POET’S PROFILEGrowing 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.