Gen by Agnès Agboton (tr. Lawrence Schimel)

from Agboton’s collection Canciones del Poblado y del Exilio (Songs of Village and of Exile), this poem is translated by Lawrence Schimel in Poems from the Edge of Extinction

a nutshell: in just 17 short lines, Agboton conjures a powerful sense of strength in suffering – a glimpse of life in an environment dominated by death, seemingly in conflict

a line: “I’ve listened to the words of a stiffened tongue”

an image: set in a cemetery, this poem bring forth a steely stillness – distilled in the moment at which the poet writes of having found the steady gaze of crushed eyes

a thought: with the exception of the last line, each sentence begins with ‘Here’; I got the impression that the repetition signalled the important of place and it made me want to know more about the village & exile from her poetry collection

a fact: Gen is a tonal language spoken in Benin & Togo – there are about 55 languages in Benin, 50 of which are indigenous, but studies estimate that Benin will be completely Francophone by 2060

want to read Gen? visit here

p.s. hear Agboton reading her poetry

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