FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Poet of the Week from Senegal: Leopold Senghor

The return of the POET OF THE WEEK.

Poet of the Week from Senegal: Leopold Senghor 
    I love this poem and the hope and love it carries as he describes an Africa without borders.  I think the way he flows from country to country in each line is significant in that it speaks to his belief in the potential for this continent.  
    But I am EXCITED to include more of his poems in future postings because he is so gifted.  Honestly I haven't been this excited to discover a new poet since I first read Pablo Neruda!
     And now for your history lesson:  
*Senghor was Senegal's first president from 1960-1980 (the airport in Dakar is named for him)
*He espoused what has been called "African Socialism" and coined the 'négritude'.  (more on both of these terms in a later post)
*He was the first African member of l'Academie Française
*And as you will learn...he was an amazing poet!  Can you imagine some of our past presidents writing the type of poetry he wrote?
Et nous baignerons mon amie
by Léopold Sédar Senghor
  • And we shall be bathed, my love, in the presence of Africa. 
  • Furnishings from Guinea and the Congo, heavy and burnished, calm and dark. 
  • Masks, pure and primeval, on the walls, distant but so present! 
  • Ebony thrones for ancestral guests, for Princes of the Hill Country. 
  • Musky perfumes, thick grass-mats of silence, 
  • Shadowed cushions for lazing, the sound of a spring -- of peace. 
  • Mythic tales and far-off songs, voices woven like the strip-cloths of the Sudan. 
  • And then, dear lamp, your kindness in cradling the obsession with this presence, 
  • Black, white, and red: oh, red like the earth of Africa. 
Et maintenant, en français...c'est evident que quand on traduit on perd toujours quelquechose:

Présence Africaine
Et nous baignerons, mon amie, dans une présence Africaine

Des tapis étincelants et doux de Tombouctou
Des coussins maures, des parfums fauves
Des meubles du Guinée et du Congo

Nous baignerons dans une présence Africaine

Sombres et lourds
Des nattes bien épaisses de silence
Des masques primitifs et purs aux murs
Primitifs et durs

Lampes amicales
Amicale ta tendresse adoucira
L’obsession de cette présence

Nous baignerons dans une présence Africaine

Noires, fauves et rouges
Rouge comme la terre d’Afrique.

FUUO Past Poets of the Week:
Some of my favorite poetry books:

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