Saturday, September 16, 2006

Our poet laureate

There was an alarming article in the Times daily this week, reporting that some Literature teachers are afraid of the new IGCSE exam because poetry is compulsory and they hate poetry. I’ve long been aware that many literature teachers run away from teaching poetry and that their fear of poems is passed onto their pupils. Yet I also know that the schools who love poetry are the ones that usually do well.
At Sifundzani High School we have had spectacular success with this genre and last term we held our own Sifundzani Poet Laureate competition, subtitled Poetry With Passion. We invited students to write their own poems and then perform them before the whole school. A panel of student judges (representing all classes, from Form 1 to Form 5) assessed the entries and at the end we announced the winners.
The standard was very high and the poets did themselves proud on the day. Today I will share two of the poems with you: My African Tears Sing a Song by Karen Zamberia (Form 2), and It seems Just Like Yesterday by Dumsile Masuku (Form 4).

My African Tears Sing a Song

I don’t bother to laugh
when I see cattle and a hut,
a boiling pot,
broken hopes.

My grandmother lives in a hut.
Since one isn’t enough,
she built herself three;
if bricks were free
she’d build herself one strong home,
but they are not, so I cry for her.

My African tears sing a song:
we can do only so much
but no-one has the perfect voice
to try and sing this African song
that will heal Africa.

If you wish to hire a thief,
welcome to Africa.
If you want a foolish politician
with a sick thirst for big cars,

welcome to Africa.
If you want a bucketful of suffering,
free of charge and with interest,
where else to go, but Africa?
If you want to cry,
come with me, cry with me,
for my African tears sing a song.

Sing in Swahili, Lingala, SiSwati.
No language is best for this song:
we have waited for so long
for the perfect voice, the perfect song;
join me as I sing this African song:

Let’s raise Africa,
let’s change Africa,
for Africa hangs on a shoestring
and could fall. It could die!
Without this song, Africa could vanish!
Only young tears,
our tears,
can cleanse Africa,
can save Mother Africa.

It Seems Like Just Yesterday

It seems just like yesterday
when they walked past the shadow that was me.
That’s how it began.
Wounds found deep inside would not heal.
They tried to bring me down
with condescending talk of who I ought to be;
now everyone seems to be so far away from me.
A target for people that are bitter,
always thinking that they know
everything there is to know,
but they don’t really know,
ya know.

It’s something like a phenomenon
but I can’t help myself.
I don’t wanna be
what they try to make me out to be.
Seems like the world’s got a role for me,
but that’s just like a glove
that I will never fit in.

There were fifteen students who presented their poems, and all of them were performed with passion, and all of them made our day.