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Categories: 21st Century, First Collections
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (64 pages)
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and if anybody talks to you of wonders
if anyone says
‘there is nothing more beautiful in the world than the procession of the Ark at Axum!’
if anyone boasts the knuckliest punch in the village
or a blinding skill with numbers
you can answer
‘well, what about the scabs on Tamrat’s knee?’
from ‘What about the scabs on Tamrat’s knee?’
Chris Beckett grew up in 1960s Ethiopia, a country he describes as a ‘barefoot empire, home of black-maned lions...old priests decked out like butterflies and blazing young singers of Ethio-jazz’. Ethiopia Boy plunges the reader into praise poems that sing and boast and glory in the colours and textures of this extraordinary country. Here is a world of feasting on spicy kikwot and of famine sucking the water from rivers, of lion buses and a prayer child, where Earth sings greetings to the feet that walk on her.
Haunted by the memory of his friend Abebe, the cook’s son, Beckett celebrates and laments a lost boyhood in poems of vivid immediacy.
COVER PAINTING Isao Miura, Crossing the Water (oil on canvas). Reproduced by kind permission of the artist.
'There is a drive to these poems, a quality of song, a fresh simplicity that neatly sidesteps sentimentality though replete with longing, a feel for the past.'
'Chris Beckett's poetry is highly original in the way it works with two sharply distinctive traditions in a uniquely engaging style. The language is always fresh and surprising and the sentiments are always heartfelt but in a subtly complex way that raises serious political questions.'
'Beckett's poems [...] are full of nostalgia, direct and honest without being overly sentimental. [...] Anyone who reads these poems and is not very aware of Ethiopia and its realities can still enjoy them, since they transcend boundaries and also call for more than one reading to get the wax, the real message.
Langston Hughes lamented in his Afro-American Fragment: "So long, so far away, is Africa". For Beckett, Ethiopia is here and now, in his memory, alive in his versatile poems, not far away and distant but near and vibrant.'Praise for Chris Beckett 'These poems are utterly distinctive, there is something at once proud and sad in them, as the reader senses that Tenderfoot loves but stands outside what he loves.'
Hama Tuma, Anglo-Ethiopian Society
Sasha Dugdale 'This wide-ranging anthology is a pleasure to read. It opens a long overdue window into the way Ethiopians approach the craft of poetry.'
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