God banish from your house
The fly, the roach, the mouse

That riots in the walls
Until the plaster falls;

Admonish from your door
The hypocrite and liar;

No shy, soft tigrish fear
Permit upon your stair,

Nor agents of your doubt.
God drive them whistling out.

Let nothing touched with evil,
Let nothing that can shrivel

Heart's tenderest frond, intrude
Upon your still deep blood.

Against the drip of night
God keep all windows tight,

Protect your mirrors from
Surprise, delirium,

Admit no trailing wind
Into your shuttered mind

To plume the lake of sleep
With dreams. If you must weep

God give you tears, but leave
You secrecy to grieve,

And islands for your pride,
And love to nest in your side.

God grant that, to the bone,
Yourself may be your own;

God grant that I may be
(my sweet) sweet company.

Stanley Kunitz—"Benediction"

Stanley Kunitz turns 100 today. I can't say that he ranks among my favorite poets, but in the above he certainly wrote a piece that ranks among my favorite poems. And to write one great poem in a lifetime is quite an achievement. Many people are celebrating Kunitz's milestone, but as an NPR fan, I'll naturally wave at the coverage on All Things Considered, which is almost entirely taken up by what sounds like a new poem of his, "The Long Boat". It's a nice piece (the text is on the page I just linked to) using the viking funereal boat as its central metaphor, offering some very palpable images and a finely balanced ending that can only come from the quiet wisdom of long years contemplating that sepulchural voyage.

As I said in my piece on Richard Eberhart:

I meant to link to "Benediction" but I can't find a respectable transcription of on-line. It deserves its own entry, so some other day I'll type it in for Quotīdiē. But I do want to mention that I found "A Young Greek, Killed in the Wars", "The Fury of Aerial Bombardment" and "Benediction" all in my favorite small poetry book, John Wain's Anthology of Modern Poetry (Hutchinson, 1963), ISBN 0090671317. It's out of print and not easy to find, even used (here are the listings on Amazon UK Marketplace). I bought it in 1988 at the University of Nigeria and it has been one of my most treasured books all this time. It's a superb collection, and if you can lay your hands on a copy, I suggest you do so.

Well, I've put in that promised labor, and here is "Benediction" on line. And yes, I've gone on about that Wain book, mentioning it yesterday as well. What can I say? It's worth all the repeated mention, except that you can't buy it anymore, it seems. But I had an idea yesterday. Soon, I'll post the table of contents here, with links to on-line versions of the poems where possible. This way you can at least enjoy Wain's marvelous selection without suffering through my Quotīdiē ramblings into the fathomless future.

Here is Wain on Kunitz:

"Benediction" and "The War against the Trees" are good examples of Stanley Kunitz's open, lyrical style, and need no comment....

And surely you agree, reading "Benediction". Who says good poetry has to be inscrutable?

Watch this space for more from Wain. And read a Kunitz poem or two this weekend. It's quiet and very intelligent entertainment.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Quotīdiē ❧ Udoka Julian Ogbuji

Morning Song
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

Sylvia Plath—"Morning Song"

The child has a name now. Udoka Julian Melayo Ogbuji. Udoka means roughly "peace reigns". As with many Igbo names, it has a couple of levels of meaning for us, mostly as a hope for unlikely peace in a household with three boys, and partly as an imprecation for peace in troubled times, globally. It's shortened to "Udo", pronounced "oo-doh" with stress on the second syllable. Julian follows from the month (I suppose Jide could have been "August", but we preferred "Maxwell"). Melayo means roughly "relax", and is my father's contribution. We were all hoping for a girl, and even though it's a boy, we're all easy like Sunday morning.

And so speaking of mornings, what better poem for the mood than one of my favorite Plath pieces, another discovery from my favorite small poetry book, John Wain's Anthology of Modern Poetry (Hutchinson, 1963), ISBN 0090671317, which I've mentioned before. I love reciting "Morning Song" to my children at bedtime, and doubly so with the roseate memory of Udoka's birth still fresh. One thing about reciting it is that I cannot bring myself to say "New statue. In a drafty museum,...". I always end up saying: "New statue in a drafty museum,..." Another thing is the lovely, last metaphor, the vivid synaesthesia that is so typical of Plath's keen sensibility. It's a very romanticized fallacy of a newborn baby's very nasal cry, but also a very crafty expression of the fact that this sound is music to any parent's ears. And the images in this poem just keep coming at you like, well, like purple pila. I'm not one for image for the sake of image, but Plath is one of the few with the craft to pull it off, as I discussed earlier.

