As you may have noticed, I’m a die-hard romantic and one who’s rather partial to love letters, country escapes, and candle-lit dinners and above all… love poetry.
To my mind, a love poem is one of the coolest and warmest things to receive (I’ve gotten a couple in my time, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say there were enough to give the mail-man backache.)
I’ve been putting together a collection of love poetry from lesser-known poets around the world. Let’s face it, just about every ancient culture has poured its heart into verse, the Egyptians, Arabs, Greeks, Tartars, to name but a few. This passionate art form reveals a lot about a culture – we say so much by the way we love.
For the Love of An Ancient Language
Today I stopped in Eritrea (virtually speaking) where I read up on the life and works of Reesom Haile, Eritrean Poet Laureate who’s written over 2000 poems in Tigrinya, one of Eritrea’s principal languages, Like Tigre and Amharic, Tigrinya is derived from the Ge’ez, a 5000 year old written language that is Africa’s most ancient and continuous tongue.
Reesom won the 1998 Raimok Prize (Eritrea’s Highest Literary award) and his first collection in English –“We Have our Voice” (Red Sea Press, 2000), was also recorded as a bilingual CD. His second anthology “We invented the Wheel” (Red Sea Press, 2002) was published and acclaimed for modernizing the traditional art of poetry in Tigrinya.
His bilingual performances Tigrinya and English have inspired audiences throughout Africa, Europe and America and he’s received kudos from sources as diverse as the BBC, CNN and The Vatican Radio!
For the Love of a Culture
According to Charles’ Cantalupo’s fascinating biography on Reesom:
“To stroll with Reesom Haile at any hour is to be approached by the young and old and all kinds of people who are delighted to quote his lines back to him.”
Much of Haile’s poetry tackles Eritrea’s century-long struggle for independence, and its fight to retain its culture and ancient traditions in the face of modern manifestation and transformation. His voice is one of resistance and the courage to ask questions, through which, as Cantalupo so eloquently says: a local language and its poetry become the means of survival.
For the Love of Love
Reesom Haile’s love poetry is as deep and resonant as his stanzas on hope, tradition, resistance and growth. Here is my favourite, I hope you like it too!
Love in the Daytime
Shines like the sun.
I may be burned
Black as a frying pan,
And keeling over
But why worry?
Shines like the sun.
She pours over my body
And breathes into my soul.
It feels so good
When she lights
My love on fire
Like dry wood.
If you know of (or are!) a great love poet please let me know so I can add them to the collection. You can also feel free to shower me with adoring love poetry if you feel so inclined.