Tag Archives: new poets

Silence, Solitude and Poetry

by  Richard Oduor

Comrade, this is no poem,

Who touches this

Touches Doctor Barky’s patented magic cabinet of

certified, strictly guarantee simplicity and truth.

–          Kenneth Fearing

As usual, I’m sitting in the study. It’s quiet; pin-drop silence, except for the tap-tap music of my fingers raining instructions on the keyboard. I have nothing in particular in mind, but I hope that as I write along, my thoughts will flow like the silent rivers of servitude that hide beneath the cursing of a tormented self; that they will unclothe my pretences and urge my self to tip-toe into the nether regions of the mind, where the library of life is housed.

I still my nerves and wait for a lullaby from the dead past to remind me that the future sleeps unlived. Once in a while we need our own space, just to sit calmly and meditate on the beauty of life. I watch my steps, carefully like a baby making the first steps amidst laughter and encouragement from older siblings. I can see the lines of thought congregating behind monstrous walls of artificiality. Each with a hammer, they begin to chisel out obstacles – sweat by sweat.

How long is patience? How long should we persevere? No. Not again, I disregard the entreating discourse and debar myself from tackling any topic that will force me to outline the ugliness of our personal lives, our neighborhoods, our country, our world! Well, TVs and newspapers are already doing a splendid job in informing us about our world. Of course they lie sometimes, but their lies are a reflection not of the white writing sheets or the silver screen, but of the morality of our society.

I will hide in poetry today. I will revel in the beauty of this sacred form of art and glory in the simple things in our lives. However, I won’t run to the classics and scream names that we’ll have  the pleasure of screaming out to a dead world, rather the poems I’ll throw in the jungle are jumbled and dissociated. Some poems are seemingly demented or their authors were obviously drowning in creative feats to be able to say so much, in so few words.

No poem epitomizes how I feel now than Charles Reznikoff’s “Te Deum” (1998).

Not because of victories

I sing,

having none,

but for the common sunshine,

the breeze,

the largesse of the spring.

Not for victory

but for the day’s work done

as well as I was able;

not for a seat upon the dais

but at the common table.

More often, we tend to disregard the simple pleasures and hang our lives achievements on the tall trees of our titles.

“Professionally, I am a Biomedical Scientist,” so says Richard, “but I also do A, B, and Z.”

Sometimes all that bullcrap is what we know of ourselves. Such titles give us prestige and comfort. Such titles keep some people from getting close to us and having a good genuine conversation because the main value of titles is that they serve as a tool for differentiating individuals, of classifying people into specific predetermined classes of abilities. Rob,  of all the knowledge he has gained in academic books, you’d know the colour of his heart. I’ve also learnt that all human beings are intrinsically intelligent. With the right questions, you can get answers (even though simply structured) from one you had condemned to the dungeons of stupidity. To connect with people, at a more personal level, you have to do is to know yourself. Every stranger is a potential teacher.

Rarely do many appreciate the precious moments that sugar-coat the solitude of own-space. Yet it is during these silent moments that we honestly create, that we build the creative notes to something worth reading. Don’t worry about finding inspiration. It comes eventually. Just understand that inspiration usually precedes the desire to create something new. Sometimes an idea pops up when you in the middle of doing something. Sometimes when walking down the street and I suddenly get the itch to draw something, I just stop and pull aside and write that beautiful line. Just like that. In most cases, if I don’t stop and jot the damn line, it will pass and get lost among the billions of unfulfilled creative prompts heaping at the back of my brain. If you let that moment pass then you’ll end up writing a memory, which we all know is sometimes not very pleasant. Never put the cart before the horse. Don’t get into that trap of “I must write something today”. Feel the itch, get to work – as simple as that. To be very productive, you must find a way of creating that takes full advantage of your inspired moments. They never hit at a convenient time nor do these moments last long.

Writer’s block is another excuse we love stitching to the procrastination bag. Don’t fret too much about these damn blocks. If you have a piece of paper before you or a Word doc and nothing comes, go do something else – you can call your girlfriend or make your wife some sumptuous dinner. Hugh McLeod says that writers block is just a symptom of feeling like you have nothing to say, combined with the rather weird idea that you should feel the need to say something. For heavens sake if you have something to say, just say it. If not, enjoy the silence while it lasts – the noise will return soon enough. Trying to create something when you don’t feel like doing it is like making a conversation for the sake of making a conversation. We all know it never really connects, it’s just droning on like an old drunken barfly. Of course what I’m talking about is nothing new. So many other people have said the same.

And when you write, please do so from the heart. When you write, assume you are writing only for one person. Connect with that one person. You can’t love a crowd, but you can love a person. You want to be intimate with the crowd. Good idea, but intimacy doesn’t scale. Intimacy is a one-on-one thing. So when you are writing for the whole damn world, connect with just a single person. To do so, you must write from the heart. Another thing, learn to sing in your own damn voice. Don’t write like another does. Nobody is interested in a pretentious conversation. The world wants to hear your true voice. That is what people respond to, because it carries your self with it.

Damn! Now this is degenerating into some I-know-it-all kind of motivational hullabaloo! Stop. Poets love solitude and it’s during such moments that they produce some of their best works. Emulating Wittgenstein, Emmanuel Hocquard took up his own solitude on an artist friend’s firm in Bouliac. There he wrote a set of unconventional sonnets and practiced other literary forms as well. One day he wrote a poem addressed to a single recipient, a woman named Vivian known to the poet because he bought  bread from her in Fargues. The deceptive simplicity of the poem entreats, confuses. Enjoy;

That which separates two words is like that which separates

two loaves or two wasps.

