Keorapetse

RIP Prof Keorapetse William Kgositsile. File photo.
Image: Tshepo Kekana. © Sunday World                        

Hi guys,

Happy 2018. I keep coming in and out of this space like a place where I may have left my keys. I’m back again.

Maybe in 2018, I will review more brilliant poetry. In the past two years, my life has transformed incredibly and it affected the number of times I came searching for my keys here :). But there has been more stability now and maybe this is the year I do more purposeful writing. It is not a resolution but I feel a stirring of the spirits that made me get this blog going in the first place. This might be the comeback.

You guys are amazing. The page views are always in the hundreds every day even though I haven’t put out much content over quite some time. Hopefully on my part, this will change.

I was thinking of putting this blog out in a book so that we can have these and more beautiful poems and their reviews handy as coffee table reads. The biggest reason I haven’t done so is because I have not done the hard work of seeking out the copyright holders of each individual poem. Some of them may no longer be alive but might have handed these rights to trusts. Pray for me. I may want to kick off that work this year and I need the strength.

This year begun very sadly for us the poetry fraternity in Africa as we have lost South Africa’s poet laureate Prof Keorapetse Kgositsile. Farewell Bra Willie and commiserations, Mzansi. Click to read his moving poem tribute to refugees titled Anguish Longer than Sorrow.

I wish you all a better 2018 than you have asked for yourselves. Let’s do this.

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Africa: A Thought. December 2017

Posted: December 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

We all,
Like soaked pages
Of a once-great African novel
Sacred leaves of this sacrilege
We all.

 

And in the last days shall come an orange man

Like one crying in the wilderness

Unto whom, harkening, ye shall not understand

And beholding, ye shall not comprehend.

But may not your sons be shaken

Nor your daughters be despaired

For surely, this son of man is come

To bring redemption upon the nations

Gross trepidation upon the peoples

And the evening and the morning shall be one day.

REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi/Files. Who is numbering the dead?

There is partying in the oceans of this world. Long before it became fashionable for Syrians to join up, brothers and friends from all of Africa, fleeing lands that have ceased to be hospitable, drunk too much of the Mediterranean, ending up in eternal stupor from which there is no rousing. The world cared little about their party, as long as they did not end up on the other side. Gaddafi bargained them as fodder for Italian money and Europe did not flinch about helping them. They were the scum of the earth. Flotsam and jetsam of the sea.

The world noticed and Europe was roused after Syrians joined the party. There is a body that can be mourned and another which is unmournable. I have written poetry in the past for African refugees who died as they tried to reach Lampedusa. The situation has only worsened.

This poem is for anyone who will cross an ocean on this tiny ball of dirt called earth, in search of a better life. Live long!

Of Earth and the Sea, We Have Already Sung
We are people of the land
Our fathers did not swim
And neither do we.
Our only knowledge of water was rain
Our land was too dry
To court a river
Our eyes too dry
To shed a tear.

But we have been intimate with the sea
Our land has turned upon us.
What could hold no water
Has learnt to drink blood
Our land frightens us.

So we shall make new friends with the sea
We who have known no water
Shall be remembered as the men of the sea
We who only sung of the earth
Shall make new hymns for the water
And if there shall be any more singing yonder,
We who died in this crossing
Shall plead:
Of earth and the sea, we have already sung.

Mogadishu

Mogadishu

When I posted my first poem of this same title on Mogadishu more than a year and a half ago, I wrote in the introduction that I was writing three poems of the same title and had finished two. Today, while researching Ethiopian poets, I was carried into that dreaminess that East African poetry persuades. So I went back to Mogadishu, my capital of East African wanderlust.

This is a poem of some longing for a never-visited place. Though Mogadishu be far, one day we shall “pursue her across museums of the brokenhearted” and when we arrive, “show her our cuffs where her love burns a golden brown into our wrists”. Read that first poem and then read this.

I Think About You, Mogadishu
I want to be a part of you
To extend my hands where yours end
Sit at fireplaces with you,
And stare. Stare as we whisper stories of nothing.
I want to be that part of you.

If you would let me, I would hold you
Let you sob softly on my shoulder
Wipe your tears off my neck
If it will make anything easier
I just want to be with you.

I want to call you home
To belong to you. Be a part of you.
Run on your shore to stretched shore,
Show you off to the world.
This is my lover. This is you
This is Mogadishu.

But you say I cannot call you home
That you are no bed for me to stay
That you do not sleep when night has come
Your days are full of sudden flight
From yourself but also from me.
Why can’t I belong to you, Mogadishu?

I can drown in no ocean
But give me a saucer of your love
And I will drown.
Your love is red
too red for me
I love your love blue
Red with memories you want to forget.
Why can’t your love be blue?

I ask little, I expect less
I can sleep on the floor, I have nothing
Huddle in the corner
For the joy that in the morning,
You will be here.
Why can’t you love me like I love?

We have no need to think of food,
Our love is more than we can eat
Your name, our dish, my name dessert
We call our sweet names and we are full
Sugar pumpkin banana
Why can’t I belong to you?

