In the friendly dark... - Dennis Brutus (1924 - 2009)
In the friendly dark, I wheel
as a bird checks in flight
to glide down streams
and planes of slanting air
so I turn, worn by work
and the dull teeth of care
to find your face, your throat
and the soft dark of your hair;
flesh lies snugged in sheets
the brain, wrapped close in folds
of the still-blanketing night,
awaits the easy balm of dreams,
but my heart soars and wheels
hurtling through the friendly dark
to find your mouth and your heart
and nest quietly there.
He writes a cracking (love) poem. There aren't many of those in the canon of African poetry.
'Canon' is the word. That goes without saying that a dear poet is gone.
This sad note aside, there are many cheerful reasons for us to celebrate some living poets this year. At least we can get some warmth and comradership from the increasing number of OGOV followers, most of whom are poets expertise. The 70th follower, Obed Sarpong, is quite significant.
Obed is the first writer I read in the blogging world. I'm grateful he introduced me to this culture - though not to his knowledge that someone somewhere was reading his articles & poems with rapt interest. On behalf of Rob, Julian and all followers, may I welcome Obed and all other new members. Thanks
Brutus was one of the few who poets not afraid to associate himself with the English tradition of poetry, and for a long time the critics accused him of being too traditional. They thought he worked too hard to erase the struggle. ( I have a feeling this may have had something to do with the fact that he was colored).
That said themes of light, darkness and heat abound in his poetry.
Here thunderheads rear in the night,
dominating the awed quiet sky;
on the quiet-breathing plains
fractured metals shriek abandoned wails;
and in another he wrote:
Take out the poetry and fire
or watch it ember out of sight,
sanity reassembles its ash
the moon relinquishes the night.
His love poems (he wrote a lot of those)comment on the grotesqueness and suffering that surrounds all life
From Nightsong City:
sleep well, my love, sleep well:
the harbor lights glaze over restless docks,
police cars cockroach through the tunnel streets;
in another he wrote:
When last I ranged and revelled all your length
I vowed to savour your most beautous curves
and with such devout and lingering delight
that they would etch themselves into my brain
to comfort me throughout the poisoned night.
His prison poems are also on a par with the writings of the likes of Soyinka, Mapanje and others.
One cannot overlook the shock in Letters to Martha 2:
One learns quite soon
that nails and screws
and other sizable bits of metal
must be handed in;
and when these knives suddenly flash
-produced perhaps from some disciplined anus-
one grasps at once the steel-bright horror
in the morning air
and how oft and vulnerable is naked flesh.
All in all, he was a great poet who despite staying close to Yeats, Hopkins, and the rest, still reminds us that traditional doesn't mean complacency, and he refused to become a bleeding heart protest poet. Who else writes like this as in
Blood River Day
Each year on this day
they drum the earth with their boots
and growl incantations
to evoke the smell of blood
for which they hungrily sniff the air:
drives them to the lair
but in the dusk
it is the all pervasive smell of dust
the good smell of the earth
as the rain sifts down on the hot sand
that comes to me
the good smell of the dust
that is the same
everywhere around the earth.
Okay, I have to stop here, b4 the copyright police get me.
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