Archive for March, 2011




Growing up, I always found that Kwesi Brew’s poetry resonated with my kind of style. He writes crisply, not using any unnecessary words. He knew what words were right to condense the right emotion. He was my favourite poet and I always wanted to meet him. I never did. And found out only late last year that he passed away in 2007. The literary world paid him less tribute than he deserved.

The Mesh is one of his more popular poems. And rightly so, looking at the beauty of its construction. The man himself was born in 1928, at Cape Coast, Ghana. He was born in the eye of the independence struggle and some of his poems have reflected that sense of strife. A Plea for Mercy is a classic example. He was educated in Ghana and then he travelled widely in the service of the nation. He was orphaned early in life and was raised by a guardian. The reason why he continues to be my favourite Ghanaian poet (though Atukwei Okai’s rhythm slays me too) is the control his words have. They are on point and simplistic. His works will endure as some of the greatest Ghanaian pieces ever.

We have come to the cross-roads
And I must either leave or come with you
I lingered over the choice
But in the darkness of my doubts
5 You lifted the lamp of love
And I saw in your face
The road that I should take.

This is a love poem, but as every great poem is, the meaning can be transcribed to the other political ways of men.
Brew is at a cross-roads of love with his partner, a point we all reach in our lives in our quests to find happiness. His words are plain. They are conversational as well as reported, as though he were talking of times gone by. The striking feature in this poem is the mixture of tense. In the first line, he is speaking in the Present, as though the cross-roads have just been reached. But in line 3 onwards, the tense changes to the Past and he seems to be talking about an event that is long gone.

The switch in tense is a testament to his confusion at that cross-road. Presently, he is confused!! When his mind is made up, his confusion is in the Past. The power that this nuance carries is powerful, and a fitting tribute to Brew’s trademark.
The story of the poem concludes that as his lover lifted a lamp of love (line 5), he was able to see where he ought to be going. Ostensibly, in the lover’s direction! That is a glowing tribute to the emotion of love itself. And a more intriguing twist, when you look up again and see that the title of the poem is THE MESH. The confusion. The perplexity. Love takes it away.

Rest in peace, Kwesi.

G. Adali-Mortty was born in Northern Eweland in the former British mandated Togoland, now part of Ghana. Educated at Achimota and Cornell University, Geormbeeyi has had a very exciting as a teacher, a social worker, adult educationist and administrator. Until 1968 he was Ghana’s Special Commissioner for Redeployment of Labour. He started writing poetry many years ago, and is known among Ghana’s leading poets. He is a widely-travelled man, with global influence echoing through his poetry. But his heart always stayed in Africa. And through many of his poetic pieces, the vibrancy of the African passion can be felt. The poem illustrated below is one of his classics. It’s amazing how true it hold today.

1 Peace on earth, goodwill to men!

A thousand millennium more
The grasp beyond our reach.

The ‘love’ and ‘peace’ by which we swear
5 Are threadbare with abuse
As freedom and equality
Democracy and the like

Donning ‘peace’ as hood and mask
We mount the booster rockets now;
10 And love’s the nose cone of the megaton load.

In Mars and in the Moon, maybe,
Some day, the reach our grasp!

Adali-Mortty was something of a puritan. He was of the class of poets that I like to call the Perfectionists. This poem reflects a bit of that side of him that always yearned for the better world order.

This poem is a poem of cynicism. The first line is an allusion to the biblical greeting of the angels to lowly shepherds on the announcement of the birth of Christ. And the first word was PEACE. This gives the poem a prophetic tone. Mind that it is a political poem written in the era when much of Africa was still reeling in colonialism and the world itself hadn’t been purged of ceaseless wars.

But Adali-Mortty thinks peace has eluded the world, and rightly so. He calls “the ‘love’ and ‘peace’ by which we swear” (line 4), threadbare. Words with a significance so thin that the world has little meaning for them. He broadens it and chastises the efforts of the world, by likening these words in their wastefulness to freedom, equality, democracy and the like (lines 6 and 7). This is a thousand millennium (line 2) after the heavenly beings have willed peace on us. Elusive.
In the height of his cynicism, he says that we even go on to don peace as a mask and then sit on booster rockets, away to make ‘peace’. And love conspires along with it, as we go making war. We make war in the name of peace and love. The Irony! (lines 8-10)

So, the title is apt. The reach is beyond our grasp. Probably in another planet, we will find our peace. In Mars, Perhaps! But on earth, only heads remain to be shaken.
This poem is beautiful and better understood when you compare it with Kwesi Brew’s The Heart’s Anchor. The themes are different but the conclusions are the same. The grasp is beyond our reach. Someday, perhaps the reach will be our grasp. We will find peace and maybe add goodwill towards all men. Someday, on the Moon or on Mars.

Ceasing Seasons – For A Lady

Posted: March 11, 2011 in MUSINGS
Tags: , , , , ,


Beauty in Bloom

Beauty in Bloom

Sometimes poetry can be used in the most intriguing of ways to convey the most impressive of feelings. Some of the best poems I have read have bordered on the attributive; poetry that is written for someone or an idea that one holds ideal. The whole book of the biblical Psalms is written in this way and contains some of the best poetry pieces for students of literature.

Sometimes when poetry is used in this way, written in personal a-political terms, it gives a good get-away from the stresses of the world when you step out of your door; it freezes time in a capsule of lines and makes the subject of it’s substance immortal in its sentences. It’s like punctuating time.

So this poem is written for a special someone whose name is hidden in the lines. It cannot be obvious until you have read the entire poem and read the review too, to see whose name is in there. And even that will not come until a few hints have been dropped. This is a beautiful poem by all standards.

Can plumes measure up as fairly?
Can blossoms ever glow so brightly?
I ask the comparison of a dozen lilies
And sweetness of a thousand rose-fields!
None appears as pretty as you
None endears ever dearer too.
But hand me a tulip and I’ll call it dainty:
Pretty grass that gives love reason.
Prettier angel you, for ceasing seasons.


This is a straight poem of confessed affection. The writer compares the object of his love to some of the best flowers and items of beauty that usually mark literary appreciation; plumes, blossoms, lilies, rose-fields. But none of them compares to his love, the receiver of his affection who he calls a prettier angel. Only a tulip comes close, giving love reason. In the last line, the poet tells his lass that she merits so much warmth that for him, time itself seems to rank meaningless. She is the one who has the power to halt time for him. The one who ceases seasons!

Now, let’s see the beauty of this poem. Why not take a pen and paper and write these letters in this order: the first letter of the first line, the second letter of the second line, the third letter of the third line, and so forth. Tell me what you come up with.

That’s a poem she’ll be proud of.