Niger: The Poetry of Adamou Idé

Cri inacheve?  by Adamou Idé

"Cri inacheve?": Adamou Idé's first book of poetry from 1984.

Adamou Idé is no slouch. An acclaimed poet and novelist, Adamou left his Niamey home to study in the Sorbonne and return to Africa as a government official and to work internationally for La Francophonie. A progressive, he authored the Labor Code used under the Third Republic which followed the overthrow of the military dictatorship in 1991. But since winning the nation’s highest poetry prize in 1981, he is best known for writing less dry documents. His poetry, both in French and Zarma, was first collected in published form in 1984, and he has written several volumes of poems, three novels, adapted writing for screenplays, and even penned politically satirical short stories in Zerma that are used in Niger’s schools.  Its title “Wa sappe ay se!” is Zarma for “Vote for Me!”

There’s little in English about or by him, but his 2005 appearance at the Medellin Festival of Literature brings us one of his poems, translated into English. The poem, “J’ai Peur” (“I’m Scared”) is a sparse, hard indictment of the general, the dictator, and the presidents everywhere in this world today, who crush the joy from our lives because of their own fear of our power. One of the festival’s amazing collection of African poets reading their works, shows Adamou reading this.

I’m Scared!

I’m scared!
 Yes, I do not conceal it from you
 I say it: I’m scared!
 I’m scared
 Of all anthems you sing
 Elixirs vomited noisily
 Brought forward
 I’m scared of your flags
 cracking in the wind of your madness
 I’m scared!
 To you I confess my fear
 I’m scared of your erected tents
 Sparse in the flowered gardens
 I’m scared of your adult games
 In the pedestrian corridors
 I know that one day
 You will shoot me!
 I’m scared
 Yes, I confess my fear
 I’m scared of your gloved hands
 Hiding numerous cactus
 I’m scared when a child
 Claims for life in his cold cradle
 I’m scared when he shows ecstasy
 I know that one day
 You will shoot him!

Adamou Idé writes: “…From my very inside, an acute feeling of injustice and bitter revolt emerged. I think I have not tried to understand… and I have cried: it was the voice of poetry! It became a weapon and a tribune for protest and denunciation. I claim for liberty, solidarity, brotherhood among men and I think that in every man there is a poet: But I also feel that poets are feared by those in power that use violence, who are prosperous at the expense of the collective suffering. When they are denounced, some poets are imprisoned, tortured, killed or exiled as if this was enough to kill the power of the word in them. The poets continue paying a harsh tribute for their liberty of thought. Again, poetry appears as the last bastion for the struggle for liberty! In these times, some powerful men of this world believe they are able to enslave others by means of unilateral thought, unfair economical laws, unjust wars and they want poets to speak in one way or another. Now, more than ever, we need poetry and poets committed to the struggle for peace, justice and tolerance! Lullaby poetry is intended for making children sleep, meanwhile bombs fall and destroy their legs: I have never believed in this kind of “colorless” and “odorless” poetry. I believe in words that name suffering and that wake up hope in open furrows by misery and tears. The poetic writing has allowed me to live an incredible adventure. An always-new adventure in a mysterious world of words. In the poem one feels that the agitated life of the words is being written, that they heap together to find a place in the verse, they hug each other to create rhythm, to provoke or stimulate the reader’s senses, and one never knows when the poem is finished or if it’s the poet that being tired has put down the weapons. But what is the matter if the poem is there and sings before you the real love and liberty!… “

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