Posts Tagged ‘love’

New Hearts Grow

Posted: February 18, 2014 in MUSINGS
Tags: ,
Hearts

Hearts

Towards the end of last year, I was on radio here in Ghana reading a couple of poems for a Writers’ program. This morning I woke up feeling like sharing one of those poems with you all, in small sympathy with anybody who didn’t enjoy their Vals day. Hope you enjoy this one.

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.

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Mogadishu - Pic cred: wiki

Mogadishu – Pic cred: wiki

 Following from my previous post on the admiration I have developed for Somalia and Somali literature, I have spent a couple of days reading and writing about the country. It is some sort of romance tempered by distance and the fact that we have never met. So I stay thinking about my new literary love and the product is poem after poem after poem. I have written three poems (finished two) about this country I long to visit and experience, all the poems bearing the same title, ‘I think about you, Mogadishu‘. I share here with you the second and will be grateful if you read that first article of longing for a country that tugs at the heart of an artist. It has had a difficult history  but one day we shall sit on the shores of Mogadishu, forget all that has been, and talk about poetry under moonlight accompanied by a little happy dance. We shall talk about love.

I think about you, Mogadishu

You star in my nightmares
You seduce in my temple
You challenge my sleep.

You keep me up till 11:30
Then you wake me at midnight
You should leave in the morning
You should leave in the afternoon
But by evening you’re still here
Strange damsel of my dreams
I think about you.

You hide many secrets in your hijab
I cannot unravel nor understand
Your smile is brighter, embarrasses the sun
You frown darker than night.
When you turn and walk away, I know you want me to follow
You tell me nothing; only in your eyes I see everything
Strange damsel of my dreams
I think about you.

You have been intimate with sorrow
Worn heartbreaks like a thousand wristbands
Each one for each day
Your arms are short or you will wear
One for each hour.
And even now there is no space for more.
Maybe underneath, you hide the scars of many lives
One life lived many times.
Because you have died. And resurrected.
And died again. And you’re here
timeless.
Tattooed with eternity
Going in and out of my dreams, strange damsel
I think about you.

You have shores but they have no sands
Sand is flimsy; you have rocks.
Rocks for engraving the names of past loves
Love rocks.
You love rocks.
Your love rocks.
But the rocks are bare.
Your loves have left you, craving you, reaching
But unable.
How does it feel to be loved and left alone?

Strange damsel of my dreams
I have not seen you before
But not a day passes that I don’t think about you
One day
I shall look for you
Carrying my album of dreams and fantasies,
my only pictures of you.
Pursue you across museums of the brokenhearted
Are you black like I am?
There is no colour in a dream.

I think about you
Fair lady on the rim of the rising sun
Your love has taken me prisoner
And you don’t even know me.
I will show you the cuffs when I arrive
Where it burns a golden brown into my wrist
Night comes and my sleep is threatened
For you will stand again at the gate of my sleep,
Commanding new nightmares.
I think about you, Mogadishu.

POET’S PROFILE

Dennis-Brutus-001Dennis Brutus campaigned for freedom in apartheid South Africa and as was normal, he was persecuted by the apartheid government. He tried to flee from detention after being handed to the South African authorities by the Mozambiquan authorities and was shot in the back at close range. On partial healing, he was sent to the notorious Robben Island where he was kept in the cell next to Nelson Mandela’s. According to the apartheid code, he was considered a coloured person.

Dennis Vincent Brutus was a South African activist, educator, journalist and poet best known for his campaign to have apartheid South Africa banned from the Olympic Games. He lived between 28th November 1924 and 26th December 2009. He was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and had ancestry of mixed French, Italian and South African.

His activist life likens him to a crusader for his country. A knight on duty for a mistress; and this has so often appeared in his poetry. He loved South Africa deeply and did everything to win its freedom. In this poem, “It Is the Constant Image of Your Face”, he closes the first stanza by saying “my land takes precedence of all my loves”. This was his passion. While he was in prison, news broke that South Africa had been banned from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as he had campaigned for.

IT IS THE CONSTANT IMAGE OF YOUR FACE
It is the constant image of your face
framed in my hands as you knelt before my chair
the grave attention of your eyes
surveying me amid my world of knives
that stays with me, perennially accuses
and convicts me of heart’s-treachery;
and neither you nor I can plead excuses
for you , you know, can claim no loyalty –
my land takes precedence of all my loves.

