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

Friday, August 5, 2011

Poet of the Week from Mozambique: Noémia de Sousa

My apologies for the long drought without a FUUO poet of the week. 

Noémia de Sousa (aka Vera Micaia) was born in 1927 in Maputo, Mozambique.  She lived in Lisbon working as a translator from 1951 to 1964 and then she left for Paris where she worked for the local consulate of Morocco.  She went back to Lisbon in 1975 and became member of the ANOP.  In the early years of the liberation struggle she was very active.  She later left and lived in exile.  Noemia's background was Portuguese and Bantu and in much of her poetry she explores the idea of Africa and her heritage. 

Her poem below is phenomenal.  It’s angry and inspired and that final stanza—where she proffers her body as a medium for Africa’s struggle for freedom--wow, powerful.  And she ends her poem without a period, perhaps because her last word is ‘hope’ and what is more hopeful than an undefined end? 

If You Want to Know Me
By Noémia de Sousa

If you want to know who I am,
Examine with careful eyes
That piece of black wood
Which an unknown Maconde brother
With inspired hands
Carved and worked
In distant lands to the North.

Ah, she is who I am:
Empty eye sockets despairing of possessing life
A mouth slashed with wounds of anguish
Raised as though to implore and threaten
Body tattooed with visible and invisible scars
By the hard whips of slavery
Tortured and magnificent,
Proud and mystical,
Africa from head to toe,
-ah, she is who I am!

If you want to understand me
Come and bend over my African soul,
In the groans of the Negroes on the docks
In the frenzied dances of the Chopes
In the rebelliousness of the Shaganas
In the strange melancholy evaporating
From a native song, into the night …

And ask me nothing more
If you really wish to know me…
For I am no more than a shell of flesh
In which the revolt of Africa congealed
Its cry swollen with hope

Some of my favorite poetry books:

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