Home Djelia Poetry Kofi Anyidoho

Poetry & Spoken Word

Kofi Anyidoho

For the distinguished Ghanaian poet, scholar and educator, Kofi Anyidoho, "poetry is no longer a textual art bound to the written/printed page. It is fully liberated from the distancing effect of print technology." His "direct involvement with the production of poetry as "full drama" began when the Ghana National Commission on Children, chaired by the well-known dramatist Efua Sutherland, invited me to plan and direct an appropriate literary-dramatic program for children from selected schools in Accra as part of a flag-raising ceremony at the O.A.U Monument in 1984 to mark O.A.U. Day in the Ghanaian capital." From then on, Anyidoho has gone on to produce and perfect a performance mode that is returning written African poetry to its dramatic oral roots. Kofi Anyidoho has written and performed an impressive number of poems. In addition, he has published extensively on issues related to recent critical debate on African Literature. He teaches at the University of Ghana, Legon.

Poems by Kofi Anyidoho

Desert Storm

Kofi Anyidohofor Naana & for Obiba.

i.

So where does one begin?
On what note must we
strike this long distance call
to those things we should have done
things we should be doing with our lives?

Simply then to say sorry.
sorrow for the long silence
beyond the market-place of iron-birds.
You were flying in
from the land of hostile winds &
I was flying away into new snowstorms.

And here I am today,
still holding on
to fragments of resolutions made once so many times
in those heady days of dreams:
The Hope The Promise Somehow
no matter how far afield
the HoneyBee may fly
he must swim the FireFloods
back to his MotherHive
where they say the honey flows in slow driblets,
the QueenBee's labours
forever lost to wayward
dreams of MoonChildren.

ii.

Just returned from Old London.
Yes I've been to London
I've been to London not
to look at the Queen but
bear witness in the troubling case
of Power Marginality & Oral
Literature in Africa
held at faraway courts
of Oriental & African Studies.

So I flew into Old London
in that night of the Death/Line
for Saddam &
for his warrior angels of the apocalypse.
The heavens broke loose next day,
you remember?
and all we do now
is listen even in our sleep
to the screaming hysteria
of war tales told in the relentless relay
of Uncle Sam's Braggart Boys.

It is the age of Old Generals
all dressed in shiny medals
issuing hourly briefs
from cozy conference rooms.
And out there in the Gulf
A widowed mother's only son
Bleeds to Death in DesertStorms.

And all the President's Men
say it is the greatest thing to do:
To call for war and watch The War
from the safe distance
of a whitehouse fortified
against the raging tide of blood
against the lurking danger of the ArmBush.

iii.

And after glorious Booms
of the StarWars Show
the ruthless logic of war
takes over and drives us all --
inevitably the say --
back into sad old times
where war is not cannot be
a game of kids played on video screens
by infantmen but a meal of death
cooked in blood and served redhot
at flashpoint of gun and smoke
and the choked breath.

And when it is all over
we shall once more inherit
a generation of cracked souls
for whom we must erect new
monuments and compose new
anthems of praise and the eternal hope of life
beyond the recurring stupidity of war heroes.

January 31 1991.

The Hyena's Hymn

for Obiba

They will come this way some day
these demigods with broken oaths
for a harvest of our dreams
They will come seeking lonely paths
through our famished dreams
to the house of exiled gods

I will make music with howls of dogs
I will borrow the shrieks of witches
the screeches of dancing monkeys
I will make music with howls of dogs

When the Christ strayed
into our village one shroudy Easter dawn
our people took him for a ghost
It was not their fault: He was
standing upon the grave of a destooled chief
the chief who stole the diviner's oracle bag
and stole his children's bowl of soup
and pawned his oaths for a brief season of grace.
He had a monster child who died before the outdooring.

So when the pastor came dancing in
pursued by disciples selling hosayanas
Our people stood before the cemetery gates
reminding the gods to protect their children's
souls against these messengers of death.

I went into our parliament home
seeking audience with Speaker's chair.
They said I must have just returned from farm:
Parliament had gone on sudden leave
prior to retirement.
They misdirected me to our Castle
where they gave me forms to fill
still standing at the gates.
I said I had a dream
to place before the military governor's
Boots --

I am a visionary, you know?
only so far my visions have been
of things we didn't do things we could have done --
They said our Castlemen were all dizzy
making grand visions from dreams of fallen gods
and in any case I was not properly dressed
and my name could not be found
in the register of co-opted councilmen
I pulled out my birthplace card
They said it had no official signature
I swear ma papa and ma mama born me
long long before they born them 'lectoral commissioner
They laughed. Yes, those sons of thugs and whores
They laughed and asked if
I wanted a noonday bowl of flames
They said I could give my dreams
to our birthplace dogs or
just dump them on the dunghill.
In absence of a Chief Justice
I file my appeal at the low court of Memory.
because I am ignored because
because I am abandoned to my dreams
I lay ambush within my soul
preying upon prenatal doubts
nostalgias of my broken world
and if
they should come this way some day
those demidogs with broken oaths
for a harvest of our dreams
if by some curse they should
come seeking those lonely paths through our famished dreams
I will make music with howls of dogs
embrace their groans with laughter from our wounds
flood their graves with hurricanes of our blottled joys.
I will borrow the shrieks of witches
the screeches of dancing monkeys
I will make music with howls of dogs.

