Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Azalia

This is actually pleasant news here. I have been looking forward to the advent of online marketplaces for the Ghanaian literary space for a while and I finally found a site that does just that. In the few years past, so many online sites have sprung up selling wares but none has been dedicated to books – until now!

 
The site at http://www.azaliabooks.com looks like the first book-only e-market in Ghana. I have spent a few days looking through their design and trying to navigate their site, for a feel of what they envisage. It may be some time yet before the site is stocked fully with books under all the different sections created, but see how much of a service they will be doing book lovers once they get it all together. For instance, I could not find any poetry books under their Poetry category but they have a structure which accommodates that expectation and which affirms that they intend to make those books available. It will be a breeze for local publishers and writers to have ready broadcast potential, and for readers to find new authors.

 
I have found that Nana Awere Damoah (@ndamoah), blogger at nanaaweredamoah.wordpress.com and one of the more prolific new writers has already signed up his books Tales from Different Tails, Through the Gates of Thought, Excursions in my Mind and I Speak of Ghana, among the non-fiction work. He looks like he will be an early beneficiary of any good results from hosting on Azaliabooks. He already has another book out from last month, yet to be launched and titled Sebitically Speaking.

 
We need many more of these, especially if they are to be dedicated to Africa and African writing. Azalia is a starter, with huge potential to grow. Thankfully, they have begun by getting the basics right: an appealing and easy to navigate site, compartmentalization, and global access by visa card and mobile money. Also, because I prefer to read on the go, it is handy for me that I can download and use the Azalia Reader on my Android devices.

 

If you have a minute, click here and get browsing. It will be pretty cool to have known this site long before it became big. And also for any aspiring poets and writers, getting your work out there just got marginally easier. Worth the support.

Where Have I Been?

Posted: July 19, 2014 in Uncategorized
Timeless Mauritania

Timeless Mauritania

It’s been a couple of weeks since I got to share with you a post. In the past couple of months I’ve been so terribly engaged with work that when I had a holiday, I slept it all off. What have you all been reading?

In the period I was away, I visited Ivory Coast briefly, went through Dakar in Senegal and ended in Nouakchott in Mauritania. I have read and reviewed poets from the first two but not from Mauritania. So my next poem to be reviewed will come from there. I discovered Oumar Ba while I was in the country and he might be the one I review next.

Exciting piece of news too; I’ve been invited to be part of the reading team for this year’s Golden Baobab Prize for African children’s literature. There’s nothing better than helping to shape the next generation of African stories and I am totally looking forward to the reading marathon to begin next week. Coupled with work, it should be another time when I may not post very much but I trust you guys still read African poetry. Especially because my page views haven’t reduced. Thank you :)

I will get time for your blogs soon too, I promise. Keep those pens busy and keep sharing your favourite poems too. Enjoy :)

It’s always a joy to hear from a reader of this blog either by comment, by tweet, by email or by a guest post. This is the first guest post I am hosting and I commend A. Gonzaga fom Finland for sending this very well-written review of a Nigerian-originated book of poems he has read. Here goes:

Edoheart III              jesusofallniggerscover-thumb

Pic: Edoheart and the cover of Jesus of All Niggers

I respect art by the artist who does not try to conform—the fear of being seen as different being the number one danger facing the young artist of today. Eseohe Arhebamen, known perhaps more popularly as Edoheart, is not a young artist, though. She’s a young woman whose mature music and poetry I have fallen in love with—something I rarely let happen to me, being a happy perfectionist. Poetry is for me the art of depth and beauty and nothing more, really—and so I view it like I view maidens, and choose a book of poems like I choose a maiden with whom to try to carry out something serious or meaningful, depending. A good poem should therefore be self-renewable, so that its keeper can cuddle it tirelessly and, instead of become eventually bored with it, continue to discover its richness at every meeting. So far, only three modern poets have delivered the goodies the way I like it: the brilliant Paul Hostovsky, the great William Hathaway, and the fearless Eseohe Arhebamen with her audaciously titled ‘Jesus of All Niggers’—upon which this concise review is centred as it must.

“…Winter is a cruel time.

Even when sleeping,

the faces don’t smile

and their dreams are frozen

stuck. Sometimes heads pop off

when I pull.

There is science to this…”

—page 38

“…I am eight.

this is what I live:

we double-dutch and fuck young

shake ass like zing zing zing

I ain’t nevah owned a washing machine &

the only way out is up.”

—page 10

“…America will you be mine too?