And in honor of Lori, who brought Udoka forth to the world, here's another poem in the genus.

I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
Money's new-minted in this fat purse.
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I've eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there's no getting off.

—Sylvia Plath—"Metaphors"

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Yo soy Joaquín Murrieta?

A typically effervescent performance on Def Poetry Jam (love that show) tipped me into checking out the tale of Joaquín Murrieta. Thus I came across "Joaquin Murrieta: Literary Fiction or Historical Fact?", by William Mero. From the conclusion:

The tradition in Latin cultures of the bandit as a social revolutionary is well known. Eric Hobsbawm in his classic, Bandits, discusses the social implications of the Joaquin Murrieta legend and how it fits into the traditional Hispanic view of rural banditry. In fact the Chicano movement of the 1970’s adopted Murrieta as a symbol of the fight against “Anglo” oppression. Sadly, because of protests from a few in the Mexican- American community, Harry Love’s burial site has been denied a proper historical marker while Tiburcio Vasquez, convicted leader of the infamous Tres Pinos massacre, in a nearby graveyard has his final resting place marked by an elaborate monument.

Joaquin Murrieta along with Jesse James and Billy the Kid is one of America’s most interesting examples of myth creation. In contrast to the original Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest fame, enough written material remains to enable scholars to trace the evolution of a short lived, violent outlaw into a defender of the oppressed and downtrodden. A scholarly investigation of this phenomenon probably tells us more about ourselves than it does about the real Joaquin Murrieta.

The Murrieta controversy does contain another lesson for us all. Historical truths are often elusive. The general public usually prefers a good story over verifiable facts from primary sources. Most popular histories are commonly viewed through the lens of current social and political prejudices. Perhaps that is another good reason why history should be studied and analyzed with as much care as any of the physical sciences.

But this is just wonderful. The slam poetry piece on Def Poetry Jam wove it all into a very tight and compelling piece (I'll have to hunt down the text for that performance some day). Sprinkled into the entire romantic arc were elements of Robin Hood, The Count of Monte Cristo, and even Spartacus. I expect that if this story is given another few centuries to percolate it will come to rival the hero tales of Jason and Theseus. Or is it the quoted article that exaggerates? Looking in other secondary sources, it seems everyone agrees that here has been some embellishment in the Murrieta legend, but Mero is the only one I've seen to claim such a complete divergence from historical fact.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Rahab was scarlet—a jolly whale,
Pelagic sex goddess—life-shaper of shale;
Ever jealous Jehovah declared her a whore:
His militant faithful knew cadence no more.

Rahab reigned loudly—a jolly muse,
Broad icon of rhythm—grand matron of blues;
But shunned with her kin after hierophant war,
Left the conquered world knowing cadence no more.

—Uche Ogbuji—"Plaint"

I wrote "Plaint" 15 January 1996 at the Omaha airport on my way home from discharging a contract. I redacted it 1 February 2004 on the Centennial Express 6 chair lift, Beaver Creek, CO.

If you've been watching world events lately, you know the hierophants are still as bellicose as ever, and just as lacking in cadence.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


They dug a trench, and threw him in a grave
Shallow as youth; and poured the wine out
soaking the tunic and the dry air.
They covered him lightly, and left him there.

When music comes upon the airs of Spring,
Faith fevers the blood; counter to harmony,
The mind makes its rugged testaments.
Melancholy moves, preservative and predatory.

The light is a container of treachery,
The light is the preserver of the Parthenon.
The light is lost from that young eye.
Hearing music, I speak, lest he should die.

Richard Eberhart—"A Young Greek, Killed in the Wars"—Poetry magazine (Volume 85, February 1955)

Carl Sandburg is often put forth as the Midwestern American poet par excellence, which annoys me to no end not just because I dislike Sandburg's work very much, but also because a lot about Sandburg's institutionalization says as much about why a great poet such as Richard Eberhart never gained the recognition he deserved. Eberhart wasn't content to write the folksy, middle- American sentiment that people properly expected from farm country. He insisted on breaking his bounds by writing about the big human themes with extraordinary craft and sensibility. Richard Eberhart died on Sunday, 12 June 2005 at the age of 101.

