Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fascinated by Dylan Thomas, Poet from Wales

Dylan Thomas fascinates me.

I was introduced to Dylan Thomas by my mentor, John Lindley of the United Kingdom. He was trying to introduce me to villanelles. He told me that the best example of a villanelle is Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas that reads:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Since then, I have come to read this poem a thousand times over. I discussed it once with Nyamalikiti Nthiwatiwa, the famous Malawian young poet and his equally famous writer colleague, Shadreck Chikoti.

In the past few weeks, I have been admiring Dylan Thomas's other great poem, And Death Shall Have No Dominion. It reads:

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

It's a pity he died at the age of 39. God knows how much poetry he could have written had he lived to the age of 70.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bye Bye Botswana

After seven months, circumstances demand that I should move on, leaving this beautiful country of Botswana where I was just beginning to understand the language. In the next few years, I shall be working for the African Union. I want to taste the life of a diplomat.

In the impending few months, I plan to undertake a crush course in French. I do speak some, but in Malawi I could hardly come across people to speak with on a daily basis, so the language hibernated a bit. I remember in 2006, when I sat on a panel of judges for a West African short story competition in Accra, Ghana, one judge from Gabon spoke no other language but French. Two other judges spoke no other language but English. So I was like among the blind, as they say. I was the only one who served as the interlink between the Gabonese and the other judges. In one particularly hilarious moment, Benjamin, a driver from the offices of the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA) came to the hotel to pick us. Unfortunately, I was upstairs in my room. Only Sylvie the Gabonese and the other guys were around. Now, the other judges wanted to inform Sylvie about the arrival of Benjamin, the driver. They thought hard but could not figure out. In the few days we had been together, they had somehow been able to pick out from the conversation between Sylvie and me the French definite article 'le,' whidch means "the" but it is used where the gender is masculin. So, to alert the lady, the guys shouted: "Le Benjamin!"

The muse seems to be alluding me these days - I don't know why. But I am not altogether surprised. This happens once in a while. There was a time I spent two years without writing a single line. I hope, however, that this time, it won't have to take that long.