Friday, March 17, 2017

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Fwd: A Big Loss Today

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

From: Akwasi Aidoo <>
Date: March 18, 2017 at 5:15:39 AM GMT+2
To: Akwasi Aidoo <>
Subject: A Big Loss Today

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

As you may have heard or read, we lost another great poetic soul this morning: Derek Walcott, the Nobel Laureate and one of the defining poets of our times.

It's very sad, and I have no words to convey the depth of it.  Perhaps some poems? Hmm...  OK, why not?  Here are two, and a soothing song at the end of it all.

The first poem is by Derek himself, and it's meant to evoke a smile. It amply shows the temporal and commonly human side of the great Derek spirit, and here's the background to the poem: Derek Walcott (St. Lucian) and V.S. Naipaul (originally Trinidadian) had been at each other's throat for quite a while. They were kind of shadow boxing, long before Derek won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1992 and V.S. Naipaul followed suit in 2001. Several years ago, V.S. Naipaul wrote something mildly unkind about Derek, and Derek decided to give the expression that we call "poetic justice" a whole new galactic meaning.  At the Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica in 2008 he read the following poem (but refused to give out the hard copy). I'm still hunting for the full poem. Here it is:

The Mongoose
By Derek Walcott

I have been bitten, I must avoid infection
Or else I'll be as dead as Naipaul's fiction
Read his last novels, you'll see just
what I mean
A lethargy, approaching the obscene
The model is more ho-hum than Dickens
The essays have more bite
They scatter chickens like critics, but
each stabbing phrase is poison
Since he has made that snaring style
a prison
The plots are forced, the prose
sedate and silly
The anti-hero is a prick named Willie
Who lacks the conflict of a Waugh or Lawrence
And whines with his creator's

...... (break) 

So the old mongoose, still making good money
Is a burnt out comic, predictable, unfunny
The joy of supplements, his minstrel act
Delighting editors endorsing facts
Over fiction, tearing colleagues and betters
To pieces in the name of English letters
The feathers fly, the snow comes drifting down
The mongoose keeps its class act as a clown
It can do cartwheels of exaggeration
Mostly it snivels, proud of being Asian
Of being attached to nothing, race or nation
It would be just as if a corpse took pride in its decay
After its gift had died and off the page its biles exude the stench
of envy, "la pourriture" in French
cursed its first breath for being Trinidadian
then wrote the same piece for the English Guardian
Once he liked humans, how long ago this was
The mongoose wrote "A House for Mr Biswas."

Needless to say, Derek was a great human being whose poetic firmament firmly bridged, bonded and illuminated so much of the exclusive cultural and historical spaces we occupy as humans.  He's in a good place, I imagine.  May his soul rest in perfect peace!

The second poem is kind of a baton-receiver's gift of continued excellence, even as it also embodies an exciting expression of innovative shift. The poet is one of my favorites among today's younger generation of globalizing poets. The poem, recently published in a college literary magazine, amplifies a powerful new voice (the poet) that captures both the visual and visceral connections between our humanity and the natural life forms right around us.  It's a captivating dialogue poem that also creatively succeeds in retaining a measure of authorial voice.  That's an innovative mix in its class!  I'm tempted to go on with more exegesis of this poem, but that will wait till later when I send out my next poetic offerings (sorry you've got to wait for that later).  Here's the poem:

A passing by

By Cole Newcomb


I said to him "the man

has no father,

has lost his mother.

A sister, a brother

left him to wander 

with dust and grime

built over years of cars

dashing streets in unending

pursuit. Thunderous in aim, the cars,


roaring past. His unmoving walk, 

tilting slow in motion, listing

sideways movement, scrapes

the unfeeling concrete."


He said to me, "to rest and end the slowing crawl?

Depart with a whisper still in your lungs?

Or are you not done yet?

In years past, the aching nailed to the sidewalk is like falling leaves,

the scent of piled eucalyptus,

nestled in the crease between the wall and ground."


Trees overhead sway,

leaves fall,

as the fog blows in. 


He said, "what of you children born and living here?

are you not roaring past?

This is home. The concrete feels everything:

Every forceful crack 

that drives the nail in, 

every leaf 

pressed to the ground.

You and they are not done yet.

Look: nestled in the corner,

the eucalyptus,

breathe deeply."

Now, the song. It's by Miriam Makeba (well known as Mama Africa), and the title of the song is: Nongqongqo (To Those We Love).  It's about the great ones who sacrificed everything for a free South Africa.  Here's a link to it: 

With Peace & Love,


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