The Deer Hunt - Mariska Taylor-Darko

The night before the deer hunt
There was excitement in the house.
We stood upstairs looking down onto the courtyard
While men and women went in and out,
Sweat pouring off their brows.

This was my family house,
The meeting place where all the hunters came to prepare,
Fixing their hunting gear and choosing what to wear,
Where women came to cook and where the elders assembled
To perform their ancient rituals
Not written down in any book.

Sleep would elude us that night.
We sat up eating plantain and groundnuts,
White corn dough, hot pepper and shrimps
Slices of sugar cane pulled between our teeth,
Drinking cold minerals while the men had their beers
And something that made them spit.

Dawn was creeping in when the hunters assembled.
They gathered around in their hunting clothes
With sticks, guns, cutlasses, bows and arrows
Looking fierce and frightening
To a young child like me.

The noise and drums and shouts
And scraping of metal on the cement floor
Sent shivers up my spine.
Then suddenly they left,
Marching and shouting out of the yard,
The women standing behind.
Then silence!

A different kind of noise arose,
Women laughing, cooking, sweeping,
Children running around playing, shouting
Trying to get pieces of food when mothers were not looking.
Throughout their work they waited to hear
Did our men catch the elusive deer!

For us the children it was now one big party,
The smells going out into the yard made us
Lick our lips and act like scattered chicks,
Our mothers lashed out when we went near the food
With their sticks shaped like little whips,
But we had no fear the men were not here,
What could our mothers do when their hands were full
With pots and pans and other things too

Time was getting on and all were anxious,
The silence became like the calm before the storm.

A distant shout, the trampling of feet,
The drumming and shouting swept us off the ground.

The men came jogging with branches so green
The deer held high looked frightened with big eyes so brown.

Our colours raised high,
Our men danced full of life.
The women gave shouts in the yard:
We were first! We caught it first!
Good luck will be with us the next year!
We all rushed out and followed the crowd
To the chief’s palace to claim our reward

Now the festival gun was fired,
The hunt was over, the men looked tired.
But this was the beginning for us,
Our Company had won!
There were now so many festivities to be done
Throughout the day we were full of cheer
Going in and out of each others houses
While the men sat around and drank beer

We the children started to doze
As the night brought things to a close.

14 comments:

Dela Bobobee said...
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Dela Bobobee said...
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Dela Bobobee said...

Breathtaking and excellent.

Frankly speaking, this is one of the best poems I have ever read.

Mariska’s exceptional ability for vivid description is highly admirable. There is something magical about this poem. It is not only in its brilliant screenplay descriptive quality but also in the ceremony being showcased that is narrated through the point of view of a child narrator.

The poem is inventively structured like every other winning creative piece of art, which is the three way format; the beginning. Middle and ending.

Stanza 1 – 3 marks the beginning or the expository. In the beginning, one can just feel the excitement on the night when “sleep eluded us that night” before the ancient ritual or festival proper and how this anticipation was vividly portrayed.
The kids spent the evening before the great event -

… “Drinking cold minerals while the men had their beers
And something that made them spit.”

Stanza 4 – 7 is the middle structure, which opens the curtain on the feverish preparation towards the deer hunt.

“Dawn was creeping in when the hunters assembled.
They gathered around in their hunting clothes
With sticks, guns, cutlasses, bows and arrows
Looking fierce and frightening
To a young child like me.”

Stanza 8 – 9. The Rising Action. This is the part where the competition became stiff and both the participants and observers became tensed and anxious for their team to win. One could just feel the lull before the storm.

“Time was getting on and all were anxious,
The silence became like the calm before the storm.”

Stanza 8 - 11- Marks the Climax. Behold, the sacred deer was caught. Congratulations to the winning team.

“The men came jogging with branches so green
The deer held high looked frightened with big eyes so brown.
Our colours raised high,
Our men danced full of life…”

Stanza 3. This is the end.

“Now the festival gun was fired,
The hunt was over, the men looked tired.
But this was the beginning for us,
Our Company had won!”

Stanza 13. The dénouement and it was beautifully resolved in the words of the child narrator. “We the children started to doze
As the night brought things to a close.”

Dela Bobobee said...

Brilliant. Excellent. Bravo!

Mariska Taylor-Darko, I don't even know what to say again. Your poem made me sat on the edge of my seat, and held my breath from the beginning to the very end. I think I need to pay some tokens of money for the spectacular movie you showcased in your screenplay poem. You have offered us a vividly captured excitement and saved me and others who are yet to witness the Aboakyere Festival of your people, the expense and the stress of the trip to Winneba. But I bet you, the next time I am in Ghana, I will make it a point to witness this magical phenomenon, first hand. I will make sure to capture the excitement on video, but I doubt if it would be as revealing and compelling as your poem did.
My advice to you. You are a natural writer. You should lay your artistic hands more on short stories, screenplays and novels. I KNOW you will go places. You have displayed all the qualities of a good writer.
I sincerely wish you good luck, and God bless you. Amen.

Dela Bobobee said...

I said it. Didn’t I?

An interested friend of mine just called me from the US to highly commend this poem which I recommended to her through a forwarded OGOV link. She was overwhelmed with excitement and made me to promise her that I would invite her to Ghana to witness the Aboakyere Festival too. She also asked if I can write an extended screenplay that could be acted on a short film based on this poem. I told her I would do that if the permission is sought and granted by the copyrights owner, Mariska. But I think this would be discussed privately with Mariska Taylor-Darko.


The funniest part. She asked me “apart from the beers the men had, what else did they take to make them spit? I chortled with glee on that one, though.


“the men had their beers
And something that made them spit.”
My reply to her was that, although I was not there to witness the occasion as the narrator, I guess that drink could as well be our locally brewed gin called akpeteshi.

