Wednesday, November 2, 2022

that's a poet


Arrivals in the mail from University of Nebraska Press. Tanella Boni is from Ivory Coast, and her poems are translated from French. The Sudanese poems (from thirty-one authors writing over a span of sixty years) are translated from Arabic. Both books are part of UNP's African Poetry Book Series, a worthy endeavor.

Boni uses some nice imagery:

the sea has lost the color of better days
forgotten the importance of a palette well-mixed
enough to bless the horizon sand to sky


as if the twelve labors of Hercules
once a point of fact
were just a bedtime story for people
after a hard day of hoping

"the color of better days" and "a hard day of hoping" are good.

The Sudanese poets, since the 1950s, seem to have been thinking a lot about identity, as Arab or not-Arab. There are war poems, an ancient tradition:

Dig no grave for me;
I shall lie in every inch of the earth.
I shall lie like water on the Nile's body;
like the sun over my homeland's fields.
The likes of me never take a grave for an abode.
They stood up,
and you stood up.
what makes the little tyrants think--and their faces grow pale--
that when the fighter dies so does the cause?

Political poetry, another ancient tradition:

With each coup in a dark abyss we plunge.
The heavy-footed junta besiege our songs.
They agitate our inkpot,
confiscate its internal peace.
They poison the cheerful spring
and place their muzzles on everything.
What a pleasant dream they disfigure,
in the eyes of each mother.

"they agitate our inkpot." That's a poet.