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Title:  Testament Of The Season

Author:  Mawuli Adzei

Pages:  194

Year Of Publication : 2013

Publisher: Mawuli Adzei

Book Reviewer: Kwabena Agyare Yeboah

Mawuli’s collection challenges the citizenry of the establishment. In 1968 whilst stating his support for Biafra, China Achebe writes, ” It is clear to me that the African creative writer who tries to avoid the big social and political issues of contemporary Africa will end up being completely irrelevant ” It has become a  DNA imprint that the African writer passes herself as an activist. Even today, when the current generation is not ideology freak, words of  nuclear atomic bomb proportions are traded on social media in defense or otherwise of this writer-spokesmanship role. Granted. This should be the case.  Won’t our narratives be anaemic, pregnanted with perceptions, classism, egoism and flawed by what not makes  one’s shoe big?
Enter, Mawuli. The persona in the collection is just a scribe, a mere clock. It is the reader that is the time-teller.  Segmented into fourteen sections,  the  collection combs history, politics, philosophy, geography, nature, ritual and the human condition which the poet writes, ” are the subjects that feed my Muse.”  Each of the sections begins  with either a prose-poem or quote which somewhat provides  a context for the poems included in those sections. It seems the poet is careful with contexts; he does not want to be misinterpreted. I find it an unnecessary burden in many cases. Primarily, a part  deals with a construction of identity. Subtly, the other disrupts and exposes the artificiality of nations’ borders.  In its claim lies the universality of human condition – humanism.

Testament Of The Seasons received the Valco Trust Fund Meritorious Award for Poetry in 1996 (unpublished category but was published with additions in 2013).   The collection begins with the section, Winds Of Change.  It bears  witness to the Arab Spring. It includes Springtime ( which in itself is a pun on “spring” in Arab Spring. Free Fall is a poem with extended metaphor that is seated deeply in how chiefs are enstooled in Akan societies.  It dramatizes the end to otherwise a beautiful climax. It brings to mind Gaddafi.  The poem ends with this imagery –
  ” And they fell like over-ripe fruit
   They fell, they fell —

    What a  freefall!”

The next section is Nature’s  fury.  The prologue of the section advances  an interesting argument. It seems to suggest that natural disasters are responses  to the hubris to science. It might not be far from the truth.  Research documents Shanghai for example as a polluted city because of industrialization and huge traffic jams.
Kamikaze is a memory of the Nagasaki-Hiroshima  atrocity.
Eternity is about death. Matters Of The Heart is a love poem section. The US inspires two sections; Dreams (which is an allusion to Rev. Martin Luther  King) and Statu(te)s of Liberty.
The construction of identity part has eight sections which includes Land of our Birth,Memories,  Meditations and Eternity, with latter poems as encounter with death. In Memoriam ( I, II, III) poems are personal stories.  II is in memory of  the poet’s mother.
   ” Then she collapsed in my arms
    I held red-hot death in my arms
   I cuddled death in my bosom as the choral wailings rose
   It was 4 am, October 1975

    I can’t stop crying”

It looks like the collection could have have been two books.

If history is fair and kind, then, when memories are cast in the grains of time, it should remember this poet and his offering.

If there is anything that is negative about this book, it should be the quality of printing and illustration. Well, it’s a scream of politics of sprawled publishing industry(?).

Troubled shapes on the maps are proof  of The Testament Of Seasons – of how humans have shaped up history; the beautiful and ugly, hope and distress. In its essence, humanism, morality should be a landscape, nirvana.

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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.

Image

Credit: http://www.kuonatrustblog.wordpress.com

They would sit across the road and laugh heartily at my screams. They called me The Announcer. That  pitch darkness that formed between the end of the road and the house in which my mother waited for me was indeed a stage. I would stand there and scream my lungs out as if I was the only one who existed on earth.  I do not remember what I said but what I remember is that I was intrigued by the echo.  Paying close attention, I discovered that that voice was almost mine. Somehow, I came to believe that somebody, maybe in the skies recorded me and played it back instantly. I would later spend time to think about whom that might be. I was eight or nine years.

That happened when my two friends, Dwomoh and Kwadwo were not around. To put it correctly, they were my partners in crime. We roamed the whole Asante Mampong Township. We were The Three Musketeers. We sometimes fell into trouble. And we did, it was time for me to think of how we would escape. We called it plan. The truth was, that was our code name for lies. We were successful few of the times. Failure meant a period of wailing for us. The one I clearly remember is when we went to steal mangoes from Teacher Effah’s house. I had laid down that plan with assigned roles. It worked until the time someone blew our cover. Kwadwo was not with us that day. Then we had to run away. Dwomoh and I made it safely home. The others did not make it. Minutes after I arrived home, a group of people brought the others. Dwomoh’s mother pleaded for us and so they left. But there was one more thing. We received the best beatings of our lives. Our skins looked like those of  zebras after that episode.

I was ten and I was enjoying my role as the master planner. My role had extended to other circles of friends. My older cousin, Miriam even allowed me to come up with plots for what we called play (our term for drama). Gradually, I spent more time developing such plots and I found it more fulfilling.

Reading from The Mirror one fine Saturday afternoon, I stumbled on the winners of Burt Award For African Literature.  I felt I could be a writer upon seeing that. Such was the ego that set me on this journey. That was 2003 and I was elven. So I began to write . . .

 I would make sketches of concepts on papers that I kept. Many of them turned out to be an attempt at fiction writing. On a few occasions, I collected sketches from friends and I made poetry out of them. Of course, I should say that it was a pleasure doing that for Matilda, a girl I had a crush on from primary school to secondary school (She’s engaged now . . .smh). Unfortunately, I could not complete my novel titled The Hill because it was stolen in boarding school. I began writing poetry after that. I was able to create  thoughts in a concise genre and still  kept the dramatic techniques. Above all, I was able to keep my works.

