Mali: Sur une page de tous les jours | Souéloum Diagho

O seigneur à toi ceci, une simple prière modeste et venant du cour.

Tu n’as pas besoin des yeux ouverts pour voir comment on vit ici, sur cette terre démembrée que les
humains ont transformé en charnier, ils coupent, creusent et fauchent les enfants.

Peux-tu seulement nous prendre en pitié, et accepter nos défauts?

Peux-tu nous ramener sur un droit chemin ? Celui de l’amitié, celui de l’amour pour son prochain et
allumer une veilleuse dans notre cour pour éclairer le tunnel assombrissant qui termine nos
journées.

O seigneur, toi l’éclaireur de nos sombres idées, toi qui voit avant que la vision n’éclose dans nos
sens, donne-nous un peu, rien qu’un peu de ta bonté pour que le mensonge soit loin de nous, pour
que la lumière se fasse même dans les nuits orageuses.

Pour toi seigneur, je chante mes chants de l’aurore, et ceux accompagnant le crépuscule des peurs,

que la nuit se referme sur moi et qu’elle ne s’ouvre plus jamais.

Je prie ton nom, ta majesté et ta grandeur jusque dans les univers éloignés, que mon âme fasse un
vol plané pour échapper à ce monde et ses atrocités.

Souéloum Diagho, the contemporary Tuareg poet, comes from Tessalit in the North of Mali. He is author and editor of Poésies touareg : le chant des saisons (Tuareg poetry: Song of the seasons), a collection of traditional poems.

Malawi: Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Pipe Still Puffing (Ten Years On) | Jack Mapanje

Yesterday, I stopped at another
Shell petrol station and recalled how
you’d have loved to puff from your pipe
there, for your Ogoni people and land;
I did not, of course, stop to fill up with
petrol, definitely not! I stopped merely
to have a good pee, as promised I would
when they got you executed. Today, I
thought, well, why don’t we treasure
the moment we once shared?

 

Jack Mapanje (b. 1944, Malawi), currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, is the author of 4 collections of poetry, the editor of several more, and the recipient of awards including the Rotterdam Poetry International Award and the African Literature Association (USA) Fonlon-Nichols Award.

Madagascar: Hiver Malgache | Elie-Charles Abraham

L’hiver malgache, il faut le dire, Est le plus doux, le plus charmant,

Lui seul, il garde à tout moment, Dans la tristesse ou le délire,

Son éternel petit sourire.

Chez nous, l’hiver n’est pas morose : Un peu de de brise et de frisson,

Un peu de danse et de chanson, Et même encore un peu de rose …

Chez nous, l’hiver n’est pas morose.

Chez nous, l’hiver est assez gai : un peu d’amour, un peu d’étoile,

Un souvenir qui se dévoile Lorsque le coeur est fatigué…

Chez nous, l’hiver est assez gai .

Chez nous, l’hiver n’a point d’alarme : Un peu de rêve, un peu d’espoir,

Un peu de spleen parmi le soir, Un peu de joie, un peu de charme…

Chez nous, l’hiver n’a point d’alarme.

Chez nous, pas de ruisseau de glace, Ni de grésil, ni de frimas.

Pas de brise mortelle et pas De sol gelé. L’hiver se passe

Chez nous sans que le coeur se glace.

Mais si le ciel est inquiet, S’il pleut parfois sur la bruyère

Comme parmi la ville entière, Le coeur aussi pleure en secret…

Parfois le ciel est inquiet…

L’hiver malgache, il faut le dire, Est le plus doux, le plus charmant,

Lui seul, il garde à tout moment, Dans la tristesse ou le délire,

Son éternel petit sourire.

 

Born in Madagascar, Elie-Charles Abraham is the author of three plays, including Seasons of My Heart (1940), Tananarive (1946), and Ebb and Flow (1949).

