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Poetry At The Fireside, A Narrative Scope About Africa From “The Sorrow Night Songs” by Lamer Kofi James —An appreciation by Boakye D. Alpha.

Poetry At The Fireside, A Narrative Scope About Africa From “The Sorrow Night Songs” by Lamer Kofi James —An appreciation by Boakye D. Alpha.


Designed either as an individual attitude or as an embedded trait, hope bears the persona, demeanour, well-being, and attitude of a person towards the future in profound ways. 

Why is hope important to human life — particularly Africa for the purposes of this appreciation? 

Hope remains high on the list of human needs. During the night, it’s like a single candle that gives us light to start to find our way out of the dark. The light of hope burns very brightly in our hearts. Hope is all we have to live on. It is the foundation to build one’s life upon. It is a way to continue the struggle, build stamina and power in an individual. 

It’s not rational — hope. It makes absolutely no sense. Hope sees the future and beyond. Hope may sound naive. Yet without hope, what else do we have?

It is on this very delicate subject that this poetry collection is based — the hope for a better Africa… the hope that Africa will grow beyond its current situation and live the dream that our forefathers sought

“I imagined myself around a fire in the night—somewhere in Africa and I saw the good things we have here in Africa but still struggling to make things better.

That’s how I met the name of the book.”

I was very amazed when I heard this from the poet, Lamer Kofi James. I sat down for a few minutes and thought about it and the next phrase I could utter was, “This is deep”. Indeed it is and frankly, these words — the words he spoke, the passion behind those words and thoughts put into them — are very rare. In our days, today, it is very rare to find any young person like the poem who will be so passionate about this continent, what she has and what she could have been. It is rare to find someone who asks the relevant questions and seek that Africa becomes better.

It is rare to find someone of that calibre but doesn’t mean there is none — at least the poet, Lamer Kofi James is a living example of the fact that there is hope for Africa.

Continuing, he said, “So the first poem is a letter and it tells what I have seen from reading and watching documentaries about Africa.”

The first poem, “Letter to the gods” works very well as the pacesetter of what is to come…what readers are to expect. I call it a letter of a kind. We read letters, we read poetry in the form of letters and we write letters but this letter is different. Everything is different from the very beginning…from the first line to the last. From the diction, the structure, language usage, theme, subject matter and the literary techniques used. 

Personally, I have had the chance to listen to this particular poem. It was recorded by the poet and you can imagine the feeling of these messages in your ear accompanied by a solemn melody at the base. It was a good listen and the message reverberates through me anytime I listen to it. I mean, you can’t beat a recording right? Wrong. That was my thought initially when I was asked to read the written version. I thought I wasn’t going to have the same feeling as I did with the recorded version but I was up for a surprise. 

From the very beginning of the poem, the persona induces us with this imagery that makes the subject — of the entire book and not just the first poem — clear. 

“Chanting down the walls of Babylon 

From the hills of the watershed,

Stretched from the breath

Of Kwame Nkrumah to the high soles 

Of Thomas Sankara,”

(stanza 1)

This book has a symbolic meaning which is expressed in the opinion that the poet expresses in his explanation of his inspiration for the book. He has seen beyond what we see in Africa. He has seen beyond every flaw and projected a hope for Africa which you are compelled to believe when you are done reading this book. And this is due to how beautifully he has stringed his words together and how he makes his words sink deep within you all the while, creating a mental picture in your mind’s eye.

What certainly shines through is the emotions… the passion in Lamer’’s writing; from the deep affection for Africa to the intense pain the persona is feeling due to the state Africa is in, throughout, he never falters from the belief that poetry derives from an emotional outpouring, and his writing is a way to convey it to others — what he feels for Africa.

This is reiterated by the poet in his preface to the collection

“I cry and cry and cry—I cry with joy-pain and 

smiles to write my pain.

In the soils of words, speaking to mountains 

with my hands jointly fixed around my back!

As a humble cat behind a proud rat, I write 

these poems to tell the truth of my emotions. 

With what I have seen and heard, I write.

This is for the land and those with the land.”


Now, a little something on the second poem “THE RISE OF BIRTH” then you find out about the rest of the poems by reading the book. Fair right? 

“I have come with a lantern 

In the day, 

But I am here—with my hands barefooted in the night!

I have seen darkness

In the presence of light 

And lightness.”

(stanza 1)

By now, I am sure the poet’s ability to manipulate words is no news to you. I have been mentioning that from the very beginning and the above stanza from the second poem is an evidence of what I have been saying. 

The tone was serious in all of Lamer’’s poems while also light-hearted (from the fact that “hope” can be seen from all the poems), he manages to convincingly express an insight about the things he’s writing about, while also realizing that there is still hope and that perspective is a powerful thing. It is a powerful tool used by the poet. 

 If you enjoy poetry of any kind, or literature which touches on social issues about Africa but stringed in very beautiful words…words that touches the soul…words that takes you deep into thinking,  then I urge you to pick up a copy of “The Sorrow Night Songs”. If, however, you need any more convincing of Lamer Kofi James’ ability to write what I call “poetry with heart”, then I will leave you with this, particularly stunning stanza, from the poem “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika”

“There is somewhere to be,

We said among the sorrows,

Weeping our hearts, echoes of,

Blinded tears & Cheerful fears.

At last, it was the night somewhere,

Somewhere in Africa,

Where the human skin is of iron 

And the skins of the Funtomfrom is 

Of gold.

Somewhere in Africa, 

Where the leopards smile is of git 

of hope, 

And the lions—showers of destiny.”

(stanza 2,3 and 4)

Get a copy of the book from the link below


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