Fast forward to 2009.

I felt the world owed me a favour. I wanted to write a book. When I found an online publishing house which was willing to accept my manuscript, I thought wow. But I was wrong. The world went damn silent on …Songs Of My Heart. It awesomely failed and I was completely dejected.

...Songs Of My Heart

…Songs Of My Heart

I would stop writing for the next two years.

Somewhere in 2012, I had a Facebook message from Daniel Kojo Appiah. Apparently, he had gone through my old notes on Facebook and he thought I could be a good writer. I would spend the next few months under the mentorship of Adjei-Agyei Baah, a man I had encountered before in The Mirror years earlier. I was so moved by his piece that I wanted to write under the name Kwabena Adjare-Agyare.

4th, February, 2014. Shalom Hostel. Room P 50. Ayeduase- KNUST.

Sometimes, I feel my heart will stop working. I sometimes I feel my weary legs will give up carrying my huge upper frame. But before my trembling fear steps out of that silent prayer, I would want to feel this moment. On this day, my twenty second birthday, I want to renew the vow I made a decade ago to writing. ‘’Till death do us part’’, I say.

It does not matter I if I get stuck here or not. I have dared to be opinionated even under personal discomfort. I have lived, owning perspectives. One day, I will die with nothing left on me. That will be my worth. Until that day, man will   soldier on.  

 

 

http://www.echofoundation.org 

In this essay, I will be reviewing one of his most successful poems, Freetown which is taken from Concerto For Exile.

POEM :

FREETOWN

” Africa I have long away from you

wandering like a Fulani cow

but every night

amidst the horrors of highway deaths

and the menace of neon-eyed gods

I feel the warmth of your arms

centrifugal mother reaching out to your sons

but all calling you mother womb of the earth

liking your image but hating our differences

because we have become the shame of your race

and now on this third anniversary of my flight

my heart becomes a citadel of disgust

and I am unable to write the poem of your life

my creation haunts me behind the mythical dream

my river dammed by the poisonous weeds in its bed

and I think of my brothers with ”black skin and white masks”

( I myself am one heh heh heh)

my sisters who plaster their skins with white cosmetics

to look whiter than the snows of Europe

but listen to the sufferings of our hearts

there are those who when they come to plead

say make us Black Englishmen decorated Afro-Saxons

but we African wandering urchins

who will return one day

say oh listen Africa

the tomtoms of the revolution

beat in our hearts at night

make us the seven hundred parts of your race

stretching from the east to the west

but united inside your womb

because I have dreamt in the shadows of Freetown

crashing under the yoke of its ferocious civilization”

we with our different designs innumerable facets

Title: Freetown. It is the capital of his home country Sierra Leone.

Lines 1-3: The persona states his longing for Africa. He captured this as ‘Fulani cow wandering about’. Fulani is nomadic tribe in the Sahel region of Africa. Like the Fulani cow, the persona wanders in search for greener pastures yet he remembers and longs for home.

Lines 4-6: ‘horrors of highway deaths’ refer to the senseless carnage on the highways in the west. ‘Neon-eyed gods’ – headlights made from the element, neon. The persona paints an imagery of fear in these lines. Is it not interesting that the persona continues to live there ‘amidst the horrors’ and ‘menace’? Subtly, the persona contrasts Africa with the West: Africa is a natural environment and the West is the opposite. Notice what the persona uses as symbolism for both places. ‘Fulani cow’ for Africa and he used ‘highway’ and ‘neon-eyed’ for the West.

Lines 7-9: The persona continues to tell of his affection for his motherland. In these lines, the persona makes a claim that Africa is the home of the human race.

Lines 10-14: People are ashamed to call Africa home because Africa is in a sorry state. The persona’s ‘citadel of disgust” has grown with years (third anniversary)

Lines 15-24: Line 15 for me is very ambiguous. ‘my creation’ could be what the persona has really done or what he has conceived in his mind that he sees as a reality. In either way, the persona is involved in something that he is ashamed of. Could the ‘‘mystical dream’’ be the much talked about ‘‘African Dream’’? In line 16, the persona says his imagination (‘rivers’) has been curtailed by possibly political elements. (‘Poisonous weeds in the bed’). “Black skin and white masks’’ is the doctoral thesis of Frantz Fanon in 1952 under the original title “Peau noire, masques blancs”. Permit me to quote Wikipedia’s description of the study,’ . . . is a sociological study of psychology of racism and the dehumanization of inherent to colonial domination.” The next 3 lines build on this premise. Look at his swipe at his ‘sisters’

‘‘my sisters who plaster their skins with white cosmetics

To look whiter than the snows of Europe’’

Rightly so, he acknowledges that he is part of this group of Africans

Lines 22-23: These lines are significant for me. The persona says some Africans plead to be ‘Black Englishmen decorated Afro-Saxons’. In effect, they see themselves as whites who are ‘devotees’ of African culture. What a paradox!

Line 24: Creole (Krio) people are descendants of freed slaves who were resettled in Sierra Leone in the 1770s and 1800s. It is interesting to know that the Poet is a Creole yet he assumes spokesman-ship of the natives. Impressive!

Line 25-35: Here, the persona expresses his willingness and hope the one day he will come back with the others (urchins). Line – tomtoms are drums of American-Indian or Asian origin .The persona hopes their return will be a wind of change (revolution).

Notes

1. A Selection Of African Poetry, (1992), Introduced and Annotated by K.E. Senanu and T.Vincent, The Longman Group UK, pp 280-281.

2. Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, (1999), Steven R. Serafin, ed, Volume A-D, St. James Press, pp. 479-480

3. Wikipedia profile Syl Cheney-Coker