A collection of short verse by a Christian poet from Uganda takes the reader on a journey through colonialism, revolution, and the contradictions of modern Africa.
Divided into sections—including “Voices,” “Values,” “Birds of Paradise,” and “Crucifixion”— the 102 poems in this volume provide insights into the complexities of living on a continent defined by incredible beauty, resilience, and growth as well as war, famine, and the legacy of colonization. Etoori (Eternal Ways, 2015, etc.) is a conscientious chronicler of horror, tenderness, and transcendence. His style is not in-your-face modern, but reserved and careful, making his intensely descriptive poems dignified and compelling. Some, such as “Hospital,” are perfectly evocative: “A uniform, stiff and white / Bathed in an inhospitable light, / Silently glides / Down a long corridor.” Others, like “Questions,” concisely capture the poet’s overriding theme: “Will this land imprisoned by hate, / Politicians venom—deceit and debate, / Ever, from this snare, spring free / To breathe, to develop its great beauty?” In “HIV,” “The Financier,” and “Genocide,” Etoori exposes the demons of a post-colonial society, while such works as “Youth in Revolution” and “The Cranes,” about the ebullient victory of the Uganda national football team, reveal some of its heroes. The poems in the last four sections are devoted to Christian doctrine, like “The God-Man,” “Unified through Suffering,” and “The Holy City.” While these are competently written, they move further and further from the gritty intimacy that enlivens the best poems in the book, but will likely be of greatest interest to devout Christians. The true passion of Etoori’s engaging collection is revealed in such works as “The Carcass,” which addresses Uganda as “Magnificent beast! / Slain by the colonial hunters,” and “Fruit of the Spirit,” which proposes combating the “shadow of greed” with the “wonderment of innocence.”
A heartfelt, vivid volume of poems that explores the suffering and the splendor of emerging Africa.