The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry

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Gathering together the work of 99 poets, this anthology gives readers a wonderful and diverse array of poems.  The selections range in tone and topic, from the smallest subject — “The Snail’s Lament” by Malawian poet Albert Kalimbakatha describes the sad death of a snail on a rain-drenched road — to the most serious of universal themes, including war, death, grief, love, and longing.  

From Angola to Nigeria and Gambia to Zimbabwe, The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry serves as an excellent introduction to the poetry of 27 countries.  Organized for easy reference, the collection includes an index sorted by first line, as well as an appendix of author biographies.

Excerpt:  “We Have Come Home” by Lenrie Peters

We have come home
From the bloodless war
With sunken hearts
Our boots full of pride —
From the true massacre of the soul
When we have asked
‘What does it cost
To be loved and left alone?”

We have come home,
Bringing the pledge
Which is written in rainbow colours
Across the sky — for burial
But it is not the time
To lay wreaths
For yesterday’s crimes
Night threatens
Time dissolves
And there is no acquaintance
With tomorrow
The gurling drums
Echo the star
The forest howls —
And between the trees
The dark sun appears.

We have come home
When the dawn falters
Singing songs of other lands
The Death March
Violating our ears
Knowing all our lore and tears
Determined by the spinning coin.

We have come home
To the green foothills
To drink from the cry
Of warm and mellow birdsong.
To the hot beaches
Where boats go out to sea
Threshing the ocean’s harvest
And the harassing, plunging
Gliding gulls shower kisses on the waves.
We have come home

Where through the lightning flash
And thundering rain
The Pestilence, the drought
The sodden spirit
Lingers on the sandy road
Supporting the tortured remnants
Of the flesh
That spirit which asks no favour
But to have dignity.

Ulli Beier is a German editor, researcher, and professor.  His publications include Thirty Years of Oshogbo Art and Contemporary Art in Africa.  Gerald Moore is an English professor, editor, and translator.  His published works include Wole Soyinka; The Chosen Tongue: English Writing in the Tropical World; and Twelve African Writers.  

Published:  1999
480 pages
Set in:  Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Congo Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, São Tomé, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe