The Gambia’s only literary publication
Part V: The poems
Philip Larkin gives his reasons for writing poems as a need 'to preserve things I have seen/thought/felt (if I may so indicate a composite and complex experience) both for myself and for others'.
Poetry is the third branch of literature that students find most difficult to understand and teachers find most difficult to teach. What is in poetry, is not only the iambics, the rhymes, the rhythm, the alliteration and the assonance, but a combination of all these to form a structure of mood, a structure recognizably literary:
. . . apart from the precise mixture of certainty and hesitation in the poet's mind, one of the sovereign gestures of art is to make the ideal real, and to project a dim impersonal awareness onto a structure of definite invention.
To put it simply, poetry shows a creative, imaginative response to a particular scene, and shows contrasting ways in which a poet can use diction to capture his mood and provoke a reaction in the reader.
The view of what poetry is, as expressed here, may not tally with some readers’ views but it only demonstrates further how poetry is perceived in its complex and rich nature.
In the Maiden issue of Ndanaan, 15 poems are presented by 9 contributors: Mr George Lapedon-Thomas, Mr Hassum Ceesay Sr, Mr Hassan Jagne, Mr Gabriel Roberts, Dr Lenrie Peters, Mr E Midnight, Mr Salif L Kujabi, Mr Swaebou Conateh and Mrs K Robinson. Several of the contributors presented two poems and one of the presented published three.
There are several ways to analyse poetry but an effort shall be made to analyse the content as well as the style of the poems and what their authors wish to portray. It should however be noted that no comparison shall be made so as to safeguard the unique nature of each poem.
Mr George Lapedon-Thomas
Mr Lapedon-Thomas has published two poems entitled What Way? And Energy. The first poem is much longer than the second yet not more meaningful.
The poem is composed of nine verses and each verse has four lines. The rhyming of each verse is in an a-a-b-b pattern. The first verse: Reason hither, reason thither,/ Come with me and let’s go farther,/ What meant we when we do say/ It is true WE HAVE THE WAY?
The author, in the first part of the poem (the first three verses), questions which system, believes, ideology, or way, is the best. He further indicates that as countries are set up with different values due to varied source of influence, they differ equally in their perception of Right and Wrong. In the third, fourth and fifth verses, the author explains that VIRTURE is a word defined only in the context of each society yet all societies should have a uniform set of values or else the existence of these societies, with diverse differences, would create more conflict. In the last three verses, the author warns that the uniform values should however be composed of only the good ones and the choice should be made after great reflection and not in haste. In conclusion, the last verse states: Calmly settled, better abled,/ Staid, the intellect is rambled/ Free the search; freely re-search,/ And in earnest beat the latch,.
A one-versed twelve-lined poem, Energy describes vividly a sand storm. The poem is written in free verse and one notices the rich choice of adjectives and adverbs to describe the sand storm.
Mr Hassum Ceesay Sr
Mr Ceesay wrote two poems: Fugitive and Manifa Musu. Both are a bit lengthy and the second is given a mandinka name.
This poem is written in free verse and is composed of five verses. The first four are seven lines long each and the last one is a two-verse one. It is about a tilapia fish. The first verse tends to portray the dilemma of the tilapia. After the tide has gone down a little tilapia is caught between two planks of the wharf where it initially came to take refuge and knowing the nature of the fish’s facial structure, the poet suspects a grin. But for the dew on its body, the fish hardly has any possibility to survive if it stays much longer there. In the second verse, the fish’s only hope for survival diminishes as the dew dries under the hut sun. The second verse reads:
Lucifer takes refuge,
Your shroud of due betrays you
To the cyclopic glare
Of the yet languid sun.
Could you have transgressed
Or here erred thro’sprightliness
And still grin with contempt?
The reader notices how the situation of the tilapia is critical. As the place is now unsafe, the little fish flees home before it gets caught or dies in the open air. The requests the fish to dive deeper in the water as safety lies in its natural environment. The poem concludes with: ‘To earn an equilibrium/You must for the extreme go’. Certain this poem is symbolic and uses imagery to describe human dilema.
The title is a ‘colourful Mandinka expression (Literaly a woman rice killer)’ meaning a rice farmer. The poem is fourty-four lines long, written in free verse, divided into seven verses thus: 2-7-7-7-7-11-3. A poem full of emotion and regret. Emotion, because the poet uses strong words to describe a Mandingo woman rice farmer, who, due to her appearance, is looked low upon. Regret, because the poet, speaking for all those men who earlier sees the woman as insignificant, later recognises her value and strongly apologises. He apologises because the poet, in actual fact, has always been nourished and cared for through the hard work of this "dirty" Manifa Musu.
I shrink at the touch of
Your scaly skin
Lineated with canals
Of lime and salt, all baked,
As are the droppings of birds….
The poet, after profuse apology, demands the woman: ‘Are you paid measure for measure?’ the poem ends with the following three verses: ‘My humble respects, dame/Of the rice fields,/Heroine!’