Legon, 8 September 1977

The News From Home

I have not come this far
only to sit by the roadside
and break into tears
I could have wept at home
without a journey of several thorns

I have not spread my wings
so wide only to be huddled into corners
at the mere mention of storms

To those who hear of military coups
and rumours of civil strife
and bushfires and bad harvests at home
and come to me looking for fears and tears
I must say I am tired
very tired
tired of all devotion to death and dying.

I too have heard of
all the bushfires
the sudden deaths
and fierce speeches

I have heard of
all the empty market stalls
the cooking pots all filled with memory and ash

And I am tired
tired of all these noises of
condolence from those who
love to look upon the anger of the hungry
nod their heard and stroll back home
worrying and forever worrying
about overweight and special diet for dogs and cats.

Like an orphan stranded
on dunghills of owners of earth
I shall keep my sorrows to myself
folding them with infinite care
corner upon corner
taking pains the foldings draw circles
around hidden spaces where still
our hopes grow roots even
in this hour of finite chaos

Those who sent their funeral clothes
to the washerman
awaiting the mortuary men to come
bearing our corpse in large display
Let them wait for the next and next
season only to see how well earthchildren
grow fruit and even flower
from rottenness of early morning dreams

Meanwhile
I am tired
tired of all crocodile condolence.

August 1, 1983

Slums Of Our Earth

i.

So he flew over all slums of Eden
spent his grant money in Accra
spent his grant and guts and brains
funding crime in Nima our rotten dream

Today I watched him
shit his new model
for 3rd World Development
They say he is a consultant
to USAID and IMF and AIC
Today, here in these distant academies of the learned
I watched him
sing a praise song
for his big breakthrough
in anthropological urban studies into
the political economy of urban slums
He spoke of form and of structure
spoke of variants and of invariables
of projected revenues and capital outlays
and all the bubbles on which the learned crash their brains

ii.

Tayoba took him up on
childish contradictions within
the intimidating splendour of his Kantian model
the elaborate wordy games of self-deceit
His breath grew scant
From somewhere under his civilized breath
he spewed some vitriol in the air
screaming obscenities
and loudly protesting
our legendary incapacity for civilized discourse
I was content to ask only
a few questions on points of fact
He declared I was parochial and a nuisance
But all his nonsense came to a sudden breaking point

iii.

It is lies, all lies
The Nimas of our land
are not the lost children of rural minds
The Harlems of your world
are not the natural growth of man's desires
They arc born and bred on drawing boards of
architects and engineers of urban growth
They are the dispossessed children of
the mansions on the other side of town
They are dreams deprived of memories of joy
The slums of Accra and of New York
The slums of Lagos and of London
All our Brixtons and Harlems
our Nimas Sowetos Ageges our Harlems
they are tired offspring of
the diseased imagination of deities of greed
They are starved spiritual doubles of
the mansions on the other side of town
the ghoulish negatives of
the stinking glory of surburban mansions
So glad I am we made him lose his cool
The learned man shat his scorn on the public square
and the flies bore witness to his lies
The slums, he said, belong to weird people
So now we know just why his Kantian model
made the slums so natural to dwellers of the slum

iv.

We cannot take kindly to unkind words
Such words are more than bubbles
in the mouths of clowns
There are poisons in words that grow from rotten guts
Words are safe only with their handle to your heart
We gave him back the sharp point of words
of a sudden his breath grew scant
He abandoned his Kantian logic
and shat his scorn upon the public square

But it's lies, all all lies
The slums of Nima
are not the natural habitat of mankind's hopes
They are garbage dumps for stolen feasts
cooked in mansions of the rich.

v.

Do not talk to me of
models and form and structure
The darkness of the slums
is the shadow side of
proud structures on Wall Street
There are no lights in the slums
but there are flames in the hearts of slum dwellers
There may not be much "order" in the slums
but there is great order in the steady beats of
the hearts of slum dwellers
Wilson Harris told us once upon a time:
All civilization is built upon a series of thefts
Beginning, of course, with Prometheus.

March 24, 1983

My Song

Here
on
this
Public
Square
I
Stand

I sell My Song for those with ears to buy
It is to a tree that a bull is tied
You do not bypass the palm's branches
to tap its wine

The things I have to say

I say them now
I shall stand aside
from those who care
to clear their throat and
dress their shame in lies

When you meet a poorly-dressed neighbour
at a great durbar
you do not spit on the ground
and roll your eyes to the skies

The umbrella I bought
You stole from my rooms at dawn
Now I walk in the early morning rain

You point at me to our young maidens
And they join you in laughter

Think
My People
Think
Think well before you laugh at those who walk in the rain.

The gifts that bestows at birth
Some had some splendid things
What was mine?
I sing. They laugh.
Still I sell My Song
for those with ears to buy

My cloth is torn, I know
But I shall learn to wear it well

My voice is hoarse, I know
But I shall learn to wear it well.

(*This poem is something of a signature tune, an invitation to "My song." It in part a translation of, and in part in elaboration on, an original Ewe song by one of the poet-cantors of the Haikotu Drum of my birth place, Wheta.)

Add comment


Security code
Refresh