines of the poem, forcing the verse to end in the nextline.

“Caught between the anvil and the hammer / in the forging house of a new life.”

“The Jargon of a new dialectic comes with the/Chairman of the perpetual search on the out law’s hill”.


The poet repeats the word “songs” severally to emphasise the importance of cultural background in the new world order. The word songs in plural is used in lines 4, 25 and 20.


There is repetition of consonant letters in the line to enhance the melody flow of the poem. The following lines serve as typical examples:

The trapping of the past, tender……tenous “t, t” (line 5)

“Woven with fibre of sisal and”

“w” “w” alliterates (line 6)


  1. Discuss Kofi Awonor’s Anvil and Hammer as an expression of cultural clash
  2. Discouss Kofi Awonor’s Anvil and Hammer as a protest poem

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