Region of fluctuating limits.

Viviane with her breads in the broken space of the

boulangerie like me with my words facing

the screen.

This says: “I remember Viviane.”

Bits of bread or bits of language between which

connections

Traces of the wolves that sing between the canale and the

burnt trunk.

January first,

my table a waste land

under the sun.

I need to close, and an excerpt from George Oppen’s DAYBOOK will suffice (the structure;

Clarity for my sake. That I may remember my life.

The images: small narratives within the poem.

“avant-garde”: I have no liking for the word and no need of it One

does not need the word, it is obvious that there is little use

in repeating what has been adequately said before. I am

concerned with ‘thinking’ (involuntary thoughts) that

requires the poem, the verse.

…the poem is NOT built out of words, one cannot make a poem by

sticking words into it, it is the poem that makes the words

and contains their meaning

I would like the poem to be transparent, inaudible

This seems no time to argue poetic technique or poetic principle. That

has all been done. …

I do not care for “systems,” what concerns me is the philosophy of the

astonished.

ON WRITING A POEM; NOT TO MAKE NOISE: TO KEEP

ONE’S  ATTENTION  OUTWARD  TOWA R D

SILENCE

POETRY: Openness:: it opens

The event does not take place in the word. A different event takes place

in the word. The word must dissolve to reveal the event

the words must be slowed down … If the words chatter, the poem

moves slowly: if the words chatter the poem may take

pages to say almost nothing…

I don’t mean that the poetry will serve as politics: I know it will not.

a poem is written to test, salvage, restore — two or three words. Or

one word. More likely one word.

Richard Oduor is a poet, critic and  writer. He is a holder of a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biomedical Science and Technology, Egerton University. He works as a Research Consultant and lives in Nairobi, Kenya. His first poetry collection is with the publisher. He is also working on a novel and a number of short stories. He also runs Grand Debate where he posts regularly on anything worth writing about.

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The Whistler

by Daniel Kojo Appiah

With a purse full of a
mangled mixture of coins,
she limps leisurely to
several farm-sized gardens.

With her fevered lips pursed,
and hips slightly reversed,
limping a march of lifelessness
she walks in step with the threnody.

The profiteers, ever so elated
to spot their favourite buyer;
The one whom Hades slated
a client that never tires.

For death, thus refuses
to blow the whistle on
queer farmers of peace who
have only sown war.

Putting blunted sickles
to mutilated corpses,
nothing is left of the harvest
but caked blood on the leaves.

With her purse now emptied
buying some wares on credit,
she purses her lips once more
whistling away with human lives.

Editor’s notes
Daniel Kojo Appiah won the maiden Ghana Poetry Prize. He is a student of  Regent  University of Science and Technology. He blogs here.

Losers And Abusers

               by Kwaku Krobea Asante

They say, ”to hunt the red antelope in the sacred forest is a taboo”
So, they prefer feeding on the motionless snail
They say, ‘’the diligent fisherman will one day latch on to the golden sea goddess’’, but who?
They kiss the banks of the river and return to mend their unbroken nets at canoe’s tail

Under the straggling Onyina tree, they playfully gulp from a broken calabash
All day, they sit staring their broken faces at inverted mirrors
Counting nights and moons, they hope for when the rooster will offer a hatch
Failed! They say, ”we are evidences of Odomankoma’s errors”
Our fathers did not bequeath to us fortunes of gold dusts
What will our wandering soles offer?
Our ancestors failed to bestow on us treasure pots transferred from the past
How then do we mend our tattered coffer?

Tuesdays are forbidden to go into the weeds
Fridays are sacred for the gods by default
Wednesdays are not fertile to bury the seeds
Saturdays, their bankless tears will sail the departed soul to his vault
Sundays they sit in the palanquins of idleness basking among kinsmen
Yet they dream in the fantasies of day-break; bards singing their appellations in Sikakrom
They are, but nature’s abusers
They are, but life’s losers

Editor’s Notes
Kwaku Krobea Asante  is a graduate of University of Ghana.  This poem made it to the longlist of the inaugural Ghana Poetry Prize.  He writes regularly on his blog.

Two Poems: Rasaq Malik

FOR LOVE

Beyond the windy lane

of time and space;

of dreams and longing–beyond

borders…

Ololufe

My love for you will sprout

like flowers at the seaside;

Like the banana–for the banana

never tastes the potion of barrenness

My songs for you will traverse

beyond the four poles of this cosmos

II

Beyond the silent splash of the sea

when life is a dark hole

beneath the hill of love

Beyond the pages

of unfinished love messages

undelivered letters through lorries;

Beyond the open chapters of unread ballads,

sonnets, quatrains, odes…

Beyond…

Beyond…

My love, our love will survive the years of eclipse.

Editor’s note:  ‘Ololufe’ means ‘My love’.

TRACES

We will search for the traces

of belonging on the

smoked bodies of men who pledge

to the nay-tion of their dreams

We will sing a dirge to douse

the flame that soaks us–

leaving us to find the bearing

of a history that reeks of blood.

We will search for the color

of home in the ashes

of punctured skulls,

fragments of crushed bones

On the cenotaphs that no longer

bear the name of remembrance.

And we will search for peace

in the aches of dreamers,

wanderers

queuing at the airports

to curse a country

where scars are badges

of honours where departure

is the beginning of a prolonged absence.

BIO

Rasaq Malik is a student of the University of Ibadan, Ibadan. He lives in Ibadan, where he writes and performs  his poems. He believes we can change the world through words.