Posts Tagged ‘Literature’

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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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.

So  this list is the first part of  a project that I have been involved in for the past year or so. I  sought to interrogate the future of Ghanaian poetry. In many ways, my interest has been on new voices like myself. I have  been blown away by some, totally humbled and some have made question myself as an artist. So in this list, I assume I am just an observer who is loud-mouthed.  I deprive myself of any entitlement to artistry in this context so as to be fair and not be clouded by my prejudices. Here we go in no particular order:

1. William Saint George ( Jesse Jojo Johnson) : There are a few  poet-species left on earth who are devotees of verse. William’s  attention to detail of the verse is something that has held me spellbound for months. It’s clear that the Victorian poets did not die and if they did, they left a lasting impression on a boy in Ghana who based his arts in their artistry and has honed a voice that is increasingly becoming his. In my view, William is Ghana’s most valuable literary currency of the younger generation. I copied this from his blog :

I Walked One Morning On A Street

ImageI walked one morning, on a street,
one early, golden morning,
the only crowds were silent trees
and all their leaves were falling,
 
I took my time to scan the view,
and drink the living air,
to spy the alternating hues
of nature’s pompous fare.
 
I listened to the sighing wind
and followed all her notes,
while whistling along her flute
a duet learned by rote
 
I crossed a little wooden bridge
that spanned a giggling brook
and as I stood atop its back
three laden branches shook
 
I looked up through the dangling boughs;
I swore t’was someone there,
when something sweet disturbed my ear,
a bird song in the air.
 
Oh heaven, how have I been blessed!
I thought a bit aloud,
a songbird in a yellow coat
hid in the leafy shroud
 
Oh come down bird, oh come down bird,
I called to it at last,
come let us sing a little song
I wrote a season past!
 
The bird, with nonchalance, sang on
ignoring all my pleas
the leaves, consenting, stood in place
and hid the bird from me
 
So mad at being thus ignored
I found a little rock,
and threw my missile at the bird
to leave it quite in shock.
 
At last, it heard, and so came down
and calmly said to me,
dear one who cannot sing or fly,
I pray now, leave me be!
 
And quickly as it came, it went
and hid itself again,
and undisturbed at once resumed
its innocent refrain
 
What did I do then, you must ask,
with pride of self undone,
I took my paper and my pen,
and this same poem begun.
 My only criticism of William will be his reach of potential readership despite his potential.
2. Daniel Kojo Appiah :  As the winner of the maiden Ghana Poetry Prize, my faint words will be an attempt at fatal injury.  Over these few months, I have him seen on a quest that defines him in short poetry and spontaneous inspiration. Seemingly, he questions the  status quo in many of  his poems. His inclination is a continuation of the humanistic approach in poetry. Even in his vagueness, he constructs reality with tact.
dani

Staring at a Blue Wall

I sit on a chair
with wheels beneath.
Frozen I am in wonderous stare

I sit and stare
and can’t believe
Sorcery that mimics a fairy tale sky.

I sit unstirred,
this sky be strange;
clouds varied with symbols here

I sit and stare
I’m quite bereaved
This death has come, for now I see.

A death discussed
By computing knights.
This death I face this very time.

I asked it this,
and fearfully this:
“You, what kind of death are you?”

It never blinked,
closed its eyes, and said:
“You’ve only heard of who I am.”

I asked again,
it answered back:
“I am that blue screen of death.”

As part of my research for this piece, I Google-d his name. Apart from the announcement of the prize, he is virtually invisible on Google. That I think is an indictment on  such a fine talent.

3.  Amma Konadu :   I stumbled on her poetry a few months ago. I had this exciting feeling about hers.  She has a prose-like voice in poetry that engages in unique strength.

am

This Season

Seeing the half-naked
Kids
Dance-walking
Down the street
To the kiosk
 In that corner
To buy try-your-luck
Balloons
With their faces
White from
Their morning baths
Is what this season is about
Catching the boys
Toss knock-outs
Under Grandpa’s
Old rickety car
At dusk
With their mismatched
Slippers and
Oversized shirts balled up in the back
While they run for cover
Not knowing
Grandpa has seen them all
Is what this season is about
Turning on the TV
And hearing
A local choir
Sing Hallelujah Chorus
In discord
Dressed in old robes
Yet smiling through
Their almost
Sorry performance
And so you care not
That they
Sing it wrong
Because their aged faces
Are so jolly
Is what this season is about
The ringing out
Of Afehyia Pa
And the cheerful
Hope-filled
Afe-nkɔ-mmɛto-yɛn-biom
We hear all around us
Though the year
Had not been
One long sweet dream
Is what this season is about
So it is when we march up to
Where one road ends
And another
Unknown path
Begins
That we,
As one people
Stand and wait
Eager for the new
Saying in our hearts
May it be good
It is what this season’s about
4.  Fiifi Abaidoo: Here is somebody I connect with on a personal basis. I see in his voice a discovery (or rediscovery) of African poetry. He adorns himself in rich metaphor and diction which paints quite beautifully. He is one who reminds me of the early anthologies of African poetry I read.

I Speak To A Land

I summon all…

Come and listen to your message.
I am only a messenger from faraway…

Your land is cursed.
Fire consumes water!

You land is cursed.
The antelope hunts the hunter!

The leper does not shake hands with death
and goes a healed man…

People of Dakokrom,
bitter saliva scrapes
your king’s tongue, his belly is full with frogs from
Kyekyeku river, and his intestines are as stiff as a wawa tree
and heavy like Nkwatanan rocks.
He shall die and rot on his throne
to appease the gods your forefathers; he sold them to foreigners!

People of Dakokrom,
the priest of Mbem shrine committed incest
with his first child. He heeded to the call of her fleshy breasts,
and tore her beads at Sun-sleep.
He planted an abominable seed in her innocent land.
He gave her a potion to drink: a potion to wash away the forming fruit
of his labor. She died in three days amid the silent cries of the night.
He sowed her remains in the fertile soils of the land
and harvested a curse upon the land:

Your dying sons and daughters, livestock and crops…

People of Dakokrom,
I shall go to the river of ancestral spirits
to fetch the antidote for your cursed land

Let’s meet here in four market days…

             I pray you enjoy reading them as I do. I will continue building my list in the coming weeks. God bless you and I hope to see you again. 🙂