Chad: The Cry of the Bird | Nimrod Bena Djangrang

(for Daniel Bourdanné)

I wanted to be overcome with silence

I abandoned the woman I love

I closed myself to the bird of hope

That invited me to climb the branches

Of the tree, my double

I created havoc in the space of my garden

I opened up my lands

I found the air that circulates between the panes

Pleasant. I was happy

To be my life’s witch doctor

When the evening rolled out its ghosts

The bird in me awoke again

Its cry spread anguish

In the heart of my kingdom.

 

Nimrod Bena Djangrang was born in Koyom, in the south of Chad in 1950. Originally a teacher of French, history, geography and philosophy in Chad and the Ivory Coast, Nimrod has published poems and short stories in various periodicals such as CargoMâche-Laurier and Revue Noire.
Translations from French into English by Patrick Williamson

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Central African Republic: La Republique Centrafricaine | Aimée Yangbadji

La Republique Centrafricaine

Ici en RCA, on parle de langue francais et la langue nationale qui est sango
Le drapeau de la RCA a cinq couleurs qui sont :
Le bleu, montre la mer
Le blanc, montre le coton
Vert, montre la foret
Jaune montre le diamant et l’or
Rouge montre le sang

—————————————————————————–
English Translation

The Central African Republic

Here in CAR, we speak french and the national language which is sango
The flag of CAR has five colours, which are:
Blue, showing the sea
White, showing the cotton
Green, showing the forest
Yellow, showing diamonds and gold
Red, showing the blood

 

Culled from Art in All of Us. 

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Cape Verde: Postcards from the High Seas (i-v) | Cosino Fortes

I

Crioula, you will tell the guitar
Of the night, and the dawn’s small guitar
That you are a dark-skinned bride
with Lela in Rotterdam

You’ll never sell around the town
From door to door
The thirst for sweet water that slaps
In a tin can

II

In the morning
It snowed on the temples of Europe
The lamp of my hand is a caravel
Among the fjords of Norway

Since yesterday
It’s been raining on the prow
Steel rain that numbs
Our abandoned bones
gnomon of silence without memory

Since yesterday
The ship is the landscape of a blind soul
And your name upon the ocean
the sun in a fruit-tree’s mouth

III

I used to sell Kamoca
On the streets of New York

I’ve played ourin among the girders
Of skyscrapers under construction

In a building in Belfast
Remain the skulls and bones
Of my contemporaries
The blood remains
Alive in the telephones’ nostrils

IV

The ears of the islander heard
The sun-drenched voice in the Olympian throat
Of a pestle in Finland

I saw patricians
clad in togas
Speaking Creole
In vast auditoria

Beyond the Pyrenees
there are blacks and blacks
Immigrants to Germany
in the soup-making countries
the blacks of Europe

 

Corsino Fortes is a poet from Cape Verde who writes in Portuguese. Fortes was born in 1933 in Mindelo on Cape Verde’s São Vicente island. He has worked as a teacher and a lawyer; he served as Cape Verde’s ambassador to Portugal; and he was a judge in Angola.The literal translation of this poem was made by Daniel Hahn. The final translated version of the poem is by Sean O’Brien. Culled from http://www.poetrytranslation.org/.

 

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

 

Cameroon: I too sing Cameroon | Sarah Anyang Agbor

I too sing Cameroon.
I am the ninth and tenth provinces
Or is it regions?
I just want to be human,
Not superhuman
Accepted as a person

I know how you perceive me:
“Traitor”, “Opposition”, BamiAnglo2
A figment of your own imagination.
Why do you see an Anglophone and you hear-
“Gunshots!? Crisis!? Protests!? Grumblings!?
You got criminals! We’ve got criminals!”

I too can feel
I too can dream
I too can lead.
But you look down on me
And call me “Anglofou”3
You say you are the top dog
And I the underdog.
Now I am the country nigger “Anglofou”
Now I am the house nigger.

Tomorrow
When the stakes are down
Will it be my turn to look down at you?
Will I call you “Franco Fool?”
Or will I call you brother?
That tomorrow will surely come
No one will dare say to me:
“Anglofou”4; “Parlez Anglais”5
“Les Anglos-la”6

Besides, I have walked up the ladder
With the virus of bilingualism
And I will sit at the table
And you will see the good in me.

I too, sing Cameroon!


1 Inspired by the talk on Harlem Renaissance, DVC series at the American Embassy in Yaoundé on 28-09-2007.
2 A Bamileke who has grown up with English as a second language, hence, such a person is a Bamileke from predominantly French-speaking Cameroon by origin and Anglophone by culture.
3 Anglophone fool; crazy English-speaking person
4 An abusive term, most often used by Francophones, to denigrate Anglophones.
5 Speak English
6 Those Anglophones

Sarah Anyang Agbor has a PhD in English from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She was a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Scranton, PA, and is currently an Associate Professor of African Literature at the University of Yaoundé I, Cameroon. Her works include published articles in journals in Nigeria, Cameroon, the USA and the book, Critical Perspectives on Commonwealth Literature (2010).

