Kofi Awoonor: “America” y “A los viejos poetas”Posted: August 16, 2015
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Kofi Awoonor (Ghanaian poet, 1935-2013)
A name only once
crammed into the child’s fitful memory
in malnourished villages,
vast deliriums like the galloping foothills of the Colorado:
of Mohawks and the Chippewa,
brought cheap at the tail of the war
to Africa. Where indeed is the Mississippi panorama
and the girl that played the piano and
kept her hand on her heart
as Flanagan drank a quart of moonshine
before the eyes of the town’s gentlemen?
What happened to your locomotive in Winter, Walt,
and my ride across the prairies in the trail
of the stage-coach, the gold-rush and the Swanee River?
Where did they bury Geronimo,
heroic chieftain, lonely horseman of this apocalypse
who led his tribesmen across deserts of cholla
and emerald hills
in pursuit of despoilers,
from a despoiled Europe?
What happened to Archibald’s
soul’s harvest on this raw earth
of raw hates?
To those that have none,
a festival is preparing at graves’ ends
where the mockingbird’s hymn
closes evening of prayers
and supplication, as
new winds blow from graves
flowered in multi-coloured cemeteries,
even where they say the races are intact.
From: The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems, 1964-2013 (University of Nebraska Press, 2014)
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Kofi Awoonor (1935-2013) was born George Awoonor-Williams in Wheta, Ghana, to ethnic Ewe parents. He was a poet, literary critic, and professor of comparative literature; he served as a kind of “ambassador” for Ghana. Awoonor earned a BA from University College of Ghana, an MA from University College, London, and a PhD in comparative literature from SUNY at Stony Brook, New York state, U.S.A.. He wrote novels, plays, political essays, literary criticism, and several volumes of poetry, including Rediscovery and Other Poems (1964), Night of My Blood (1971), Ride Me, Memory (1973), The House by the Sea (1978), The Latin American and Caribbean Notebook (1992), and a volume of collected poems, Until the Morning After (1987).
Awoonor’s grandmother was an Ewe dirge singer, and the form of his early poetry draws from the Ewe oral tradition. He translated Ewe poetry in his critical study Guardians of the Sacred Word and Ewe Poetry (1974). Other works of literary criticism include: The Breast of the Earth: A Survey of the History, Culture, and Literature of Africa South of the Sahara (1975).
In the early 1970s, Awoonor served as chairman of the Department of Comparative Literature at SUNY Stony Book. He returned to Ghana in 1975 to teach at University College of Cape Coast. In Ghana, he was arrested and tried for suspected involvement in a coup d’état. He was imprisoned without trial and was later released; he wrote about his time in jail in The House by the Sea. Awoonor resumed teaching after his prison sentence. In the 1980s he was the Ghanaian ambassador to Brazil and Cuba and served as ambassador to the United Nations from 1990 to 1994; in 1990 he published Ghana: A Political History from Pre-European to Modern Times.
Awoonor is author of the novels This Earth, My Brother (1971) and Comes the Voyager at Last: A Tale of Return to Africa (1992). He died randomly with other innocents in the Westgate shopping-mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya in September of 2013.
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“A los viejos poetas” por Kofi Awoonor de Ghana – su poema traducido en español durante El Festival de la Poesía Internacional de Medellín (Colombia), 2007: