Archive for January, 2012


STUFF AND NONSENSE

I loved the idea of holding a blog-along dedicated to poetry, so I decided to join Regular Rumination and many other bloggers for the Read More/Blog More Poetry: A Monthly Event!

Stuff And Nonsense by Gordon Bailey (to read more about him, click here) is an anthology for everyone. It’s easy to read (because most of the poems are short), full of humour and is ideal for those who wish to do a bit of light reading during their leisure.

If you have a voracious appetite for poetry, take some time off from the serious literature and read a bit of Stuff And Nonsense. You’ll exercise your lungs for a while, but please be careful not to let your sides split.

Are you among those who try to read a poem every now and then, but remain completely at sea no matter how many times you go over it? Give this book a try. You are guaranteed to have a paradigm shift about poetry.

Have you no interest at all in poetry? Then don’t think of this anthology as a collection of poems. Think of it as a collection of stuff and nonsense.

A few poems from the book:

DING

Ding Dong bell,

Puss is in the well;

We’ve put some disinfectant down

To camouflage the smell.

LOVE POEM

I held her tight,

That special night.

We kissed – a real humdinger!

I ran my hand

Through her mass of hair

And a squirrel bit my finger.

TONGUE TWISTER

I bought a pair of shoes today

But I shall have to return them –

The tongue keeps twisting

And this makes me walk with a lisp.

CHRISTMAS/SACRED

or

CHRIST/MASSACRED

Where do I draw the line?

NOTHING NEW

I was told there was nothing new

Under the sun.

So,

I looked above the sun!

MARY HAD A LITTLE…

Mary had a little lamb,

She taught it the guitar;

It now plays in a bleat group

At the local Coffee Baaaa!

THE ATHEIST

He looked at me

straight in the eye,

polished his spectacles,

and, without even a smile,

said,

‘I am an atheist,

thank God!’

A MAN…

A man knocked on our door last night

with a beard;

We didn’t hear him.

STUFF AND NONSENSE – A collection of Verse and Worse.

Make time to guffaw.

DIPLOMACY

I present to you the winners of Chinua Achebe’s NO LONGER AT EASE:

  • Leander David

Everyone is welcome to join in the next

  There are no geographic limitations to this giveaway.

PEACE by Langston Hughes

James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement that spanned the 1920s and 1930s.

His active participation in the African-American fight for civil liberty resonates throughout his writing and can be found in poems like Ku Klux, Still Here, Third Degree and Who But the Lord?

I like reading his works because he speaks plainly, without circumlocution or unnecessary euphemism, about his struggle against racism and societal discrimination. Whenever I read the words of poets like Langston Hughes, I find it easy to understand the pain some people went through due to the colour of their skin or the name they chose for themselves.

Peace happens to be one of my favourites. I went over this poem a number of times before I could relate the title to the words. It may seem pointless at first, but Hughes wants us to reflect on the good we can do when we are still living. I for one, see no point in honouring someone posthumously when it can be done while they are still alive.

PEACE

We passed their graves:

The dead men there,

Winners or losers,

Did not care.

 

In the dark

They could not see

Who had gained

The victory.

 

 


A poem like Peace may appear morbid at first, but it speaks volumes about the unnecessary dichotomy people create to segregate themselves in society. Humanity’s history is filled with slavery, war, apartheid, racial and gender discrimination, ethnocentrism and so on. There are those who will even argue that these things make us human as no one is perfect and we all live in an equally imperfect world. I believe otherwise. The world needs not be perfect before we learn to respect each other’s differences. We need not wait to be perfect before we make earth a peaceful place.

Hughes makes an important statement with this concise poem:

‘We are all equal, but the only place residents agree unanimously on this issue is the cemetery’.

In their graves, the dead do not discriminate. Nobody cares who did what or lived where or spent how much money when they were alive. The only ones who continue to make a fuss about such frivolities are the living. And we sure do waste precious time arguing, debating and discussing such things.

We have even learnt to place a price tag on people, saying how much they are worth in hard currency. There are magazines and TV shows dedicated to the lives of the rich and famous (popularly referred to as celebrities). People compete to be mentioned on air as being worth this or that amount of money because of how much they earn and spend.

But the dead don’t care and neither should we.