Yet I beg mitigation, pleading guilty
for you, my dear, accomplice of my heart
made, without words, such blackmail with your beauty
and proffered me such dear protectiveness
that I confess without remorse or shame,
my still-fresh treason to my country
and I hope that she, my other, dearest love
will pardon freely, not attaching blame
being your mistress (or your match) in tenderness

REVIEW

This poem is a typical Dennis Brutus poem. As is characteristic, he compares his love for South Africa, to the love he has for some other person. Maybe, a woman!

He opens the poem by saying ‘the constant image’ (line 1) of his woman’s face and the ‘grave attention’ (line 3) of her eyes which survey him amid his ‘world of knives’ (line 4), accuse him perennially. This is all coming to him as a memory because in line 2, he makes the allusion to a period gone when his love was knelt before him with the frame of her face in his hands. His ‘world of knives’ can mean so many things at once. It could mean that Brutus was surrounded by apartheid South Africa with its numerous brutalities. It could also mean that he was conflicted inside him, in a way that struck him like many knives piercing at once. Again, he could be talking about the conflict between his two loves as the poem tells us as we read on. And we are yet to know what she accuses him for, but Brutus doesn’t make us wonder long. She accuses him of heart’s-treachery (line 6). No, not even accuses but convicts! He has accepted that he has been treacherous to his woman, going on to probably share his love with another. But he does not apologise for it. He tells her that none of the two of them can ‘plead excuses’ (line 7) for his seeming infidelity because apparently, he cannot stop his love for his land and she can also ‘claim no loyalty’ (line 8). I want to risk saying that he is saying that he’s not bound to be loyal to her because ‘my land takes precedence of all my loves’ (line 9). He loves his land more than all his other loves. His land is his woman’s rival.

The second stanza is an attempt to pacify the heart of his woman who has been brought to the saddening realisation that she cannot have her lover all to herself. He begs mitigation (line 10), meaning that he admits that he has done wrong but is ready to give reasons for it. He calls her lover an ‘accomplice of my heart’ (line 11). That is like saying that she is equally guilty of his betrayal of his greater love. The woman is so beautiful that she has blackmailed him with her beauty (line 12) and made him a backslidden lover when it comes to his land. He has given his heart to another one outside his precedent love. In fact, her love for him has been so sweet and protective that he finds no shame in confessing his denial of his country. He calls it a ‘still-fresh treason’ (line 15). But in this confused place, a world of knives, he pleads, hopes (line 16) that his dearest love (line 16), South Africa, will pardon him freely (line 17) and not blame his woman. He ends by revealing more of his confusion, saying that South Africa, his first love, is his woman’s ‘mistress (or your match)’ (line 18), not knowing which to say is more tender. He loves one, he loves the other. One was able to conspire with his heart and steal his affection from the other, and now he does not even know whether the two are matched or one is dearer to his heart.

The greater emotion here is Brutus’ guilt of diluting the apartheid struggle with other cares. His love of his land is shown here overwhelmingly. This poem is another beauty that has added a little more tonnage to my love for this most romantic of poets coming from Africa.

POET’S PROFILE: MICHAEL FRANCIS DEI-ANNANG

Dei-Annang loved his country

Dei-Annang loved his country

Michael Francis Dei-Annang was born in Mampong-Akwapim and had his schooling at one of Ghana’s foremost colleges, Achimota College. He proceeded to the University of London thereafter. Dei-Annang was a writer, poet, writer of plays and novellas. He worked closely with Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and penned a number of books in poetry and prose, recollecting, (through verbal communication), how Nkrumah was touched, reading and watching post-World War II movies, the carnage from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He worked with various ministeries after the overthrow of Nkrumah.
His work reflects his interest in myths and traditions of Ghana, which he incorporated. Akan culture is a special focus of his work. He was jailed with Nkrumah and after he was released from prison in 1966 he moved to the United States where he taught at the College at Brockport.

His works include Wayward Lines from Africa (1946), Cocoa Comes to Mampong: Letter Dramatic Sketches Based on the story of Cocoa in the Gold Coast Theatre (1949), Africa Speaks (1959), Okomfo Anokye’s Golden Stool, drama, (1960), Semitones Ghana, (1962), Glory Ghana: Ghana and Ghanaian Poems on Life, a collection of poems, (1965)

DEAR AFRICA
Awake, thou sleeping heart!
Awake, and kiss
The love-lorn brow
Of this ebon lass,
Dear Africa.
Whose virgin charms
Ensnare the love-lit hearts
Of venturing youth
From other lands.
Awake, sweet Africa
Demands thy love.
Thou sleeping heart!
When the all-summer sun
Paints the leafy boughs
With golden rays,
Know then, thou sleeping heart,
Dear Africa stands
Knocking at thy door.

