Awoonor The Spirit Man Is Gone - Kwabena Agyare Yeboah

the night speaks of the cousins
who met at the shore
in a howling silence

rekindling the voice of the flute
that adorns our glorious dirges

the day is sleeping
your sail has seen darkness
and Keta's wall is maimed

ferry the eagle home

as times merge as memories
that fade journeys
into a cast eternity
on this path called home

mortals will gather tears
and trail your walk

mention us to the forebearers
and sleep not on our struggles

adieu, son of the land

Kwabena Agyare Yeboah is a BSc Biochemistry student at KNUST, Kumasi. He blogs here.

This poem is part of our series of poems in memory of Kofi Awoonor. You can learn more about Awoonor and the series
here. If you have a poem in memory of Kofi Awoonor, please send it to us at oneghanaonevoice(at)gmail(dot)com.


Prince Mensah said...

Splendid piece!

Julian said...

Great Piece

Delatrophy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Delatrophy said...

'Awoonor The Spirit Man Is Gone' – by Kwabena Agyare Yeboah.
I find this dirge poem beautiful and intense in form, imagery and theme.

Outwardly, it appears as a simple poem but it is a very somber verse of lament expressing grief in such a subtle and powerful way.
Within the lines of this dirge poem we can all see that sorrow as an unavoidable human emotion is more "intense" than sadness when masterfully etched with deep feelings like this. The attitude and intensity are the traits which give sorrow its peculiar air of dignity. This is indeed remarkable, coming from a science oriented poet, BSc Biochemistry student.

The theme of spirit man is universal but very typical of African literature. The full impact is felt when in our deepest sorrow we begin to ask questions. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Is there a God or isn’t there, and if there is a God, what is its nature? Of all the world’s religions, which one is the most correct? Indeed humans have struggled for ages to tackle these questions. Terrible wars have been fought over them. But as much as these questions cause people to lose their heads (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally), the bottom line is that these are very practical questions.

But which questions really relates to this particular poem? Here we go:

Is there an afterlife? Are we humans primarily physical beings or spiritual beings? The answers can be gleaned: Awoonor the Spirit Man Is Gone.

the day is sleeping
your sail has seen darkness
and Keta's wall is maimed”

Images of Awoonor, sleeping day, sail, darkness as an allusion to Keta’s wall being maimed is quite impressive.

“mortals will gather tears
and trail your walk

Gathering of tears as motif. Hmmn. Tears as an emotional release is aptly used in this poem especially when it becomes imperative to use tears as an instrument of healing from our intense grief. Tears have a special cleansing element that has a way of a calming effect on our heightened emotions. Vision of funerals evokes images of crying, wailing, and moaning of women and children, while men are more prone to gnashing of teeth as a sign of mourning, but sometimes men do shed tears too. Tears serve the same effect on all humans.

mention us to the forebearers
and sleep not on our struggles”

As earlier pointed out in my earlier comments on “It’s Day Break “by Darko Ankwi , African dirge in general, and Ewe dirge tradition in particular always have an ‘interactive trait’ – a form of subtle communication link between a newly dead person and other dead persons who have gone earlier to the great beyond. The newly dead are usual asked to convey messages to other dead persons which humans find difficult to detach from. This hints at ancestral worship, beliefs in after-life and immortality of the soul as found in numerous literature of the African cosmology. I did my BA Thesis on what is referred to as the “Cyclical Concept of Time” in African literature. I remember that my supervisor advised me then not to mention in any part of that dissertation, or not to portray any hint of me being the first to delve into or write on such a topic. Perhaps he has very good reasons for that but I know he was really fascinated and positive comments from other external supervisors point to a very satisfactory direction. Indeed to some non-Africans, time is linear but to a typical African, time is cyclical in nature. As mentioned in “Why we drape in Black Funeral Clothes” my personal dirge poem in memory of my late father in August 2010:

“life is a circle, never to be linear
the present belongs to the living
as the past is for the ancestors
and the future is for the unborn –
waiting for a turn to start another circle”

Without mincing words, Kwabena Agyare Yeboah is an upcoming great watch out for because I know there is definitely an inexhaustible well from which this beautiful poem emerged from. I look forward to reading more poems from you. Well-done Kwabena Agyare Yeboah.

Darko Antwi said...

Dear learned friends, I share your views on Kwabena's poem. It's great, splendid, and ever superlative. Dela, God knows how we missed you here. Your intuitive appreciation is warming up our spirit. Thank you Julian. Your comments about my poem is well received, to the swell of my head. Yours is indeed a masterpiece among this collection.

