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No Turning Back By Dibussi Tande


Friday, October 26, 2007.


Review By Rosemary Ekosso


This review will not deal with matters of style. I am concerned with the ideas that I perceive through this work, and their implications in a broader context. I am reminded, as I tap this out, that yesterday I saw press reports of alleged killings by the police in Bamenda, Cameroon.


These are the poems of a young man. However, they are not marred by the blind anger and naivete by which young men of literary bent draw attention to themselves, often to the embarrassment of their friends.


The collection of poems is, considering the writer’s age when he wrote this, a candid and mature look at Cameroonian society with its head-in-the-sand approach to the politics of oppression.


The work is reminiscent of the liberation poetry that has sustained the soul of Latin America through decades of torture and human rights abuse. Such poetry, while not shying away from grief and pain, brings with it the freshness of hope for humanity in the face of the ancient and universal crime of not loving one’s neighbour as one loves oneself. It is the tenacity of this hope, I think, that will make this work resonate with victims the world over.


In using the word victim, I do not refer solely to those who have suffered the depredations of the brutal and unfair appendages of a system that has no regard for how its actions can shape the future, or to those whose lives have been lashed to shreds by the poisoned tentacles of its bureaucracy.


I also refer to those who suffer but survive. For hope is life. A feature of that hope is the impulse, as expressed in these poems, to explore the full depth of emotion that our experience arouses.


Those whose hope for the future is adulterated or destroyed by a combination of their action and failure to act, and who are incapable of introspection, are those who feel that this hope is directed against them.


But unlikely as it may seem to some, they too are victims. Consider the many quislings on the African continent.  As Dibussi puts it in False Prophet:


…another deceitful son
Aiming for a place in the sun

None of these quislings are anything but the lavatory down which common human decency is flushed by their Western masters. As such, I feel they deserve nothing but the pity and contempt I read in these lines.


What I have said so far might give the impression that this is a collection of hopeful jeremiads (if you’ll forgive the contradiction in terms). This is not so. Dibussi Tande is by turns impish (as in I Know why the Frog Croaks so Loud), stern as a judge (Boomerang), and even imperious (Freedom Now!!!).


I grappled (fairly unsuccessfully, it now seems to me) with French literature in my undergraduate years. We were taught for some time by a dreadful Frenchwoman who made us feel like dirt. But I have been surprised, in later years, to find that I remember something of what I read:


You! Hypocrite lecteur! Mon semblable! Mon frère!

That is Charles Baudelaire at his strident and posturing best. This line attracts our attention. It is designed to do so. But the reason it holds and keeps our attention is that it speaks to something in us. I would call it our shared humanity if I did not feel, on the strength of what I see on the news, that many human beings are really not terribly human at all.


But it is the same feeling I get when I read Dibussi’s poems. For those who have the receptors for it, I think they will come as a jolt to the system. Perhaps it is our common memory that is triggered. I do not know.


But I think you should find out for yourselves what it is.

Now, just the briefest of words about other things. I have always found that rhyme can stunt an otherwise natural flow of poetry. I am not sure that one or two of these poems would have suffered from its absence.


Published by Langaa, 2007, 59 pages.
Available at Michigan State University Press and on Amazon


Rosemary Ekosso is with the International Court of Justice, the Hague, Netherlands. She blogs at www.ekosso.com


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