She again inquired what is akpeteshi, and how on earth could I know that was what was meant by the poet. My answer to her was that as an excellent poet, Mariska deliberately did not want to taint the magical feeling portrayed in the innocence of a child narrator, which is a plus for her choice of point of view. But definitely, I can know it is akpeteshi (or apeteshi, whichever) … Am I right, Mariska?


This issue brings us to other interesting high points of this wonderful poem; the poet made a brilliant use of imagery intrinsically manifested in our five senses: visual, auditory, tactile, kinetic and gustatory imageries. Mariska took us a journey as eager tourists to Winneba to witness the Aboakyere Festival. Through her clever use of these imageries we did went not there to see, saw and conquered but also smelled, touched (felt) and tasted the excitement and finally exhausted in our inquisitiveness in a shattering climax.

Dela Bobobee said...

The clever use of imageries in the poem.

1. Visual Imagery: The sense of sight is in the screenplay quality of the poem that speaks for itself. Just close your eyes and let someone else recite the poem to you, you can imaginatively “see” all that ensued with the eye of your mind like a movie. I can just see Little Mariska impatiently adjusting her tiny fingers to pull out shreds of sugar cane stuck between her perfect white teeth. (I no longer wonder how she looked like at that tender age) I can see it all with my imaginative eyes. I can also see vividly because of her use of colours. I know that the cinematographer in me endears passionately me to this poem. But professionally speaking, it is true also that the splendid use of colours in this poem would definitely make it appealing to artists to illustrate this poems in painting.

“The men came jogging with branches so green
The deer held high looked frightened with big eyes so brown”

The appearance of the hunters
“Looking fierce and frightening
To a young child like me.”

2. Auditory Imagery: The sense of hearing. One can just even hear the loud silence, the calm before the storm.

“A different kind of noise arose,
Women laughing, cooking, sweeping”

“The noise and drums and shouts
And scraping of metal on the cement floor …
Marching and shouting out of the yard,
Then silence!”

3. Kinetic and Tactile Imageries: The senses of motion and touch.
“Children running around playing” … The men-
“Marching and shouting out of the yard”

“Sent shivers up my spine.”


4. Olfactory Imagery. The sense of smell.
“For us the children it was now one big party,
The smells going out into the yard made us..”

5. Gustatory Imagery. The sense of taste: sweet, bitter, sour, salt etc

“Lick our lips and act like scattered chicks”
“We sat up eating plantain and groundnuts,
White corn dough, hot pepper and shrimps
Slices of sugar cane pulled between our teeth,
Drinking cold minerals while the men had their beers
And something that made them spit.”

6. (My own addition). The sixth sense.
This is sometimes linked to intuition or hunches, but I call it inspiration or imagination. It

“We were first! We caught it first!
Good luck will be with us the next year!”

Well done job, Mariska. It would be wonderful if I could please have your permission for this poem to be illustrated. Please? I have also in the past had some of my own poems granted on permission, and brilliantly illustrated on canvas by some other ingenious artists. You can check an illustration of the poem titled "The Red Drum" written by Dela Bobobee and Illustrated by Keith Rosemond II.
issuu.com/krosem20/docs/thereddrum

Adjei Agyei-Baah said...

I have always heard of the deer hunt but its detail has always eluded me.Thanks for education given.You did the narration so perfect that you reminded me of story telling by the fire side.Bravo Mariska!

Foster Toppar said...

With mentors like you around, the future is brighter for me. Great Piece from a great mother!

Nana Ofosu Agyemang said...

Indeed the poet Mariska has carefully knitted this huge celebration of the festival with a succinct narrative which makes it simple for us who have never witness it, but it must also be said that the comments by Dela is so profound and educative.

Welldone.

Darko Antwi said...

'The Deer Hunt' has certainly raised curiosity for any book that Mariska Taylor-Darko is bound to release. As much as I acknowledge its resource to the (Aboakyere) festival’s written preservation, I can also say, in my reading pleasure, that this title stands the chance of being a key literature in any modern Ghanaian collection of cultural importance.

Welldone Mariska.

Mariska said...

Wow! All these comments have left me breathless. @ Dela you are a good teacher too. To have your poem dissected and explained in details is an honour.I have learnt a lot from your educative comments.@Nana, I am glad you enjoyed it @Darko, what pride I would have if this was used in literature books...added to Dela's comments hummmm!

Dela Bobobee said...

Thanks to Nana Ofosu Agyemang, and Mariska Taylor-Darko, for their positive reception of my comments on Mariska’s impressive poem “The Deer Hunt”.

Infact, my extensive comments on that stunning poem was actually just a tip of the iceberg, in terms of the real cultural significance of the Aboatyer Festival of the people of Winneba. The ceremony was entrenched on staunch moral tenets of freedom and justice when the previous ritual of human sacrifice was replaced with the symbolic sacred deer that must be caught live without recourse to using any weapon. Yes, this goes a long way to say that, society is dynamic and so from time to time reviews and adjusts its cultural practices to reflect humane ideals of knowing the limits of where one’s freedomends as where another person’s rights begin.

I guess we all need to research and dig deeper into the cultural antecedents of the festival beyond the surface level. It means that not all of our indigenous African festivals are fetish and heathen as others unfamiliar with our socio-cultural inclinations would make us to believe. That is why I gave Mariska a plus for her exceptional artistry and an apt choice of point of view, from the perspective of an innocent child narrator. No other point of view could have been better. Thanks again.

Mariska said...

Dela you are right. It is akpeteshie. When they took a sip they scrunched up their faces , swallowed and spat......It was only when I grew up that I knew what it was. So as you said it was written exactly as I saw it as a child

Mariska said...

Dela I am back - been side tracked with other projects Need to discuss expanding this favourite poem of mine Please send me contact details mariska.taylor@gmail.com