Reub's journey

22 September 2013

Before we forget

On Saturday I wrote about how my daughter was not at the supermarket in Nairobi where she buys groceries, and not at the cafe she occasionally visits and where so many lost their lives this past weekend.  The Nairobi violence-which has barely ended, with the dead still uncounted- has been replaced by a church bombing in Pakistan. One terrible encounter after another, unending sorrow. We become numb to it.

But before we completely forget about the massacre of civilians by Somali terrorists on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Nairobi, may I introduce to you Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor, 78 years old, who lost his life that day. He had been in Nairobi for a storyteller's conference. He is a face to remember.



Kofi Awoonor (March 13,1935-September 21, 2013) Poet and diplomat from Ghana

Here is an excerpt from one of Awoonor's last poems:

But who says our time is up
that the box maker and the digger
are in conference
or that the preachers have aired their robes
and the choir and the drummers
are in rehearsal?

No; where the worm eats
a grain grows.
the consultant deities
have measured the time
with long winded
arguments of eternity

And death, when he comes
to the door with his own
inimitable calling card
shall find a homestead
resurrected with laughter and dance

From Promises of Hope: New and Selected Poems,” selected by Kofi Anyidoho, University of Nebraska Press and the African Poetry Book Fund, 2014

Rest in peace Kofi Awoonor.

25 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. Thank you so, so much.

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    1. RG: You know what? Thank you so much for commenting. It is unusual for comments to appear on a post such as this. Thank you.

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    1. I am so sad about this. I am sorry to pass it on. What a way to go for an old poet.

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  3. bless you for sharing this. each time i read about the on-going tragedy, i think of your daughter and those she knows and knew there. such senseless and sudden ends...

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    1. Thank you Teresa. She had 2 Kenyan colleagues who were present, but who escaped without injury. Thank you for caring, and for this comment.

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  4. I was so relieved to hear from Jessica today saying she had been to the grocery store the day before the tragedy and that she was OK. But what a fright and another senseless incident. I weep for the victims and their families.

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    1. We just got off the phone. She is outta Nairobi on October 1, but now has time to spare somewhere in Europe. Maybe Denmark, where a friend just moved? And maybe some other un-determined location. I'm trying to think if there's anybody who will have her, and Ben too, for a few days.

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  5. Beautiful, yet haunting poetry. All of this violence around the globe is so senseless...

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    1. Gail, his poetry sends shivers through me.

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  6. We cannot become numb. We must continue to be the voice of reason and the voice of tolerance within and without religious views. I cannot imagine how awful this is for you knowing these people and worrying for your daughter. My children live near the US capital and I have had times when I worried about terrorism and their safety. One of the most popular video games allows the player to be a virtual terrorist .

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    1. The numbness is hard to avoid because of the frequency of mass violence. The shooting in the Navy Yard in DC was in the news for a couple of days, but barely on the front page. It's hard to imagine the pain caused by these tragedies unless you know somebody personally involved.

      Video games are disturbing with their focus on blood lust. This can't be a good thing.

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  7. Thank you for raising this poet's voice and memory out of the tragedy.

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    1. Thank you GA. It's important to put a face on this violence.

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  8. RIP Kofi Anwooner ! Sad to note he met his unexpected doom in this manner. Thanks for sharing excerpts from his last poem. Powerful and meaningful.

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    1. RR, I also found his poetry to be powerful. As a man who lived through exile, war, and prison, the end of his life is stunningly tragic.

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  9. :( At least he left a voice the will live on.

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  10. It's all very sad, but it is a poignant poem in light of the tragedy.

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  11. Wrenching, yet beautiful. Thanks for this, Kerry.

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  12. How heartbreaking and beautiful. May he rest in peace. May your daughter continue to be safe.

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  13. Rebecca: His voice will live on, perhaps in a bigger way than before.
    AC: Many of his poems flirt with death.
    Reya: It is wrenching, yes. His son was injured in the shooting as well.
    Hilary: Thank you Hilary. My daughter is leaving on the first available flight one week from today. Gotta stay safe for just one week.

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  14. thank you for sharing his words...i had heard that he had been killed in the violence over there but i did not know his poetry...it is a sad loss....oy on your daughter as well...scarily close to home....

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    1. I only began reading his poetry this weekend, after hearing of his death. I was struck by the eerie foreshadowing of his death in much of what he wrote.

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  15. Hello! 1st-time visitor to your excellent site --poet and appreciator of poetry. Following.

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    1. Thank you and welcome. I'll be by to see you again.

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