Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín

Poetry in Present Day

By Rashidah Ismaili AbuBakr

Poetry in the present day world is as vital as in the past. It is essential not only to the aesthetics but the very poetics of humanity. It is at the same time dangerous. For as late Ted Joans said, “You have nothing to fear from the poet, but the truth.” The classic, “I’ve Known Rivers” by a then seventeen years old Langston Hughes rings a clarion call today especially in the current discussion of water control, pollution and conflicts around the world. The significance of his haunting refrain; “My soul has grown deep, like the rivers.”

Poetry in the African world is a primary form of verbal communications. It is the compression of single ideas, wishes and deeds into one or few words. Thus the praise song, one of human kind’s (African) oldest form of naming/identifying persona and deity (ies) “becomes.” In many religious texts, the inter-relationship between the “naming” or “calling” and the actuality of being is listed. “The word was God and God was the Word” to paraphrase makes the act of (poetry) calling/naming a living thing. So the life force of poetry, its form (genre) is a life-affirming act.

While I enjoy free verse and narrative forms I try to experiment with old Africans forms, the oriki or praise-song and ajala, praise of the hunter and the hunted and Antarist, old epic telling that has dramatic form and philosophical content. I like short lines because it gives a structural aspect to the tightness of poetry. However, there are times because of content where more expansive lines are needed.

I believe in the integrity of poetry as a major art form and the importance of The Word and the artists responsibility to content and context, to truth and the value of representation that words contain and express. What one names and calls into being must, in my view be acknowledge by the poet and those who hear and read the works. Poetry is the poetics of life.

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