“O that Abstract Garden” by Ben Okri

Rereading this poem…

O that Abstract Garden

O that abstract garden of being
Tells me to be brave, and clear,
In the fire of living,
And in the journey through the year.
So I will grow me like an oak tree
And make life’s honey like a bee.
Each day I will walk an interesting mile
And with the sun I’ll share a smile.
I will play again like a child,
And celebrate what’s wild.
I will swim in every sea or river,
And reflect the light of the sublime giver.
I will be at ease with opposition,
And will cultivate intuition.
I will walk the surprising streets,
And dance to life’s unexpected beats.
I will notice all the phases of the moon
And try not to act too late or too soon.
I will write something new every day
And look at paintings in an alternative way.
I’ll not dream the same way twice;
But I’ll not be shy to repeat what’s nice.
I’ll have the courage, when needed, to change;
And I won’t forget that life is strange.
And so I’ll learn to love the simple things
As well as the complexity that life brings.
Good or bad I’ll learn to treat the same
And I’ll not forget that it’s all a mysterious game.
I’ll not let that general fear of death run my life
And I’ll make magic even out of strife.
Into the higher realms I will enter
And make my corner the centre.
O that abstract garden, make me clear,
Make me brave, without fear.
I intend to love this rich new year

(Copyright, Ben Okri, December 2010.)

 

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The Pigeon -Hole, a poem by Mabel Segun

This poem by Mabel Segun is a very popular post I am guessing it’s on a number of reading lists. Time to enjoy it again.
“But self-knowledge comes too late….” is one of my favourite lines of this poem.

glasgowmango

How I wish I could pigeon-hole myself

and neatly fix a label on!

But self-knowledge comes too late

And by the time I’ve known myself

I am no longer what I was.

I knew a woman once

who had a delinquent child.

She never had a moment’s peace of mind

waiting in constant fear,

listening for the dreaded knock

and the cold tones of policeman:

“Madam, you’re wanted at the station”

I don’t know if the knock ever came

but she feared on right till

we moved away from the street.

She used to say

“It’s the uncertainty that worries me –

if only I knew for certain…”

If I only knew for certain

What my delinquent self would do…

But I never know until the deed is done

And I live on fearing,

wondering which part of me will be supreme –

the old and tested one, the present

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Writing 101 Day 16: Search your Stats for a post idea

The sea eats the land at home” by Kofi Awoonor, a look at my stats reveals that this poem is a very popular post. From the information on searches I can see that the title of the poem is a common search term, I first noticed this earlier in the year.

The following is a list of thoughts and ideas that come to mind when rereading the poem.

Strong images of a coastal town in Ghana devastated by flooding.

In general the sea is a friendly neighbour washing in and out, keeping to the natural boundaries of dry land and sea, a change in season always brings the risk of a stronger current, a sea with more energy, higher waves, more volume.

I think of what is missing, a flood defence, physical and structural.

I am reminded of a school trip to the Thames barrier.

I first came across the this poem in the Penguin book of Modern African Poetry published in 1963.

In the UK currently there is the Floodline, each local authority has a flood map, areas are assigned with risk levels from floods.

I type “flooding in Ghana” into the Google search engine and find out – Flooding is still is a major problem in Ghana, the most recent floods occurred in June 2015.

Another search reveals the poet who unfortunately is no longer with us was killed during the 2013 Westgate Shopping Mall attack in Nairobi. He was in Kenya to perform at the Storymoja festival.

What comes to mind when you read this poem?

The Pigeon -Hole, a poem by Mabel Segun

How I wish I could pigeon-hole myself

and neatly fix a label on!

But self-knowledge comes too late

And by the time I’ve known myself

I am no longer what I was.

 

I knew a woman once

who had a delinquent child.

She never had a moment’s peace of mind

waiting in constant fear,

listening for the dreaded knock

and the cold tones of policeman:

“Madam, you’re wanted at the station”

I don’t know if the knock ever came

but she feared on right till

we moved away from the street.

She used to say

“It’s the uncertainty that worries me –

if only I knew for certain…”

 

If I only knew for certain

What my delinquent self would do…

But I never know until the deed is done

And I live on fearing,

wondering which part of me will be supreme –

the old and tested one, the present

or the future unknown.

Sometimes all three have equal power

and then

how I long for a pigeon-hole.

