São Tomé and Príncipe: Travellers | Conceição Lima

They bore sunsets and roads
Thirst for the horizon called them

– Who do you belong to?
Who are your people?

That’s how our grandmother held out
A mug of water to the traveller



Traziam poentes e estradas
A sede do horizonte os chamava.

– A quem pertences tu?
Quem são os da tua casa?

Assim estendia nossa avó
A caneca de água ao viajante.


Translated by Stefan Tobler. Culled from Poetry Translation Center.


Conceição Lima is a Santomean poet from the town of Santana in São Tomé, one of two islands in the small nation of São Tomé and Príncipe situated in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western coast of Africa. She studied journalism in Portugal and worked in radio, television and in the print press in her native country. O Útero da Casa (2004) was her first book of poetry and Her second collection A Dolorosa Raiz do Micondó, was released in 2006. Her third, O País de Akendenguê, was published in 2011.



Rwanda: Void | Ndahiro Bazimya


A void is all they see
No covering mask, but still a mystery.
A face that reveals like an open book :
But one with blank pages in a searching look.
In this empty void,

But know this creates the strongest shield
Against prejudiced minds and devious hearts.
For none but I may understand the thoughts,
Of this void of mine.

But sometimes don’t you see,
When golden dawn breaks over a formless sky?
A flicker, a flash, a beam of light.
But if this happens, what will be the fate
Of this empty void of mine?

But know this is no ordinary void :
For in my mind’s eye I see :
Of broken promises, failed goals, dead dreams.
Yes as I walk, I feel, I see, I hope ;
I know one day in my mind there will no longer be
This void of mine.

Ndahiro Bazimya is a Rwandan poet. Find more Rwandan poetry here: http://www.kimenyi.com/rwandan-poets.php



Republic of Congo: Discovering La Negritude | Frederick Kambemba Yamusangie

Discovering La Negritude
It is like drinking pure water freshly
Taken from a spring
Not Processed, Not Packaged, Not Commercialised

But just Pure and Clean
Water coming from the Mother Earth
Taken (with some effort) by you
And consumed (with not any persuasion) by you

Discovering La Negritude
It is like discovering your unknown heritage
It is like discovering a hidden
Treasure, wealth,

Which have always existed
But not known by you
Wealth, which could transform
Your life completely for the best

Discovering La Negritude
It is like waking up from a deep sleep,
And joining a group of privileged people
Who have fallen in love with names such as:

Aime Cesaire, Leopold Sedar Sengor,
Camara Laye, Sembene Ousmane,
Jean Malonga, Mongo Beti,
Langston Hughes, Zamenga Batukezanga,

Lomami Tshibambe, Ferdinand Oyono Mbia,
Richard Wright, Chiekh Anta Diop,
Patrice Emery Lumumba, Claude Maskay, Franck Fannon,
Felix Tchikaya U’Tamsy, William Egber Du Bois, etc..

And never looked back…


Frederick Kambemba Yamusangie is a novelist, playwright and poet who was born in Zaire, Congo. He studied communication engineering at the University of Kent in England and now lives in London.

Nigeria: Christmas in Biafra | Chinua Achebe

This sunked-eyed moment wobbling
down the rocky steepness on broken
bones slowly fearfully to hideous
concourse of gathering sorrows in the valley
will yet become in another year a lost
Christmas irretrievable in the heights
its exploding inferno transmuted
by cosmic distances to the peacefulness
of a cool twinkling star…. To dead-cells
of that moment came farway sounds of other
men’s carols floating on crackling waves
mocking us. With regret? Hope? Longing? None of
these, strangely, not even despair rather
distilling pure transcendental hate….

Beyond the hospital gate
the good nuns had set up a manger
of palms to house a fine plastercast
scene at Bethlehem. The Holy
Family was central, serene, the Child
Jesus plump wise-looking and rose-cheeked: one
of the magi in keeping with legend
a black Othello in sumptuous robes. Other
figures of men and angels stood
at well-appointed distances from
the heart of the divine miracle
and the usual cattle gazed on
in holy wonder….

