Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Ode To The Organ Mountains & Other Poems— Patron Henekou

Mar 13, 2023 | Poetry | 1 comment

Translated from the French by Connie Voisine and the Author

 

Three French Poems by Patron Henekou

Image used for representation.

 
 
Ode To The Organ Mountains

                                          To Richard Greenfield

It’s here in New Mexico
that the earth of this country
held out to me its naked body hoisted
on whispered beats
from these peaks of Isis
Organ Mountains
marvelous crests
gigantic
dazzling

this relief is a sight indeed
music that captivates us approaching.
Wilful charmer, earth
which the naked eye cannot grasp
before me, and behind me
this plain stretching endlessly
to the edge of the sun
setting himself, dragging his feet
under the spell of this instrument

visibly grandiose
with an arrogant delicacy
stripped bare.
It’s here in New Mexico
at the foot of these Isis peaks
that my heart found
its soft spot for America.


Words Here, Like Hello, Are Made Of Snow

                           

                            “All the sad beauty of a calm morning
                              where I find myself alone,
                              depleted,
                              a way like any another
                              of consoling a heart
                              to the rhythm of the music”
                                                          —Songs of Sand, Ayi Dossavi

Words here carry the scent of snow,
mapping a memorial on my face
unexpectedly morose, staring at me.
Don’t you know any warm words,
like Vogan [1],
where burning pork sauce journeys from
your nostrils down the backs of your hands to fingers
crooked like a question mark?
I invoke Vogan to inhabit the snow-words

because the commas that separate them from me
are also drunk on Fela [2] and
carry the taste of sunshine on their wings—
dziŋkpakpa wele wele
dziŋkpakpa wele wele[3]
but butterfly wings don’t survive
snowy weather,
nor its pitiless white teeth
which have devoured the flowers even before the season,

Sculpted mores and tempers,
desires and dislikes,
assaulted bodies and hopes
where some feet return in search of balance.
A cold powder whitens what we call
the American dream. I summon the cities
with Fela’s heat to inhabit these snow-words.


He Dances And Gets Excited In Collection Baskets 

 

        Reference to collections
        —Connie Voisine, Cathedral of the North
        —Kwame Dawes, City of Bones

The cathedral of the north
adorned with verses
and greenbacks
is well suited to the city of bones
mimicked in my dream.
Here unlike elsewhere
the churches are
overflowing with loneliness
and cobwebs,

their walkways bordered
by flower beds
yellowed with absence.
It’s like god
is too short on time
to accept
our offerings or he feels
too sad to dance to the song of
slave chains, 

reaching through our bodies which are
cathedrals, and museums too,
a shelter for all these objects
charged with clinking and heliheli
which pokes this god out of his silence.
Elsewhere he’s been made a book, where he dances
and gets excited in collection baskets. 


Notes: 

[1] Vogan is a town northeast of Lomé , known for its Friday market, which is one of the largest pork sauce and vodu markets in West Africa .
[2]
Fela Aníkúlápó Kuti, also known as Abami Eda, was a Nigerian musician, bandleader, composer, political activist, and Pan-Africanist. He is regarded as the pioneer of Afrobeat, a Nigerian music genre that combines West African music with American funk and jazz.
[3]
Butterfly, fly, fly.


Also, read a Bengali fiction by Joya Mitra, translated into English by Kausambi Patra, and published in The Antonym:

From The Depth Of Darkness— Joya Mitra


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Patron Henekou is a Togolese poet, playwright, editor, and prose writer. Earning an MA in African Anglophone Literature in 2007 and a doctorate in English in 2013 at Université de Lomé, he is an Assistant Professor in the English Department and is the Director of University Libraries and Archives. Dr. Henekou is the founder and co-organizer of Festival International des Lettres et des Arts, an annual literature and arts festival featuring about 20 writers and artists from Africa at Université de Lomé, Togo. Having published 3 books of poems (one a collaboration), a book of short stories, and a play, Dr. Henekou has completed Jazz et autres prières, which will be published by the University of Nebraska Press. 

Connie Voisine is the author of the book of poems The Bower, begun on a Fulbright Fellowship to Northern Ireland. A previous book, Rare High Meadow of Which I Might Dream, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Her first book, Cathedral of the North, won the Associated Writing Program’s Award in Poetry. She has poems published in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, and elsewhere. A 2021-2022 Guggenheim Fellow, Voisine directs the creative writing program at New Mexico State University. She is also a co-founder of Zoeglossia, an organization for writers with disabilities. 

1 Comment

  1. Foli

    Congratulations for these achievements. For me, you are a source that should be fetched…

    Reply

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