 

I recently came across this poem when reading the book “Daughters of Africa: An international anthology of words and writings by women of African descent from the ancient Egyptian to the present”, Edited by Margaret Busby.  The first two lines really caught my attention and I carried on reading.

My first thought after reading the poem a couple of times  was who is Mabel Segun?  I was not familiar with the name. Thanks to the internet 🙂  I was able to quickly find out more….

Mabel Dorothy Segun is a versatile woman whose outstanding achievements in the fields of literature, broadcasting and sports have earned her Nigeria’s national honours which she was awarded in December 2004. In October 2007, she was proclaimed joint winner of Nigeria’s most prestigious prize for Literature – the LNG Nigeria Prize for Literature which was awarded for her children’s book,Readers’ Theatre: Twelve Plays for Young People. In 2009, her long literary and academic career was rewarded when she received the Nigerian National Order of Merit for academic excellence in the humanities.

For me this poem was a really interesting discovery both in content and finding out about the writer.

The sea eats the land at home by Kofi Awoonor

At home the sea is in the town,
Running in and out of the cooking places,
Collecting the firewood from the hearths
And sending it back at night;
The sea eats the land at home.

It came one day at the dead of night,
Destroying the cement walls,
And carried away the fowls,
The cooking-pots and the ladles,
The sea eats the land at home;

It is a sad thing to hear the wails,
And the mourning shouts of the women,
Calling on all the gods they worship,
To protect them from the angry sea.

Aku stood outside where her cooking-pot stood,
With her two children shivering from the cold,
Her hands on her breasts,
Weeping mournfully.

Her ancestors have neglected her,
Her gods have deserted her,
It was a cold Sunday morning,
The storm was raging,
Goats and fowls were struggling in the water,
The angry water of the cruel sea;
The lap-lapping of the bark water at the shore,
And above the sobs and the deep and low moans,
Was the eternal hum of the living sea.

It has taken away their belongings
Adena has lost the trinkets which
Were her dowry and her joy,
In the sea that eats the land at home,
Eats the whole land at home.

by Kofi Awoonor.

I came across this poem in ” Modern Poetry from Africa” (1963), a book bought over 10 years ago in the secondhand book section of Waterstones, Gower Street near Euston Square in London,   an Aladdin’s cave of  secondhand books I would never usually set out to buy but somehow I always come  away with a few gems. Helping a friend with a video project recently I choose this poem to read I came across it again whilst researching  Ghanaian authors/poets for Ghanaian literature week a week initiated by the “Kinna Reads” blog.  Unfortunately Awnoor passed away in the September 2013 Kenya shopping mall bombings leaving behind a impressive body of work.

A poem by Ben Okri

I came a cross a *line from the poem below on the poets twitter feed a few years ago. I liked it so much I used it as a byline for my Whats app and Skype profiles, as a quote. Recently I endeavored to find out more…

O that Abstract Garden

O that abstract garden of being
Tells me to be brave, and clear,
In the fire of living,
And in the journey through the year.
So I will grow me like an oak tree
And make life’s honey like a bee.
Each day I will walk an interesting mile
And with the sun I’ll share a smile.
I will play again like a child,
And celebrate what’s wild.
I will swim in every sea or river,
And reflect the light of the sublime giver.
I will be at ease with opposition,
And will cultivate intuition.
I will walk the surprising streets,
And dance to life’s unexpected beats.
I will notice all the phases of the moon
And try not to act too late or too soon.
I will write something new every day
And look at paintings in an alternative way.
I’ll not dream the same way twice;
But I’ll not be shy to repeat what’s nice.
I’ll have the courage, when needed, to change;
And I won’t forget that life is strange.
And so I’ll learn to love the simple things
As well as the complexity that life brings.
Good or bad I’ll learn to treat the same
And I’ll not forget that it’s all a mysterious game.
I’ll not let that general fear of death run my life
And I’ll make magic even out of strife.
Into the higher realms I will enter
And make my corner the centre.
O that abstract garden, make me clear,
Make me brave, without fear.
I intend to love this rich new year

By Ben Okri,
(Copyright, Ben Okri, December 2010.)

*The line was “And dance to life’s unexpected beats”. Ben Okri is a writer whose work I’ve enjoyed reading and hope to revisit in the near future.