Manifesto on Ars Poetica | Frank Chipasula

 

My poetry is exacting a confession

from me: I will not keep the truth from my song.

I will not bar the voice undressed by the bees

from entering the gourd of my bow-harp.

I will not wash the blood off the image

I will let it flow from the gullet

slit by the assassin’s dagger through

the run-on line until it rages in the verbs of terror;

And I will distil life into the horrible adjectives;

I will not clean the poem to impress the tyrant

I will not bend my verses into the bow of a praise song.

I will put the symbols of murder hidden in high offices

in the center of my crude lines of accusations.

I will undress our raped land and expose her wounds.

I will pierce the silence around our land with sharp metaphors

And I will point the light of my poems into the dark

nooks where our people are pounded to pulp.

I will not coat my words in lumps of sugar

I will serve them to our people with the bitter quinine:

I will not keep the truth from my heartstringed guitar;

I will thread the voice from the broken lips

through my volatile verbs that burn the lies.

I will ask only that the poem watch the world closely;

I will ask only that the image put a lamp on the dark

ceiling in the dark sky of my land and light the dirt.

Today, my poetry has exacted a confession from me.

 

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.