Saturday, March 26, 2011

Black Woman

One of the poets I really like and admire is Léopold Sédar Senghor. His words look as if they dance across the paper, and it appears that I never stop to be amazed of his language of arts and truth. Needless to say, he was not only a poet but one of the greatest African intellectuals of the 20th century as he in 1960 became the first President of Republic Senegal and in the 1930s he was one of les trois pères, the three fathers, of the movement la Négritude along with Aimé Césaire (Martinique) and León Damas (French Guiana). In the 1920s and 30s movements and literary styles such as the Harlem Rennaissance swept over the African Diaspora and black students and scholars took up the yearning for Black solidarity against colonial racism which resulted in the controversial Négritude movement. Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian poet and novelist, opposed la Nègritude saying “Un tigre ne proclame pas sa tigritude, il saute sur sa proie” (“A tiger does not proclaim its tigerness; it jumps on its prey”). Nevertheless, la Nègritude is a marking point in Black history and a number of passionate writers have contributed to the movement, including Paul Niger and Guy Tirolien (Guadeloupe), Gilbert Gratiant and Edouard Glissant (Martinique), Jacques Roumain, Jean Brière, Félix Morisseau-Leroy and René Depestre (Haiti), Birago Diop and David Diop (Senegal), and Bernard Dadié (Côte d’Ivoire)

It annoys me so much that I have yet to learn French so I can read the great literature of the French Antilles and other French speaking areas because there is so so much Black history and literature in French. I am certain that his poems are even more beautiful in the original language. Until then I will post his poems in English for the masses, including myself.

“Naked woman, black woman

Clothed with your colour which is life,
with your form which is beauty!

In your shadow I have grown up; the
gentleness of your hands was laid over my eyes.

And now, high up on the sun-baked
pass, at the heart of summer, at the heart of
I come upon you, my Promised Land,
And your beauty strikes me to the heart
like the flash of an eagle.

Naked woman, dark woman

Firm-fleshed ripe fruit, sombre raptures
of black wine, mouth making lyrical my mouth
Savannah stretching to clear horizons,
savannah shuddering beneath the East Wind's
eager caresses

Carved tom-tom, taut tom-tom, muttering
under the Conqueror's fingers

Your solemn contralto voice is the
spiritual song of the Beloved.

Naked woman, dark woman

Oil that no breath ruffles, calm oil on the
athlete's flanks, on the flanks of the Princes of Mali
Gazelle limbed in Paradise, pearls are stars on the
night of your skin

Delights of the mind, the glinting of red
gold against your watered skin

Under the shadow of your hair, my care
is lightened by the neighbouring suns of your eyes.

Naked woman, black woman,
I sing your beauty that passes, the form
that I fix in the Eternal,

Before jealous fate turn you to ashes to
feed the roots of life.”

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