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

The Secret River by Kate Grenville [T/W: racism, colonialism, sexual assault]

a nutshell: the efforts of a London convict, William Thornhill, to reinvent himself as a gentlemanly landowner on a hillside outside Sydney become a microcosm for the atrocities committed by the British colony against Aboriginal people

a line: “in the world of these naked savages, it seemed everyone was gentry”

an image: every scene with Smasher Sullivan, another ’emancipated’ settler, is extremely disturbing – but among the most horrific is one in which he flaunts an Aboriginal woman he has chained up as his sex slave

a thought: on finishing this bleak book I was (as often) left deeply ashamed of Britain’s imperial history; Thornhill’s exploitation of his eventual position of power – despite, or due to, an impoverished background – is irredeemably repulsive

a fact: the main protagonist, Thornhill, is based on a family member of Grenville; the author used to ask her mother what had happened to Aboriginal people on their ancestors’ arrival and ended up digging into her family history to discover the hideous truths


want to read The Secret River? visit here