By Bate Besong (Published in The Herald, No. 1784, Wednesday, 26-27 April, 2006)
“The poet speaks not for himself only but for his fellowmen. His cry is their cry, which only he can utter. That is what gives it its depth. But if he is to speak for them, he must suffer with them, rejoice with them, work with them, fight with them.” George Thomson (Marxism and Poetry. New York: International Publishers, 1946, p.65)
It was the Hungarian theoretician, Georg Lukacs, who, in the previous century, revived the full thrust of the Aristotelian concept of mimesis according to which the literary artifact is regarded as pushing beyond the world of surface appearances to capture, crystallize and reflect “the essence of things.”
The aesthetic sphere is regarded as a particular type of knowledge, working via devices of typification so as to yield anthropomorphic, poetically concrete representation of the dynamic tendencies of historical development.
The literary critic must take into consideration the historical forces operative in the construction of Kangsen Feka Wakai’s collection (Asphalt Effect, 2006); an anthology of verse that is distinguished by its luminous clarity and simplicity.
The crucial question, then, would be a reference not to the precise ways in which, in the light of their architectural hegemonies, his poetic beacon periscopes reality but rather to the extent of their correspondence to it.
Enough then for theory. Let us return closer home to the compass of the discourse.
THE GHOST STILL LINGERS
Cameroon’s troubled history has provided Feka Wakai with the content of several of the poems in this first, outstanding collection. These poems couched in the authentic rhetoric of social and political protest, hymn the desperate orchestrations of the poet of exile with sardonic impassivity.
The poems are highly assertive, combative and partisan.
The Cameroonian poems can therefore be fully understood only if placed in the context of the economic, social and political relationships in which they were written. “Abakwa Calling” [p.19], for instance, is in the vein of revolutionary literature that aim to reflect historical contradictions without conjuring them away through an excess of revolutionary optimism.
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