African Poetry

This week I have been immersed in African Literature and I have been reading Poems of Black Africa, edited by Wole Soyinka. The anthology, although lengthy, is filled with beautiful African verse and I thought I’d share one of my favourites. The poem is titled African Poetry by Agostinho Neto.

Out of the horizon

there are fires

and the dark silhouette of the beaters

with arms outstretched,

in the air, the green smell of burning palms.

African poetry

In the street

a line of Bailundu bearers

tremble under the weight of their load

in the room

a mulatto girl with meek eyes

colours her face with rice powder and rouge

a woman wriggles her hips under a garish cloth

on the bed

a man, sleepless, dreams

of buying knives and forks so he can eat at table

in the sky the glow

of fires

and the silhouette of black men dancing

with arms outstretched,

in the air, the hot music of marimbas

African poetry

and in the streets the bearers

in the room the mulatto girl

on the bed the man, sleepless

The burnings consume

consume

the hot earth with horizons afire.


Agostinho Neto was born in Angola to a pastor and a professor. Neto studied medicine at the University of Lisbon and was a practicing physician. He was imprisoned on a number of occasions for his political activity with the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola. After Angola became independent in 1975, Agostinho Neto became the newly independent nation’s first president.


Thank you for reading.

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