Poetry from the Indian Ocean / African Islands

Finding Stephen Gray’s Invitation to a Voyage: French - Language Poetry of the Indian Ocean African Islands (2008) was akin to unearthing a gem; a glimmering glow beneath the dust of the recent. This anthology, so carefully curated and translated, presents poetic offerings from a diverse range of wordsmiths whose thoughts and observations draw you in a cocoon of relation, a plethora of childhood nostalgia meets contemporary social woe, amorous longing clashing against the waves of foreign-soiled urban displacement.

Comprising of six chapters, each section covers a region of the Indian Ocean Islands - Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles, Reunion, Mayotte and Comoros - showcasing a collection of works that meticulously covers personal experiences within each area. Moving past the exclusive bounds of notches in the proverbial belt of published material, some of the poets presented have had none of their work published before, allowing for a welcomed breath of novelty in style.

Here are just a few of the poems one can find in this invigorating anthology:

A Poem Reflecting My Life

Veromanitra Razafiarivony

When I take the decision
Not to follow you in that far country
with its wealthy sweet ways,
I still love you more than my life,
But I’m afraid of being cut off
In such a spectacular world.
That valley of silver would prevent me
From visiting Rosoanilaina whom I need so much,
She who dresses my hair in Marina tresses,
So easy to do and which honour me
like a lady with a newborn child.

And now, so our parting begins
You leave for gain and I leave for life,
Your courtesy is not enough to live Malgache-style
I grind the rice; I plant the paddy;
With pistachio I cook the cassava.
I die losing you. You’re off to your fate,
To plant yourself anew on the soil of sweat,
Foreign soil where I’d never find
My own sense of belonging,
My negress skin, my frizzy hair,
My beauty would would wither away in that
land of riches.

He was Called Ali

Sedley Richard Assonne

and he wasn’t taller than three apples
juicy ones
exactly as they should be
to give taste to life
he was no higher
than three fruit
plucked from the tree of paradise
to make heads turn
such that life tasted of cider
he wasn’t tall enough
too much of a child
to be making war
but still they involved him
in their warrior games
now there are gaps
in the apples
because they dared to trample
over God’s orchard!
the innocence of childhood!

My Somali

Kamaroudine Abdallah Paune

Of this world you are the witness,
From the dust you question
The sphere of the sky
Limbs stripped of flesh,
on the edge of nothingness,
what image will you keep
of men, your brothers?

My Somali, fortunately
you cannot see yourself through
the television watching you.

Fortunately you are unaware of
This world,
Neither can you hear the laughter
Over the dinner table and wine
Nor the excellent discourse
Which constructs a life over the tomb.

For you none of that exists,
Nothing but that land cursed
By the sun and the rain,
That soil once blessed by the god
And today beyond the hope of man.

Perish, my brother,
Perish without regret,
Die in peace,
The world is so.

Message from My Children (excerpt)

Élie Rajaonarison

You sons of the night,
is it the eternal stubborness
of your eternal manliness?
Agree to look.