We can forget all others who have been.
The strangeness of past loves haunts you
Shot, migrated, arrested, left you
And your tears from one heart many times broken
Makes a thousandth acquaintance with your face.

But let me love you and we will stay here.
If I can wake in the glint of every morning sun,
Careless of the night that may have brought death,
Careless of flight, careless of the gun
And just look upon your beauty
As you lie beside me, my lover and my home
Let the world burn around us
The only fire for which I care
Is the one that burns within us
Burns within me for you,
If only it would burn for me in you.
I think about you, Mogadishu.

Phillippa and I at Citi FM

Phillippa and I at Citi FM

On Sunday, I was on air with Phillippa Yaa de Villiers and some other artistes on Citi fm 97.3fm in Ghana, reading two poems. I wrote this response to the first and only Caribbean poem I have posted on this blog and I want to share it with you. Roger Bonair-Agard’s original poem How Do We Spell Freedom posted here and my Nigerian blogger acquaintance Ibiene’s How Do We Spell Nigeria, posted here, are exciting predates to this one that you should read if you want more after this.

How Do We Spell Ghana?
(for Roger Bonair-Agard)

We began to spell Ghana in 1957. In Two thousand and fifteen, this is where we’re at!

A is for Answers
B is for Black Star in the middle of a half mast
C is for cut, cut, cut! Cut the drama and the lights.

Who dared us dream of utopias?
Unrepeatable dreams dreamt only yesteryears
By a generation before us?
They were ready to manage their own affairs
We, are not!

So D is not for dreams.
D is for Deception.
D is for ‘Do you believe it’s the same Ghana?’
D is for Dumsor
And this is where we’re at!

A could have been for Akosombo
But A is for Answers cos we need answers now
Or even for Aboadze, Asogli or Akuse
But just give us Answers now.

Just yesterday,
Elite and De-light were two innocent pieces of grammar
But today you’re e-lite if you have not been Dee-lighted
And if you still don’t get it,
A is for Answers!

E is for ECG
E because, that’s just enough said
F is for FPSO
This one makes me laugh!

There was another Ghana nobody told you about
So G is not for Ghana, or which one do we mean?
G is for governments
And the chameleon-skin-type-two-sides-of-the-same-coin-none-better-than-the-other-whichever-one-you-have governments!

H is for Hospitality
Because you don’t want to know the state of the hospital.
I is for Independence
At the same time J is for Just a little dependence
Are we getting anywhere with this?
Because I just don’t know!

K is for Kwame Nkrumah, Osagyefo Emeritus
But let a man’s name rest
K is for Kofi Annan, Busummuru and a few other things
But please let a man’s name rest
L is for Lamentations
M is for morning off, till tomorrow morning, on!
And if you still don’t get it, remember
A is for Answers!

O used to be for Opportunity
But after we wasted it,
O is for Opinion
O is for the Circle we’re caught in, like a circus of name-calling and pointing fingers
P is for pointing fingers.

We could have the other Ghana back if we work for it
Q is for Questions, remember? Those questions for which A is for Answers!
R is for Rise and rise and rise
S is for the sorrow of all that could have been.
But there is a T for which
T is for tomorrow
And maybe because of tomorrow
D is back on for Dream!

In 1957 we learnt to say our alphabets
In Two Thousand and fifteen, this is where we’re at!

Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

Phillippa Yaa de Villiers – Image via BooksLiveSA on Flickr.

I am happiest when I am able to make connections with other writers based on the work I do here on my blog. I should tell you this story.

Phillippa Yaa de Villiers is one of South Africa’s acclaimed poets. I say South-African even though she is Ghanaian/Australian by birth. There’s story behind that. I’ll tell you a summary as I have it from her wikipedia page.

Phillippa was born to a Ghanaian father and Australian mother but was adopted into an apartheid-era white South African family when she was 9 months. She grew up to 20 before she knew she was adopted, and did not meet her biological father till years later. Her writing has reflected her obvious internal struggles of identity. Phillippa lectures creative writing now at Wits University in Johannesburg. She has published two poetry collections, Taller than Buildings and The Everyday Wife, among a host of other featured publications.

Well, back in January, having discovered this blog, Phillippa got in touch with me and we begun discussing literature and the common language of our poetry. After so many emails back and forth, guess what? Phillippa is in Ghana! And we are going to be on radio together on Sunday reading and talking poetry on Writers Project on Citi FM 97.3. That’s more exciting than I just made it sound..haha! Please tune in to us at 8:30pm GMT on Sunday 26th April or online at http://www.citifmonline.com.

And not only that! She will take Dr Mawuli Adzei’s writing class at the University of Ghana on Monday 27th at 3pm and then we have the German Goethe Institut hosting her for a reading of her works and book signings on Wednesday 29th at 7pm. Good immersion into the arts scene in Ghana, this should be. All times are in GMT. Thanks to Martin Egblewogbe and Nana Yaw Sarpong of the Writers Project Ghana for making all this possible.

Please tune in online to the radio event if you’re not in Ghana and attend these events if you are. I am happy when blogging jumps from the screen and translates into tangible realities of literary adventure. I will be back to share the fun with you when the week is through.