Two Poems by Marie-Léontine Tsibinda (tr. Nancy Naomi Carlson)

a nutshell: as a pair, these evocative poems juxtapose Tsibinda’s memories of village life in Congo-Brazzaville – both the beauty and the brutality

a line: “Do you feel how the daytime air vibrates | and feel the shudder of lush land | when the rushing train rattles the silence of mountains?” – ‘The Village’ (the first poem)

an image: in the second (darker) poem, ‘In My Village’, Tsibinda portrays the more sinister elements of village life, for instance how each brother becomes an enemy, each laugh an arrow, each word a shoal – these images are particularly powerful with the knowledge that Tsibinda fled her homeland in 1997 due to ongoing conflict and was ultimately resettled in Canada with her family

a thought: I enjoyed reading the translator’s note in which Carlson describes her process of first creating sound maps to highlight Tsibinda’s patterns of assonance, alliteration & rhythm to try to honour the music infused in these lyrical poems, e.g. imitating the pattern of repeated sibilants around snakes (“hirsutes où se tissent des serpents”) with “thickets where snakes intertwist”

a fact: until reading these poems I’d never heard of a ‘pirogue’ and had to look it up – Merriam-Webster records the same definition as for the word ‘dugout’, that is, a boat made by hollowing out a large log

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Passion de La Pensée by Salma Khalil Alio

a nutshell: in the writer’s own words, this is a melting pot (un creuset) of diverse poems that embrace romanticism, tenderness & disappointment

a line: “Aux parents rescapés de cet atterrissage | Au fruit de l’arbre généalogique qui naissaient | Des noyaux d’amour mornes qui connaissaient | L’armure fortifiante de la puissance | Celle dont on surnommait valeur de connaissance” [‘Négritude d’Afrique’]*

an image: there are many pastoral scenes across this collection – in ‘Nature, toi ma passion’ the poet portrays herself as isolated in a nest of purity, soaking up the beauty of the landscape and watching innocent wild geese, then as soon as twilight takes her into its embrace, she slips off her shoes

a thought: as this collection was in French I developed a document in which I translated extensive extracts incl. Alio’s fascinating biography & preface – hugely enjoyed working my way through the poems, which metamorphose from short, light-hearted anecdotes (such as forgetting Valentine’s Day!) to longer, more serious verses about her homeland

a fact: Alio is also the founder of the Positive, an association aiming to support Chadian women artists in any medium by promoting their art as a means of economic empowerment – learn more

want to read Passion de la Pensée? visit here

* I have my own personal translation of these lines but am wary of sharing it in case I have misinterpreted the meaning at all – I’m very much an amateur at literary translation! If you read French, I’d love to hear how you translate these lines 🙂