Sometime during one’s primary and secondary education, for those of us lucky enough to have gotten both, we probably learn some things about poetry. It may not be much or it may not always stick with us, but hopefully there was a teacher who was passionate enough about poetry to awaken the appetite of the student to better understand and enjoy poetry.
Unfortunately for me it didn’t take very well. Ask me to name my favorite poet, and I’ll probably pretend I know alot by naming those all familiar names, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, etc. I can’t recite more than a single line from either of those two great poets, which I consider to be a pity. The only poetry that stuck with me a bit better was Portuguese poetry, which I learned about doing several years of summer courses at the University of Lisbon. But even then I never felt I fully understood it. In hopes that I might one day better grasp them, I keep a Mia Couto and a Luis de Camões book on my shelf.
Beyond that, when it comes to poets from around the world, my own education never seemed to mention much beyond North America and Europe. One might use the excuse that the world is too big, but I still hope that as the world becomes smaller and closer, poets such as Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin, Ethiopia’s beloved playwrite and poet laureate, will be read in many classrooms worldwide. I heard of his death last week and then took time to search for bloggers writing about his life’s work and it’s importance within Ethiopia and around the world.
I won’t even try to pretend I know enough about him to pass onto to all of you. Instead I refer you to Weblog Ethiopia, Things We Should Have Written Down, and for those who still like mainstream media: The New York Times. After reading them, I’ve made a mental note to read any translations I can find of his work, to one day teach my children.