I will disclose first that I’m black

before we crawl into bed

and even worse, I’m African

I promise I don’t use drugs

and I don’t have AIDS

so you can use my blood…”

—page 42

Attempting to define ‘a great book’, a certain wise article I happened upon had noted that, although it is difficult to get everyone to agree on what ‘the best book’ among equals is, there is usually an easy agreement between judges of awards that certain books are not in the running. I tend to pit literary creations against each other to see which ones rise to the occasion, but that’s after first shaking them, I must say, to see if anything shakes. Then I marry the best achievements, and let them eternally inspire me. And that’s exactly what I have done apropos the poetry of Eseohe Arhebamen—marry them—for, at a time when artists admire their mentors so much they forget that the most vital lesson to draw from their mentor’s success is the priceless importance of being oneself, as nobody ever became truly great without putting their uniquely personal attributes at the forefront of their work, there come the original poems of ‘Jesus of All Niggers’—all striking and mature and powerful and exceptionally beautiful.

“If not but I loved food

how I’d stop eating

sculpt my belly concave,

many meals wheeled by but I’d

shake my head, No thanks…”

—page 32

“…how will the organism survive

if it continues to conquer and divide

itself?

you are not black.

you are not white.

you are not left wing.

you are not right.

eliminate racial separations

gender specifications

democratic manipulations

because such conceptions

keep you in a cell…”

—page 17

“Nothing beautiful

comes out

anymore the pen

farts feeling

incites laughter

really, or a shun

How to be pissed

or display a prick

and say it bled

for days- but nicely-

don’t you wish you

had loved me…”

—page 36

But I can’t go for that cup of honeyed camomile without mentioning, of course, that the language of this book is lucid and therefore accessible to the literary and lay mind alike. On top of the good surprise of the book design being top-notch, the good lover of exceptional poetry and art will additionally find that ‘Jesus of All Niggers’—still available, I hope, from Laughing Mouse Press—is also stylishly ornamented with a few image poems, for Edoheart is similarly an accomplished painter. I have never seen a book quite as attractive. A collector will find it an irresistible masterwork.

  

Shoes

combing thoughts with my therapist
i find i cannot distinguish
my anger from ambition
the bitter from bite-
size. when was it i became
jesus of all niggers
dedicated to reclaiming the clown?
thorny headed child am i
that cannot run for kicking the road
blaming it that so
many white people have got
shoes

—page 27

 

 Publisher’s link: http://laughingmouse.net/books/jesus-of-all-niggers/

                                   A. Gonzaga is a Finland-based wordsmith—writing poetry, prose, and lyrics.

Warsan Shire - Pic cred: The Guardian UK

Warsan Shire – Pic cred: The Guardian UK

Undoubtedly among the best, published poets of the young African generation, Warsan Shire (@warsan_shire) has lent her voice to a campaign by The Guardian to push for education on Female Genital Mutilation in UK schools. The campaign is championed by 17-year old Fahma Mohamed and supported by anti-FGM campaigners. I’m sharing the text and a link to the video here because I believe that FGM must be stopped everywhere it occurs and as an ardent proponent of African poetry, these are the ways the campaign ring with me: through the art.

Warsan Shire won the inaugral Brunel Poetry Prize last year and one of her winning poems, Things We Had Lost in the Summer, is drawn from her experience of growing up in a community of people who have undergone the procedure. This latest poem, Girls, recorded for The Guardian, touches FGM in ways that you may probably never had heard: makes it soft but ragingly powerful and real, brings it to a home setting, puts it on a TV reality show, puts it beside you on your bed, talks to your mother, alludes to the devil’s tongue! I have been a great admirer of Warsan’s work and this adds to the increasing body of powerful poetry she’s challenging the world with. All the world needs to act to ensure FGM doesn’t continue into another generation. The last woman to have suffered it should be the last. We are all responsible and accountable. Copyright for the text belongs to Warsan, credit to Spread The Word for the text. Watch the video performance by Warsan Shire here on the Guardian site.

Girls

1

Sometimes it’s tucked into itself, sewn up like the lips of a prisoner.

After the procedure, the girls learn how to walk again, mermaids with new legs, soft knees buckling under their new stainless, sinless bodies.

2

Daughter is synonymous with traitor, the father says. If your mother survived it, you can survive it, the father says. Cut, cut, cut.

3

On a reality TV show about beauty, one girl exposes another girls’ secret. They huddle around her asking questions, touching her arm in liberal concern for her pleasure. Can you even feel anything down there? The camera zooms into a Georgia O’Keefe painting in the background.

4

But mother did you even truly survive it? The carving, the cutting, the warm blade against the inner thigh. Scalping. Deforestation. Leveling the ground. Silencing the devils tongue between your legs, maybe you did? I’m asking you sincerely mother, did you truly survive it?