Let us not wait till our residential addresses are permanently engraved on tombstones before we realise that dead or alive, we are all human. We all have something to contribute to make this world a better place. We can regard each other as brothers and sisters by looking past race, ethnicity, wealth or poverty, literacy, profession, religion, politics, or any other thing that seeks to divide us. If we learn to treasure each other and treat others as we treat ourselves, the world will be a much better place.

In the words of Michael Jackson et al:

We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving.
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
Its true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me

Every single person is precious. No exceptions.

Kinna @ kinnareads is hosting the Africa Reading Challenge, a year-long activity which begins on January 1st, 2012 and ends December 31st, 2012. The goal: to read at least five (5) books by African authors or books about Africa. Genres include fiction and non-fiction. I am particularly excited about this challenge because my wish list of African books is nowhere near exhausted. Join me, and many others, in this historic event. For further information please click here.

The story of Umuofia continues…

Two generations after the protagonist’s tragic demise in Achebe’s timeless Things Fall Apart, the British Colonial Administration is deeply entrenched in Nigeria. The descendants of native tribesmen walk in the footsteps of both their ancestors and the strangers they now call their government.

Lagos has become the city of dreams where anyone who wants to be someone lives. From time to time, a war veteran in need of attention will amaze naïve villagers with stories about the big city.

‘There is no darkness there,’ he told his admiring listeners, ‘ because at night the electric shines like the sun, and people are always walking about, that is, those who want to walk. If you don’t want to walk you only have to wave your hand and a pleasure car stops for you.’

Little Obi Okonkwo drank in such stories without a doubt in his young mind.

For many years afterwards, Lagos was always associated with electric lights and motor-cars in Obi’s mind. Even after he had at last visited the city and spent a few days there before flying to the United Kingdom his views did not change very much.

But Obi returns from England to meet a very different Nigeria. Slums are springing up in Lagos and the people’s proclivity for bribery and corruption is insatiable. He is expected to pay back his scholarship to the Umuofia Progressive Union and support his family back in Umuofia from the meager salary he earns as a civil servant in Lagos. Meanwhile, he intends to marry his unwilling fiancée Clara, the young Nigerian nurse he met in England.

Obi’s expenditure inevitably exceeds his income and he finds himself in a quandary that borders on a conflict between the idealism he had learned in England and the temptation of accepting gifts and tokens from his fellow countrymen in exchange for favours.

Though Achebe’s No Longer At Ease is another masterpiece, its brilliance is overshadowed by its predecessor. The novel explores the cultural, sociological and economic divide that European influence brings to Africa. Family bonds begin to weaken. The ‘white man’s religion’ now competes with African traditional beliefs and technology like cars and electricity makes the cities more alluring to the younger generation who in having an affinity for Western culture, gradually forget theirs. Education suddenly becomes the yardstick of prominence instead of the customary titles bestowed on men. The literate are said to have ‘the white man’s power’.

… Obi heard his father talk with deep feeling about the mystery of the written word to an illiterate kinsman.

‘Our women made black patterns on their bodies with the juice of the uli tree. It was beautiful, but it soon faded. If it lasted two market weeks it lasted a long time. But sometimes our elders spoke about uli that never faded, although no one had ever seen it. We see it today in the writing of the white man. If you go to the native court and look at the books which clerks wrote twenty years ago or more, they are still as they wrote them. They do not say one thing today and another thing tomorrow, or one thing this year and another next year. Okoye in the book today cannot become Okonkwo tomorrow. In the Bible Pilate said: “What is written is written.” It is uli that never fades.’

Achebe is one of my favourite authors because of the versatility in his narration. He is able to blend excellent grammar with transliterations of his native Igbo dialect, making it easy for anyone who speaks a West African dialect to relate to such dialogue and at the same time whets the appetite of those who don’t for a better understanding of the language.

In this novel, he cleverly juxtaposes the benefits of European influence with its adverse effect on pre-colonial West African culture and family values as he paints a vivid picture of life during the Colonial era. Although No Longer At Ease  is not as popular as the legendary Things Fall Apart, I think it is every bit a classic as the latter.

THE MESH by Kwesi Brew

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
You lifted the lamp of love
And I saw in your face
The road that I should take.