Eberhart was born 5 April 1904, in Austin, Minnesota on a modest estate called Burr Oaks (later on the name of one of his books). He was educated in the US (University of Minnesota, Dartmouth, Harvard) and England (St. John's College). He served as private tutor to the son of King Prajadhipok of Siam (Thailand) in the early 30s, and otherwise had a fairly adventurous youth, with stints as a sailor and gunnery instructor.

As for his poetry, I'll quote from one of my favorite critics. John Wain's assessment is:

His varied and energetic life comes through in his poetry, which is rugged, inquisitive and forceful; clumsy in patches, supremely felicitous in others.

—Anthology of Modern Poetry (Hutchinson, 1963)

I think I'm lucky to have been spared Eberhart's clumsy patches: I've read him almost exclusively in anthology and journal. I have found that he is one of the most affecting writers on the horrors of war. His best known poem is this one.

You would think the fury of aerial bombardment
Would rouse God to relent; the infinite spaces
Are still silent. He looks on shock-pried faces.
History, even, does not know what is meant.

You would feel that after so many centuries
God would give man to repent; yet he can kill
As Cain could, but with multitudinous will,
No farther advanced than in his ancient furies

Was man made stupid to see his own stupidity?
Is God by definition indifferent, beyond us all?
Is the eternal truth man's fighting soul
Wherein the Beast ravens in its own avidity?

Of Van Wettering I speak, and Averill,
Names on a list, whose faces I do not recall
But they are gone to early death, who late in school
Distinguished the belt feed lever from the belt holding pawl.

—Richard Eberhart—"The Fury of Aerial Bombardment"

Eberhart was very generous in his criticism (that which I've read). Too generous at times, in my opinion, given his approval of the mess made by Ginsberg and the Beat poets. The AP article in which I read about Eberhart's death included a typical Eberhart quote:

Poems in a way are spells against death, They are milestones, to see where you were then from where you are now. To perpetuate your feelings, to establish them. If you have in any way touched the central heart of mankind's feelings, you'll survive.

And survive he did. 101 years is quite the achievement to be celebrated. Soon (July 29) we'll be celebrating the centenary of another great poet Stanley Kunitz. Kunitz's "Benediction" is one of my favorite poems to recite to my wife and sons. It's wonderful to see these poets live such complete lives, who have brought such feeling to the exploration of life's great themes.

I meant to link to "Benediction" but I can't find a respectable transcription of on-line. It deserves its own entry, so some other day I'll type it in for Quotīdiē. But I do want to mention that I found "A Young Greek, Killed in the Wars", "The Fury of Aerial Bombardment" and "Benediction" all in my favorite small poetry book, John Wain's Anthology of Modern Poetry (Hutchinson, 1963), ISBN 0090671317. It's out of print and not easy to find, even used (here are the listings on Amazon UK Marketplace). I bought it in 1988 at the University of Nigeria and it has been one of my most treasured books all this time. It's a superb collection, and if you can lay your hands on a copy, I suggest you do so.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Mountain winter defies the order,
Denies the bonding of elements.
The wooded snow and the falling wind
Force the repentance of birdsong.
Unbroken sun razes gooseflesh,
Floods snow, and drowns the senses,
Pitched in broken bottle rainbow battle
With trenchant ice-cold mountain streams.

—Uche Ogbuji—from "Mountain Summer"

Yesterday I happened to be going through some of my verse, and I noticed the date on which I wrote "Mountain Summer": 11 June 1995. A decade ago to the day, today. Remarkable coincidence. I wrote it on a road trip with best friend Arild (who just became the father of twins Thursday), as well as Rachel and Dagmara. A Nigerian, two Norwegians and a Pole: two guys, two gals, driving across the West. It was one of those magical trips that serve so many of us as a marker of our twenties. We were lolling about at Yosemite National Park, where, even though it was the heart of Summer, we sought and found a few snowy peaks (we'd already found a touch of Summer Zero by hiking up to St. Mary's Glacier in Colorado earlier on that trip). While up there we saw a mother and child riding a saucer in the snow, and I was moved to write.

This poem and two others written at about the same time were published in ELF: Eclectic Literary Forum, a respected but now defunct lit mag, in early 1996.