Poorer than the poor worshipers
before her who had paid their homage
with pitiful offering of new aluminum
coins that few traders would take and
a frayed five-shilling note she only
crossed herself and prayed open-eyed. Her
infant son flat like a dead lizard
on her shoulder his arms and legs
cauterised by famine was a miracle
of its kind. Large sunken eyes
stricken past boredom to a flat
unrecognising glueyness moped faraway
motionless across her shoulder….

Now her adoration over
she turned him around and pointed
at those pretty figures of God
and angels and men and beasts-
a spectacle to stir the heart
of a child. But all he vouchsafed
was one slow deadpan look of total
unrecognition and he began again
to swivel his enormous head away
to mope as before at his empty distance….
She shrugged her shoulders, crossed
herself again, and took him away.

Culled from: Chinua Achebe Collected Poems Anchor Books (2004)

Chinua Achebe (1930 – 2013) was a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and critic. He was best known for his first novel and magnum opus, Things Fall Apart (1958), which is the most widely read book in modern African literature. Raised in Nigeria, Achebe excelled at school and won a scholarship for undergraduate studies. He became fascinated with world religions and traditional African cultures, and began writing stories as a university student. His later novels include No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God(1964), A Man of the People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah(1987). When the region of Biafra broke away from Nigeria in 1967, Achebe became a supporter of Biafran independence and acted as ambassador for the people. After the Nigerian government retook the region in 1970, he involved himself in political parties but soon resigned. From 2009 until his death, he served as a professor at Brown University.


Niger: I’m Scared | Adamou Idé

I’m scared!

Yes, I do not conceal it from you

I say it: I’m scared! I’m scared

Of all anthems you sing

Elixirs vomited noisily

Brought forward

I’m scared of your flags

cracking in the wind of your madness

I’m scared!

To you I confess my fear

I’m scared of your erected tents

Sparse in the flowered gardens

I’m scared of your adult games

In the pedestrian corridors

I know that one day

You will shoot me!

I’m scared

Yes, I confess my fear

I’m scared of your gloved hands

Hiding numerous cactus

I’m scared when a child

Claims for life in his cold cradle

I’m scared when he shows ecstasy I know that one day

You will shoot him!


Adamou Idé is a Nigerien poet and novelist. A native speaker of the Zarma language, Idé left his home in Niamey to study public administration in France and served as an official in the Government of Niger and in international organizations. Idé published his first collection of poems, Cri Inachivé (The Unfinished Cry) in 1984, and his first novel in 1987. He has published both in French and in Zarma. Idé won the first Nigerien National Poetry Prize (Prix national de Poésie) in 1981 And the Grand Prix Littéraire Boubou Hama du Niger in 1996. He has served as a jury member for the Grand prix littéraire d’Afrique noire in 1991 and received the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite (“Knight of the Order of Merit”) of Niger.

Culled from: Tomathon.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.

Namibia: Namibia | Mvula Ya Nangolo

I’ve returned here for many a reason

I’ll certainly live here for many a season

Like thousands of others I hear its heartbeat

My heart opens up when I am in the mountains

Where I can be alone with my thoughts


I’ve returned here to be in the deserts

I love to hear the sound made by sand dunes

I am one of those who perceive the rhythm

Of a landscape as recorded in many paintings

I am one of thousands who know I am finally home


I’ve indeed returned here for many a season

This is my God-given beautiful country

That very mountain over there and across

The deserts sandwiching my African land

Even though I don’t own anything, it’s my land too.


Culled from Watering the Beloved Desert (Makanda: Brown Turtle Press, 2008)

Mvula ya Nangolo was born in Oniimwandi, northern Namibia. He studied journalism in Namibia, then Germany, working for two major radio networks in Central Europe before returning to Africa, first to Tanzania, where helped launch ‘the Namibian Hour’ on Radio Tanzania, then to Zambia, where he served as commentator, producer and news reader for Zambia Broadcasting Services, the national radio station. His first collection of poetry, From Exile, was published in 1976, and his second, Thoughts From Exile was published in 1991. His poems have appeared in many publications, including the anthology When My Brothers Come Home: Poems from Central and Southern Africa (1985). Mvula is the National Poet of Namibia.