Kwesi Brew (1928-2007) was and still is one of Ghana’s foremost poets. He is known for his simplicity in writing and that, perhaps, is what made me fall in love with The Mesh.

I am not a big fan of academic commentary on poems, with all the technical details and huge words that sometimes overshadow the poem itself. There are times when I have seen some of my poems butchered by those who consider themselves analysts of poetry.

Poetry offers a kaleidoscope of perspectives to any given subject, acting as a prism that separates the light of human thoughts and emotions into a stream of resplendent words. Each reader will approach a poem from a different perspective, gaining a unique insight that even the accredited poet may not be aware of.

That said, I would like to present my views on Brew’s The Mesh.

As a poet, I always face the challenge of summarizing my message in a single stanza. There is always the possibility of digressing or overdoing it. Brew, however, is able to present his message about love in seven lines. In its brevity, it speaks of dilemma, contemplation and then guidance.

We all lose our bearings concerning one issue or another in our journey through life, especially when it comes to love. To stay or not to stay? To love again after being betrayed and heartbroken?  And isn’t it such a blessing when we meet that person who is willing to stay by our side and help us through those difficult moments.

Many love poems focus on imagery and metaphors about romance, feelings, the looks of the beloved and so on and so forth. There a scores of lines that talk about moments shared and moments lost. The pain one suffered when they lost their true love to some unforeseen catastrophe or how another stole said loved one. Brew on the other hand, focuses on the most important moment of all. The moment of commitment, without which one cannot truly love.

Love is not a game we play when we are bored. Neither is it the kissing and fondling often seen in movies and soap operas. It is a serious commitment we each have to make at some point in our lives to family, friends and most importantly, to that special person we want to spend the rest of our life with.

The Mesh tells me that loving someone may come with moments of doubt, but the right person will always accept your love and give all of theirs in return, no matter what the circumstances. This, perhaps, is what makes the title such a paradox.

Congratulations are in order to these Winners of THE CONCUBINE by Elechi Amadi:

        1. Rhonda Lomazow
        2. Daniel Appiah
        3. Obed Sarpong

There are no geographic limitations to the

   Everyone is welcome to take part in it during my next book review.

LET MY PEOPLE GO!

THE CONCUBINE by Elechi Amadi

Elechi Amadi’s premier novel initiated me into the world of African Writers. I remember being so immersed in the story each time I picked up the book, I was oblivious to everything else.

In simple language, Amadi narrates the story of Ihuoma, the beauty of Omigwe, whose character and conduct are beyond reproach in Omokachi and all the neighbouring villages. Her near-perfect qualities make her a role model to her peers and the ideal wife for most men who wish to take one.

Yet her comeliness does not exempt her from the inevitable trials of life. Widowed too early in marriage for most women, she has to struggle against loneliness and the advances of men. Her equanimity in such trying moments makes the respect she commands soar even higher. But the price she pays to uphold her reputation seems to increase with passing time.

As her prestige mounted its maintenance became more trying. She became more sensitive to criticism and would go to any lengths to avoid it. The women adored her. Men were awestruck before her. She was becoming something of a phenomenon. But she alone knew her internal struggles. She knew she was not better than anyone else. She thought her virtues were the products of chance. As the days went by she began to loathe her so-called good manners. She became less delighted when people praised her. It was as if they were confining her to an ever-narrowing prison.

Amadi weaves a tale of beleaguered romance between Ihuoma and Ekwueme, her new suitor, in a society where every facet of human existence is governed by the mores of the people and the statutes of their gods.

Omokachi village life was known for its tradition, propriety and decorum. Excessive or fanatical feelings over anything were frowned upon and even described as crazy. Anyone who could not control his feelings was regarded as being unduly influenced by his agwu.

The author’s use of imagery, folklore and West African proverbs, interspersed with the occasional humor of witty Wodu Wakiri the Wag, makes The Concubine a mélange of spicy adages, anecdotes, allegories and amusement. His elaborate dissection of tribal customs makes this book not just another African novel, but an exposé on West African culture.

The plot flows from communal living and good-neighbourliness into a tributary of greed, jealousy, potions and encounters with the spirit world in an era when people had to wrestle with deities to secure their destiny.

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