In another neat bit of coincidence, for me, today was also a long- planned white-water rafting trip with a lot of my more recent friends. I certainly got to sample a good deal of the "trenchant ice-cold mountain streams". In fact, I got soaked in it. It was a glorious adventure, and it further reminded me of that other glorious adventure a decade ago, and the writing to which I was inspired back then.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


The only map is the map of the bear.
Your best hope is to follow it closely,
Closer than dogs. It's engraved with your spoor,
You wake in the night to find it partly
Charred by the dying fire. The only

Map is the map of the bear. Follow
It closer than dogs. Your best hope is
To read the part engraved below
The surface of the fire. Sleepless,
You move by night. The only map is

The map of the bear. Dogs know,
That's why they follow with no hope
The dying spoor. You're passing through
Fire, you've passed through sleep,
Now the only map is the map

Of the bear. Now hope gives up
Its secrets, now you follow where
Dogs won't go, even in sleep.
Above, the route's engraved on fire.
The only map is the map of the bear.

Tad Richards"The Map of the Bear"

Peter Saint-Andre mentioned the New Poetry discussion list, which he learned about in an earlier Quotīdiē. I'd been living in a bit of a shell regarding contemporary poetry before I joined that list. (Upon arriving in the U.S. in 1989 I looked around, aghast at mainstream verse, and retreated quickly to past classics). The list has been a good way to bring energy back to my study of poetry, and to keep in touch with contemporary work. It turns out that there are some very good poets on that list, though I didn't recognize them by name, because of my ignorance of the contemporary scene. I do recognize the quality of their work, and today's Quotīdiē is a piece by a regular on the list, Tad Richards. In addition to being posted on the list, it was also hosted on The Poets' Corner by Anny Ballardini, another regular. The list is a very rich find. I'll later post links to other good poems posted to the list.

Refrain-like verse forms are very popular in modern poetry, from Villanelle to Pantoum and so on. (I somtimes call these poetic fugues). It seems that in the past couple of decades poets have become especially skilled with the use of partial refrains. "The Map of the Bear" teases out a sense of desultory restlessness with its partial refrains. The meter is accentual, with four accents per line. This is a very versatile framework, but I've always found it easiest to hear gothic tones in it, and in this poem, that feeling is particularly apt. Another poem that struck me immediately because of its partial refrains is Dana Gioia's "The Country Wife".

She makes her way through the dark trees
Down to the lake to be alone.
Following their voices on the breeze,
She makes her way. Through the dark trees
The distant stars are all she sees.
They cannot light the way she's gone.
She makes her way through the dark trees
Down to the lake to be alone.

Dana Gioia—from "The Country Wife"

Peter later followed up on my observations on how poetry slows down perceptions, leading to richer understanding and appreciation.

The other day, Uche argued for the continued relevance -- indeed, the increased importance -- of poetry in today's fast-paced times, since the concentrated and often difficult nature of poetic language forces the reader to slow down. Yet (as Uche knows) it is more than just diction: it is also the meter (or, more broadly, the rhythm) that induces a kind of slow time when one reads a poem. Poetry is a temporal art in much the same way music is -- and in one respect, a poem enforces slow time even more viscerally than a piece of music does because usually you perform the poem (by reading it silently or aloud to yourself) rather than having it performed for you at a poetry reading or by means of a recording. The post-modernists would call this co-creating the work, and for once they would be right!

Peter is right that rhythm is the primary tool for the slowing and enriching effects of poetry. I also agree that meter is the most established form of rhythm, and that it's harder for non-metrical rhythm to bring this richness. Peter is also right to reiterate that Poetry is a mere shadow without its performance (whether it's the reader sounding out the poem in his head, or in public performance). With all that in mind, I quite consider "The Map of the Bear" an example of how a poem can work such slow enrichment outside classical framework. Accentual meter is quite respectably meter for me, and the partial refrain, especially when read aloud, serves to deepen the incantatory mood. "The Country Wife" is also accentual. There is much more of an iambic tetrameter basis, as one would expect from a formalist such as Gioia, but it is still variant enough to be more accentual than accentual- syllabic, and I think this suits that poem well. Interesting, this juxtaposition of accentual meter and partial refrain—It makes me think of fugue, a baroque musical form, not just because of the echoing phrases (to go with the echoing melodies in fugue), but also because of the overstatement (in a positive sense) suggested by the four-stress line. It is an approach I shall have to explore more fully in my own verse.

A final note of interest is that "The Map of the Bear" originated from a misreading of a trite phrase. In Richards' own words:

I do have a poem based on a misread statement that was sorta interesting. Reading an article about a performance artist, I came across the statement that she explored a territory where the only map is the map of the bear.

