Talking Drums: A Selection of Poems from Africa South of the Sahara, ed. by V ronique Tadjo, also explores ancient cultural traditions. Drawn from Africa's rich history of oral narrative passed down through the generations, the compilation contains a mix of traditional poems and selections by more recent poets, and is divided into seven thematic sections. In the poem "Telephone Conversation," Nigerian poet Wole Soyinka writes, "The price seemed reasonable, location/ Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived/ Off premises. Nothing remained/ But self-confession. `Madam,' I warned,/ `I hate a wasted journey-I am African.' " Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
An anthology in seven parts introduces sub-Saharan African poets and poetry to middle and high school readers. The editor explains the seven-part organization of the poems, which include animals, love, celebrations, people, death, pride, and exile. Much of the poetry, especially the nature selections, are accessible to younger readers but many others reflect an adult sensibility that would move older readers to thought and discussion. The sources of the poetry are traditional as well as by poets such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Hamidou Dia, David Diop, Ben Okri, and other contemporary writers. Seventy-five poems represent writers from 17 countries. The editor's decorative black and white drawings are bold, motif-like, and might inspire readers to try a similar technique for their own poems. Tadjo repeats certain of the dancing figures, masks, and animals which gives a certain unity to the display of poems as well. Back matter includes a map of the poetry sources, a listing of the poets by country, and a glossary, making this a compliment to both literary and geographical studies. 2004 (orig. 2000), Bloomsbury, Ages 12 up.
Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
Where was this inviting volume when this reviewer was teaching world literature? Originally published in England, the book includes seventy-five poems, all accessible and enjoyable, many thought provoking. Tadjo, a poet and illustrator from the Ivory Coast, groups the poems into thematic categoriesOur Universe, The Animal Kingdom, Love and Celebrations, People, Death, Pride and Defiance, and The Changing Timeswhich works well for sequential as well as for selective reading. Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, and South Africa are the most represented of the sixteen countries whose storytellers (verses from oral tradition), activists (such as Senegalese Leopold Sedar Senghor), and Nobel laureates (such as Nigerian Wole Soyinka) share the pages with Tadjo's black ink sketches and symbols. A map gives geographic face to the poems and poets; a brief glossary covers terms perhaps unfamiliar to inexperienced readers, such as griot and matatu. The only drawback to the volume is that not all poems are published in their entirety. As Tadjo suggests in her introduction and as material organization indicates, the text tells the history of a continent, a story in poetic form that could easily feed discussions in social studies/language arts classes. VOYA Codes: 4Q 2P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004 (orig. 2000), Bloomsbury, 96p.; Index. Illus. Maps., Ages 11 to 18.
Patti Sylvester Spencer
Gr 5 Up-In an informative preface, Tadjo points out that in African history, white colonials are not the only oppressors and that some of the poets included here, such as Nigerians Christopher Okigbo and Ken Saro-Wiwa, were killed by their own governments. The 75 selections are divided into 7 sections dealing with nature, animals, love, people and how they see their lives, death, cultural pride, and reactions to the turmoil currently found in many African countries. The final chapter will prompt many students to think about such important issues as racial diversity, leaving the country or place one knows, and not being seen for one's true self. Younger readers may more easily appreciate the poems that capture animal movements and the love of a parent for a child. However, the overall poetic sensibility needs a more mature audience to understand such offerings as Okinba Launko's thought that after a death, "-life re-affirms itself in new beginnings;/And suddenly, it is morning again!/And the stories we tell,/Of our meeting, and parting,/And returning, Are/Minted coins-." Although not attributed to any particular culture, the elegant black-and-white motif-like drawings of animals, masks, and humans embellish the text. Both words and pictures speak eloquently.-Susan Hepler, Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Tadjo has selected an impressive array of poems that represent much of the story of Africa. There are poems of unknown ancestors as well as voices of the 20th century. Seven sections include poems of regional traditions, nature, relationships, love, race and racism, freedom, death, politics, exile, and every other subject that's ripe for the poet's pen. Expressing joy, pride, and hope as well as sorrow and bitterness, the poems vary in style and use of language, from simple and accessible, to dense and disturbing. Her wonderful Africa-inspired prints decorate the pages with exuberance and flair. Although Tadjo includes much helpful information via a glossary, a list of poets and sources, and an introduction that puts the poems in perspective, some of the material remains too sophisticated for younger readers. Older readers, however, will find these poems moving and inspiring. An admirable work. (Poetry. 10+)