WAR AND PEACE IN CONTEMPORARY ERITREAN POETRY

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by Charles Cantalupo

War and Peace in Contemporary Eritrean Poetry focuses on Eritrean written poetry from roughly the last three decades of the twentieth century. The poems appear in the anthology Who Needs a Story? Contemporary Eritrean Poetry in Tigrinya, Tigre and Arabic from which a selection is offered here in their original scripts of Ge’ez or Arabic, and in English translation. 

Who Needs a Story? is the first anthology of contemporary poetry from Eritrea ever published, and War and Peace in Contemporary Eritrean Poetry is the first book on the subject. Therefore, the groundbreaking effort of the former warrants a discussion of its means of cultural production. All of the poets in Who Needs a Story? participated in the Eritrean struggle for independence (1961-91) as freedom fighters and/or as supporters in the Eritrean diaspora. Thus, contemporary Eritrean poetry divides itself between experiences of war and peace, although one can contain the other as well. 

War and Peace in Contemporary Eritrean Poetry also includes an extended analysis of one of Eritrea’s most famous contemporary poets Reesom Haile, as an example of the kind of extended analysis that many of the poets of Who Needs a Story? should stimulate and, last but not least, a meditation on how the author, a non-native speaker, personally becomes involved in Eritrean poetry translation.

 

About the Author

Charles Cantalupo

Charles Cantalupo has two previous collections of poetry – Light the Lights and Animal Woman and Other Spirits. His translations of Eritrean poetry include We Have Our Voice, We Invented the Wheel, and Who Needs a Story, and he has written War and Peace in Contemporary Eritrean Poetry. Distinguished Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and African Studies at Penn State University, he is also the author of books on Thomas Hobbes and Ngugi wa Thiongío and a memoir, Joining Africa: From Anthills to Asmara.

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