I thought this was one of the most fascinating ideas I'd ever read. Then I looked again and saw that it actually said she explored a territory where the only map is the map of the heart. This was a territory, I realized, which held no interest whatever for me. But what about that territory where the only map is the map of the bear? I wanted to know more about that...a territory where the wilderness mapped itself. I had been deeply moved by Kurosawa's great movie, Dersu Uzala, where mapmaking becomes a symbol for both exploration and limitation, and I started to feel that I had to know more about the territory mapped only by the bear. This was the poem that came of it.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


We were supposed to to have our fence painted
By this weekend. The letter warned of fines.
That idle council, declaring suburban
Heresy—dire tone
Of grey flanking our homes—
Proclaimed a ceremonial purge for the times.

—Uche Ogbuji—from "May Day Flakes"

My plan was to post a new poem a week, and it's been two, so here are two:

I already posted the first stanza of "Epitaph" in an earlier Quotīdiē of Villon. In the third I have the line:

Charnel birds have plucked eyes from each face,

I'm having a lot of trouble deciding between "charnel" and "carrion". The latter word has the effect of playing on "crone" in the previous line ("crone" comes from old Norman "caroigne" which can mean "carrion" as well as "old bitty"), but "charnel" feels more expressive of the horror. Then again, John Cowan mentioned that he appreciated the matter-of-fact tone of the poem (gratifying, because that was my intent, and certainly the effect of the original Villon), and "carrion" is the more matter-of-fact word.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


One of the great practical uses of the literary disciplines, of course, is to resist glibness—to slow language down and make it thoughtful. This accounts, particularly, for the influence of verse, in its formal aspect, within the dynamics of the growth of language: verse checks the merely impulsive flow of speech, subjects it to another pulse, to measure, to extralinguistic consideration; by inducing the hesitations of difficulty, it admits into language the influence of the Muse and of musing.

Wendell BerryStanding By Words

via David Graham, on the New Poetry mailing list

No sooner have I returned from Amsterdam (more on all that later) than juicy morsel falls straight in my lap for the neglected Quotīdiē. Wendell Berry is not the most interesting poet to me. I find him much like our current Poet Laureate Ted Kooser—Intelligently stated, but with nothing particularly compelling to offer for theme or diction. Not all bucolics have to be as majestic, as, say Vergil's, but I think more of our poets should look to (to give a parallel example) Horace for an example of how to personalize bucolics while still keeping them interesting.

But the quote is not from Berry's poetry, but from his prose, and it compels me to seek out more of Berry's philosophical essays. Many commentators have noted the role of poetry in presenting ideas in a form that requires such care to digest that they become more clearly communicated to the reader. This is so even if, paradoxically, obscurity is one of these tools of clear communication. Obscurity slows things down in the reader's apprehension in order not to lose the nuances. A perfect antonym of poetry from this viewpoint is the sound bite, and I think this comparison is also a good argument as to why poetry is as important today as it has ever been.

Poetry for new media culture

The problem has always been how to make the reader accept the braking effect of poetry on the digestion of information. I don't think it's engaging in too much Luddite hand wringing to say that these days people prefer their information in easily (and indeed trivially) digestible form. This is in part a natural reaction to high volume ("information overload" in the jargon). Most people, even among the trendiest of techies, are quick to praise the resource that presents a topic in both depth and breadth, and in coherent form. They find such treatment a necessary check on the dissociating effects of the contemporary knowledge feed—rapidly evolving blips of high sugar information. They accept a slow-down of perception and carefully read such resources, but only when advised by their peers to do so. They slow down because the "buzz factor" has compelled them to do so.

Poetry serves the same end, and buzz can certainly be important for leading people to poetry, but what really makes it compelling enough for the reader to accept the slow-down in apprehension is concentrated beauty of language. If the musical force of the words is strong enough, the intelligent reader will be obliged to dig more deeply. The reader will have gained a superficial aesthetic reward from the piece, in the sound, and such a reward as they never receive from their more quotidian resources. This reward is very satisfying, even if superficial, and it promises of richer reward, in the matter, once one has taken the time to consider the piece more carefully, most likely through multiple readings, and discussion with peers. And with the best poetry, we learn that the reward in the sound is not really superficial at all, but is the key to better memory of the idea as well as greater enjoyment in its presentation.

