Literary Zone

Poetry---Letter to a Tormented Playwright

9 November 2005 at 00:58 | 559 views

By Syl Cheney-Coker.

(for Yulisa Amadu Maddy)

Amadu I live alone inside four walls of books

some I have read others will grow cobwebs

or maybe like some old friends and lovers

will fade away with their undisclosed logic

the world that I have seen: New York

where I suffered the suicidal brother

and London where I discovered Hinostroza

Delgado, Ortega, Heraud and other

Andean poets with a rage very much like ours!

remember Amadu how terrible I said it was

that you were in exile and working

in the Telephone Office in touch with all

the languages of the world but with no world

to call your own; how sad you looked that winter

drinking your life and reading poetry with me

in the damp chilly English coffee shops

remember I said how furious I was

that Vallejo had starved to death in Paris

that Rabearivelo had killed himself

suffocated by an imaginary France

and I introduced Neruda and Guillen to you

and how in desperation we sought solace in the house

of John La Rose, that courageous Trinidadian poet

Amadu I am writing to you from the dungeon of my heart

the night brings me my grief and I am passive

waiting for someone to come, a woman

a friend, someone to sooth my dying heart!

now the memory of our lives brings a knife to my poems

our deaths which so burdened the beautiful Martiniquan

you said made you happy, she made you so happy, you a

tormented playwright

sadness returns, the apparitions of my brothers

and my mother grows old thinking about them

and also seeing so much sadness in me her living and dying son

my mother who wishes me happy, who wants me to relive

the son

she lost to poetry like a husband a wife to a trusted friend

but already the walls are closing around me

the rain has stopped and once again I am alone

waiting for them, the politicians of our country to come for me

to silence my right to shouting poetry loud in the parks

but who can shut up the rage the melodrama of being

Sierra Leone

the farce of seeing their pictures daily in the papers

the knowledge of how though blindfolded and muzzled

something is growing, bloating, voluptuous and not despairing

I say to you for now, I embrace you brother.

Photo: Syl Cheyney-Coker.

Long characterized as one of the more exciting and strident voices amongst the younger African poets, ... Syl Cheney Coker has amassed a body of works that reflect a growing maturity of vision without losing any of its passion or righteous vigor. Born in 1945 to Christian Creole parents in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Cheney Coker was a recipient of the Writer-in-Exile, Lion Feuchtwanger Fellowship. Every year the Villa Aurora awards, in cooperation with PEN Center USA West, a fellowship for up to twelve months to a writer who is under persecution or forced to live in exile. In the words of Cheney Coker, "It takes a good deal of sang-froid to be a writer - a writer who is engaged - anywhere these days. Gone are the days when we could take for granted the nostrum that there exists a climate of tolerance for the dissident or maverick to write in freedom."

Cheney Coker has taught at universities in Africa, Asia and the United States. His poems, fiction and essays have been translated into ten languages. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Commonwealth Writers Prize for African Literature in 1991 and 1996. His published works include "The Blood in the Desert’s Eyes" (1990), "The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar" (1990), "The Graveyard Also Has Teeth" (1980) and "Concerto for an Exile" (1973).

Source: USC

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