Tag Archives: Poetry

The poetry writing African President: Agostinho Neto


What does writing poetry and African presidency have in common? None. Unless you are Agostinho Neto. He was an acclaimed poet and the first African President of Angola.

I knew a bit about Neto and his role in the decolonisation of Africa. He was quite an exceptional leader in many ways. Not only did he become the first president of Angola in 1975, but he was also a medical doctor who specialised in gynaecology.

I only discovered it a few years ago that he was an acclaimed and published poet after stumbling on one of his few translated poems in the anthology The Heritage of African Poetry: An Anthology of Oral and Written Poetry edited by Isidore Okpewho.

obra_poetica_completa_agostinho_neto-300x300

It is no ordinary anthology because it features some household names and the greatest African poets to grace the African continent. This includes heavyweights like Wole Soyinka, Kofi Awoonor, Christopher Okgibo, Leopold Sedar Senghor to mention a few.

To be published among such names speaks volumes about the nature of one’s work and the quality of it. You don’t get published among legends like that unless you are made of the same stuff.

It is probably little known that Neto was a poet because his work was not so easily accessible to those of us who cannot read or write Portuguese. But it is also not so well known that Neto, to this day, is one of Angola’s most acclaimed poet and writer. That is no easy feat.

Agostinho Neto was born in 1922 at Icola e Bengo in Angola. He studied medicine in Lisbon and Coimbra in Portugal and returned to practice in Angola.

neto and machel

He joined a movement for the discovery of indigenous Angolan culture. In 1960, was elected president of the MPLA [Movimento Popular da Libertação de Angola – People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola] which was a militant anti-colonial organisation. That year he was arrested and taken to jail in Portugal but escaped two years later.

After a protracted guerrilla struggle, he helped to establish the independence of Angola. He became it’s first president but died in 1980.

He published poetry in several Portuguese and Angolan publications and a volume entitled A Sagrada Esperanca (Sacred Hope).

neto and castro

There was little in Neto’s earlier life that indicated the direction of his later life. He was born in a Methodist family. His father was a Methodist pastor. We can interpret through the trajectories of what is known about him that his conception of serving his people was strongly influenced by his father and his exposure to the teachings of Christianity.

It was only when he was in Lisbon [Portugal] that his political activism became marked. He became friends with other future political and iconic figures such as Amilcar Cabral who I have written about and would leave a lasting legacy in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde. This also included Marcelino dos Santos from Mozambique.

Dos Santos and Neto seemed to have more than politics in common. Dos Santos was also a poet and a revolutionary. After Neto was arrested and his friend Eduardo Mondlane also from Mozambique and a fellow comrade from FRELIMO moved to the United States, dos Santos moved to Paris where lived with other artists and writers and became associated with the literary magazine Présence Africaine.

Their friendship seemed to be destiny because they had so much in common and as leading intellectuals of their time, it was inevitable. What we don’t know is what role they had in each other’s poetry and if they read and critiqued each other’s work.

Somehow, Neto managed to juggle both his academic life and covert political activities. However, he was soon to learn that mixing politics and medicine had its consequences.

Agostinho-Neto dr

That came in 1960 when he was arrested for campaigning against the colonial administration of Portugal in Angola. When his family, friends, patients, supporters and empathisers and others marched to protest his arrest, the police fired at them. Consequently, thirty people were killed and about two hundred others were injured.

He was later exiled to Cape Verde where he wrote his second poetry publication. It is not clear if he was able to link up with the likes of Cabral in Cape Verde. It is always a possibility and it is also possible that he learned firsthand about their struggle and used it to forward his own political development.

Like Lumumba and Cabral, he sought assistance from the Americans but as usual, the Americans let him down and he enlisted the help of the Soviet Union and Cuba.

Unfortunately, Neto’s rule was not marked by peace. It was riddled by a civil war that was sponsored by foreign agents that were sponsoring sectarian violence and trying to destabilise the country.

neto and castro 2

His country was flanked by hostile territories. On one side was the FNLA supported by the dictator, Belgian and American puppet Mobutu Sese Seko who got into power through assassinating Patrice Lumumba and given free reign to terrorise his own people.

On the other side was Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA movement which was supported by the racist Apartheid government of South Africa that had no wish in seeing a thriving majority ruled African country because this would make the Africans at home want the same.

One of Neto’s lasting legacies to Angola was his invitation to westerners to invest in the oil industry. To this day, it happens to be one of Angola’s largest export and brings in the largest revenues. However, as in most African countries, the proceeds or these great repositories of wealth rarely filter to the people. They are monopolised by the leadership who enjoy the wealth and treat it as their own.

I guess you can do more research and fill the holes in the life of this remarkable leader. I set out to share this little bit of knowledge about him and his accomplishments.