Libya: Bedtime Reading for the Unborn Child (excerpt) | Khaled Mattawa

Long after the sun falls into the sea
and twilight slips off the horizon like a velvet sheet
and the air gets soaked in blackness;
long after clouds hover above like boulders
and stars crawl up and stud the sky;
long after bodies tangle, dance, and falter
and fatigue blows in and bends them
and sleep unloads its dreams and kneads them
and sleepers dive into the rivers inside them,
a girl unlatches a window,
walks shoeless into a forest,
her dark hair a flag rippling in darkness.

 

Khaled Mattawa was born and raised in Benghazi, Libya. He relocated to the United States as a teenager in 1979. He received an undergraduate degree in political science and economics from the University of Tennessee; an MA and an MFA from Indiana University, where he also won an award from the Academy of American Poets; and a PhD from Duke University.

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.

Liberia: Glory Days |Bai T. Moore

I wandered in the moonlit night
to view the glory of the past 

      The ruins of those pioneer days
      were silhouetted against the light

where once stood mansions decked with pride
now ruled by vipers and the bats
    
are ‘nough to make one stop and sigh 

The broken frames can hardly stand
the beating of the constant rain 

      And on the landscape high above
      the ruins of the parish too

can tell the ghostly story plain
beneath the grass stand epitaphs
    
 a remnant of some burial ground 

A lordly cricket once in a while
will break the silence with a sound 

      Or in some distant woods a drum
      a native feast in feverish swing

I wonder after all these years
these ancient ruins can rise again
    
and brighten up a dismal scene?

 

Bai Tamia Johnson Moore was born in Dimeh, Liberia in 1916. Moore experimented with various genres including folklore, poetry, essay, crime, and the novel. Commonly called Bai T. Moore across Liberia, he is best remembered for the novelette, Murder in the Cassava Patch (1968), which was followed by The Money Doubler (1976) and a poetry collection, Ebony Dust (1962), which was republished in 2001.

 

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.

 

Lesotho: Oral Poem (Excerpt)

Seeiso accepts no cowards;
The children of the family of Mary he rejects:
On hearing, ‘The chief is riding’,
They usually begin to comb their hair,
And I’d hear them ask, ‘Where is the teacher?’
You trust in the father more than in the chief!
There in the battle someone takes fright,
He puts on his trousers back to front,
And the buttons are shining on his buttocks!
Seeiso, make friends of the Christians
But don’t tell the Christians of war,
For of death they’re much afraid:
They’re always being told of it in church!

 From Oral Poetry From Africa. 

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.

 

Kenya: Letter to My Nephew (For Ken Saro-Wiwa) | Mukoma Wa Ngugi

The sun is locked in evening, half shadow

half light, hills spread like hunchbacks over

plains, branches bowing to birth of night.

It’s an almost endless walk until the earth


opens up to a basin of water. You gasp

even the thin hairs on your forearm breathe,

flowers wild, two graves of man and wife

lying in perfect symmetry, overrun by wild


strawberries. Gently you part the reeds,

water claims the heat from the earth, you

soak your feet, then lie down hands planted

into the moist earth. You glow. Late at night


when you leave, you will fill your pockets

with wet clay. But many years from now,

you will try to find a perfect peace in many

different landscapes, drill water out of memory


to heal wounded limbs of the earth. You

will watch as machines turn your pond

inside out, spit the two graves inside out

in search of sleek wealth. Many years


later, after much blood has been lost and your

pond drained of all life you will wonder, shortly

before you become the earth’s martyr, what

is this thing that kills not just life but even death?

 

Mukoma Wa Ngugi, is the son of renowned African writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Born in Evanston, Illinois, he grew up in Kenya and is the author of Black Star Nairobi (2013), Nairobi Heat (2011), and Hurling Words at Consciousness (2006). He was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2009, and the Penguin Prize for African Writing for his novel manuscript, The First and Second Books of Transition, in 2010.  He teaches at Cornell University.

Culled From: http://mukomawangugi.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.

