Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Poetry as a mirror

I had the great fortune of attending a friend present his creation to the world. A great poet and overall creative, my friend launched his poetry collection book at the national theater on Tuesday. I was able to attend with a few other friends and the whole launch was beautiful. I am used to listening to poetry being read by poets and actors, but this was different. We discovered his poetry, not by simple readings, but through performances by talented young actors and even a song by a renowned singer with images projected on a screen in the background.

It was beautiful to see words in a book come to life watch them being performed and interpreted, it was touching and the message was clear for all of us to hear. With a theme that focuses on vicious cycles, he gave us a glimpse of his experience in his own words, an experience we are all too familiar with. In one way or another, we are all caught in a vicious cycle, at work or school, in relationships or simply in the world. It was a great reminder of how poetry is a reflection of our times.

Although I do not have the talent, poetry is an art form that I have always admired. It says so much with such few words. My mother and sister are great poets, although they write in different languages, my father is an admirer of wordsmiths, which rubbed off on me. Growing up I remember listening to a tape recording of the great Mengistu Lemma reading ብር በአሜሪካ, describing his experience as an Ethiopian in a pre-Civil Rights Act United States of America where segregation and Jim Crow were as normal as water falling from the sky on a rainy day. In his comedic and puny way, he provides a great social commentary that stands the test of time. Although the reality has somewhat changed, the internal conflicts that he describes haunt the country today.

Tsegaye GebreMedhin is another one of the greats that I admire and I recently came across his own recordings of his readings from his famous እሳት ወይ አበባ. His description of Mercato, homage to Abuna Petros and Ilma Gedla Aba Gadaa whom he looked up to, considers heroes of resistance and leaders in the Ethiopia of his time.

 It is such a privilege to hear and experience performances from these poets in their own words, explain their views of life, their inspiration behind each poem. I am so glad that these recordings exist, and that I, who never crossed paths these literary giants, get to hear them talk and discuss their art. I hope that the poets and writers today record their thoughts, inspirations, readings and much more as a teaching tool for the future generation to come.

These three creative works, and many more, are using words to record their reality, the reality of the world and how they themselves and those around them are experience everything. Watching and listening to these performances is a great reminder that if one wants to know where we have been, where we are and what we hope for, she should not simply look at newspapers, she should look at the word of poets, the writers, the artists, those who have tasked themselves with reflecting realities by holding the mirror to society.


Contributed by Leyou Tameru


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