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Songs We Learn from Trees
An Anthology of Ethiopian Amharic Poetry
Edited by Chris Beckett and Alemu Tebeje
RRP: GBP 15.19
ISBN: 978 1 784109 50 9
Categories: 21st Century, African, Anthologies, British, Language
Imprint: Carcanet Classics
Published: May 2020
304 pages (print version)
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: eBook (Kindle), Paperback, eBook (EPUB)
This is the very first anthology of Ethiopian poetry in English, packed with all the energy, wit and heartache of a beautiful country and language. From folk and religious poems, warrior boasts, praises of women and kings and modern plumbing; through a flowering of literary poets in the twentieth century; right up to thirty of the most exciting contemporary Amharic poets working both inside and outside the country.
These poems ask what it means to be Ethiopian today, part of a young fast-growing economy, heirs to the one African state which was never colonised, but beset by deep political, ethnic and moral problems.
'This wide-ranging anthology is a pleasure to read. It opens a long overdue window into the way Ethiopians approach the craft of poetry.'
Malika Booker 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.'
Sasha Dugdale '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.'
Hama Tuma, Anglo-Ethiopian Society
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