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Kgebetli Moele

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Corpse Lovers and Corpse Haters

Taban lo Liyong’s Corpse Lovers and Corpse Haters

May be there were reasons of undisputable value why has this collection of poetry was not published when it was conceived, somewhere during the seventies. I think it was so as to give us a refreshed view of what had really transpired in the life of the average men by the poet. A poet as a national symbol representing and presenting the nation as an individual, not the individuality of the poet but each and every individual forming the nation therefore the poets are singularly more powerful than any president/king/queen dead or still breathing. Presidents and Queens rise and fall but poets reside forever within their words, hence this screaming words from the seventies.

This collection was penned during Adi Amin’s reign. He died in 2003 but he has lost “his power” in 1979. Mainly because that power was not his, it was imposed on him by the position that he occupied. In some instances that “power” is imposed on individual by the people/votes. A poet’s power is by virtue of the fact that the poet is a poet. Years after the poets have died, their words – the poets’ artillery – their power remains poet-ing and puppet-ing us.

This forty years plus old collection of poetry about Ugandan life, valid then to the Ugandans, and still more so valuable now not to the Ugandans only but to the continent at large, the universe: the ultimate power of the poet weaving us from between the pages.

Corpse Lovers and Corpse Haters is presented in three movements, the poems are unnamed but numbered creating an enigma of each, to name a poem is to give it away. Within these individually themed movements, the ‘sweet-sad music’ of living life, the agony of living is scrutinised presenting Taban, presenting human beings.

It is a continuous journey of life, the circle of life. The raw honesty of the penning revealed the nature and early maturity of the poet at an early age validated the fact of publishing this collection thirty years later after Amin’s fall without re-editing and adding changes to validate in to our present but the words are valid today.

Corpse Lovers and Corpse Haters is poetry of the personal exposing the life and the men, exploring the primary relations: mother and son, sister and brother, president and the common man to reflect the national and propel it further into the future.

Leading us into the main question here; are you a corpse love or corpse hater? Are you contributing to the betterment of the nation or are you contributing to the benefit of the self? Of course there are weak points as is life but here are the weak points of life: that mix-up to live life, are you a capitalist or socialist, Christian or atheist. The lines are not clear.But ultimately and intimately, we discover the tears of poet Taban lo Liyong as is the tears of every poet, love, a cry for the betterment of society without ulterior motives is deeply portrayed.

Movement one, Corpse Lovers and Corpse Haters, is a reminder of past way of life as it is a powerful warning to the present way that we are living, of the divisions within us, economic, race, nationality, corpse lovers and corpse haters.

My heart has a song to sing;a song difficult to construct or decipher
My heart yearns to give vents to thoughts
Thoughts to clothes ideas with words appropriate

Yet my heart fears the utterance, leave alone the initial point of aim
My heart wants to give praise to the deeds of one who deserves a statue of gold
Yet my heart is troubled
Because the gold will have to be purified by my brethren’s blood.
[…]
Woe betide them who needs any heroes

Movement two: I Can’t Write Like Kafka, it is a search for the purpose of a man, the powerful (mis)conceptions that we, human being have as we are searching for a purpose to purpose our lives and the world as we see it, understand and live it.

In our fastination with the West
We shall settle down
Basically the Eastern group
With an honourable mention
In the serpentine west

Movement three: The Curse Of Unfulfilled Talents, is the resignation to life, to ‘fate’ but still a continuing contest of individual perceptions. The ‘sad story’ of dreams that were never realised, of life never lived. The poet ceases/retires/stops/disengages/desist and refuses to write any more.

Sisters and brothers
I now leave the house of Laias to its fate
Adieu, adieu,adieu
My life course is run
My thread has come to an end
My mouth is now sealed
The breath has run out of my lungs
Adieu
That is my last word.

 

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