REVIEW
For a man who walked and toile with Nkrumah, this poem is reflective of his days. Dei-Annang was born in the eye of the African resistance struggle. And what better person to stand alongside than the architect of it all!
This poem is the typical African romantic. Dei-Annang is talking to a ‘sleeping heart’ (line 1) who may yet need some prompting to fall in love with Africa. In his day, it was easy to fall in love with the continent that he so repeatedly calls ‘Dear’. If it were not so, men would not have shed sweat, tears and blood for her liberation. At this point, Africa is so close to his heart that he calls her an ‘ebon lass’ (line 4). This meaning is clear: ‘ebon’ is the poetic rendition of ebony, a dark colour representing the continent; ‘lass’ is the poetic adoration of the continent, made easier by calling her a woman.

Notice in line 3 that he calls Africa’s brow ‘love-lorn’ which means ‘love-forsaken’. This may suggest that a certain disdain may have been growing for the continent. I know not how and I know not why. But it will be difficult to say if the disdain is by the sons of the land itself, who live on the land. It might be, for Dei-Annang says that Dear Africa has (lines 6-9) ‘virgin charms’ that ‘Ensnare the love-lit hearts/ Of venturing youth/From other lands’. Are these youth sons of the land who live in other places and who are enticed to come back home for the love of the Motherland, like Nkrumah was? Or are they colonialist youth who are enticed by the wealthy glamour of a land still rich in unexploited resource? By his feisty demeanour, I will presume he was talking about the first.

And now it is intense, for Dei-Annang tells his listener that Africa ‘demands’ his love (line 11). A force! If it ever be that his listener should see the sun fall on the boughs, that is a reminder that Africa knocks on his door, seeking an entrance of love. And over here, let us safely say that his listener is one of Dei-Annang’s ‘youth from other lands’ because he tells him to remember the ‘all-summer sun’ (line 13). Summer is essentially not an African season. The poem is clear now!! Dei-Annang is making an invitation to a young African heart residing in a foreign land to come back home and ‘kiss’ Africa’s ‘ebon brow’. To fall in love with the land he calls ‘Dear’.

One last thing: the fact that the poet repeatedly tells his listener to ‘awake’ is proof that the listener has been blinded to something obvious. Africa is to be loved and anyone who loves her not is probably in a stupor.

POET’S PROFILE – DENNIS BRUTUS

Brutus-Poetry and Protest

Brutus-Poetry and Protest

Dennis Brutus campaigned for freedom in apartheid South Africa and as was normal, he was persecuted by the apartheid government. He tried to flee from detention after being handed to the South African authorities by the Mozambiquan authorities and was shot in the back at close range. On partial healing, he was sent to the notorious Robben Island where he was kept in the cell next to Nelson Mandela’s. According to the apartheid code, he was considered a coloured person.

Dennis Vincent Brutus was a South African activist, educator, journalist and poet best known for his campaign to have apartheid South Africa banned from the Olympic Games. He lived between 28th November 1924 and 26th December 2009. He was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and had ancestry of mixed French, Italian and South African.

His activist life likens him to a crusader for his country. A knight on duty for a mistress; and this has so often appeared in his poetry. He loved South Africa deeply and did everything to win its freedom. In his poem, It Is The Constant Image Of Your Face, he closes the first stanza by saying “my land takes precedence of all my loves”. This was his passion. While he was in prison, news broke that South Africa had been banned from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as he had campaigned for.


A TROUBADOUR I TRAVERSE…

A troubadour, I traverse all my land
exploring all her wide flung parts with zest
probing in motion sweeter far than rest
her secret thickets with an amorous hand:
5 and I have laughed disdaining those who banned
enquiry and movement, delighting in the test
of wills when doomed by Saracened arrest,
choosing, like unarmed thumb, simply to stand.

Thus, quixoting till a cast-off of my land
10 I sing and fare, person to loved-one pressed
braced for this pressure and the captor’s hand
that snaps off service like a weathered strand:
– no mistress-favor has adorned my breast
only the shadow of an arrow-brand.


