Slave ships docked Africa’s shores as trade ships
Beyond the coastline, strange, crafty sons invaded.
Greedy-hearts of stone, goaded frolic racket race
Dead to folks’ emotions, of deficient moral grace
“Are they real humans,” misery choked me to ask?
Poor, guiltless, teary-eyes, sobbing hearts defused
Slaves in chains, on bruised and supplicating knees
Weak-trembling arms, lifting their eyes to Heaven:
To die of tsunami, pestilence, chronic-famine would
Be merciful, than to witness my beloved folks perish.
My sable heritage quivered, glued with enraged shame
To nurse those injured, volcanoes rewarded the brave.
Lord, stretch thy justice-hand, ever almighty to save:
To cleanse us daily of demons like eternal blindness.
Africa's Shores - Roland Marke
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It's sad, but so enjoyable a craft. The detailed description of sheer wickedness by human against human, wherefore 'misery' could choke the speaker in his querry. The quality of form and diction is comparable to a few Ogov poets. However good his style, I think the subject is quite bias - in the sense that the African folks were spared the blame, which makes Roland's work sound raw and incomprehensive.
...incomprehensive and unfair to history, if I may add
I think this poem could have done with fewer adjectives, probably too many abstractions. They carry all the load. Roland, it's not my intention to diss your poem, but I'm really interested in the subject matter. W H Auden says a poem is never finished, only abandoned.
Long ago the anti slavery movement had a logo, with an image of a slave in chains,on his knees, and with the inscription Am I not a Man and a Brother?
This is what your poem reminds me of. It's called ekphrasis.
As to it's incomprehensiveness, Darko Antwi, I suppose it's just a single poem. One needs a sequence, a collection or an anthology to cover the history that was the slave experience.
I was looking for the turn in the sonnet, though, and I can't decide whether you intended it to be prosaic. I hope I'm not being prescriptive, it's only my opinion after all.
I hope Roland appreciates this discourse on his poem. The issue of slavery is a double-edged sword, indicting the slave-owner and those that seek to keep their brethren in slavery. I agree with Darko and LS, in that there are various dynamics left unexplored by written literature on the grostesque spectacle of slavery. However, thank you, Roland, for starting this conversation. Your heart is definitely in the right place.
Without any intention of undermining our fellow poet, I must accept Prince's agreement (while i borrow part of his remarks). To L.S i have to say; i submit to the logic that it takes anthologies and series of writings to cover such a broad-spectrum subject. But in the age where we demand the 'dynamics' and the quality of 'two-edgedness' of any genre of literature, i think limiricks and even haiku's shouldn't fail to adress (condemn) the evil forces of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in parallel. Justice would have been done if all perpetrators were dealt with by Roland's whip - only for the sake of historical accountability!
Darko Antwi, to some extent,I agree. However, how much ground the poet wants to cover in a single piece is entirely up to him. It is the nature of the subject matter that makes it impossible to cover all aspects in one poem.
In the introduction to his collection Cape Coast Castle Kwadwo Opoku Agyeman says:
it is necessary to keep the story of slavery and the slave trade open ended and to avoid closure; to clear the way to debate and to perpertually initiate rather than conclude the argument so that every new generation may visit it to quarry it.
There's much more to the slave experience. It is the way in which that legacy affects us all.
I remember when I was growing up in Accra, they used to refer to some people, as those who arrived with the rope through their noses,(I'm paraphrasing from my language here), referring to descendants of slaves. It's been some time since the Abolition, but people still cannot escape that past.
The African polities that traded with the whites did so of their own accord. They were not even under white rule then.
There are some old houses near where I was born, and it was said in those slave trading days, they used to dry their wealth in the sun. Remember cowries were a currency then, and so on some warm days, they would spread these out to dry.
I couldn't agree more with LS especially on his last submission. A man couldn't discuss this whole business about slavery in fourteen lines of poetry! The issues are simply limitless, don't you agree, Antwi? I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Africa's Shores," Roland.I particularly like your use of diction. Sadly, you are criticized for using too many adjectives! But, don't you think you should look to the other side of the wall, at least, to comfort people like our good friend, Darko Antwi? I think he made a valid point. I look forward to more poems on slavery from you. You are quite an excellent poet, I can tell.
As we level our critique, am glad each commentator has yet remained constructive as he should.
Having agreed with L.S and Prince to an extent, I also appreciate Jonas' mention of Ronald's excellence. No doubt, he's a remakable poet, if you examine the title at stake on the basis of literary evaluation. But on the scale of social justice, it leaves much to be desired.
Of course, every writer has a opinion and would therefore choose how to present it. But in a case where one's work tackles an issue with partial judegement, we can conclude that 'Africa's Shores' lacks objectivity - unless of course Roland has a post script to add.
And since there's nothing to add as supplement to balance the attack on the slave system (in its entirety), let's assume and criticise the 14-line verse in its whole, as we would the content of any article or a Part-1-of-1-essay which has been handled with mediocrity.
roland marke has stirred the hornet's nest...slavery is too important to be treated from one extreme opinion...when advising the cat, try to admonish the fish...there are two sides to every story...too much blood has been shed for us to treat this issue with such generality...
With much respect to all other commentaries, I wish to state that every piece of literature could be judged within and outside the boundaries of its context.
And when judged as such, no viable literature would be at odds with sociatal facts and scientfic truths.
In the light of our debate, I must stress that 'Africa's Shores' (in
spite of its linguistic merits), is an uncompleted equation - and therefore not profound in the criteria of extended contextual criticism.
May I emphasise that Roland's use of authorial discretion is questionable - as he prefers to call one party of the slave network: 'Greedy-hearts', and remains apparently silent towards the native collaborators. As though they are innocent.
After all, we should be mindful of the poem's setting-in-place. It is on the shores of Africa. And one key character is missing. And for that reason, i think, this poem has neither served our memory nor imagination, with regards to the the ancient slave capturing and trade scene (as portrayed in the poem). A collective responsibility should be definite!
Darko Antwi if I understand your last comment, perhaps Roland's choice of title was rather expansive. That said, his work has enabled us to discuss an often neglected part of our history.
I also appreciate the fact that he wrote a sonnet. Very often African writers reject forms considered none African, for fear of being accused of pandering to Western ideas. Christopher Okigbo suffered that fate.
Not many contributors get the chance to have their work sliced and diced here for good and bad. Very often the comments do not go beyond well done and of course a little more.
Roland I'll certainly like to see more of your work. Very often traumatic times produces some great poetry, from the First War, through to the civil wars in Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and since you mentioned Shakespeare, that man was a genius. He was a Catholic at a time when it wasn't safe to be a Catholic in England. I'm a fan of Masaemura Zimunya who wrote sometime around the war of liberation(Zimbabwe). I don't know if he's still alive.
Thanks guys, I'm off to bed.
L.S, you were right in quoting W.H Auden. Very soon our arguement will have to be abandoned, without being finished as do poems. It's been worthwhile talking about one of the finest poems ever published on Ogov. Kudos. Thanks Mr Marke.
Roland, i really admire your courage and where you are heading towards. You are heading towards a very healthy land full of treasures. To get there, you need to mould all the constructive criticism of strength. Love what you love, love what others love, and love where the right is. With these thing in your mind, your poem can go any where in the world.
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