This is all well and good, of course, but the question is exactly where will the mastery come from to work new media concerns into compelling poetry? Is any such venture doomed by popular stereotype of poetry, especially its association with the mid-20th century cadre of slovenly, mentally unstable, kvetching pop art beatniks? From what I've heard and read of Paglia's Break, Blow, Burn, she opens up a useful discussion along these lines (yet another book on my really-should-read-soon list). I must also say that the same discussion leads me to question whether she has the critical acumen to help direct the class of potential poets who can serve the world in this time of great need.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Il me faut le cacher au plus intime de mes veines
L’Ancêtre à la peau d’orage sillonnée d’éclairs et de foudre
Mon animal gardien, il me faut le cacher
Que je ne rompe le barrage des scandales.
Il est mon sang fidèle qui requiert fidélité
Protégeant mon orgueil nu contre
Moi-même et la superbe des races heureuses…

Léopold-Sedar Senghor—"Le Totem"

When the late, great Senhgor expressed a sentiment, it stayed expressed. Founding president of la République du Sénégal (after an exile for revolutionary activities), and member of the Négritude movement poet, Senghor was one of West Africa's most astounding minds. "Le Totem" (above is the complete poem) is one of very few French poems I've memorized. It expresses a sentiment that I don't know that I feel directly, but that I can well imagine based on knowing so many Africans in the diaspora (and older ones, in particular). Here is my poor student's translation:

I'm forced to hide in my most intimate veins
The ancestor with the hide of storms streaked and burned with lightning
My guardian animal, I must hide it
So that I do not breach the barrier of scandal.
It is my faithful blood that requires faithfulness
Protecting my inborn pride against
My very self and the superb among the happy races

This poem has a lot that is difficult to render faithfully into English, and in some cases, I've preferred a somewhat unidiomatic transliteration to an anglophone translation that would lose too much of the nuance (the last line is the main example).

Another place where I could barely approximate is "sillonnée d’éclairs et de foudre". I've always had a vague feeling of the distinction between these two French words for "lightning". The first being more a display of lightning and the second being more of a thunderclap, such as Zeus would have hurled at impudent mortals. See below for more on this distinction. I always think of Senghor's line as juxtaposing the white flash of "éclairs" with the blackened result of "foudre", using the apt verb "sillioner", which means "plough" as well as "streak".

I have the same attitude towards the Négritude movement as Nigerian Nobel Laureate, great playwright Wole Soyinka. Soyinka said to Senghor: "A tiger does not proclaim its tigritude. It acts."—from Myth, Literature and the African world (which is coming up on my re-reading list). I agree with complaints about Négritude as an overall notion. For my part, being an avid student of Western classics has never made me feel I cannot also soak myself in my own rich West African heritage. Négritude taken too carelessly can lead to a dangerous combination of anomie and chauvanism. But it's very hard to accuse Senghor and Césaire, the patrons of the movement, of themselves falling into such a trap. They and their colleagues through hard work and masterly writing carved into the world's consciousness a testament to the vast intellectual resources of their native land. They didn't just proclaim. They did act. And the value of their legacy is immeasureable.

I have the poem in Selected Poems of Senghor, edited by Abiola Irele (Cambridge University Press, 1977), which, according to my notes, I bought at Nsukka in 1989 (for ₦10.00). Incredibly, I can't find a good in-print source of Senghor's poetry in French. I must just not be searching rightly. If anyone can recommend one for fellow readers (I'm all set with my Irele edition), please leave a comment.

But appropriately enough, since it's Tuesday again, I have a bit more on "éclairs" versus "foudre". The visceral nature of this distinction was brought home to me a couple of weeks ago at la Table Francophone when Karen was explaining to me how a freak spring thunder and hailstorm had ruined her garden. She said something like "et partout des éclairs", gesturing upwards with both open palms. In my response I said something about "foudre", using the word I'm more familiar with for "lightning" ("fouldre" in Villon's (Old French) L'Épitaph, which I worked from in an earlier Quotīdiē. Karen gave me an odd look, and clarified: "éclairs". Since I'm there to improve my French I asked her for a detailed explanation of the difference. She explained that "éclairs" is lightning with the connotation of distant flashes in the sky, and that "foudre" is lightning with the connotation of striking the ground (or someone), with violent accompaniment of thunder, and the whole bit. Basically, the former is nature's display, and the latter is nature's vengeance. Makes sense given that "foudroyer" means to blast or strike (as with lightning), and "foudrayant!" is an exclamation (based on the participle) mixing terror and excitement. I had to stop using "foudrayant!" when my francophone friends would tease me about its quaintness (I suppose my beloved "donnerwetter" sounds just as quaint to a contemporary German).

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia