Posts Tagged ‘Review on poets’

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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History does not only rest on the tongues of the elderly or sit somewhere on the dusty shelves in a community library but also takes a seat in literary arts. It then becomes a memory and landmark on social map. An essential capture of humanity in literary arts is a testimony to the evolution of both ills and beauty in our shared space as social beings. Poetry is no exception to these universal truths. The astonishing beauty of poetry is when few say much – when just one word, phrase or clause is the foundation on which a recorded event in history stands. It is measurably fascinating to discover the seminal thoughts of poets as they jot events as a future pointer. Most often, it is connecting these dots to real life events that suggest the poem’s preferred meaning or purpose.
How a group survives to tell its story should by always be a prominent feature in advancing such narrative as a viable option. No one captures this better than Kwesi Brew’s Ghana’s Philosophy of Survival. The opening line is striking, a powerful and dense metaphor. Brew goes straight to the point without trading words.
‘’ We are the punch bag of fate’’
This poem is not one that entertains complaints. The plurality of the voice of the persona might deceitfully suggest so. It says it as it. It makes no direct reference to political events but the subtlety of it can not be ignored.
‘’ their viciousness on our patience
until they become caresses of admiration’’
Whoever is the object of address is cunning.
‘’ and time that heals all wounds
comes with a balm and without tears,
soothes the bruises on our spirits’’
As a typical Ghanaian, she knows time, silence and fama Nyame (‘’give to the God’’) heal. The persona goes on to suggest that as a mean of survival- ‘’ mettle of invisibility / This is how we outlast and outlive / the powerful and unwise.’’
In all these, she has hope.
‘’ love of family kith and kin and brother-keeping
has cast us in the mould :
that while we take the blow
and seem unhurt,
speechless, we also watch and wait’
Notice the pun – ‘’kith’’ and ‘’kin.’’ The persona is counting on comradeship to sail them through the sea of times.

 

 

Note :

Please, read the poem, Ghana’s Philosophy of Survival by Kwesi Brew  here

  5.  Aisha Nelson :  She is one of my favorites in this generation. Her pieces are intellectually stimulating. She does not spoon-feed her readers. In a unique way , she draws readers along a path that sets in finding  self, theme et al. As a writer, she does not profess to know answers- she knows words to situations.  Her words gel like a master hand  on a  piano and I love to hum to that song.

                                                                            …at the scent of water

                                        Image

   

                                                                                                           not water

not dew

 

at the scent of water

 

 

 

let the frayed stump spew green

 

let the foul egg vomit a being

 

 

 

let that which was birthed to die

 

find life

 

let that which died before birth

 

know life

 

 

 

at the scent of water

 

not dew

 

not water

(credit: The Kalahari Review)

 

            Aisha will need to get out there and show the world her ingenuity.

 

6. Dela Kobla Nyamuame( www.efodela.blogspot.com) :  Efo is a voice of conscience. He has an impeccable diction that buys for him a seat at the feet of heavens. The first time  I read his piece, I knew ” I had seen the future”. I reproduce his first poem I ever read and yes, I still remember how it felt.

                                                                                           

                                                                               Our Brother Was an Idiot

                                             Image

 

We left our brother in the open to decay
As white ants ate their way through his house
It’s not like he stood there and he didn’t try

But his exterminators were a divided house

They painted his life in a tragic comedy
And they cast a fool at him, the Pantomime Villain
And though he was our brother we called him enemy
And clapped as some alien played the Greek Hero

Our loud mouth brother was our own brother
Our pig headed brother was still our brother
Our misguided brother tried the only way he knew how
Our brother trusted us and we stood by and let him fall

Our brother did not learn from the mistakes of others
Our brother thought his brothers were unlike Joseph’s brothers
Our brother was an idiot to think blood was thicker than water
Maybe our brother is a mirror reflecting our soulless land

Our brother might have been an idiot to dare them
To build a house of wood next to white ant nests
But our brother was an even bigger idiot
To think his other brothers would help fight the pests

( Credit Poetry Foundation Ghana)

7.  Novisi Dzitrie :   There are times that people do not need more than one chance to show what they have inside. If my heart is big enough, then I will wish he never stops writing. 

                                                                                

                               O! Jebu! Stared At The Beginning As Ananse Tickled Himself In The End

                                                                                 Image

O! Jebu! climbed the mountain and stood atop, akimbo!
As if as if…
looked deep down the valley into the hole;
raising his head next to look up at the empty sky.

This system is sick…
O! Jebu! must face the tasks:
put things apart; make sense of the whole;
bring the pieces back together!
But where…
where do we place the noesis?

O! Jebu! stretched his right hand upwards…
The sky was nowhere within his reach!

So let us tell tales…
for the lack of knowledge
between the hole deep down the valley and the empty sky high above.
Let us say… they say…

They say Mawu used to live on the next floor upstairs!
And as it used to be… they say…
O! Jebu! could stand on his two feet and touch the sky
or when he felt like it, he could look out of his window
and give Mawu a wink or a wave of high five!

But it came to pass… the ancestors disobeyed Mawu!
Day after day
they lifted their heavy pestles skywards
and pounded the peace of Mawu
as they crushed yam, coco-yam, plantain and cassava into fufu.
So Mawu stormed out in anger
and removed the sky from within the reach of man!

And so O! Jebu! must now rent the services of an intercessor,
born of a virgin or of pure oracles,
if he ever wishes to speak to Mawu the omnipresent!
And yet little did Mawu the all-knowing know
O! Jebu! would soon fly aircrafts into his sky.
Mother of palmwine! Mawu Sodza!

The same God who remains the same, they say,
and yet changes regardless without prior notice.
Mother of palmwine! Mawu Sodza!

So let us tell another tale.

They say, again, so let us say:
Let us say Kweku Ananse the spider took the place of O Jebu
and presented himself before Death
in a puzzle of many a great complication.

So Death said to Ananse:
“Because you have eaten my food,
you must die…you will die! You and your family!”

But Ananse did not want to die. No!
Instead, Ananse pedaled his many legs
in one heart-throbbing attempt to flee…
So they say… and so let us say…
Let us say it is the reason why Ananse is seen caught in his own web
in corners or on ceilings of buildings in his attempt to flee…
Flee…flee from Death!

So we tell tales…
Tales to fill up the space, to make up for the lack of knowledge
between the hole deep down the valley and the empty sky high above;
strange-tales… fairy-tales…

Tales that make us cry maa maa! Or make us laugh kwa kwa kwa!

Tales of why the crab is headless,
Tales of why the moon dies,
… of why soldier-ants move in a file,
… of why indeed the monkey has a tail!

( One Ghana,One Voice)

 

             Postscript :  Chances are that I will make 10 different lists when  you give me 10 opportunities to write under the same title. What excites me is to see many youth take advantage of technology to showcase their arts. Somehow someday, you will be discovered and you will make a worthy read. Until then, I wish you luck in your walk. God bless you. * hugs*