Thursday, April 26, 2007

I have retreated to bed with a box of tissues, Vicks Vaporub and ginger tea. Have a poem today:

AN AFRICAN ELEGY - Ben Okri, Nigeria

We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.

There are things that burn me now
Which turn golden when I am happy.
Do you see the mystery of our pain?
That we bear poverty
And are able to sing and dream sweet things.

And that we never curse the air when it is warm
Or the fruit when it tastes so good
Or the lights that bounce gently on the waters?
We bless things even in our pain.
We bless them in silence.

That is why our music is so sweet.
It makes the air remember.
There are secret miracles at work
That only time will bring forth.
I too have heard the dead singing.

And they tell me that
This life is good
They tell me to live it gently
With fire, and always with hope.
There is wonder here.

And there is surprise
In everything the unseen moves.
The ocean is full of songs.
The sky is not an enemy.
Destiny is our friend.

from THE PENGUIN BOOK OF MODERN AFRICAN POETRY edited by Gerald Moore and Ulli Beier

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3 Comments:

Blogger The Traveller said...

I've never read any Ben Okri, but I want to now!

5:49 pm  
Blogger John Ottinger said...

Perhaps you might recommend to me a good book to learn about North African culture? I'd like one for the New Notions 5 Reading Challenge

6:27 pm  
Blogger equiano said...

Traveller, Okri certainly has a way with words. If you do decide to read him, don't start with his latest books. THE FAMISHED ROAD, from a little earlier is a good place to jump in.

Welcome, John. This depends on which North African culture of course. I will blog next week about THE STAR OF ALGIERS by Aziz Chouaki. Since your reading challenge is about challenging pre-conceived notions, this book would be excellent for the purpose. It looks at the forming of radical islamic identity and also has as a minor theme the differences between the Arabic and Kabyle cultures in Algeria.

If that is not easy to get in America, the Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz is no doubt easier to find. The first in his Cairo Trilogy, PALACE WALK is superb. Not sure about challenging pre-conceived notions, but it is a richly layered and beautifully conceived novel of life in Egypt.

Hope that's a helpful start...

8:34 am  

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