I will leave you with a poem he wrote in 1954 and entitled Bamako. You can interpret it for yourself, not that it needs it.

neto 1

Bamako

Bamako!                                                                                                                                           Where the truth dropping on the leaf’s sheen                                                                         unites with the freshness of men                                                                                               like strong roots under the warm surface of the soil                                                             and where grow love and future                                                                                               fertilised in the generosity of the Niger                                                                                     shaded by the immensity of the Congo                                                                                       to the shim of the African breeze of hearts

Bamako!                                                                                                                                           there life is born                                                                                                                             and grows                                                                                                                                       and develops in us important fires of goodness

Bamako!                                                                                                                                           there are our arms                                                                                                                         there sound our voices                                                                                                                   there the shining hope in our eyes                                                                                             transformed into an irreproachable force                                                                               of friendship                                                                                                                                     dry the tears shed over the centuries                                                                                         in the slave Africa of other days                                                                                                 vivified the nourishing juice of fruit                                                                                           the aroma of the earth                                                                                                                   of which the sun discovers gigantic kilimanjaros                                                                   under the blue sky of peace.

Bamako!                                                                                                                                           living fruit of the Africa                                                                                                                 of the future germinating in the living arteries of Africa                                                       There hope has become tree                                                                                                         and river and beast and land                                                                                                       there hope wins friendship                                                                                                           in the elegance of the palm and the black skin of men

Bamalko! there we vanquish death                                                                                     and the future grows – grows in us                                                                                           in the irresistible force of nature and life                                                                           with us alive in Bamako.

 

 

 

 

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July 4, 2017 · 4:32 pm

Putting your thoughts into writing


I was thinking about you the other day,

thinking its years since I heard from you.

And maybe you had forgotten me

and moved on with your new lover and family.

 

Yesterday I logged into my old email account,

the one I hardly ever use,

intent on deleting every email in my inbox

when I stumbled on an email with your name… Image of a guy in a white shirt sitting by the computer, his face is not visible, only part of his chin can be seen

My insides clammed up,

but I thought it was one of those junk emails

forwarded by scammers using your email address.

I opened it to be sure,

my hand trembling over the mouse.

But I was wrong. It was not junk.

 

The knot at the base of my belly untied itself.

A feeling of warmth erupted at its core,

and I felt warm fingers crawling over my limbs,

spreading across my body

and tugging the edges where my lips meet.

 

You didn’t say much in your email.

But you never did say a lot face to face,

and you never needed to say a lot

to put a smile on my face or make my day.

 

In fact, you were always the shy type.

And I can remember: your darting big,

beautiful brown eyes escaping my gaze

whenever I caught you by chance watching me,

and the stifled giggle and hand over your mouth

that betrayed your guilt.

Picture of a black guy with a black headwrap, dark sunglasses and white shirt staring at the computer screen in an office.

When I looked at the date and time in your email,

I wondered if it was a mere coincidence:

the time I was thinking of you,

you were also thinking of me

and putting your thoughts into writing.

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Filed under Creative Writing, Poetry, Reflections

Sometimes, I write poetry…


Sometimes, I write poetry that I never get to share. I was a poet before I was a blogger.

I wrote poetry that was published in a few anthologies. I even put together a collection of poetry I was keen on publishing but looking back today, a lot of it makes me cringe.

I performed on the London Spoken Word Scene for a few years before I went to university to study writing or find inspiration for a novel.

Between then and now, I have written less and less poetry although it was poetry that got me going for years when I had no outlet for my ideas or I was struggling with prose.

I think part of it has to do with the academic approach to writing poetry which I found too scientific and akin to skinning and dissecting corpses.

It put me off writing poetry for a while. By the time I was through with my studies, the poetry that had once bubbled effervescently from my mind was a dry well.

However, that period of dissecting corpses did throw up some interesting projects that I worked on for my poetry modules.

I recently came across some spoken word poetry I created for one of my modules as I was clearing my computer because the start disk was too full.

I thought I would share it with you guys. The picture quality is not that great but the sound is cool. It is not very original but I had fun putting it together.

It was inspired by This Poem I heard been read by Mutabaruka at Def Poetry on Youtube or you can watch it below. Enjoy.

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Filed under Creative Writing, Poetry

Women and Flowers


Picture of a pink flower

A flower and a woman

Have loads in common.

Both beautiful in summer

At their aura’s full power.



Pluck them too soon

And they wilt before autumn.

But if you really appreciate their beauty,

Let them blossom.



Cherish their memory

Because like unrequited love,

It is a love that never dies.

It lives on eternally

In the memories’ eyes.

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Filed under Abstract Writing, Poetry

Publishing Opportunity


I have been sitting on this opportunity for a while. It popped into my inbox and got buried under an avalanche of emails. I made a mental note to give you the heads up about this writing competition but it slipped my mind.

There are still about three to four days to submit to Masons Road. The deadline is the 15th of November 2014.

Masons Road are an online literary journal. They are open to submissions in a number of genres. These are:

  • Poetry
  • Fiction
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • Craft Essay

The theme for issue #10 is memory and they are looking for creative takes on it.

