A Bird In Me Heart – Agana Agana-Nsiire [For Ghana Lit Week]

Posted: November 18, 2011 in GHANAIAN POETRY
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POET’S PROFILE

Agana

Agana

I’m particularly elated to be reviewing this poem by my very good friend from our days back at Presbyterian Boys’ Secondary School. Agana Agana-Nsiire has been, like me, something of an art lover even though we shared our high schools days in the highly competitive science E-class. We have had many good times past comparing exciting poetry discoveries, writing same and representing our school on the debate team. Of course, he was a better debater but our other occupation with the Writers and debaters Club as well as with the school’s Editorial Board, made sure that we were almost everywhere together. Cap that with the fact that we were both student leaders whose paths crossed at high decision-making instances and you have a poet whose style I know very well. And I forgot to mention that we used to read poetry at Open Air Theatre on Mondays at Radio Univers on the University of Ghana campus, hosted then by the hard-working Martin Egblewogbe.

Agana’s writing is evidently influenced with an American style he unconsciously cultivated by reading many foreign poets. Sometimes, that was our conflict. I was pro-African in choice and writing while he wrote more accentuated and regal. The poem he’s allowed me to review today is one of his more pronounced diversions into some sort of British cockney or Caribbean creole. He wrote this poem at a sitting and ever since he read it to me in class, I have loved every single line of it. That was about eight years ago. I remember the look on the faces of the crew at Radio Univers when he read it there too. This is an amazing poem.

For Ghanaian Literature Week, (you can find all posts for the week aggregated here at Kinnareads) it is most appropriate that I highlight this budding (Agana, you’re budding until you publish, don’t throw up a storm already!!) gem who is one of the exciting poets I see on the next frontier of Ghanaian literature. He is a graduate of the University of Ghana and blogs at www.cerebralsparks.wordpress.com.

A Bird in Me Heart
There’s this here feeling me has in me bones,
Every time me sees this here lass,
And every time me hears those tones,
Of her sweet voice me breaks like glass.
So the streets me dares no longer walk,
But sits and cries on this here rock.

There’s this here itch me feels in me skin,
Every time she passes me by!
And me speaks the truth me tries to grin,
But runs away, says I.
So no longer t’ the park goes I,
But sits me down t’ cry.

So me old man sits me down one day and says;
‘Come off it, you’re a man now, Chum!’
But every time me sees her face,
Me heart beats like a drum.
Last Sunday morning mass,
She comes and sits reet next t’ me perch!
Now I don’t know where me gets the gas,
But next thing me knows, me’s runnin’, screamin’ out t’ church.
And now t’ whole town thinks me’s a right old bloke;
Yesterday me heard a lad say me’s an egg without a yolk.

So what can an old sailor say,
Who’s only wife, was the roarin’ ocean!
Me hopes me’ll speak t’ her one day,
But till then the pain’s me heart’s lotion.
Me ain’t felt nothin’ this way about nothin’ I say,
But there’s a bird in me heart, and it’s peckin’ me away!

REVIEW

This poem is a beauty. The story is warped in a satirical, elegiac intonation giving us a sort of an opportunity to both laugh at the writer as well as share his pain. The first stanza introduces us to the misery of our poet who says he has this feeling ‘in me bones’ (line 1) anytime he sees a certain lady; a ‘lass’ (line 2). Her voice is so sweet (line 4) that whenever he hears it, he ‘breaks like glass’ (line 4). This line uses the word ‘glass’ to allude to the fact that hearts get broken sometimes and the lady’s voice could both be so overpowering in emotion as well as be high in amplitude, enough to cause the shattering of that glass, which in this case, is our poet. His sorrow has caused him to abandon walking on the streets for fear he might see her, and instead sit ‘on this here rock’ (line 6) to cry.

In the second stanza, our poet confesses that, when he sees her, he feels ‘this here itch’ (line 7) in his skin. Note his constant use of the phrase ‘this here…’ since the first stanza. This gives us a sense of pointing, as though he is indicating the objects that he describes after the phrase. The effect that this achieves is that it throws us right into his situation and emotion. Where he feels an itch, we are tempted to feel same. So the second stanza tells us onwards that he ‘tries to grin/But runs away…’ (lines 9-10), so much that he has stopped visiting the park as well. He only reclines ‘t’ cry’ (line 12).