REVIEW


“A troubadour I traverse…”
is a poem written on chivalrous themes. It is a Petrarchan (Italian) sonnet, made of a full octave (rhyming abbaabba) and a sestet (rhyming abaaba). First off, a troubadour is a medieval European poet-knight whose duty it was to ride alongside and defend a mistress. Until the troubadour retires from service, his duty is to die defending her. And he often praised her high unattainable love in his lyrics.

But Brutus is a troubadour for his homeland, seeing South Africa as a mistress for whom he must live and die. In the title and first four lines, Brutus talks about his romantic traverse (or travel – line 1) across the land, exploring its wide-flung, spread-out or exposed parts in a movement that is sweeter than any other that he knows. He does so with zeal and with his “amorous hand” (line 4). And in this ecstasy, he has laughed at all those who have sought to stop or question him even though he knew that a crusade in the name of love for South Africa under apartheid meant that he will die protecting her or be doomed to Saracened arrest (line 7). Saracens were Muslim Arabs against whom Christian knights fought the wars of the Crusade. Significantly, South African police armoured cars were also called Saracens. And in the face of this threat of arrest, he chose only “simply to stand” (line8) unarmed.

So he continues the protest, enjoying the romance with his land while tempting the apartheid regime for an arrest, quixoting till he is cast-off from his land (infer line 9). Don Quixote was the protagonist of the Spanish novelist Cervantes’ book and he spent his life fighting imaginary monsters and enemies, earning him a laughable reputation. So Brutus makes himself a quixotic fool for his homeland by a love that presses him (line 10) and which makes him prepare for an imminent arrest (captor’s hand – line 11) till he is snapped off service (line 12 – killed for his mistress South Africa or made incapable by detention). No mistress-favour or emblem of service adorns his breast as is usual for a troubadour but only the shadow of an arrow-brand (lines 13 and 14). The arrow-brand is the standard British symbol for a convict and Brutus’ reference to an arrow-brand could be the scar he keeps on his back from a gunshot for trying to flee from detention.

It is amazing how romance, the story of a man’s life and apartheid themes can be merged into this one poem of fourteen lines. Brutus is an African hero for giving us a chronicle of the fight against apartheid through the eyes of an African poet.

Ceasing Seasons – For A Lady

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

PRIMARIUS

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.

CEASING SEASONS
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.

REVIEW

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.

POET’S PROFILE

Okigbo

Okigbo

Christopher Okigbo is a Nigerian poet who was born in Ojoto, in the east, in 1932. He read classics at the University of Ibadan and rose through many education-related professions to become the West African Representative of Cambridge University Press. He was a lively conversationalist and had a creative disposition, borne out of his large appetite for reading.

But civil strife in Nigeria took his life quickly. When the Biafra war started, he stood for the secession-seeking Biafra region and was one of the early casualties of the war, in 1967.

But before he passed away, Okigbo published the volumes Heavensgate, The Limits and Other Poems, as well as long sequences in journals.

Here is a true pillar in the development of Nigerian literature.

LOVE APART
The moon has ascended between us,
Between two pines
That bow to each other;

Love with the moon has ascended
5 Has fed on our solitary stems;

And we are now shadows
That cling to each other,
But kiss the air only

REVIEW

This is a poem of heartbreak. Christopher Okigbo conveys this feeling through the particular reference to nature, where all artists seek inspiration. He uses the air, the moon and two pines.

In many parts of Africa, such as Ghana and Nigeria particularly, the passage of time is measured by the moon. “Three moons” is “three months” for the Ewe people of Ghana, Togo and Benin.

Okigbo says the moon has descended between two pines, he and another. The pine is an evergreen tree, symbolising longevity. This means that the two people still live on. But times have changed for them.

And with its ascent, it took love with it in line 4. So the two of them have lost the love they shared. And it’s left them solitary; Left them as “shadows!” (line 6)

So, two “pines” which loved, now only “cling” to each other in line 7 and kiss only the air. This cling is not the meaning that explains “holding tight.” The word cling also means to have emotional need of somebody. A need that is not met. That is hard or impossible to satisfy.

So, Okigbo tells us that the parting was done, just like the rise of the moon, maybe just fleetingly. But it leaves an ache, a pain, a longing, a craving that is hard to meet. And that is the power of the poem.
I dedicate this to anyone who will ever read this and may be hurting while reading. The pines are evergreen; that is the ray of hope. Life goes on.