5

Two girls lay in bed beside one another holding mirrors under the mouths of their skirts, comparing wounds.

I am one girl and you are the other.

Merry Christmas and Thank You

Posted: December 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

Thank you to everyone who has taken a minute or two, anytime in this year to visit this blog, like a post, share a post, leave a comment or follow the blog. You guys are the reason why regardless of how merciless time can get with me sometimes, I keep posting the beautiful, beautiful poetry we’ve all come to love from our African greats. Next year, we will probably diversify here a bit more and include more poetry from African Arabia, and then I hope I read more of your blogs too. I can do better on that :)

Spend time with family and loved ones and take a minute to reflect on the year. We shall review more interesting poetry when the New Year comes. Maybe you can write a poem and share it with us here. I’ll be glad to post a couple written by followers of this blog.

Merry Christmas. Enjoy the holidays, write those poems and keep reading African poetry. :)

Before I went on air - Pic Cred: @WritersPG

Before I went on air – Pic Cred: @WritersPG

On Sunday, I was on air on Citi FM 97.3 in Ghana (also online at citifmonline.com) reading a couple of poems on their Writers Project Program. I shared the studio with Mary Ashun, a Ghanaian/Canadian writer whose books are currently in good demand. Her books include Tuesday’s child and Mistress of the Game. You will be glad to have been among the first to know her before she has become a global household name. Check her website here. In the studio, she read an excerpt from her most recent book ‘Serwa Akoto’s Diary‘ and it was all sorts of amazing. Caller after caller kept asking where and how they could get a copy of the book. It is here on Amazon. Thankfully, she has sent me a pdf copy of the book and has given permission to share it with as many of you as want it. If anyone does, kindly contact me at delalorm(dot)kpeli(at)kasahorow(dot)com. Alternatively, comment on this post (I will see your email address on the back-end; it will not show on the blog) and I will be more than happy to share this book with you. It is a fast and exciting read.

I will post one poem I read at the studio and I hope you like it.  Thanks to all who listened, called in, messaged in and gave feedback on twitter, facebook and whatsapp. The poem is titled “New Hearts Grow.”

New Hearts Grow

The morning you left home
You left your heart on the dining table.
I called out after you, tried to run after the taxi that drove you away
To give your heart back.
But I was too late.
So I took it in and opened it up.
And peeped.

If it was mine, I would have left it too.
The walls, plastered over with broken promises
Bleached dreams competing for shine with blisters.
I saw the spot where he ran away from you
Many places, where pieces of heart resented the glue
The lesions, graffiti of infidelity
There was the day they took your innocence
You were still fourteen.
I shut the theater of your insides.

I tried again to return your heart
Praying all the while, it will never reach you
For the chance that you will feel none of this anymore
For the chance that where you were going, you would not have to need it.
For the chance that where you were going, new hearts grow.

Nelson Mandela: Pic. cred: Guardian Las vegas

Nelson Mandela: Pic. cred: Guardian Las vegas

The world has lost an icon with the news of the passing of Nelson Mandela yesterday. We can’t begin to find the words to say all he stood for in the history of humanity that can go so crooked at times. Mandela was hope where it was hopeless and light where it was dark. If he had not lived in that era of South Africa’s life, the country may never have been the country it is now.

In the cell opposite Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island, was our poet friend Dennis Brutus, who wrote It is The Constant Image of Your face and A troubadour I traverse, all reviewed previously on this blog. Both of them were partners against apartheid, working in the quarry together, cracking stones and being tortured. It is fitting we honour the memory of Mandela today with poetry that was written by a man who knew him first hand. Dennis Brutus wrote this poem after Mandela was released from prison and was on his way to finally assume presidency of South Africa, unify a nation standing at a point of indecision on its future and teach humanity a lesson on forgiveness.

Here is Dennis Brutus’ tribute,

For Nelson Mandela

Yes, Mandela, some of us
we admit embarrassedly
wept to see you step free
so erectly, so elegantly
shrug off the prisoned years
a blanket cobwebbed of pain and grime;
behind, the island’s seasand,
harsh, white and treacherous
ahead, jagged rocks
bladed crevices of racism and deceit
in the salt island air
you swung your hammer grimly stoic
facing the dim path of interminable years,
now, vision blurred with tears
we see you step out to our salutes
bearing our burden of hopes and fears
and impress your radiance
on the grey morning air

 

My name is Dela. Even before I was old enough to know anything about this world, my cousins called me Man-Dela, in tribute to the greatness of a man whose life touched everyone who believes in the greater humanity, irrespective of country. I bid him peaceful rest. We will tell our children this, that we lived in the time of Nelson Mandela.