The next stanza sets up a host of images that make us both laugh and sorrow away for this our poet. His father – the ‘old man’ (line 13) – sits him down and tells him to man-up! Face this shyness, discomfort of seeing the lady and just be bold with how he feels. His father tells him ‘you’re a man now’ (line 14). But our poor poet cannot beat it! His ‘heart beats like a drum’ (line 16) whenever he sees this lady. He tells us how bad it was, when she sits next to him in church on Sunday, and ‘Now I don’t know where me gets the gas’ (line 19), he sees himself screaming and fleeing the church hall, to the amazement of all gathered. He goes on to say that the whole town now thinks he is a ‘a right old bloke’ (line 21), when only in this stanza, his father was just even now trying to convince him that he was a man. He has aged foolishly for his own silliness! A beautiful, beautiful piece!

Bird

Bird

The final stanza tells us who our poet is! He is not exactly a young man but ‘an old sailor’ (line 23), ‘Who’s only wife, was the roarin’ ocean!’ (line 24). He looks forward to the day he will be bold enough to talk to her, but resigns to the fact that for now, his heart must bear the pain as a ‘lotion’ (line 26). He confesses that, regardless of the sturdiness we know of sailors, he has never felt anything so strong for anything, and wraps up by telling us that his present predicament is as a bird in his heart, ‘and it’s peckin’ me away!’ (line 28).

The beauty of this poem lies in so many things: the candour, the drama, the language and the untiring effort of an artist to paint for us a picture so vivid that we cannot but applaud him when he is done. Bravo, Agana!

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Comments
  1. […] A Bird In Me Heart by Agana Agana-Nsire (at African Soulja) […]

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  2. me thinks this poem here is beautiful especially the diction

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  3. amymckie says:

    Lovely poem, and as Floyd & Amerado mentioned, lovely diction as well. Great choice to feature a budding poet and share the poem for the rest of us! Thank you :)

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    • Dela says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting too, Amy. I am certain it won’t be long before Agana becomes a household Ghanaian literary feature if he continues like this. As I said earlier, he just needs to publish.

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  4. I especially love the image of an egg without a yolk. Resonates beautifully!

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  5. […] A Bird In Me Heart by Agana Agana-Nsire (at African Soulja) […]

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  6. Kinna says:

    How is it that I have not heard of this poet? Thanks for bringing him to our attention. It’s a lovely poem and the imagery is striking. Does he plan on publishing a collection any time soon? I really appreciate your participation in Ghana Lit Week. thanks for the support.

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    • Dela says:

      Agana has been participating in poetry events around Accra when he has the time. He’s been on Writers Project on Citi FM too. I have little idea if he intends to publish soon but I hope he does, really! Thanks for putting Ghana Lit Week together. I’m sure I’ll be participating in more of such after this first time.

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  7. Dela, I must tell you that your review is most humbling. To be a part of the Literature Week in such an active way has been awesome. And thanks for all the fantastic comments. Agreed: budding till proven published. Thanks a million!

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  8. Ajisafe says:

    This is a beautiful literary piece. Keep it up Agana.

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  9. Rodney P. Eady says:

    I have wanted to post something like this on my site and you have given me an idea. Cheers.

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  10. Very awesome blog !! I couldnt have wrote this any better than you if I tried super hard hehe!! I like your style too!! it’s very unique & refreshing…

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  11. Sportsbook rakeback says:

    You have some terrific content, I absolutely agree with the main things inside your review. It’s an incredibly exciting viewpoint.

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  12. Good work Its posts like this that keep me coming back and checking this site regularly thanks for the info

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  13. Victor says:

    Cheers! I like your poem, A BIRD IN ME HEART

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  14. Gideon Brobbey says:

    Good poem. Quite dramatic.

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  15. I must confess that I disagreed with Agana on a lot of things back in school but this poem is one I just cannot help liking ^-^.

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  16. boakye-frefre says:

    wow! that’s a piece I’m not sure I’ll ever put down

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  17. […] of Ghanaian writers, I will do well to add it for review, like I did for Agana Agana-Nsiire’s ‘A Bird in Me Heart’ the last Lit Week. I hope to discover new poets from the other posts Kinna will aggregate […]

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