The lucky ones
are still unborn.
Still they live
in Odomankoma's womb
and cast pearls
into the ocean
we call the starry sky.
They look down
into his pot,
and ask the old (wo)man
What is that black smoke
and that flashing flame?
Why do they cry
when they know
you do not hear?
wisest in all the heavens,
That is hell,
with her new gods,
preaching fashion and makeup.
Ananse has fooled them,
and taken all knowledge,
so they read a book
and think they are right.
They do not look,
they will not find,
but pray I do not send you there,
you lucky ones!
The Lucky Ones Are Not Yet Born - William Saint George
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‘The Lucky Ones Are Not Yet Born’ - William Saint George succinctly reminds me of a play, 'Waiting For Godot" written by Samuel Beckett, in 1953.
Although the first image that may come to mind naturally to every African literature student is ‘The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born’ a novel by Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah. It was published in 1968. It tells the story of a nameless man who struggles to reconcile himself with the reality of post-independence Ghana. However, in context, motif and futuristic considerations both ‘The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born ‘ and 'The Lucky Ones Are Not Yet Born' fall under the literary auspice of Samuel Beckett’s earlier play 'Waiting For Godot’. Now the most remarkable thing about this is how effectively one single literary thought can link three different works from three different authors treating three different genres of literature – poetry, play and novel. This goes a long way to show the interrelatedness of literature; which is one analogous string of thematic preoccupation.
In my opinion, the most obvious requisite thread blending these three various works mentioned above is the motif of existentialism or what is known in literary terms as ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ which posits that, while inherent meaning might very well exist in the universe, human beings are incapable of finding it due to some form of mental or philosophical limitation. Thus humanity is doomed to be faced with the Absurd, or the absolute absurdity of existence in lack of intrinsic purpose.
(To be Continued)
Perhaps it is imperative to note that to be able to effectively glean some form of clear meaning to most of the poems published on OGOV online magazine, the reader needs to also avail himself/herself of the brilliant OGOV editorial idea of Question / Answer section within the Author’s profile (which invariably is my favourite part) then go ahead to digest and reflect on comments given - which is a good starting point for the overall understanding of the poem under discussion. This medium could as well also serve as a veritable tool of knowledge sharing, a forum where ideas are shared and more insight gained.
Five Questions with William:
2. OGOV: The title and opening lines of the poem suggest that the "lucky ones" will be born one day. When do you think that day will come, and what will the world look like at that time?
William: “I have no answer to that. The poem suggests the "lucky ones" are being held back by God, but it doesn't look to answer when they will come, or what the world should be like then. It is a question the reader's instincts can best answer. What's interesting is God's reply "That is hell..." and his closing statements in the last stanza suggest that the "lucky ones" may never come.” - This has undertones of ‘Theatre of the Absurd’.
‘Waiting for Godot ‘is a play by Samuel Beckett, in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for the arrival of someone named Godot. Anyway till the end of the play, Godot (God -ot?) never did come. This has undertones of ‘Theatre of the Absurd’.
‘The Beautyful Ones Are not Yet Born’ - Ayi Kwei Armah is a novel that provides a description of the existential angst of the book's hero who struggles to remain clean when everyone else around him has succumbed to "rot".
‘The Lucky Ones Are Not Yet Born’ - William Saint George is a perfect allusion to ‘The Beautyful Ones Are not Yet Born’ - another example of ‘Theatre of the Absurd’. I guess this is a clever use of an allusion - a literary device, a figure of speech whereby the author refers to a subject matter such as a place, event, or literary work by way of a passing reference. It is up to the reader to make a connection to the subject being mentioned
The theme of existential
In the simplest term, I guess the conclusion drawn from these three different works is one thread - the theme of existential or what is referred to as ‘Theatre of the Absurd’.
Broadly speaking, existentialists hold that there are certain fundamental questions that every human being must come to terms with if they are to take their subjective existences seriously and with intrinsic value. Questions such as death, the meaning of human existence and the place of (or lack of) God in that existence are among them. By and large, the theories of existentialism assert that conscious reality is very complex and without an "objective" or universally known value: the individual must create value by affirming it and living it, not by simply talking about it or philosophising it in the mind. The play may be seen to touch on all of these issues.
Much of Beckett's work – including Godot – is often considered by philosophical and literary scholars to be part of the movement of the Theatre of the Absurd, a form of theatre which stemmed from the Absurdist philosophy of Albert Camus. Absurdism itself is a branch of the traditional assertions of existentialism, pioneered by Søren Kierkegaard, and posits that, while inherent meaning might very well exist in the universe, human beings are incapable of finding it due to some form of mental or philosophical limitation. Thus humanity is doomed to be faced with the Absurd, or the absolute absurdity of existence in lack of intrinsic purpose.
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