Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A World Away I Could Not Forget


The first time I read this poem, my world stopped.

SLUM DAY

The monotonous tap of the blacksmiths’ sounds.
Long shadows zebra the roads;
Partners stretch and yawn,
Their girls catch up on sleep.
Dew lies still on the piled maize,
And children tumble their way to school.

The vendors squat behind their wares.
Careful spenders have enough for food,
The careless flounder in the shade
Press emptiness against worn grass.
The pious wash and pray.
Heat stills the birds: the crickets sing.

Smoke curls to stifle the quiet air.
The lamps are lit: music begins to play.
As bars begin to fill,
The girls waken and parade.
Children quarrel their way to bed.
Life has been won from another day.
Jim Chaplin

Jim Chaplin was Director of Monuments in Uganda when he was knocked down and killed in Kampala in March 1967. He was well known to many young writers in East Africa and put much of his own enthusiasm and interest into writing and discussing poetry.

9 comments:

scotchbiscuits said...

neat! such beautiful simplicty, when the children tumble to school..

Iwaya said...

@Scotchbiscuits...you have got a bit of exactly what first won me over to this poem, but only at first. Later i have come to appreciate more how much all this simplicity conceals a deeper complexity thus confirming to that Da Vinci saying that mother nature is always simple when you don't try to explain it but the moment you try then you are lost. does that make sense at all? it does to me.

i actually wanted to gush and gush more about this poem but i could not risk making you guys lose reading it to read my inferior musings on it. but i do remember that i read this poem before i ever had been inside of a real slum and when i did finally stumble into one, i was there thinking "its just like Chaplin wrote it!" the only other time was when i read a novel of one of my fav writers in manuscript and a few days later finding myself going through drama that he had so well described i again found myself chuckling, "Damn! In a character in a... novel!"
it's like Hemingway said, if you write so well,you will make what you have written such an intergral part of your readers experiences and one day they will pay you the ultimate compliment of thinking that surely they didn't just read about a certain experience, it happened to them in real life! with this one poem, Chaplin was able to reach that level for me.

minty said...

You really go off when it's about writing. even when you say nothing, you are saying a lot more.
Speaking of manuscripts. When's yours getting into print? There's got to be one...

CountryBoyi said...

Man,I remember in my A-Levels, our literature teacher telling us to critically appreciate the literally techniques employed by the author in that hell of poem. The author was so observant, and that's what makes any piece of writing great -an eye for small details. Of all, this poem reminds me of Sir William Osler. He said, "Nothing will sustain you more potently than the power to recognise in your hundrum routine, as perhaps it maybe thought, the true poetry of life!"

Eddie said...

You make the words sound like the computer arranged it.But that is excellent writing.You must have really done great in literature just i case you did it.
I though find it hard to understand poems, though i love the way they are always framed.May be i will be getting it to my blood through reading yours.

Iwaya said...

@Minty, "even when you say nothing, you are saying a lot more." Eh?! I think this is a compliment...thanks! and don't we all have that manuscript tucked away? offering to publish it?

@Countryboyi, he has another poem in that same book Jay claims to own a copy of i hazard to title "the day after." you should check it out. its not for kids though. and yes, i know i owe you still.

@Eddie, sorry, unfortunately i don't write poems anymore but there are a couple i would happily recommend for you to begin with. everyone is a poet, some people are just the poem itself.

lissingmink said...

...The vendors squat behind their wares.
Careful spenders have enough for food...

does time stand still in africa? i mean 1967...2006 not much difference is there?

lissingmink said...
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valentine said...

hi.. . i don believe i would ever have read this poem if it wasnt for my literature lecturer...am a student at a local university in Kenya, and am meant to analize this poem as part of my project for this semester...i like this poem its short but it changes your perspective of thinkikng.... if anyone can offer any suggestions or advice on how to present this poem and all, as well as stylistic devices and the mood and theme of the poem...i would greatly appreciate it... thank you..