Guinea-Bissau: Regresso| Abel Djassi

Old mama, come and let’s listen

To the beat of the rain against the door

It’s a friendly beat

That pounds in my heart

The rain, our friend, old mama

The rain that hasn’t been falling this way

In a long time I heard that Cidade Velha

The entire island becomes a garden

In just a few days

I heard that the country is covered in green

The most beautiful colour

The colour of hope

That now, the soil really looks like Cape Verde

Peace has now replaced the storm

Come old mama, come

Regain your strengths and come to the door

The rain, our friend, sends its salvation

And can beat in my heart

 

Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral (also known as Abel Djassi) was a Guinea-Bissauan and Cape Verdean agricultural engineer, writer, activist and politician, widely regarded as one of the most prominent African thinkers of the mid-20th century. Cabral led the nationalist movement of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands and the subsequent 1962 war of independence in Guinea-Bissau. He was assassinated on 20 January 1973, eight months before Guinea-Bissau’s unilateral declaration of independence.

Culled from: Scottish Poetry Library

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.

Guinea: Carolina | Keïta Fodéba

 

Instead of a poem from Guinea, we have a lovely song, Carolina by poet and politician, Keïta Fodéba.

 

Fodéba Keïta (1921- 1969) was a Guinean dancer, poet, writer, and politician.  Though he arranged Liberté, the national anthem of Guinea, his works were banned in French Africa as he was considered radical and anticolonial. In 1961, Keïta was appointed minister for defense and security. He was later imprisoned in the infamous Camp Boiro, a prison he himself helped construct, for alleged complicity in a plot and was subjected to torture (“diet noire” – complete food and fluid withdrawal). On May 27, 1969, he was shot dead without trial.

Ghana: For Bessie Head | Ama Ata Aidoo

To begin with

there’s the small problem of address:

calling you
by the only name some of us
knew you by,

hailing you by titles
you could not possibly
have cared for,

referring you to
strange and clouded
origins that eat into
our past our pain
like prize-winning cassava tubers in
abandoned harvest fields…

Some of us never ever met you.

And who would believe
that but those who know
the tragedies of our land
where
non-meetings,
visions unopening and other such
abortions are
every day reality?

To continue a
confession of sorts,

‘Miss Head’ will just not do
‘Bessie’ too familiar
Bessie Head,

your face swims into focus
through soft clouds of
cigarette smoke and from behind the
much much harder barriers erected by some
quite unbelievable
20th. century philosophy,

saying more of
your strength
than all the tales
would have us think.

For the moment,

we fear and
dare not accept that
given how things
are,

poetry almost becomes
dirges and
not much more.

But
we hold on to knowing
ourselves as daughters of
darklight women
who are so used to Life
– giving it
feeding it –

Death
was always
quite unwelcome;
– taking them by surprise –
an evil peevish brat
to be flattered,
cleaned
oiled
pomaded
over-dressed and perfumed…

We fear to remember:
fatigued as we are by so much
death and dying and
the need to bury and
to mourn.

Bessie Head:
such a fresh ancestress!

If you chance
on a rainy night
to visit,

if you chance
on a sunny day
to pass by,

look in to see
– how well we do
– how hard we fight
– how loud we scream

against the plots
– to kill our souls our bodies too
– to take our land, and
– feed us shit.

Come
benevolently,
Dear Fresh Spirit,

that rejoining
The Others,
you can tell them
now more than ever,

do we need
the support
the energy

to create
recreate and
celebrate…

nothing more
absolutely
nothing less.

 

Ama Ata Aidoo (originally Christina Ama Aidoo) was born in Abeadzi Kyiakor, in south central Ghana. She grew up in the Fanti royal household, and attended the Wesley Girl’s High School in Cape Coast from 1961 to 1964. In 1964, she enrolled at the University of Ghana in Legon, where she received a bachelor’s degree in English. Many of her works explore the tension between Western and African world views, and the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed. She has also authored several children’s books.

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.