THE OATH OF THE FONTOMFROM: And Other Poems by John Okai

THE OATH OF THE FONTOMFROM: And Other Poems

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The talking double drum of Ghana, the fontomfrom, is a perfect emblem for Okai's powerfully cadenced, overwhelmingly vocal poetry. Aspects of chant, litany and song -- alliteration, parallel rhetorical patterns, and refrains in English and African languages (e.g., Dzeng ye shwaa: ""The world can be slippery"") -- give definition and unity to pooled, free-flowing images of Africa's past, present and future. Such reprises as ""I shall collect my mat and pillow./ And I shall go"" or ""And Jesus wept. . . but I shall not"" convey a timeless endurance; and phrases like ""My soul is a deep-sea diver"" or ""My soul is now a silent shock-absorber"" inject a contemporary black idiom. But devices that serve so well to evoke and excite, as for example in the ""Walewale Chorus"" and the title poem, can sometimes lead to unhappy extravagances in straight psychological exposition -- ""A mocking mirage of might-have-beens/ maims the muscles of my/ morale. . . ."" The voice is nonetheless distinct, authoritative, and rousing. Okai, a Ghanaian, has a growing reputation in Africa and Europe, and has appeared here in The Atlantic Monthly and New American Review. This collection was written in English.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1971
Publisher: Simon & Schuster