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Burundi | Batwa Oral Poem

A Batwa oral poem, recorded by Etienne Ndayishimiye and transcribed by David Shook. Read Etienne’s article on the Batwa people of Burundi. 

Tamba Imana Yawe
Tamba Imana Yawe
Aho wabunda mu bisaka
Ninde yahagukuye

English:

Dance to your God
Dance to your God
Who else helps you
when you languish in the bushes?

Etienne Ndayishimiye is a Twa Parliamentarian in Burundi. Founder of UNIPROBA, a human rights nonprofit advocating for Batwa equality, he also serves on the board of Community for Burundi and mentors young Twa leaders.


The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Burkina Faso: Black soul | Monique Ilboudo

Black and woman
God knows
if I have a soul

man or woman
Who knows
if I have culture

with or without a soul
I know
That I exist

with or without culture
I know
Who I am

 

Monique Ilboudo was born in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. She completed a Doctorate in Law and taught at the University of Ouagadougou until 2000. She is currently the Minister for Promotion of Human Rights in Burkina Faso.  This poem is a translation from the original French language version. 

 

 

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Bostwana: Slaughter | Tj Deema

There is a bellow the cow makes at the moment of slaughter
A kind killer knows how to suddenly stab and slash
The bleating goat’s throat to silence
To still the beat of a heart that surely must know
What is coming? If only once it is too late

He could slaughter and skin a goat
Taller than I could stand then
I would watch, corn-rowed hair
Squeezing conspicuously against an open wall
As he would flatten wild sage with a stomp and double thud

The reeds would lie obedient
Their sweet stench seeping unnoticed into the air
I remember the first time I saw life
Congealed at the heel of a boot, dribbling off a jack-knife
Wet on the Pointer’s short-wire fur and tongue

I am no longer that easily removed
Though the sound my green city tongue made then
Undid all his efforts at kindness
Dragging the ritual performed unwilling
Back from the sage-smoked other side
To bear witness before my youthful verdict

 


TJ Dema
 is a veteran spoken word poet from Botswana who has been published in multiple anthologies. She is currently a participant in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. She blogs at tjdeema.blogspot.com

 

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Benin: Femme Noire Ma Mere (excerpt) | Paulin Joachim

O Mother I see you dressed like your sisters in brief loin-cloth

Drawing telluric strength from the baptismal waters

I see you at the evening mass

I see you splendid breaking into the dance

With ceaselessly swaying hips

You are a blazing ripple at the foot of the houngan

and seemingly bonelessly supple beneath strong spices…

 


Paulin Joachim
 is a Beninese poet, journalist, and editor. His two volumes of poetry are Un nègre raconte (1954) and Anti-grâce (1967). In 2006 he was among the winners of the W. E. B. Du Bois medal.

 

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Angola: Testamento | Alda Lara

To the youngest prostitute
In the oldest and darkest barrio
I leave my earrings
Cut in crystal, limpid and pure…

And to that forgotten virgin
Girl without tenderness
Dreaming somewhere of a happy story
I leave my white dress
Trimmed with lace…

I leave my old rosary
To that old friend of mine
Who doesn’t believe in God…

And my books, my rosary beads
Of a different suffering
Are for humble folk
Who never learned to read.

As for my crazy poems
Those that echo sincerely
The confusion and sadness in my heart
Those that sing of hope
Where none can be found
Those I give to you my  love…

So that in a moment of peace
When my soul comes from afar
To kiss your eyes
You will go into the night
Accompanied by the moon
To read them to children
That you meet along each street…

 

ALDA LARA (1930- 1962) was an Angolan poet and lusophone writer. Born in southern Angola, she attended the University of Coimbra in Portugal and obtained a degree in medicine. She lived in Portugal for thirteen years, during which time she was an active contributor to Mensagem,  a prominent literary journal published by African students living and studying in Portugal. Read some of her poems in Portuguese here. 

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Algeria: Prison Bestiaries | Jean Senac

I love you that’s true I love you that’s false
crows on my tongue
wage war with swallows
we’ve got blackness inside our backs

But if one day the beloved
or the beauty comes along
we find our spinning tops again
sunlight scars the water

All around the air thins
we throw a shovel
of earth on the thighs
the ivy comes into focus

Migratory pleasures
you bequeath to the heart
decaying nymphs
and we go on living
gropingly under the waves
like crayfish

I love you
for you I write poems
to stop thinking
drunk on images
I invent margins
to prolong you

If I had at least
your name to speak
o my unknown my madwoman of the streets
honored in my veins
like a king by his empire

My needle of gold missing in the hay!

 

 

JEAN SÉNAC (1926-1973) was an Algerian poet who wrote about the fight for Algerian independence in French. This poem was translated from French by Justin Vicari.

 

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.