Before leaving for Accra, I had searched for Ghanaian poets online. When work was done, and as I was about to leave Accra, a friend took me to a couple of bookstores where I found a few books by local poets. And after coming back home, I searched online for some more. Here is a small sample of Ghana’s own voices, in verse.
I discovered Aquah Laluah (1904 – 1950) online after coming back home.
The Serving Girl
The calabash wherein she served my food Was polished and smooth as sandalwood. Fish, white as the foam of the sea, Peppered and golden-fried for me. She brought me palm wine that carelessly slips From the sleeping palm tree’s honeyed lips. But who can guess, or even surmise The countless things she served with her eyes?
Here is one by a contemporary poet, Kofi Anyidoho, from one of his books, “A harvest of our dreams”, that I found in Accra.
Last night newspeddler told us how at last they picked the venom from our voice into stainless tubes well corked with seals of state and we will glide through life with all sorrows transformed into beatific visions of excessive joy so help us Dog!
And here are two from another contemporary poet, Tawia Tsekumah. His poems are almost Kabir-like in their directness. The first one is from his book that I got in Accra, “A crown for the baboon and other poems”.
All life is but a battle Composed of captors and captives Mothers who hold their promising sons captive And fathers who hold their favourite daughters captive. Employers who hold their most hardworking staff captive And Parsons who hold their most devout captive. Husbands who hold their wives captive, And wives who hold their husbands captive. Freedom is not something you ask for - just take it. And fight with all your strength to protect it. Better to be free and hungry, Than to be well fed all your life in a cage.
And this one I picked up online:
The World Mirrors Like A Calm River
My good friend, I can't keep sugar-coating this anymore: You are the world, And the world is you, If you deceive the world, You deceive yourself, Your world is you, And you are your world. The whole world mirrors like a calm river.
I end with the last couple of poems I wrote before leaving Accra.
The history of words, of private Worlds standing in communion With the worry of dawn & the Flight of joy, the semblance of Meter & the line of hate, the Past as prejudice & a little Late; the history of verb As it acts on pawns of being Known; the history of you and What is not you given as the Word splits infinity.
The Obroni's burden is a heap of cheap dyes; wool cast in the lead of black wounds; overcast sky and underrated wish; the burden is a sin; an acknowledgement of a woman waning a son wanting a rite repeating in vain.
In these poems – although I am ignorant of the local traditions – I hear the bending and breaking of traditions. To a poet the old is still new, and cries for its release from history.
Thanks very much for this sampling.
And thank you..