Title: Testament of The Season
Author: Mawuli Adzei
Year of Publication: 2013
Publisher: Mawuli Adzei
Book Reviewer: Kwabena Agyare Yeboah
Mawuli Adzei comes from an almost established literary (poetry) tradition. For m many of its proponents, it is a tradition of oratory, learning towards the first gift of poetry which is the voice. Here, Mawuli departs from his known, writing defiantly for the reader. He eschews musicality of the Word. He borrows diction but defies restriction. He is of tradition and change, a rebel of ellipsis and open punctuation.
Mawuli’s collection challenges the citizenry of the establishment. In 1968, whilst stating his support for Biafra, Chinua Achebe writes, 'it is clear to me that the African creative writer who tries to avoid the big social and political issues of contemporary Africa will end up being completely irrelevant.' It has become a DNA imprint that the African writer passes herself as an activist. Even today, when the current generation is not ideology freak, words of nuclear atomic bomb proportions are traded on social media in defense or otherwise of this writer-spokesmanship role. Granted. This should be the case. Won’t our narratives be anemic, pregnant with perceptions, classism, egoism and flawed by what not makes one’s shoe big?
Enter Mawuli. The persona in the collection is just a scribe, a mere clock. It is the reader that is the time-teller. Segmented into fourteen sections, the collection combs history, politics, philosophy, geography, nature, ritual and the human condition which the poet writes, ‘are the subjects that feed my Muse.’ Each of the sections begins with either a prose-poem or quote which somewhat provides a context for the poems included in those sections. It seems the poet is careful with contexts; he does not want to be misinterpreted. I find it an unnecessary burden in many cases. Primarily, a part deals with a construction of identity. Subtly, the other disrupts and exposes the artificiality of nations’ borders. In its claim lies the universality of human condition – humanism.
Testament of The Seasons received the Valco Trust Fund Meritorious Award for Poetry in 1996 (unpublished category but was published with additions in 2013). The collection begins with the section, Winds of Change. It bears witness to the Arab Spring. It includes Springtime (which in itself is a pun on “spring” in Arab Spring). Free Fall is a poem with extended metaphor that is seated deeply in how chiefs are enstooled in Akan societies. It dramatizes the end to otherwise a beautiful climax. It brings to mind, Gaddafi. The poem ends with this imagery –
And they fell like over-ripe fruit They fell, they fell — What a freefall!
The next section is Nature’s Fury. The prologue of the section advances an interesting argument. It seems to suggest that natural disasters are responses to the hubris in science. It might not be far from the truth. Research documents Shanghai for example as a polluted city because of industrialization and huge traffic jams. Kamikaze is a memory of the Nagasaki-Hiroshima atrocity. Eternity is about death.
Matters of The Heart is a love poem section. The US inspires two sections; Dreams (which is an allusion to Rev. Martin Luther King) and Statu(te)s of Liberty. The construction of identity part has eight sections which includes Land of our Birth, Memories, Meditations and Eternity (with latter poems as encounters with death). In Memoriam (I, II and III), poems are personal stories. II is in memory of the poet’s mother.
Then she collapsed in my arms I held red-hot death in my arms I cuddled death in my bosom as the choral wailings rose It was 4 am, October 1975 I can’t stop crying
It looks like the collection could have been two books. If history is fair and kind, then when memories are cast in the grains of time, it should remember this poet and his offering. If there is anything that is negative about this book, it should be the quality of printing and illustration.
Troubled shapes on the maps are proof of The Testament of Seasons – of how humans have shaped up history; the beautiful and ugly, hope and distress. In its essence, humanism and morality should become landscapes of nirvana.