Kwame Dawes, A little rekindling and the memory of a Great Man

Posted: October 5, 2013 in MUSINGS
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I had one good day yesterday. Prof. Kwame Dawes, a Ghanaian-Jamaican poet who was with Kofi Awoonor at Storymoja Hay festival where Awoonor was killed, passed through Ghana for the funeral. Afterwards, he asked to meet the literati in Accra to confer on this and that. It was a good gathering attended by bright lights like Ama Ata Aidoo (@AmaAtaAidoo), Nii Ayikwei Parkes (@BlueBirdTail), Esi Sutherland, Kwame Dawes (@kwamedawes) himself and the creme of the Department of English of the University of Ghana.

Kofi Awoonor (L) and Kwame Dawes (R), at Storymoja Hay Festival on the eve of Awoonor's death

Kofi Awoonor (L) and Kwame Dawes (R), at Storymoja Hay Festival on the eve of Awoonor’s death

Picture credit: Msingi Sasi

I felt privileged to be in the company of such great advocates and proponents for the African literary voice and the hour and half felt like very good investment for the 73km I had journeyed to get to the venue. Prof. Dawes was making his point for the African Poetry Book Fund, the Sillerman Prize and other possible activities that could be put together to push African literature through the university system and partnerships with the Univeristy of Nebraska. It was refreshing.

There were mentions of Awoonor, who had been the reason why this meeting had been at all possible and I was elated that when I got up to speak and introduced myself, Ama Ata Aidoo recognized my name. She later mentioned how Kinna had read to her my previous post in tribute to Awoonor. There was suppressed laughter after the event, masking our general elation for being able to keep the conversation on African literature going, while also having to privately mourn, as a community of literature lovers, one of the best poets of African extraction. I joked with Prof Dawes at how he and the judging panel of the Brunel poetry prize could not see the brilliance of the entries I submitted. Warsan Shire totally deserved that award, let it be said.

Today, I publish this poem which has taken me all of three days to write; not because it is difficult, but because I have had to gather myself since the last post, to come to terms with Awoonor’s passing. Yesterday’s event at the Department of English broke me through. I title it;

Word On The Street

Why do we kneel here,

Here, windswept paths of a day gone by

Contorted ways begging forgetfulness

 Of the feet that strayed this way just yesterday.

Why do we kneel here?

We can make here no penance or sacrifice.

The lamb has already been carried home

The shearers and feasters pick dry teeth

Our teeth and all their teeth set on edge.

While tears lick our faces dry.

Why do we kneel here?

Asking what if and what not if and why not

Why do we kneel here, why do we clutch this place here,

This ground, this senseless ephemeral patch

Ready to disappear into the dirges of our dreams?

 This dirty patch aborted of its tree

Why do we come in response of sorrow that summons us

Our lips, ready to weep but silent

Afraid to offend him.

Why do we kneel here?

This here lies his body

We have seen it for ourselves

And our knees fail to prop us

We kneel here

This here is Awoonor!

This is no more word on the street.

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Comments
  1. Kristen says:

    Thank you for sharing. Poignant poem.

    Like

  2. […] long enough, you will know APBF and Prairie Schooner from my brief post on my first meeting with Prof. Kwame Dawes, the Brunel University African Poetry Prize Announcements and the Sillerman First Book Prize for […]

    Like

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