Delatrophy said...

Thanks, Prince Mensah.

I completely agree with your inspiring comments, especially the bit about “cross-pollination of creative minds (iron sharpens iron), as the Book of Proverbs has it” Indeed, intelligence is not a privilege but a gift that should be used for the benefit of mankind. “We are on to something beyond our wildest dreams. Let us not stop working hard.” Indeed we are all encouraged to do our very best so that someday posterity would honour our virtuous deeds, just like the way same way we are now commemorating our beloved Prof. Kofi Awoonor.

Thanks to Darko Ankwi.

Indeed I am very happy to be “back home” to OGOV. Lol... Perhaps you may be wondering why the apostrophe around-(back home.) You know, believe it or not, we humans are all “spirit beings” it’s not only our beloved Prof. Kofi Awoonor. Since we are all eulogizing with dirges, and in dirge the word “home” is used interchangeably with the great beyond, perhaps we should do well to differentiate between the two. But I wish it would be possible for me to come back from the great beyond someday to visit OGOV from time to time to see the progress built on what we have just started now - like Prince Mensah said, we may truly be - “on to something beyond our wildest dreams. “ Comic relief, right? Well, I guess since we are in a mourning mood, perhaps we should as well take a more critical look at the intriguing aspect of death as a phenomenon.

On a more serious note, it is very intriguing to know how Africans are fond of ascribing to death certain attributes that make death appear appealing - not as a thing to be greatly feared, but perhaps something to somehow look forward to. As we all know, in normal circumstances; homecoming is always a sentimental affair - something all humans eagerly look forward to.

“Home” - as motif of dirge used in “Awoonor The Spirit Man Is Gone” by Kwabena Agyare Yeboah.

ferry the eagle home”

as times merge as memories
that fade journeys
into a cast eternity
on this path called home”


Delatrophy said...

(Continuation ...)

The great beyond is seen as a grand home of perpetual peace, eternal rest, eternal sleep, peace perfect peace - where one is promised the hope of once again meeting with dead loved ones and ancestors. This really sounds appealing. But it is very ironic and interesting to note that in spite of the alluring aspects of homecomings attributes of death, humans sometimes become very melodramatic when death comes knocking on our doors. Very ironic… just like Peter Tosh said. “Everybody wants to go up to heaven but nobody wants to die.”

What then makes death all of a sudden such an unpleasant affair? Is it only the fear of the unknown? Perhaps it is deeper than all that. It even not that perhaps the dead one would even be conscious of the aftermath of death, but we the living recognize and pass through the bitter experience of the anguish, the uncertain fate of loved ones left behind in death, mental traumas, depression,frustration, loneliness etc.

Perhaps death as we all know it as inevitable would continue to assail us as a necessary devil, as we humans are like a tree that must die to regrow, just as a seed sown in the soil must first rotten before germinating back into life… the afterlife perhaps. But what matters to us here on OGOV is to remember how transient life is. Let’s endeavor to do our very best and leave a befitting legacy for our descendants to pore over. Our great African literary gurus are gradually going home to eternal rest, the mantle falls on us now to bear the torch that must in turn be passed onto our descendants. Let’s make hay while the sun shines.

We are indeed a very lucky generation of young writers. Unlike most of our past literary icons that had nobody to copy from but strived and carved niches for themselves, we on the other hand have benefited greatly from their trail brazing feats, coupled with the numerous advantages of the computer jet-age of superhighway of inexhaustible internet information. We should take advantage of all this and come out stronger and unstoppable a force to be reckoned with. Let’s keep on encouraging one another in the spirit of love, togetherness and hard work. We shall surely get there someday. Thanks.

Delatrophy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Delatrophy said...

PS. Points of Correction, please. The correct word should be "quotation mark" - not apostrophe as used. Another misspelled word is "trailblazing” not (trailbrazing), please pardon my silly mistakes. I guess there is no need to delete and rewrite that comment all over again, hence this PS. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much. I really appreciate your comments. Thank you.

Unknown said...

I reblogged Sir Dela's comments and commented, '' Kwabena Agyare Yeboah replies : Sir, I have beeen reading and African mythology for a while now. Never did these occur to me. One other factor which adds to the fact to that the African's time is circular is the belief of reincarnation. In fact in Ewe mythology, it is said that Mawu (GoD) could not create anymore human beings as a result of scarcity of clay used in creating man. He therefore used dead bodies to create new ones. This shows the thought of the African that no one escapes from the cosmic world. Thank you, sir''.
Here is the link :