Today marks the UN World Poetry Day.
Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO says:
"As a deep expression of the human mind and as a universal art, poetry is a tool for dialogue and rapprochement. The dissemination of poetry helps to promote dialogue among cultures and understanding between peoples because it gives access to the authentic expression of a language."
In honour of the day, myjoyonline.com presents to you a collection of poems by the late great Ghanaian Poet and Writer, Professor Kofi Awoonor.
OF HOME AND SEA I ALREADY SANG
A calm settles
at the beckon of sweet age…
Joy and hope soar
for the ultimate task
ahead written about, already
promised in the trajectories of jail,
in absence and exile…
That we will perform our duty by the people
depose the recalcitrant brutes
and march ahead of our beloved masses
to a coming kingdom…
Let the dream not die, master;
Let the dove coo at dawn again,
Let the masthead rear its head
out of the storm
and share the night with me on this sea.
Let me sing the song you gave me.
Before death comes, master,
Let me dance to the drums you gave me.
Let me sit in the warmth of the fire
Of the only native land you gave me.
A DEATH FORETOLD
Sometimes, the pain and the sorrow return
particularly at night.
I will grieve again and again tomorrow
for the memory of a death foretold….
I believe in hope and the future
of hope, in victory before death
collective, inexorable, obligatory;
in the enduring prospect of love
though the bed is empty,
in the child’s happiness
though the meal is meagre.
I believe in light and day
beyond the tomb far from the solitude
of the womb, and the mystical night,
in the coming of fruits
the striped salmon and the crooked crab;
I believe in men and the gods
in the spirit and the substance,
in death and the reawakening
in the promised festival and denial
in our heroes and the nation
in the wisdom of the people
the certainty of victory
the validity of struggle….
I will not grieve again tomorrow.
I will not grieve again.
GRAINS AND TEARS
…. Go and tell them I paid the price
I stood by the truth
I fought anger and hatred
on behalf of the people.
I ate their meagre meals in the barracks
shared their footsteps and tears
in freedom’s name
I promised once in a slave house in Ussher
to postpone dying until
the morning after freedom.
SONGS OF SORROW
Dzogbese Lisa has treated me thus
It has led me among the sharps of the forest
Returning is not possible
And going forward is a great difficulty
The affairs of this world are like the chameleon faeces
Into which I have stepped
When I clean it cannot go.
I am on the world’s extreme corner,
I am not sitting in the row with the eminent
But those who are lucky
Sit in the middle and forget
I am on the world’s extreme corner
I can only go beyond and forget.
My people, I have been somewhere
If I turn here, the rain beats me
If I turn there the sun burns me
The firewood of this world
Is for only those who can take heart
That is why not all can gather it.
The world is not good for anybody
But you are so happy with your fate;
Alas! The travelers are back
All covered with debt.
Something has happened to me
The things so great that I cannot weep;
I have no sons to fire the gun when I die
And no daughters to wail when I close my mouth
I have wandered on the wilderness
The great wilderness men call life
The rain has beaten me,
And the sharp stumps cut as keen as knives
I shall go beyond and rest.
I have no kin and no brother,
Death has made war upon our house;
And Kpeti’s great household is no more,
Only the broken fence stands;
And those who dared not look us in his face
Have come out as men.
How well their pride is with them.
Let those gone before take note
They have treated their offspring badly.
What is the wailing for?
Somebody is dead. Agosu himself
Alas! A snake has bitten me
My right arm is broken,
And the tree on which I lean is fallen.
Agosi if you go tell them,
Tell Nyidevu, Kpeti, and Kove
That they have done us evil;
Tell them their house is falling
And the trees in the fence
Have been eaten by termites;
That the martels curse them.
Ask them why they idle there
While we suffer, and eat sand.
And the crow and the vulture
Hover always above our broken fences
And strangers walk over our portion.
THE WEAVER BIRD
The weaver bird built in our house
And laid its eggs on our only tree.
We did not send it away.
We watched the building of the nest
And supervised the egg-laying.
And the weaver returned in the guise of the owner.
Preaching salvation to us that owned the house.
They say it came from the west
Where the storms at sea had felled the gulls
And the fishers dried their nets by lantern light.
Its sermon is the divination of ourselves
And our new horizon limits at its nest.
But we cannot join the prayers and answers of the
We look for new homes every day.
For new altars we strive to re-build
The old shrines defiled by the weaver’s excrement.
When our tears are dry on the shore
and the fishermen carry their nets home
and the seagulls return to bird island
and the laughter of the children recedes at night,
there shall still linger here the communion we forged,
the feast of oneness which we partook of.
There shall still be the eternal gateman
Who will close the cemetery doors
And send the late mourners away.
It cannot be the music we heard that night
That still lingers in the chambers of memory.
It is the new chorus of our forgotten comrades
And the halleluyahs of our second selves.
On this dirty patch
a tree once stood
shedding incense on the infant corn;
its boughs stretched across a heaven
brightened by the last fires of a tribe.
They sent surveyors and builders
who cut that tree
planting in its place
a huge senseless cathedral of doom.