Posts Tagged ‘Kwabena Agyare’

Title: The Place We Call Home and Other Poems
Author: Kofi Anyidoho
Year: 2011
Reviewer: Kwabena Agyare Yeboah

kofi

Credit: Nana Fredua-Agyeman’s Goodreads page

The Place We Call Home and Other Poems is the sixth poetry collection of Kofi Anyidoho, one of Ghana’s foremost poets. It is his second collection after close to a ten year hiatus. This break would have a profound effect on the poet. During that period, he went back to researching into traditional poetry of his people – the Anlo-Ewe. Yet, his return with PraiseSong for TheLand (2002) is unlike Elergy for the Revolution (1978) and A Harvest of Our Dreams (1984) which imitate the dirge, halo and other traditional song forms on page. Anyidoho is a traditional poet and of change.
The collection is divided into three movements. Movement One opens with a prelude. It invokes Husago and Misego. Husago also appears in PraiseSong for TheLand (2002). Husago is ‘’an introductory dance to all Yeve (diety) ceremonial dance-drumming . . . to alert all members of the society to the commencement of the rituals.’’ It is a forward-backward-forward dance. Misego is a variant of Husago.

Credit: Flickr

Credit: Flickr

In some of Anyidoho’s previous books, he recycles ‘’birth-cord.’’ In the more traditional past, his people buried the after-birth of twins and planted trees on them. Towns and villages were founded on them. This was how they were connected to home or the idea of it. In a literary sense, it means generations of artists. Newer folks should be connected with older folks like fetus and mother. It is bridging the gap between the past and present.
Here, birth-cord is replaced with Husago. It is re-thinking how the past connects with us, the present. Like Sankofa, the Akan aphorism, Husago teaches us that we should go back to the past to gather the selves we left behind. The categorization is actually a mimicry of the steps of Husago. Forward-backward-forward. Or, backward-forward-backward. The collection of poems is a performance of Husago and we, the readers are part of a society, a select few of those who believe in the power of words, who are called to witness the commencement of a ritual – of home-going and home-coming. It is an extended metaphor.
Anyidoho always re-members a group in his collections. It started with Vida Ofori, Adjei Barimah and others students who died in student protests in the late 1970s to mid-1980s in Elergy for the Revolution (1978).
Movement One. Backward step. The first two poems are chants that precede the performance (like call to worship). This section of the recollection recalls history of the African continent. It reads like a poem from Ancestral Logic and Caribbean Blues (1992).
Movement Two. Forward step. This section deals with geopolitics of war. It carries forward a voice that expands the definition of ‘’my people.’’ It defiantly places Africa on the discussion table to talk about what a superpower is doing wrongly in the world. It re-imagines powerscape.
Movement Three. Forward and Back steps. This section tells varying reflections of the poet-persona. It is a mature voice that has grown to appreciate and accept certain realities in life. It does not fight nature. It accepts time.
I wanted so much to hand over
blueprints for endless future plans (Post-Retirement Blues, p. 83)

But
in my haste
to embrace Eternity on Life’s High Ways
I forgot I overlooked Old Time
still lurking among the AlleyWays (Post-Retirement, p. 86)
At the heart of the collection is the question of home. Where is home?
I will come again to these Shores
I must come again to these Lands (The Place We Call Home, p. 31)
These lines contest the idea of home. It makes it global and it disrupts it. Home is where you are and it is a fantasy.

In Wellington once I watched the Maori
dance and sing the loss of Ancestral Lands Gods
From Medellin of the Distant Dream
to Baranquija on Colombia’s Carib Shores
In Santiago de Cuba of a Troubled Hopeful Time and
in Haitian nightmares of Santo Domingo
I saw I heard I felt I smelt I even tasted
a trail of Blood across our History’s Final Sigh. (The Place We Call Home, p.31)

Home is memory.
There is something about The Place You Call Home:

Something about familiar contours of The Land
about the very Tate of Air
that essential Smell of Earth
something about the very Feel of Things
the Geography of Lost Landmarks
the Chemistry of Fond Memories
even about the Nothingness of Time
Home is nostalgia.
the termite eaten face
where often you stood
on One Leg
trembling holding
your breath for a Lover
now lost to Childhood Dreams.
This poet is mythmaker. He does it with words. He creates his own words by randomly capitalizing common nouns and/ or joining any two of such words. Those happen anywhere in the sentences. This is the rebel-poet we know. He is innovative with space; they replace commas. He gives the reader the chance to make the work her own, reading at her own pace with no guidance whatsoever. When you read them, you give them a voice that is your own. Perhaps, we should rethink what we think is the meaning of ‘’my people’’ that he often uses. It should be politics of global inclusion rather than exclusion.

………..THE END OF A NEW BEGINNING……..
That’s how he ends it all.
But Ah! The Glory!
The FearSome Glory of This Life….! (But Ah! The Glory!, p. 88)

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I had by accident met Romeo on a Facebook poetry group some two or so years ago. I had started writing again. I needed a place to belong. I loved poetry. Based on some testimonials, I found myself on the P.O.E.T.S Facebook page. There, I met others, who would be friends, family for life.

romeo

The unthinkable thing happened last week. My boss had assigned a task to me and I was almost late for submission because our unit wi-fi was down. I went to an internet café to go do the submission and when I logged on to Facebook, I saw people write on his wall.

Sometimes, I wish I could ask God why certain things happen. Sometimes, I wish everything about life would make sense and there would not be a need to ask questions. Sometimes, I wish there would be a transparent glass between this life and the other one so that relatives can still meet and talk to one another about times gone, laugh and be happy forever.