There are two ways of submitting work. If like me, you don’t like paying for submissions, then, you can submit for free during their submissions period and they will consider your work for publication.

If you just want to test the waters and see how your work is received, you have nothing to lose. Go for it. It’s a different outlet. The worst thing they can say is no.

Rejection is nothing new to writers. It happens to the best. If it happened to JK Rowling, then anything is possible. But look how she ended up. All those agents and publishers who rejected her regret passing over that cash cow.

Alternatively, you can submit your work with a $10.00 fee. Your submission will be considered for the Masons Road Literary Prize. This includes publication and a $500.00 prize for the best entry.

You can visit their website here http://www.masonsroad.com to find out more about them and check out their submission guidelines. You can also read the last winner’s work, Formication – Patricia Canright Smith, and see if this is the journal for you. Previous issues of the online journal are available to get a feel of it.

If you have a piece that is gathering dust in some drawer somewhere or virtual cobwebs in your hard drive, dust it off and submit it. Any opportunity to build a publishing credit is good for your writer’s CV and your repertoire.

Good luck. My apologies in advance for the late heads up.

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Filed under About Writing, Abstract Writing, Creative Writing, Poetry

Poets and War


Poets and War.

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Filed under About Writing, Abstract Writing, Creative Writing

Love Prescription


image

Love can’t be prescribed

Like a doctor prescribes medication.

Take two three times a day

After meals and blah blah blah…



It has no algorithms.

It can’t be programmed.

If reason is the thesis,

Love is the antithesis.

It pulls tongues at science

And holds the middle finger to scientists.

You can’t slice it open

With a scalpel and pinpoint

Its vital and reproductive organs.



It can’t be legislated

Like those draconian

Immorality Acts

In Apartheid South Africa.

Imprison it

And it will

BREAK OUT STRONGER

Than it was ever before,

Bending and breaking bars.



It is what it is.

A wild seed that germinates where it wills

And takes root where it is unexpected

Until one day you see

It blossoming,

Petals unfolding and full of colour.

And you wonder by what alchemy

It grew in such an unusual place.



Love is its own prescription.

The chemical reaction

Taking over your head and heart;

Leaving you giddy and high.

It’s the elixir

Pulsing through the highways

And alternative routes of your body,

Killing the pathogens and viruses

Poisoning your heart and soul.

It restores your sense of balance

And healthy outlook on life.



It is the prescription

Pharmaceuticals can’t monopolise

And make a killing,

Transforming us into

Over the counter addicts.

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Filed under About Writing, Abstract Writing, Poetry

Poets and War


picture of bleeding hand

A surgical-like incision on my hand

Leaks red ink,

Flowing like a burst pipe

Connecting the membrane

Covering my skeleton

And hinterland.

Poetry beats in my heart ♥

And I bleed for my art.

Not only soldiers bleed and die

In the line of duty.

In the frontline of many world wars,

Poets died far, far, far away

From home with poetry locked inside

The kernel of their minds.

Have you heard of Chris Okigbo

That revolutionary poet

Who downed his papers and pen

And picked up a gun in the Biafra War?

Realising the bullet

Was stronger than the pen

He sacrificed his life

Dodging bullets and bombs

In the name of freedom.

He died with his gun

In his arms

And poetry stuck between his gums.

His poetic sensibility –

A politicizing factor.

He bled for his art

To free minds and hearts

And realise the envisioned self.

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October 28, 2014 · 4:58 pm

Nocturnal Wanderings


Victorian Houses

I am a flâneur

Strolling through the narrow arteries of the great city

Under the watchful gaze of the pregnant moon

I cross deserted squares

And follow rows of terraced Victorian houses

On both sides of the narrow streets

Where once upon a time carts and coaches ran

Behind great horses with shining manes

The entangled labyrinthe of the city

Shines like a cluster of diamonds

Bathed in waves of phosphorescence

Thames at Night

I stand by the bank of the Thames

Gazing at the sparkling stars

And city lights flashing in her waters

Here Marlowe once remarked in the Heart of Darkness

It was once a very dark place

London At Night

The sleeping city roars like a raging river

Outside my bedroom window

I curl up like a seed in a pod in my bed

And I rise and fall rise and fall

Like a tiny shell riding the waves of that great river

London From Balcony 2

I traverse all over the city

Without setting a foot outside

While others dream with their eye curtains shut

I dream with my eyes wide open

Seeing the city in my inner eye

Drawing from my memories of

Sights I captured on my walks

As a flâneur traversing

London streets’ at nightfall

Now I project this lucid picture

Upon the closed curtains of my eyes

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Filed under Uncategorized

Knot I Have Become


image

 

The crescent moon creeps through the window

As the night stumbles through the light starved rooms

Its cloak reeks of deep sleep

And I listen to its nocturnal wanderings

While I toss and turn in bed

Blindly fumbling under the covers

To extricate myself from the intricate

Knot I have become

And free myself

To reach my full potential

An unrestrained spirit

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Filed under Abstract Writing, Creative Writing, Poetry