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.




Mozambique: Sapphic Ode | Campos Oliveira

If from your eyes temptingly, lively looking,
a tender glance over my way were sent me,
you would touch my bosom and dull the pain that’s
fervently burning!

If upon your carmine and perfumed lips there’s
found a kind smile lovingly formed for me then
all the tears I sorrowing shed would soon be
over and done with!

If allowed to kiss your sweet lovely face where
always shines bright innocence smiling shyly,
then perhaps I’d feel my own soul reviving
black now and freezing!

If your love you’d finally given to me,
love for which I never would trade a scepter
happy I would be for I’d found in living
fortune celestial!

Jose Pedro da Silva Campos e Oliveira (Campos Oliveira) (1847-1911) was born in Cabaceira, Mozambique. He studied law in Goa, India and is regarded as the ‘first’ Mozambican poet of Portuguese expression from the nineteenth century. He served as the nation’s director of postal service and in 1888 published a collection of previously unknown verses by the great eighteenth century poet, Tomas Antonuo Gonzaga.


The Sapphic ode is a poetic form with a specific strophic pattern and meter named for the Greek poetess, Sappho, who wrote around 600 B.C. The pattern consists of three verses of eleven syllables or hendecasyllables, each containing five feet.

Culled from: Poets of Mozambique (2005), Translated by Frederick G. Williams.

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.

Morocco: In Vain I Migrate | Abdellatif Laâbi

I migrate in vain
In every city I drink the same coffee
and resign myself to the waiter’s impassive face
The laughter of nearby tables
disturbs the evening’s music
A woman walks by for the last time
In vain I migrate
ensuring my own alienation
I find the same crescent moon in every sky
and the stubborn silence of the stars
In my sleep I speak
a medley of languages
and animal calls
The room where I wake
is the one I was born in
I migrate in vain
The secret of birds eludes me
as does my suitcase’s magnet
which springs open
at each stage of the journey

Translated by Andre Naffis-Sahely and culled from www.poetrytranslation.org

Abdellatif Laâbi, is a prizewinning poet from Morocco who writes in French. In 1966 he founded the renowned literary magazine Souffles, a journal of literature and politics that was to earn its editor an eight-year prison sentence (from 1972 to 1981) under the authoritarian reign of Hassan II.  Laâbi received the Prix Goncourt de la Poésie in 2009 and the Académie française’s Grand prix de la Francophonie in 2011.

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.

Mauritius: For the World’s Beauty | Umar Timol

pour achever / la beauté du monde /
il faut que la lumière /
étreigne la pavane / des ombres sur tes lèvres /

For the world’s beauty / to be complete /
light must embrace /
the pavane of shadows / passing across your lips /

Translated by Susan Wicks. Culled from Poetry International.


Umar Timol was born on the island of Mauritius in 1970. Timol’s first book was La Parole Testament suivi de Chimie (2003). His second book, Sang is a long mystical love song composed in the Sufi tradition. His third collection, Vagbondages suivi de Bleu was published in 2009. Timol is a founding member of the Mauritian poetry journal, Point Barre, which publishes international poets.


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.

Mauritania: Message from a Martyr | Mbarka Mint al-Barra’

Fire your bullets — our hearts are already ablaze
       In this land, grief wells up from my distress
Fire your bullets — you villain — for I
       Won’t play at murder or run away
My blood fertilises and refreshes this land
       And plants a promising generation that is fully conscious
Limbs grow from seeds of shrapnel
       Hands are formed and crowns spring
That bet this land will always be their home —
       In every corner they stand their ground
Wherever I am, this land is my passion
       Nostalgia is fused with this timeless love
I don’t care if there are explosions
       I don’t mind the annihilating thunder


Translated by Joel Mitchell. Culled from The Poetry Translation Workshop.

Mbarka Mint al-Barra’ is a Mauritanian poet and teacher who writes primarily in Arabic. A prominent figure in the cultural and literary life of her country, she has achieved some renown elsewhere in the Arab world, frequently attending literary festivals in other Arab countries.