I do not know how to write a tribute. This is not a tribute. It is a friend writing about another friend; his thought on the other’s writing.

That night, I read Romeo’s poems. I reflected on his short life. I thought about mine too. I forgot how to write poems. I knew I was just a reader of a poet’s work.

Romeo’s finest work, with little doubt, will be Passing Through. I am not a believer of secular prophet-ship role for the artist when she, in an artistic moment, speaks of death and under somewhat circumstance, she ends up the same way. Death is too universal to be a contrived narrative. Writing about death is the only truth that an artist can speak to life. Truly, it’s a humanistic ideal.

The persona-poet, if I am correct, wonders about the meaning of life. To him, it is a mystery, a journey to nowhere. He writes –

A countless more miles to walk

A journey of no destination

Caught up in silence in its very bulk

My path is shrouded in my own imagination

(Stanza 1)

Stanza 2 is even more profound –

Like a dead flower on a grave
What is my appreciation to the dead
Must I be brave
To escape the luxury of my bed (?)

It’s profundity in the subsequent stanzas challenges my ideal. He seems to know his fate.

I am a traveller just passing through

My words may be heart-cutting but are true

And then, a she-persona is introduced.

There came a she who added to my bane

From there, there are a lot of unnecessary pun elements that distract focus. But the last stanza is the deal. Seemingly, the poet-persona knows the end is in sight. It is the climax of the internal conversation with the she-persona, a lover, most probably.

I couldn’t watch the tears run down her face

The pain in her heart was moving at a snail pace

Because my words to her were true

I was just passing through

I struggle with ideals. I struggle with beliefs. I struggle with religion. This is one that makes me know that I am a human being. I know I, too, will be on the gallows once. The question is ‘’when?’’ And I have also written about death. I am not aware if my interrogation of the theme is a truth to my fate. Either way, destiny will triumph.

I feel Romeo fought. We didn’t talk in his last days. I learnt he passed on battling cancer. I remember the last time we met. I read to him some of my poems. I asked him to come back to writing. With a smile that struck like a painting, he said he would be back soon. And he never did.

Time is not a good friend now. The physical barrier between the spiritual and physicality will be activated this weekend. Unfortunately, I can not be there.

Once, I heard that the only thing that can be used to bury a singer is a song. I offer my words to the poet. Journey well, my brother. Till we meet again.

From Kwabena with love.

Hey. Let’s Talk About Love.

A wise man once said that to know the nakedness of a writer is to know her words. Quote me. I just said that.

I hate fairytales. Even in solitude, I prefer to live in reality. There are exceptions, yes of course. You are one.

Dear DAY,

You sneaked in just as when life was happening to me. Remember that evening? In your hostel? I met the girl I chose to call “Helios.”  Yes, you are sun. The fairytale was that I liked you from that moment. When I saved your name as “Helios” on my phone and I  prompted you to take a look at it, I meant to say “I like you.” But who cared about symbolism when life was not poetry? I did  when I called you regularly. I did when we pillow-fought. I did when I spent long hours with you. I did when I almost told you that I liked you. And yes, you did not get that joke.

There were times that it felt so close. There were times I thought you were another me. I got to know you that well. I could identify you in the dark.  I literally could sense you. It was a perfect love story, right?

That goddamn night somewhere in July, 2012, you breathed and made a being out of my fears. Yes, I knew you were dating. But hearing it from you made it worse. Did I mean it when I said that I was happy for you? Maybe. I still do not know.

So this summer, you might take a vow that will you bind to a holy institution. I will not be there. When you walk down that path, they  will see the world’s most beautiful bride ever. Okay. I lied. Yet still, you will be beautiful on that day. I will be somewhere on earth,  praying for you. I will be staring at the window like I will be waiting for you. Yeah, that should happen in our next lives! Let’s re-do the last scene of Rosalinda.

I do not know if you even exist. I do not even know if I have met you before or we will ever meet. Silences in the midst of self-absorption are products of nonsense like this. It should be imagination….more correctly, creativity. They say that fiction is truth without names. Maybe, that is true.

. . .

I  should have mentioned it to you that you brought me back to writing. There was a night that thoughts nearly strangled me. I woke  up and under that study lamp, I penned down a few words. When I wrote On Self-critiquing And Artistry, it was because I was  celebrating  the fact that you were no longer my muse.  It was both beautiful and sad. It was  that that words failed  to describe. But it taught me a bigger lesson. To be a man of conscience. I learnt to use my head. I learnt to use my heart. More importantly, I learned  to choose time carefully. I thought that Dude was an ass to let you go.You were perfect together.

That night, I wrote

The Last Summer

”If I can  ask God for the breeze

Then I will build a giant winter

So that I can hold you when you freeze

Then I will  travel across the Atlantic to find a reason to leave

Maybe the season will  make me stay

Or I will  reach for the stars

Probably, I will  be a star myself

So that I can  watch over you endlessly

But I do not want to be far from you

Oh! I will be your mirror revealing each day the beauty in you

But what will I  do if something goes wrong ?

I will  rather be by you

Staring at the corner of your eyes like it is an unmined treasure

Cherishing the little things no one sees like your anger

Holding on to the little moments

And pray time stays  still

If that doesn’t work , I will  capture you in eternity on my incorruptible memory

There it will dangle like   the legs of lovers

The Last summer they will  ever see each other

Actually , it is

Perhaps , I miss the biggest heartbeat the Lord ever made

Y. O. U ”

So you left. . .

Hey. Thank you for the memories. They are beautiful. Like no other.